We love visiting the Bronx Zoo. It happens to be a short drive from our apartment in upper Manhattan and we have a family membership so visit often. The truth is, if you don’t have a car or membership it’s a pain to get to and quite expensive. With kids, this expansive zoo can be overwhelming without a plan. However, there is public transportation to the zoo, they also honor idNYC so you can get there inexpensively and gain entry for free if you take the time to get yourself the idNYC, which is available to all NYC residents.
Here are a few options on how to tackle the Bronx Zoo with little ones:
For a 1.5 hour day:
Children’s zoo only. This is an amazing newly renovated section of the zoo. It’s easy to walk to once you enter the zoo from parking lot C and has a wonderful mix of animals to see. There is an extra fee to access this special part of the zoo if you don’t have the total experience ticket but it’s worth it ($5 per person). The Children’s zoo has many fun climbing features for kids to try and exhibits you can interact with. Also featured is a slide that is built inside a tree which seems to be where we spend most of our time on our visits. At the end of the children’s zoo path there is a farm which is also a petting zoo. Your kids will have a chance to feed goats, donkeys, sheep and llamas. They can also climb onto a real tractor and even get their picture taken with one of the animals in a special photo section near the exit (extra charge). We always bring a bunch of quarters for the animal feed and a baggie so my daughter doesn’t spill the food everywhere before getting to the animals. I’ve included a video which tours all of the Children’s Zoo, take a look and see if it’s the right attraction for your family.
For a 2 – 2.5 hour day:
We do the Children’s zoo plus add on a ride on the Bug Carousel and a visit the Butterfly Garden just across from the carousel. Lines fluctuate so my time estimate is a range. When we do mid week visits we normally don’t wait in lines and adding both of these increases our visit by about 30 minutes.
The Bug Carousel is adorable. There is an additional fee if you don’t have the total experience ticket, it’s $5 per person. Kids get to pick which insect they want to ride and away they go. It’s a decent ride in terms of length and one of my favorite carousels in NYC because it’s so unique.
The Butterfly Garden, steps away from the carousel, is really special. It’s like stepping into a land of fairies…or butterflies. Again this is an extra $5 per person unless you have the total experience ticket. This attraction starts outside in a garden then weaves into a gorgeous atrium filled with lush vegetation and thousands of butterflies. There’s even a pond with little waterfall and coy fish to keep little ones interested. Upon exiting you walk through the rest of the garden and have the opportunity to pop your face into many butterfly shapes for cute pictures.
For a 3.5 hour day:
Add the Congo Gorilla Forest to the Children’s zoo, Bug Carousel and Butterfly Garden. The Congo Exhibit is really special and my favorite part of the zoo. Like all the other attractions, it’s an extra $5 per person if you don’t have the total experience pass, but I think it’s well worth it. You walk through a very well designed forest winding through caves, boardwalks, lush vegetation and you even pass several waterfalls. Throughout the walk you have the chance to see many different types of animals that live in the Congo Forest. The end of the journey is the best part, a room with huge glass windows where you can watch the giant gorillas in their outdoor habitat. They often come right up to you or lean against the glass so you can sometimes get up close and personal with them. On our last visit three baby gorillas were out playing with their moms. It was beyond adorable. I’ve included a video showing a full tour of the Congo Gorilla Forest, check it out to see if you’d want to visit it.
Other favorites are the sea lions, penguin feedings, Wild Asia monorail and the camel rides. I still think it would be hard to truly experience the entire zoo all in one day. This zoo is the largest metropolitan zoo in the United States (265 acres) and among the largest in the world. There are so many special parts to the zoo I’m really happy my family has a membership so we are able to go often.
- Bring a stroller or wagon for little ones.
- Coolers and food are allowed in.
- They sell beer here!
- They have many food and snack options, Dancing Crane Cafe is our favorite.
- Bring sunscreen and hats for the summer.
- Bring a camera, this zoo is pretty remarkable.
- There are many clean bathrooms throughout the zoo.
- I prefer parking lot C since it’s the closest to the Children’s zoo. It’s located to 2300 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY.
- We love our premium family membership, it gives us free parking plus access to all zoos in NYC including Central Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Staten Island Zoo and Coney Island Aquarium.