After visiting the Bronx Zoo last Tuesday, I thought I should definitely let you all know what it’s like to visit one of the countries largest zoos during the pandemic.
So here I am.
I know in my last couple of zoo-related posts I said I wasn’t going to go to zoos anymore when I traveled and I’m probably going to keep my word on that. (Probably. I’ll try really hard but if there’s an ocelot in residence, I will probably break that promise.)
But I never said I would stop going to the zoo in my hometown.
That would be the Bronx Zoo. Just ten miles from Times Square and about an hour by public transit from my apartment.
When I received the email a couple of weeks ago that The Bronx Zoo was finally re-opening, I went online to book tickets. When I saw that members of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s would be granted access to the zoo a week earlier, I quickly decided to buy a two-person membership for myself (and Nick, but I can take whoever I’d like as my second person!).
A two person membership for the four zoos (Bronx, Central Park, Queens, and Prospect Park) costs $140/year.
Considering the price of an adult ticket to the Bronx Zoo is $35, I thought it was a great deal.
It was worth the money to me because it’s an outdoor activity, meaning it’s safer, and since not much else is open right now in NYC, I thought it’d be a good option for the summer and fall to hold me over basically until Broadway opens again (and who knows when that’ll be).
And to be able to visit the Zoo without as many people there was pretty cool, too. Though I doubt with the new way they’re selling tickets – online & with specific entrance times – that it’ll ever really get crowded. But it was nice to have the option to be there with even FEWER people.
I digress: I purchased my membership and secured two spots for the 2pm time slot for Tuesday, July 21st!
Next time I’d go at 12pm. All of the animals seemed to be eating lunch at 2pm!
Yes, it was hot AF. We’re talking 95*F.
We took the 2 train up to the Bronx and we were enthusiastically greeted at the East Entrance by Bronx Zoo employees who welcomed us back with warm words and huge smize’s (since they were wearing masks).
First thing, I headed to the gift shop to buy an adult tiger face mask because DUH. (It’s super cute btw.)
Then we spent the next few hours walking around the park.
Reminder to self: bring bandana next time to soak in water and cool down with!
So what’s it like to visit the Bronx Zoo during a pandemic?
✨Everyone – employees and patrons – is wearing masks, obviously.
✨The cashiers in the gift shops wipe down their POS systems, the credit card machine, as well as the counter after EVERY purchase and they limit the number of people who are allowed in at one time. So, it may take you longer than usual to get in and out, but I think it’s worth it.
✨There are signs telling you which direction to enter exhibits from.
✨There are markings on the ground designating 6 feet of distance and where to place your paws (awwww).
✨The indoor exhibits are sadly, but understandably, still closed (the reptile house, the bird house, the children’s petting zoo, etc); the butterfly garden is also closed (don’t worry, the butterflies have found their way out to the rest of the zoo!).
✨There are zoo staff members with bottles of disinfectant and cleaning rags literally EVERYWHERE. I saw them constantly cleaning things off that everyone touches – the info cards and other interactive buttons at various exhibits. There was basically always someone outside the bathrooms waiting to clean it after a few people had used it. (And there were no lines for the women’s room!)
✨Needless to say, the camel rides have been suspended for the time being as well.
The seals were excited to have people to yell at once more and they loved all the attention they got – flopping around and occasionally fighting with each other. “Can I come in for a dip?” Nick tried to negotiate with them but they sadly said no.
I made sure to say hi to the lions and snow leopards. The snow leopards were being fed lunch when we found ourselves in the Himalayan Highlands so we stopped by a second time on our way out. That time they were lazing about, trying to keep cool like the rest of us.
Sadly, their Siberian tiger was camera shy and hiding in the shade (I get it, buddy).
The antelopes and gazelles were running amuck, as was the small pack of African Painted Dogs. I love those wild dogs so much! They’re the size of regular domesticated dogs but they have the most interesting coloring.
