After just finishing Turtle Bay and my next start of the walk in East Midtown, I took the night off and had been invited to a private members night at the Bronx Zoo. Having been occupied by my responsibilities on the fire department for the last six years and always being the night of our department meeting I always had to miss the event. Since I am no longer Secretary of the Department, I decided to attend this year. On a rather gloomy, cloudy Thursday night I took the subway up to the Bronx for the event (I was smart in calling first to be sure it was still happening and Membership said it was).
I had not taken the subway this far up to the Bronx in years and was amazed at all the changes. The South Bronx has been on a building spree for the last twenty years and it shows with all the new apartment buildings springing up all over the place. I have not seen this much new construction since walking around West End Avenue in Manhattan.
I was not sure where to get off on the subway and forgot to ask when asking the best way to get to the zoo. I just took the Number 2 train up to the Bronx and got off at the Bronx Park stop. That was interesting. I thought that the subway would drop me off closer to the entrance but this took me to the other side of the park and I had to walk around. Did I feel like a fish out of water.
I was in the middle of an Arabic neighborhood where everyone totally ignored me. I guess that was the interesting part of it was feeling invisible. It was mostly made up of small businesses with lots of restaurants and bakeries in the area. Walking down 180th Street from the subway finally got me to the entrance to the zoo.
I had not been to the Bronx Zoo in about twenty years, not since the Congo Exhibit opened so it was a treat for me. The only problem with Member’s Night was the threat of rain as it had been cloudy all day but that did not damper the crowds that came into the zoo. For the most part, there have been many changes to the zoo over the years and the philosophy of raising animals in captivity has changed so the exhibits have changed with it.
The only problem I saw was that many of the animals looked bored or contained. Almost like a nursing home for the wild. The zoo does need to look at the displays more to see how the animals are reacting to it. I have to say though, the zoo really has done a nice job with the new displays and done a good job with keeping them well-feed and happy.
The Bronx Zoo Map
I started my night in the Jungle World exhibition. This glassed in exhibit is home to birds, insects and monkeys all of which are a tad bit small for the animals. There was a lot packed into a small space. It was an interesting to see the animals in a somewhat realistic environment but still I saw the looks on the monkeys faces and they looked bored. I think they should pair this exhibit down with less mammals and give the animals left more space. It is fascinating how they expect something to live in such small quarters.
It was more fun when I got to the monorail and got to see animals in a larger more realistic habitat. Here they had room to move around. Even so they way the animals looked at us passing by I don’t know who was looking at who. The ride was interesting as each animal lived in its own place to live and roam.
We had a guide who took us past herds of deer, a lion den, two rhinos who were playing amongst each other and bison who were going about their business. I liked this exhibition because it gives these animals a realistic home with room to move around. We got to make stops at each of the habitats and the speaker gave us a little talk about each animal, how it has adapted to New York weather and you get to see how each animal interact with each other.
The Treetop Adventure climb
Once I was off the monorail, I took the path down to the Treetop Adventure exhibition where you get to climb all through the obstacles of rope bridges and ladders. That was a lot of fun keeping up with the teenagers who were racing through the maze. I climbed up rope ladders, crossed rope bridges and climbed through barrels to the top of every stop. It was fun to see how the age groups handled each section of it. The toughest part was climbing through the last circular tube because it is meant for little kids and I had to crawl on all four to get through but I went through the whole thing like a pro. It seemed to impress the little kids.
The Treetop Maze
From the Treetop Adventure I traveled east down the path to the World of Birds exhibition and got to see many different species of birds. There was a nice assortment of exotic birds from all over the world in their jungle habitat. Each section of the exhibit was dedicated to a different species from all corners of the globe.
The World of Birds
After the World of Birds, I passed Tiger Mountain and looked at the tiger that looked at all of us and the poor thing looked bored. I think the humidity was getting to him but unlike the other visitors I did not want to arouse him because by the end of the day he looked tired.
The next part of the pathway took me to the Bear exhibition in which all the bears looked very playful and they looked like they were ignoring us and were have a good time amongst themselves. What I liked about this exhibit was that there was plenty of room for the bears to move around and engage with nature. The mother bear looked like she was having fun with the cubs.
I then walked through Samba Village which I guess was the zoo’s take on an African village. Everything was closed that evening maybe because of the crowd or because the weather was not that nice and the zoo figured that the weather might keep people away. As I passed the buildings I did not realize that it was a gift shop and a snack shop.
