Our tips for a perfect day visiting Central Park Zoo with a toddler.
A trip to New York can sometimes be a bit overwhelming for kids, especially if the weather is hot. A perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle is to spend a morning or even a day at the Central Park Zoo.
You will find this small but super iconic zoo to the South East corner of the park, at 64th Street/5th Avenue.
We visited on on beautifully warm May morning, and I found it to be the perfect treat for Miss T, who was two years old, after firstly travelling and then a busy few days sightseeing with me.
The zoo is a perfect size for little legs, but there are still some really impressive animals to spot. With a children’s zoo, an onsite cafe, picnic benches, and even a 4-D cinema – it really was great for us.
So, if you are considering a visit with a toddler in tow, here are my top tips for making the most of your visit:
Buy your tickets online – print or show your barcode tickets on your mobile.
I was surprised at just how easy it was to purchase tickets online. I did it from my mobile phone using the hotel WiFi, and I didn’t even need to print the tickets off, I just saved the PDF tickets and showed them at the entrance gate to the zoo. Zero queuing for tickets, which is always a nightmare with a toddler who can’t grasp the idea of having to wait before they can go inside, meant I felt very smug!
Buy a Total Experience ticket
A Total Experience ticket includes the main zoo, Tisch Children’s Zoo, and entry to the 4-D Theatre. At only $6 more than general admission to the main zoo, it is definitely worth it.
After our walk around saying hello to all the animals in the main zoo, we popped into the 4-D cinema which was playing a short Ice Age movie. For us, it was a nice way to escape the sun for a little while and have a bit of a sit down. I can’t really say it was a relaxing sit down, with water being randomly sprayed, blasts of air tickling my legs, and prods from the back of the seat, but it was certainly really fun!! Miss T was a little wary at first, but she got into it.
The children’s zoo is also great for toddlers, with smaller farm animals such as sheep, goats and even a cow! You can purchase animal feed and feed some of the animals, and there is a good hand washing station near the exit. Miss T had fun pretending to be a turtle, and also climbing on a giant spiders web !
We arrived just before opening and waited by the gates, chatting away to some of the local nannies and their charges who obviously did this day trip regularly.Once inside, we had the chance to take a wander and get the best viewing spots before it got busy with school groups and general tourists. I think Miss T appreciated the space to run around, and being able to get great views of the animals without me having to lifting her up.
For me, it was nice to have a quieter part of the visit, where I could easily keep up with Miss T without her running in between groups of people to get to the animals .
Consider taking a packed lunch
It’s not always easy, especially if you are staying in a hotel rather than a holiday rental with a kitchen, but in hindsight I wish I had taken a packed lunch with us on our visit. There is a cafe at the Central Park Zoo but, as with most places, especially in New York, we found it to be a bit expensive.
If we were to visit again I’d definitely take a packed lunch, and then just head into the cafe for an after lunch treat, like an ice cream or slice of cake. There were plenty of tables outside the cafe, on the zoo side (the cafe is also open to the public and has tables outside of the the zoo too), so you can easily make a pit stop during your day.
Don’t let rain put you off, head inside!
Despite being a small zoo, there are still things to see inside, which would be perfect on a rainy day.
The Tropic Zone, is a wonderfully balmy hothouse with different levels to explore; from the rainforest floor right up to the canopy. You will find lemurs, snakes, frogs, tropical birds and many more. I think this was my favourite part of the zoo, and I thought how it would be an ideal place to visit even if it was raining.
The penguins and sea birds, and the 4-D Cinema mentioned above are both also housed indoors, so there are still some great things to see and do when the weather isn’t playing ball.
Combine your visit with a trip to the Central Park kids playground
The kids playground in Central Park is just awesome, and as it was just downstairs from our hotel on our last two visits to NYC our kids have spent many happy hours playing here.
It isn’t very far to walk from the zoo, so if you have a stroller (or your toddler is a great walker) it is totally possible to do both on the same day. Perhaps they could sleep in the stroller on the walk there?
If it is hot during your visit then make sure you take their swim stuff with you as it is the perfect place to splash and cool down!
So there you have it, just a few tips for making the most of a visit to Central Park Zoo with a toddler. Do you have any more tips to add?