So you’re here in New York City, home of nearly 100 museums, non-stop nightlife and too many enticing restaurants to count. But you’re here with kids, and those kids are begging you to see animals, here, in the city. What do you do when they lose interest in the pigeons? You can take them to the zoo, of course, and we know all about NYC zoos. Whether you need a zoo for an all-day outing or a zoo to explore for an hour or two, we’ve got NYC zoo recommendations that should make any child happy, no matter their age.
The Biggest NYC Zoo
The Bronx Zoo
2300 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, NY 10460
A trip to the Bronx Zoo can feel like a trip around the world. This 265-acre zoo features approximately 600 species of animals in their natural habitats. There are African plains, Himalayan highlands, Congo rainforest, Madagascar and so much more. The monorail that shuttles visitors through the Asian corner of the zoo in the warmer months has been a kid favorite for decades. And the seasonal trolley can save you time (and energy) getting from one side of the park to the other. Kids should also enjoy the children’s zoo. It contains not just the typical farm animals, but also a giant anteater, alpacas, prairie dogs and a sloth.
Besides the animals, this amazing NYC zoo offers fun and adventures with an assortment of rides and experiences. This includes a “bug” carousel, camel rides and 4-D theater. The NatureTrek is a high-level kid’s climbing structure with nets and bridges and tunnels. If your child(ren) focus best when they’re involved with a hands-on activity, look for an orange-shirted Quest leader. Sign up for the Bronx Zoo quests: self-directed activities including trivia, games, mini tours and mini labs that help you explore certain areas of the park.
For something truly different within New York City, try the Bronx Zoo Treetop Adventure. You must be over age 7 and meet certain height/weight requirements. This high ropes course features a 400-foot zip line over the Bronx River, with an aerial view that rivals the best NYC view! You can even experience a NYC zoo in the dark. Sign up for the Bronx Zoo’s family-oriented sunset and night zoo walks, which take place after the zoo closes to the public.
Tickets: The zoo offers two kinds of tickets: General Admission and Total Experience. Pricing differs for adults, seniors and children. General Admission doesn’t include entry to each premium experience (things like the monorail, shuttle and Children’s Zoo). Total Experience includes unlimited access to premium exhibits and activities. Kids age 2 and under are free.
Food: You can bring your own food into the Bronx Zoo. You can also buy it from an assortment of cafes and food stands throughout the zoo. Just to be sure to eat and/or drink only in the designated areas.
Insider tip: General admission is free on Wednesdays. The zoo does welcome donations.
The Most Central NYC Zoo
Central Park Zoo
64th Street & Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10065
The Central Park Zoo is the most central of the NYC zoos for most visitors to the city. It’s located in Manhattan, in the southeast corner of Central Park. You may recognize it when you visit because of its background role in many movies and TV shows through the years. This NYC zoo’s centerpiece is its sea lion pool. It has viewing opportunities both above and below water, and scheduled feeding times. Other popular animals include the grizzly bears, penguins, red pandas, snow monkeys and snow leopards. There’s also a tropical rainforest with lemurs, boas, poison dart frogs and more. If you’re visiting with young children, be sure to get to the Tisch Children’s Zoo. Feed the animals between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., and get a glimpse of the Patagonian cavy, a rabbit-like rodent.
NYC zoos are great destinations for hands-on learning. The Central Park Zoo offers a selection of day experiences, as well as week-long camps and monthly activities. These include family breakfast with the animals and morning tours with a zookeeper. Before you leave the zoo grounds, be sure to check out the George Delacorte Music Clock, which features statues of animals playing musical instruments. On the half hour and hour, this enchanting clock plays one of 26 nursery rhymes and the animals rotate around the base. On the hour, two sculpted monkeys at the top also bang the bell.
Tickets: The zoo offers a General Admission ticket, which includes the main zoo and the children’s zoo. A Total Experience ticket includes both zoos and one entry to the 4-D theater. Each has separate pricing for adults, seniors and children. You can also buy a ticket to the 4-D theater alone. Kids ages 2 and under get in for free.
Food: Visitors to the Central Park Zoo can buy food and drinks at the Dancing Crane cafe within the zoo grounds. You cannot bring food from outside into the zoo itself. But, there are many benches outside the zoo and throughout Central Park where you can eat and drink.
Insider tip: The zoo is open all year-round, including major holidays.
The Youngest NYC Zoo
53-51 111th Street, Flushing, NY 11368
You can find the 18-acre Queens Zoo on the site of the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows. It opened in October 1968, making it the youngest of New York City’s five zoos. The zoo features sea lions, with three daily public feedings. There is also a small herd of bison; marshland with birds, turtles and alligators; puma; lynx; coyotes; and more. The Queens Zoo is famous for its rare Andean bears — a threatened species. In fact, the zoo welcomed its first Andean bear cub in May 2017. Other exotic animals include the pudu and Chacoan peccary.