Congo Gorilla Forest
I next visited the Congo Gorilla Forest for the first time since it opened over twenty years earlier. The exhibit has several different species of gorilla and monkey each in their own encampments. The area is large and is furnished with all sorts of trees, rocks and water placements that make the habitat more real for the mammals. For the most part I saw the gorillas just go about their day walking with each other and taking care of each other. It was nice that the zoo created an environment where the mammals felt right at home. There was lots of room to move around.
Congo Gorilla Forest
After visiting the Congo Gorilla Forest, I went to see what was open for dinner. The Dancing Crane Cafe that was located in the older section of the zoo. The restaurant was packed with families that I did not want to bother eating then and since it was getting late wanted to see the Dinosaur Walk and the Sea Lion Tank before the end of the evening.
When I got to the Sea Lion Tank at the Astor Court, the sea lions were in the pool splashing around showing off to all the patrons who were watching them swim. They are so used to people watching them they just swam and dove around us. I thought they waved to us.
The Bronx Zoo posted this and I thought he looked cute
The main entrance of the zoo facing the Fordham Road entrance is the original zoo that was built in 1907. This is where the original animal buildings were located that are now used for administration purposes. These buildings are some of the original buildings when the park opened after 1899. These graceful stone buildings were built by the firm of Heins & Lafarge and the Rockefeller Fountain was donated by William Rockefeller. It had been built by Biagio Catella in 1872 and moved to the park in 1903.
The Rockefeller Fountain built by Biagio Catella
This is the Monkey House
The Reptile House
The Lion House
The Elephant House
Don’t miss walking around Astor Court after visiting the sea lions. These buildings are a real treat if you love architecture and detailed stone work. Each building has its own unique look to it and the animals grace the buildings where they used to live at a time when animals were just an amusement instead of living breathing animals who needed living space. Still the Victorians knew how to design a building.
I walked along the gardens near the fountain and by Astor Court while the band set up for a family concert for the families. As the sky threatened, the families got ready for the concert. I decided to visit the Dinosaur Safari Walk before the park closed.
This was very interesting as they movable Dinosaurs in the natural habitat placed here and there along the walk by species. The dinosaurs winked, moved and roared around us giving me the creepy feeling that I was in the movie ‘Jurassic Park’. As I walked through the exhibit, I watched as they moved around and lifted their heads up to look at us. I thought it was very clever and in our case Thank God they were not real.
Don’t miss the ‘Dinosaur Safari’ before it closes
On the way back from the walk, I stopped to admire all the buildings once again that surrounded Astor Court. Really look up and see the detail work of the stone animals. The artisans did a wonderful job with the craftsmanship and the intricate details.
While everyone else was enjoying the concert, I made the trip back to The Dancing Crane Cafe (See Review on TripAdvisor) for dinner. It was around 7:00 pm when I got to the restaurant and that and the gift shop were still busy. I have to say for a zoo restaurant I was pretty impressed by the food. It is standard children’s menu with hamburgers, chicken fingers and individual pizza.
The Dancing Crane Cafe
I had the Chicken Fingers and French Fries combination dinner with a Coke ($11.99 with a 10% membership discount). They were delicious. Perfectly cooked with just the right amount of breading and perfectly deep fried where they crisp on the outside and moist and juicy on the inside. Usually these things are sitting under a heat lamp dried out but here the restaurant was so busy that every thing was freshly cooked and delicious. It was fun to sit by the window and watch the flamingos in the pool next to the restaurant or just watch the other members trying to calm their kids down before the zoo closed for the evening.
As the last of members and their families came into the restaurant for dinner, the Bug Carousel was going in full force and packed with kids and their parents trying to get one last ride in before the park closed. I could not believe the prices of everything and how much was extra when you visit the zoo but that is the nice part of being a member of the Wildlife Conservatory. Everyone once in a while there is a nice member perk.
Even though it was a somewhat gloomy night, I had a ball walking around the zoo and enjoying the company of other members who were also having a good time with their families. It is nice to see that my membership is making a difference.
I took the Number 2 subway at the 180th Street stop this time back to Manhattan.
Places to Visit:
The Bronx Zoo
2300 Southern Boulevard
Bronx, NY 10460
Open: Monday-Friday 10:00am-5:00pm/Saturday & Sunday 10:00am-5:30pm
Fee: Members Free/Adults-Full Experience $39.95/Senior Full Experience $34.99/Child (3-12) $29.99/Child (under 3) Free
My review on TripAdvisor:
My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:
Places to Eat:
The Dancing Crane Cafe
Inside the Zoo
My review on TripAdvisor: