The Central Park Wildlife Center
64th Street and 5th Avenue
Lexington Avenue-East 63rd Street station (F train)
Commonly known as the Central Park Zoo, the wildlife center is one of the best bargains you'll find in the city. The zoo is small, but it's the source of many a smile from the millions of children who visit every year. The country's oldest public zoo, it was remodeled in the early 1990s; the neighboring children's zoo reopened in 1997. Both are operated by the Wildlife Conservation Society.
The main zoo does not have large animals, such as lions and tigers, but it does have a large sea lion pool as the centerpiece. (Feeding time is fun to watch.) To cool off, you might want to stop in the Polar Circle, an indoor enclosed exhibit featuring more penguins than you can count (hint: there are more than sixty). The tuxedoed waddlers frolic in a re-created wintry arctic setting, complete with mini-glaciers and icy waters. Tufted puffins also live in the Polar Circle.
Venturing through the zoo, you will find a large land and water home for New York City's popular polar bear couple, Ida and Gus, who gambol happily a few yards from Fifth Avenue, along with a family of red pandas. They all have plenty of room to play and are fun to watch when they're not taking an extended nap. Nearby is Monkey Island, home to numerous Japanese snow monkeys and other simian species.
A large, indoor (and hot) tropical rain forest exhibit comes complete with tall trees, waterfalls, and other vegetation; it is home to numerous birds, Colobus monkeys, and insects. Following along the trail, you'll find yourself smack in the middle of the Amazon, right in the middle of New York City!
The beautifully landscaped zoo takes about an hour to visit at a leisurely pace. There is a café that serves primarily snack foods, hot dogs, and sandwiches. There's also a gift shop with all kinds of zoovineers.
The famous Delacorte clock is located just outside the zoo. It was constructed on top of an archway in 1965. It consists of six bronze animals on a small carousel that rotates on the hour, with the animals moving as the chimes peal.
The zoo is open year-round from 10
Buying a ticket also entitles you to visit the neighboring Tisch Children's Zoo, an imaginatively designed little world where children can visit and pet goats, pigs, sheep, and other child-friendly animals. Engaging shows and fun exhibits let children happily learn about the world around them. It is unusual in that it is just as much fun for the little ones as the older kids. Summer days can make for long lines on weekends, but the lines generally move quickly. The Children's Zoo is open Monday to Friday from 10