Central Park Zoo occupies almost seven acres of land near the southeastern corner of Central Park. This small space is home to a children’s zoo and an impressive variety of animals, including grizzly bears, snow leopards, sea lions, multiple penguin species, harbor seals, and many, many more. Visitors may also enjoy distinctive experiences like on-site educational programming, live animal feedings, a 4-D Theater, and amenities such as a café and gift shop.
History of the Central Park Zoo
New York’s legendary Central Park has been (in one form or another) home to a zoo ever since the day it was founded over 160 years ago. In fact, what would eventually become known as Central Park Zoo is widely considered to be the second-oldest public zoo in the country, trailing only the Philadelphia Zoo in age. The very first animals to be exhibited in Central Park were part of what was then known as “The Menagerie,” and included such disparate creatures as a bear cub, monkey, and bald eagle.
Over time, the zoo in Central Park would become more formalized. It would go through multiple eras of growth and renovation, culminating in an extensive reconstruction project conducted over the course of the 1980s. Today, Central Park Zoo stands out as one of the most popular elements of Central Park, hosting millions of visitors from all over the world each and every year.
What’s at the Central Park Zoo
Central Park Zoo divides its attractions into two categories: exhibits and experiences. Beloved exhibits at Central Park Zoo include highlights like the Tisch Children’s Zoo, where your little ones will enjoy interacting with goats, sheep, and cows, as well as Tropic Zone, which is home to a host of exotic rainforest animals. Other popular exhibits here are the Polar Circle, with its penguins, puffins, and harbor seals; Temperate Territory, an Asia-centric facility complete with snow monkeys, cranes, and red pandas; and the Allison Maher Stern snow leopard habitat.
There are three unique experiences available at Central Park Zoo. Penguin feedings occur daily at 10:30am and 2:30pm (times subject to change), and are an ever-popular part of a trip to the Central Park Zoo. There are also sea lion feedings each day at 11:30am, 1:30pm, and 3:30pm (also subject to change), when zookeepers will work closely with these fun creatures to keep them well-trained and acclimated to their surroundings. Last but not least, Central Park Zoo is home to a 4-D Theater. It routinely shows an assortment of entertaining educational content.
Dancing Crane Café is Central Park Zoo’s on-site dining option. Located at the zoo’s southeastern edge, just off Fifth Avenue, Dancing Crane Café serves an assortment of small meals, fresh dishes, healthy snacks, desserts, and more. It’s situated just a few steps away from Zootique Gift Shop, where you’ll find all manner of souvenirs for sale.
Tips for Visiting the Central Park Zoo
- Entry to the Central Park Zoo are included on several money saving tourist passes including the New York Sightseeing Pass and TurboPass NY.
- There are two types of tickets available at Central Park Zoo: one that includes a 4-D Theater experience ticket, and one that doesn’t. If you don’t plan on doing the movie part of the zoo, you can save yourself several dollars per ticket by making up your mind ahead of time and purchasing the basic ticket option.
- Given its location, there’s no on-site parking at Central Park Zoo. However, it’s easily accessible via public transportation, and there are a number of parking garages to be found not all that far away.
- If you have the time, ability, or inclination, consider bringing your lunch to Central Park Zoo. You can save a fair amount of money just by enjoying a picnic on a bench or blanket just outside the zoo in beautiful Central Park.
- Most visitors to Central Park Zoo report spending anywhere from 1 hour to 1.5 hours exploring the attraction, though this can vary significantly depending on your interests.
- Central Park Zoo provides free wheelchair rentals to those in need. However, they are available on a first-come, first-served basis.