As with other NYC zoos, there is a domestic animal section where children can feed and/or touch some of the animals. This includes a Flemish giant rabbit and Belted Galloway cow (affectionately called the “Oreo” cow). The Queens Zoo may be best known for its aviary, housed in the geodesic dome from the World’s Fair. The aviary contains a variety of birds all native to the Western Hemisphere, including quail and egrets. There are three “conservation quests” for kids, found near the playground, climbing wall and Sea Lion Station. There are plenty of other learning opportunities, too. If their availability matches your visit date, consider PJ Storytime at the Zoo, Animal Yoga for Families and Family Overnight Adventures.
Tickets: The Queens Zoo offers a general admission ticket for adults, children and seniors. Children ages 2 and under are free.
Food: The zoo has vending machines for snacks and drinks in its Sea Lion Cafe. Visitors are welcome to bring their own food and drink and eat at the zoo’s picnic tables.
Insider tip: Get the most out of your visit to Flushing Meadows by also planning to visit the Hall of Science. It has approximately 450 interactive exhibits that are appropriate for all ages. You will find the Hall of Science within a short walking distance from the zoo.
The Smallest New York Zoo
Prospect Park Zoo
450 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11225
Although the Prospect Park Zoo is not the smallest of New York City’s zoos in physical size, it does contain the fewest animals. There are around 600 of them, representing approximately 100 species. This makes it the right size for little kids and those with shorter attention spans. Like the Central Park Zoo, this NYC zoo centers around the sea lion court. There are three daily sea lion training sessions there. The Animal Lifestyles exhibit contains some rare animals. This includes Pallas’s cats — the furriest cat in the world, a pair of lettered aracaris — a type of toucan, and Hamadryas baboons. The Hall of Animals contains large-eared Fennec fox, dwarf mongoose, Vietnamese mossy frog and more. Visitors can spot prairie dogs, dingoes, red pandas, otters and more on the Discovery Trail.
As with other NYC zoos, the Prospect Park Zoo has a barn area with animals that children can pet and feed. This includes pigs, Cotswold sheep, alpaca and little Zebu cows. The zoo has quest education adventures for kids; look for an orange-shirted guide to get started. There are week-long camps and holiday camps more for NYC locals, but visitors to New York City can take part in an assortment of day events at the zoo. These include a monthly Breakfast with the Baboons, Family STEM Safaris and calypso weekends at the zoo.
Tickets: The Prospect Park Zoo has general admission tickets for adults, children and seniors; children 2 and under are free.
Food: The zoo’s Sea Lion Café sells salads and sandwiches, as well as snacks, candy, ice cream and drinks. Visitors can also bring food in from outside the zoo and eat it at any of the picnic tables.
Insider tip: The Prospect Park Carousel is right outside the zoo. Exit through the Children’s Corner and follow the path — the carousel will be on your right. It is open 12:00-6:00 p.m. Thursday through Sundays, and on holidays, and costs $2.50 per ride.
The Best-Priced New York Zoo
Staten Island Zoo
614 Broadway, Staten Island, NY 10310
The zoo has an Amur leopard habitat, tropical forest section, three different bird of prey enclosures and an Africa wing. The Sahara Plains exhibit features ostrich and Scimitar-Horned Oryx. The zoo’s kangaroos are visitor favorites, fascinating both children and adults alike. Other residents include Tamandua, Galapagos tortoises, lemurs, sloths, meerkats, prairie dogs and Cassowary — a flightless bird from New Guinea. There is also a farm animal section where kids can feed and/or pet some animals. These include potbellied pigs, rams, horses and alpaca. Peacocks roam throughout the zoo.
The kids will likely want to ride on the Conservation Carousel, with its 25 different hand-carved animals. The Staten Island Zoo runs special programs monthly. This includes Serpent Day, where staff take some of the snakes and reptiles out of their glass tanks. There’s also a raptor show, which showcases the zoo’s hawks, owl, falcons and other birds of prey.
Tickets: This New York City zoo has the best prices of all the city’s zoos. While the adult price of $10 is the same as the others, the child’s price of $6.00 and senior price of $7.00 are cheaper. If you want to feed the animals, there is animal feed available for $.50.
Food: The zoo has a cafe, where you can buy snacks, drinks and lunch foods. You can also bring in your own food and eat it at tables throughout the park or the covered pavilion. The Broadway entrance office will store your coolers for you while you tour the zoo.
Insider tip: All visitors to the Staten Island Zoo can get in for free from 2:00-4:45 p.m. on Wednesdays.
Add a Zoo to Your New York City Itinerary
You and your kids should get your animal fix with a visit to any of the five NYC zoos. But if the kids want to explore more than one (and let’s face it, each one does have something different to offer) buy a Family Zoos Plus Membership. It will save you a lot of money. The membership gives two adults and four children (and one guest) unlimited admission to the Bronx, Central Park, Queens and Prospect Park zoos for one year. It also includes all Total Experience extras at the Bronx Zoo.