New York City, home to every type of cuisine, the world’s most famous skyline and residents who speak languages from every corner of the globe, is also where you’ll find America’s largest metropolitan zoo. Within this 265- acre expanse, visitors can see Asian elephants, California sea lions, snow leopards, grizzly bears, ring-tailed lemurs and 750 or so more species.
Opened in 1899 as a conservation park, the Bronx Zoo has expanded over the years to include new environments and become a major destination for families, school groups and animal lovers—all while still maintaining its original commitment to wildlife protection.
The zoo takes extra care to help guests (and animal residents) feel immersed in simulated global habitats with climate-controlled settings, realistic backdrops and cageless homes. The City’s lone polar bear plays in a pool, giraffes graze on tree leaves and gorillas nurse their babies. Birds fly overhead, peacocks wander through walking paths and tigers roam at eye level—behind safety glass, of course.
If you’ve decided to ditch the concrete jungle for something more like a real one, read on. We’ve got the tips you need for a perfect day at the zoo.
How to get there
There are multiple entrances to the zoo. You can take the 2 or the 5 subway line to E. 180th St. and enter through the Asia Gate entrance, or the 2 train to Pelham Parkway and head for the Bronx River entrance. The BxM11 express bus travels up Manhattan’s Madison Avenue and drops you off at the zoo’s Bronx River entrance as well.
2300 Southern Blvd., Bronx, NY
What can I see?
Your general admission ticket is good for entrance to exhibits including the World of Birds, World of Reptiles, Himalayan Highlands, African Plains, Madagascar! and sea lion feedings.
JungleWorld, the Wild Asia Monorail, the Congo Gorilla Forest, the Children’s Zoo and the Butterfly Garden each require an additional entry fee, or you can just buy a Total Experience ticket that includes them all.
Congo Gorilla Forest: In 1999 the zoo recreated a Central African rainforest for western lowland gorillas, mandrills and okapi. The indoor-outdoor exhibit lets visitors feel like they’re walking through the forest, with waterfalls, tree tunnels and lush ferns all around. Plus, the baby gorillas are really cute.
JungleWorld: Spot ebony langurs (that’s a type of monkey), black leopards and Malayan tapirs (a four-legged mammal) at this indoor attraction populated with animals from Asian jungles.
Madagascar!: Check out the wide-eyed ring-tailed and red-ruffed lemurs at this exhibit right on Astor Court.
Tiger Mountain: A favorite of fearless kids, Tiger Mountain gives guests the chance to view Siberian tigers at eye level. It also teaches the importance of conservation and the dangers of poaching.
Wild Asia Monorail: There’s sometimes a long wait for the monorail, but it’s well worth it to see Indian rhinoceroses, Asian elephants and red pandas from above.
• Dining options include the Dancing Crane Café, close to the zoo center, which serves salads, sandwiches, hot meals and vegetarian options. There are additional food stands throughout the zoo, including at Somba Village and Asia Plaza. You can also bring your own food and eat it in designated areas.
• The zoo tends to be least crowded in the fall and winter months. Pay-what-you-wish Wednesdays tend to draw big attendance in the spring and summer.
• Fordham University sold the zoo’s land to the City in the late 1800s for a mere $1,000.
• The zoo’s original director, William Hornaday, and President Theodore Roosevelt created the American Bison Society—a group instrumental in helping bring bison back from the brink of extinction—in 1905.
• The Rockefeller Fountain by the Fordham Road Gate entrance was transported directly from Como, Italy. Biagio Catella sculpted it in 1872 and William Rockefeller brought it to the zoo in 1903.
• When it opened in 1941, the zoo’s African Plains was the first exhibit in the country to let larger animals roam cage-free.
• Opened in 2003, Tiger Mountain provides heated rocks and cooled water for its denizens.
• In 2011 a venomous Egyptian cobra escaped its enclosure and was on the loose for six days before being found near its cage. During her escape, she (or someone acting on her behalf, we suppose) created a Twitter handle that she still uses today. She has around 164,000 followers.