The turtles were soaking up the sun and the brown bears were playing in their pool. The giraffes were running around with the ostriches.
There was a tiny, baby antelope running around with about 20 adult antelopes. You could almost see the older antelope rolling their eyes as the baby ran by them again and again.
And of course, the peacocks were everywhere. And they were loud! But they’re so pretty to look at that you can’t be mad at them. They were also molting and a lot of people were taking their feathers home with them as they exited.
The Animals We Missed
I think we missed a few exhibits because I don’t remember seeing the elephants or the gorillas, and it’s pretty hard to miss either species, so we’ll have to go back. We also never saw the okapi!
I watched a couple episodes of The Zoo on the Animal Planet app the night before and I learned all about how three dholes (the H is silent) were transported to the Bronx Zoo from the San Diego Zoo.
I saw them transform the area where their 27 year old polar bear (who’s sadly no longer with us) from an arctic tundra to a landscaped environment with cliffs and rocks and grass for the Asian wild dogs called dholes. Like the African Painted Dogs, these guys look just like your average domesticated dog, but they live in the wilderness of Asia!
However, I was super bummed that the Dholes weren’t out either time that we walked by. I asked an employee who was hosing down the area where they were and she said they were in holding currently. I was disappointed, but I’ll go back when it’s cooler out and hopefully they’ll be out and playing.
Why I Visited the Bronx Zoo During the Pandemic
I love the Bronx Zoo because it is so large and the natural barriers make such a nice life for the animals. Animal Planet’s The Zoo has also shown that there is infinite more space behind the scenes that people like you and me will never see (though if anyone from the Zoo reads and wants to give me a tour, let me know!). The areas where the animals are on exhibit is not the only space that they have to run around in and that makes me so, so happy.
Nick had to reign me in more than once when I “accidentally” tried heading for a path that says “service” or “employees only.”
I swear, I just wasn’t reading the signs and I was just trying to make sure I saw all of the animals before melting into a puddle.
Though if I’d happened to end up in the area where the cheetahs they raise live, I wouldn’t have been mad about it.
I’m just being honest.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
There are water bottle filling stations everywhere in the park, too, but I don’t think those are new pandemic-related additions. We utilized those stations every chance we got. I think I drank a couple gallons of water while I was there. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
I realized on Tuesday that I’ve never actually taken the monorail at the Bronx Zoo. Nick was kind of desperate to get on it to get us back to the part of the park through which we wanted to exit but then we couldn’t have seen the snow leopards again and that just wasn’t acceptable.
But I promised him we’d take it all around the park next time.
It makes me a little nervous to sit near so many strangers though, no matter how low our positive test rates are currently in the northeast. I didn’t take note of how they were seating people. Hopefully they’re seating people in every other row!
Overall: The Bronx Zoo did a fantastic job preparing for a mid-pandemic opening. The park wasn’t over crowded and the helpful directions on the paths made sure no one was knocking into each other. They’re not screwing around about wearing a mask either. I did not see a single person, or employee, without a mask on. Okay, maybe once I saw an obnoxious child rip theirs off, I just turned and went a different direction.
I will be back soon!
However, now I can’t wait to visit the Central Park Zoo! I haven’t been to the Central Park Zoo since I was in elementary school so it’ll be nice to visit it again. Although I’m preparing myself for disappointment because I know already that the arctic exhibit is closed so I won’t be able to see the puffins, sadly. On a recent episode of The Zoo, they hatched their first ever puffling! (That’s what baby puffins are called.)
Needless to say though, it will still be fun and it’s basically in my backyard!
So, what about you? Are you visiting the Bronx Zoo anytime soon? Did I convince you to plan a visit to the Bronx Zoo during these crazy pandemic times? Let me know if you have any questions about the experience that I didn’t cover in the comments below!
The Bronx Zoo is located at 2300 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, NY. (718) 220-5100 / You can find more information, such as their hours and days of operation, and buy tickets online at their website here.