A Bronx Zoo Tale

The Bronx Zoo is not on everyone’s to-do list but should be. No year in New York City is complete without at least one long visit to this great zoo, which insists on calling itself the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The Wildlife Conservation Society has a Run for the Wild 5K run/walk every year to help raise money for its conservation efforts. Each year has the theme for some endangered animal and this year it was gorillas. In the past it was fun to run the 5k and then spend the day at the zoo. Nowadays the wife and I walk the 5k with our babies in a jogging stroller and then spend as much time as possible at the zoo until our offspring become too tired and cranky to make the zoo pleasant.

So it was a fun family trip to the zoo and we of course got there much later than we expected. We parked in a field farther away from the starting line of the 5K than we had hoped but in the process of finding our way to the 5K starting line, we happened to walk on the Mitsubishi Riverwalk, a nature walk with a lot of informative displays about local wildlife. It opened in 2004 and totally free and open to the public every day.

It’s a rarer thing to find stuff to do in New York that is both family-friendly and free. It was nice to see waterfalls and woodlands and know that you are in the Bronx.

We did a brisk walk for the 5K though there were lots of slow-moving people, parents and grandparents seriously lacking in stroller-parking etiquette, and mobs of people stopping to gawk at the animals.

We still finished the 5K walk in good time (I assume, who really gives a shit) and we collected our prizes, which included stuffed gorillas for our girls. Then we began traversing the zoo and seeing as much as we could while letting our 15-month old girls walk. Walking with them while also steering a double-wide jogging stroller is a new and unique challenge. It is like other parenthood skills in that you will master it just in time to not need it anymore.

The Bronx Zoo now kind of nickel-and-dimes you at every turn though. Lots of the cool exhibits cost an extra three or four dollars, which can all add up if you want to see the more popular animals. We were lucky in that we got a zoo membership as a gift, but also running the 5K gets you discounts during your zoo trip.

There were long lines at the World of Asia Monorail line, and you get to know people waiting in line just because your kids are interacting with one another and you have to be minimally sociable. A couple of parents with very well-painted faces were asked a half dozen times where they had their faces painted. A bald father with tattoos on his head berated his children and joking (I hope) offered to exchange his daughters for ours, although his daughters weren’t behaving badly at all. An Asian grandfather in the family ahead of us shot me a look of insulting contempt every time my crankier daughter cried and fussed. I hope my devil baby put his panties in a bunch. Full disclosure: his infant grandson was an absolute angel.

For all her fussing, my older daughter became quiet and seemed to be enjoying seeing the animals on the monorail, but that was because she fell asleep. That was our signal to head home after the monorail ride.

Luckily we got to swing by the bison on our way out. After viewing animals from every corner of the globe, it feels right to visit the bison, the great and very American animal that we have here in our own land. They are not native to New York, of course, but I vow that one day I will travel west and see buffalo in the wild. Until then I will be happy to conclude my Bronx Zoo visits with them.

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