Central Park Zoo
We took our grandson to the Central Park Zoo this weekend and I thought it would be a good hub to write. Then, I open hub pages to find someone else wrote about taking kids to the New York Botanical Gardens. I figured, this must be a good idea so I'm going to go ahead with the Central Park Zoo. Who doesn't love a zoo?
The Central Park Zoo is such a surprise. First of all Central Park, located in the middle of Manhattan is a surprise, then within Central Park is this wonderful six acre zoo. It's hard to believe, as you walk around the zoo, that you are in the middle of Manhattan. The Zoo has lots of greenery and flowers amidst the exhibits, with over 150 species of animals. It is beautifully laid out and if you walk through (rather than run through) it should take you approximately three hours to cover the entire zoo. Not too big, not too small, but lots of interesting stuff in between.
Sea Lions performing for their public
Visiting any zoo is always a nice experience, getting to see animals you wouldn't ordinarily see in your lifetime, but visiting with a three year old is pure joy. Watching him run from exhibit to exhibit, and I do mean run! Seeing the joy on his face as he spots familiar animals he's only seen in movies.
As you enter Central Park Zoo the first thing you see is the sea lions exhibit. At any time of day there is a crowd around this exhibit. It is a large open tank with rocks and a small man made cave for the sea lions to enjoy. Standing around the exhibit you are actually standing next the water enclosed in heavy plastic so you can see the sea lions as they swim around. They are quite the performers and will occasionally come out and sit on the rocks "talking/barking" to their public. Sea lions are intelligent and playful. They are also very social and stay together rarely traveling alone. They use their large front flippers to 'propel' them through the water, quickly and gracefully. They are long and streamlined which helps them with their graceful gliding in the water. According to squalus.com there are 17 types of sea lions with the most common being the California Sea Lion. Adults can weigh as much as 1,000 and in captivity they can live to be 25 to 35 years old. They are beautiful creatures and young and old alike enjoy their antics.
Once you have decided to move away from the Sea Lions you can proceed to the left or right. Bypassing the Cafe and restrooms you come to the Tropical Zone. Animals housed here include snakes, bats, mongoose, mountain coatis, and different kinds of birds. We didn't spend a lot of time here as it seems my grandson preferred to be outside. He was also a little leery of all the bats flying around even though they were behind glass.
Ducks and Turtles
Proceeding up to the far left we saw more turtles in one spot than I've ever seen in my life and who doesn't love a turtle? Imagine a child's face seeing so many turtles just piled together! There were various kinds of ducks but the sheer number of turtles was mind boggling. According to the Central Park Zoo site, "Look on logs and scan the banks for red-bellied turtles, migratory birds, and other creatures that thrive in this marshy ecosystem." You walk over a small footbridge with water to the left and right of you. You can spot any number of ducks and turtles on either side. My grandson was amused by the little ducks swimming and sticking their heads in the water, sometimes diving right in. The ducks offer a truly entertaining show.
This is a great spot for little ones as the animals are easy to spot and of course there's water!
We moved on to the "Temperate Territory" to see what was next. Two little red pandas were hiding out in the trees and bamboo. Unfortunately they appeared to be rather shy and picture taking was out of the question. One red panda was asleep in a tree with his back to us and the other was wandering around looking like he wanted to rest somewhere without us.
The Central Park Zoo website states that red pandas are solitary and secretive and are most active at night. The eat mostly bamboo and are currently an endangered species because of the deforestation of their bamboo. While they don't really look like pandas, they are adorable.
The next animal we visited was the snow leopard and much to our disappointment he was sound asleep. I do mean 'sound' asleep. No manner of yelling or bumping into the glass by some of the younger children would disturb this white giant. Amazingly his tail was as long, if not longer than his body. Since all we could see was one we had to assume the other was off asleep somewhere out of our line of vision. A truly majestic creature. Central Park Zoo says they are most active in the early morning or late afternoon...we were there in the early afternoon. The snow leopard is also an endangered species due to the loss of habitat and hunting.
After watching the snow leopard sleep we decided to move on and headed to the Polar Circle to see what else, the polar bear. The snow leopard must've told him we were coming because he was sleeping as well. I found an intriguing video about the Central Park Zoo polar bear, Gus. Take a look and see his new endless pool.
Leaving Gus behind we headed for the penguins and sea birds exhibits. Anyone who has a child under 13 knows penguins are always a big hit. Walking into the penguin exhibit required a little bit of fortitude because the smell of fish was almost overpowering. Once you get inside you find what looks like hundreds of penguins and hundreds of people to go with them!
There are different kinds of penguins in this exhibit including the King Penguins (they're the ones with the orange feathers around their neck), the Gentoo Penguins, Emperor Penguins, Chinstrap Penguins, and maybe more. I know when I looked at them all standing there it was a lot of penguins. Similar to the sea lion exhibit, except for being indoors to maintain climate control, you are standing in front of their glass-sided tank so you can see them swimming underwater. By the way, King Penguins are about three feet tall while the others are an average of two feet tall. Gentoos live in small groups while other penguins live in larger groups. They also have the most prominent tail of all penguins.
Many are up top, on the 'ground level' socializing and wandering around. There seemed to be more penguins and definitely more people the day we were there compared to the video I have chosen below.
Childrens' ZooClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Childrens' Zoo is part of the Central Park Zoo but is separate from the main Zoo - it is included in the price of admission. It's actually called the Tisch Children's Zoo. There are loads of animals for children to feed in the childrens' zoo. From alpacas to pot bellied pigs, all anxiously waiting to be fed. I'm not sure who enjoys the feeding more, the children or the animals.
There are small bronze statues throughout the zoo that, when touched, emit animal sounds so children can hear what the animals actually sound like. The animals aren't always cooperative and sometimes silent so the statues are a big help and a lot of fun for the kids to touch and hear.
There are lots of photo ops for your little one here too. There are large stone acorns, rabbit bodies that kids can stick their heads into and turtle shells just waiting to be filled by little bodies. This is a really fun place for the five and under set.
If you're ever in NYC with your children try to make time to visit the Central Park Zoo!
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