If your only reason for not going to the Bronx Zoo is its location, we have one word for you: fuggedaboutit. Unless you plan on spending $288 for a round-trip ticket to San Diego, there is no better urban zoo anywhere in the United States. (Sorry, Turtle Back.) And, if the traffic gods are with you, you can be at the Bronx Zoo in under an hour from Verona.
What we got when we got there was 4 hours of pure entertainment. From the polar bear’s balancing act around the rim of his pool to the roughhousing of the squirrel monkeys, the majesty of the giraffes and the very human quirks of the baboons, there wasn’t a single complaint as we covered most of the zoo’s 265 acres.
Zoos don’t have an easy job these days, and not because they’re threatened by budget cuts like any other non-profit. On any given night, kids can see a dozen different animal shows on television. They can watch thousands of animals videos on YouTube. And yet, something very magical happens when you put a kid eyeball-to-eyeball with a Siberian tiger. “It’s really cool to see them in 3-D”, one of my kids said, “and to watch how they eat and react. And you can ask whatever questions you want from the zookeepers.” Like why the cleaners of the sea lion enclosure wear bicycle helmets. (In case they slip and fall on the algae-covered surfaces.) And though it might sound cheesy, a zoo is just adorable in spring when all the baby animals are around.
And now for the practical, grown-up stuff. The zoo’s “most direct route” directions from New Jersey were spot-on. Follow them to the letter, even the confusing turn from the Cross Bronx to the Bronx River Parkway, and you will have no problem getting there. The Bronx Zoo is expensive–$96 for “total experience” tickets for a 2-parent, 2-child family–but can be made much less costly. General admission (no extra attractions) is $52 for the same family of four. On Wednesday, you can give whatever you’d like for admission, and nobody at the front desk wrinkles a nose if that’s not very much. If there’s any chance you will go to the zoo twice in the year, or visit any of New York City’s other zoos, buy a family membership instead of general admission. The $124 regular family membership or the $154 family premium will more than pay for itself on the second visit.
Though the zoo has a cafe and food stands, I appreciated the fact that there were plenty of tables open for picnic lunches from home. Even if we had to share them with a mallard and a peacock.