Accessible Guide to the Bronx Zoo

Lakshmee Lachhman-Persad

The Bronx Zoo is one of the oldest and largest urban zoos in the United States, spanning 265 acres of parks and natural habitats in the City’s northernmost borough. Part of its mission is to inspire visitors to value the role of nature in preserving animal life. With over 6,000 animals and more than 700 species from around the world, it does just that; patrons can expect exclusive exhibits, lectures and simulated settings with immersive experiences. The attraction does stellar work for wheelchair users. For more information and helpful tips, read on.

Photo: Julienne Schaer

Tickets, Maps and Feeding Schedules

Guests should consider purchasing the attraction’s Total Experience Ticket, which affords entry to the Children’s Zoo, Congo Gorilla Forest, JungleWorld, Bug Carousel, Butterfly Garden, Wild Asia Monorail and Zoo Shuttle. The last two are the zoo’s wheelchair-accessible modes of transportation; use them to get from one area to the next. We particularly recommend the Zoo Shuttle, on which you’ll spot wild horses, rhinos, tigers, red pandas and babirusa (an Indonesian animal that resembles a boar).

The Bronx Zoo provides a detailed map for wheelchair users to plan ahead and maximize their visit. All buildings are wheelchair accessible, though some may require navigating steep hills and rough terrain. The zoo has three separate main entrances; it’s best to download the map and strategize ahead of time what to aim for, since it’s nearly impossible to see everything within a day. A favorite way to start is by planning around the day’s animal feeding schedule and figuring out where to venture before or after it. At the sea lion feeding (twice a day, at 11am and 3pm), expect plenty of entertaining tricks. Also held daily are the penguin feeding (3:30pm) and the bee-eater feeding (3pm). Each is located relatively near the zoo’s Southern Boulevard Gate.

Notable Exhibits and Rides

Bug Carousel
Squeamish about bugs? No need to be—at least not on this ride. The carousel allows visitors to ride a praying mantis, grasshopper, beetle, ladybug and a wasp, and is accessible to manual wheelchair users.

Photo: Brittany Petronella

Butterfly Garden (seasonal)
This indoor conservatory features more than a dozen different species of butterflies. Visitors can learn about the various stages of the butterfly life cycle and see how zookeepers breed these fragile beauties. The conservatory is also home to several species of birds and a fish pond. Want a butterfly to land on you? Try wearing bright colors.

Photo: Julienne Schaer

Children’s Zoo (seasonal)
This small farmyard allows children to pet goats, sheep and donkeys. There are also entertaining sloths, squirrel monkeys, porcupines and occasional events to keep the young ones engaged.

Photo: Christopher Postlewaite

Congo Gorilla Forest
Modeled after an African rainforest, this 6.5-acre attraction features around 400 animals and is a breeding ground for lowland gorillas. Besides the captivating great apes and various species of monkeys, be sure to check out the okapis, which look like a cross between a giraffe and zebra (they are most closely related to the former).

Dinosaur Safari (seasonal)
The zoo offers a guided tour of its animatronic dinosaurs, connecting the ancient animals with the park’s current inhabitants. Note that this tour is on a trolley, which is accessible via a lift.

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JungleWorld
As its name suggests, this tropical jungle tableaux hosts plenty of warm-climate animals, complete with a mangrove swamp and volcanic scrub forest. Explore several small galleries of ground-dwelling animals such as toads, beetles and scorpions, along with habitats featuring a black leopard, ebony langurs and Malayan tapirs.

Dining at the Zoo

The Dancing Crane Café is the zoo’s main dining area. The large space (which includes outdoor seating) is wheelchair accessible and serves hot and cold sandwiches, hot dogs, chicken fingers, fries, soups and beverages. Not in the mood for fast food? You’re welcome to pack your own meal and enjoy picnic-style dining in the area. There are additional seasonal cafés and snack stands throughout the zoo.

Photo: Julienne Schaer

Tips

• Ask for the Guest Assistance Pass at the entrance, which offers reduced wait times and shaded waiting areas (where possible). You’ll need to provide your name and the total amount of people in your party. Note that it does not give you immediate access.
• All entrances offer manual wheelchairs and strollers for rent. If you require an electric convenience vehicle (ECV), plan to arrive at the Southern Boulevard Gate. All mobility equipment is available on a first-come, first-served basis. On weekends and holidays, park attendance can be high; we suggest arriving prior to 11am if you’re interested in these rentals.
• To avoid the crowds, visit on weekdays or before noon on weekends.
• There are plenty of areas to rest, accessible restrooms and water fountains throughout the park.
• Use this map for an accessible pathway to the area where JungleWorld and Asia Monorail are located.
• On Wednesdays, general admission entry is free.


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