This past weekend I drove the family to the Bronx Zoo to do a 5K. I say ‘do’ a 5K because the plan was for me to run the 5K and then join my wife and our baby girls to walk the 5K together, but fate (meaning oversleeping, traffic and general lateness) conspired against us. So we all just walked the 5K together.
The WCS Run for the Wild 5K raised money to help work for elephant conservation. (WCS stands for Wildlife Conservation Society and it’s the official name of the Bronx Zoo; it also runs the Central Park Zoo, New York Aquarium, the Prospect Park Zoo and the Queens Zoo). The 5K is a nice way to see some of the large zoo, which remains one of the city’s best attractions. After the race or walk, you get a discount for the rest of the day and admission and parking that day is free. It’s a good deal.
The Bronx Zoo is one of the greatest zoos in the world, but it’s a lot different than it was when I grew up. Like baseball games and movies, you should be ready to pay a lot more for the experience.
While the 5K we completed raised money for elephant conservation, we didn’t actually see any live elephants on our zoo visit. The elephants are in the Wild Asia exhibit, and contained within the special monorail ride. That costs extra money. Many exhibits the zoo that used to be included with zoo admission now cost extra money. Years ago, one zoo admission got you in to see all the popular animals. Now there are many special exhibits for some of the more high profile beasts of the wild. There’s no longer a house of primates to see all your gorillas and apes, instead you have a Congo Gorilla Forest that costs a little extra.
If you try to see everything, it all adds up. If you are really going to see a lot, then it pays to get the all-access pass. The zoo used to get more money from the government and raises money however it can to keep up with those kind of cuts and increasing costs.
But the Bronx Zoo is not another amusement park or snot-riven animal-themed plastic playground. Unlike movies or sports events, you can bring your own food and drinks to the zoo. Admission is also free every Wednesday. And it’s all about education. You always learn something when you’re there. It is also a beautiful park in its own right.
But the Bronx Zoo has gone a bit too commercial and crazy with its dinosaur attraction. It has a Dinosaur Safari ride (where you won’t see any live dinosaurs, of course) and there is a virtual zoo of large dinosaur models. I’m all for studying dinosaurs, but a zoo is for live animals. Unless you’ve found a way to reanimate a dinosaur like they did in Jurassic Park, we should have dinosaur-free zoos.
There used to be excellent overhead gondola rides there, the Skyfari, which was closed five years ago after it broke down and stranded visitors. The old stations have now been converted into other attractions, a sure sign that they will not be back, and that’s too bad. It’s a sign that a part of the Bronx Zoo that so many knew and loved is gone for good.
But that the current zoo is without a doubt still one of New York’s greatest institutions. Go there.