A trip to the zoo
After months of planning, we finally made it to the Bronx Zoo last Sunday. That just leaves Queens in our list of NYC boroughs (the most Indian of them) to visit. This has free admissions under the BOFA Museums on Us program and we have dedicated all our first weekends to exploiting the offer. Back in India, we had visited the much bigger Vandalur zoo twice, but the zoos here have a Children’s or Petting Zoo where kids can pet sheep, llamas, goats, … and Nila loved to feed them at the smaller Central Park zoo.
We start the day early, as we stay an hour away from Manhattan and there are not many trains running on Sundays. We did manage to get ready by 7.45. That is a big achievement because Nila is not used to waking up early here. The train to NYC is at 7.56 and it arrives sharp. We are at a 5 min walk from the station, but have been forced to run on a few days to catch the train, thanks to our late planning. Nothing like that on this day though! At the station, we are pleasantly surprised to see our friends who are off to see the Natural History museum (another item on our To-Visit list). They tell us they are inspired to start the day early by seeing us. For us, we are almost sure that we will not see everything in the zoo given that there are too many exhibits and activities and we have to allow for Nila’s schedule.
We used the planning tool on the zoo site to make a personalized tour of exhibits that we should not miss. The tool said it will take us 5.5 hours to see the Wild Asia Monorail, African Plains, Butterfly Garden, Bug Carousel, Children’s Zoo, Madagascar, Himalayan Highlands, Tiger Mountain, Congo Gorilla Forest and Carter Giraffe Building. This is an awesome feature. If we had done it a couple of days earlier, we could have printed the trip planner PDF because it had a lot of details. It is so easy to plan trips here, right?
We are in Manhattan well before 9am and we have got an hour to get uptown to The Bronx. We are on schedule to catch the 2 train, but then thanks to the weekend subway construction work, the 2 train is not running to our destination and the only train that will go is the 5 one. In order to avoid walking, I decide that I could go downtown on the 2 and transfer to the 5 train. When we get to our transfer station, the weekend schedule change again plays havoc on our plans. The 5 train is not running from downtown. This forces us to catch the 6 train to transfer. So much for planning the trip. Thank you MTA for all these disruptions. Finally after 45 min, we catch the 5 train to the zoo.
The train is fast and Nila starts to sleep on the 4th train we have boarded since we left home. The zoo is 3 blocks up from the station and we could already see a crowd heading towards it. Inside the zoo, we wait for her to wake up. All the sounds accomplish the task faster. We upgrade to a Total Experience ticket which pays for most of the special exhibits. Our first stop is the Wild Asia monorail, a mini-train 25-min ride over the Bronx river and above paddocks having the elephant, tiger, rhino, deer among other things with a supposedly humorous guide. But I still think the Aussie and Kiwi guides are the most humorous of the lot. Maybe, it’s just that I spent a lot of time with them Nila goes wild with her KidiZoom camera. She adores it so much that she gets into so many angles just like her mom.
Our next hop is on the shuttle to the other end of the zoo where a lot of our paid exhibits are there. The shuttle stops only at 4 places and we get off at the 2nd. The Children’s Zoo is our next stop. Nila is afraid to feed the goats today. Her change surprises us. It has not been 3 months since our Central Park zoo visit. Fear grips us humans early than we think. All of us are hungry and get our brown bag lunch out. We had brought parotta and chicken curry. It is so yummy. We did not see a microwave here, though we had seen one at the Brooklyn Kids Museum. We are really surprised to see that quite a few families have brought brown bags and it is not just us. That saved us a neat $30+, I would think. Next time, we will bring kothu parota. What a change for us! In India, we never bothered to brown bag on our many week-end trips and we do not think twice about eating out on many days a week. But here, we have been consciously trying to limit our eating out to once a week because it is a significant expense.
Nila has spotted the Dora board and so we walk to the 4D theater featuring Dora. On the way, we see the Bug Carousel and happily board it. Nila loves carousels. We had been on one at the Prospect Park where it cost just $2 and here it is $3 if you don’t have the Total Experience ticket. Nila loves the ride so much. Forward to the theater. It has got the biggest queue for a 8min short 4d film. Dora and the kids – such a thick bond! Nila does not wear the 3D glasses, but she is thrilled by the sensory extras of the 4D movie. It has been a long day and she is tired. We push through the Butterfly Garden and the Mouse House fast. The variety of butterflies we see is amazing. We take a break to allow her to sleep well. Our legs also need rest. We have not walked so much for sometime.
After allowing a short nap for her, we go to the Congo Gorilla Forest. We see cute pink flamingos on the way. The okapi is something we have not seen before. The big gorillas are a feast for the eyes and they come so playfully near us. We see quite a few giraffes next. There is a crowd to see the lions. There are no geladas to see in the Baboon Reserve. Lest I forget, the zoo has a lot of peafowl (our national animal) everywhere. I have seen wild peacocks in Tuticorin who run on hearing us, but here they are happy to pose for pictures on the trees, in the enclosures, … Enough has been said about their beauty! The zoo closes its exhibits at 5, half an hour before it closes. That brings us to the end of our exciting and exhaustive trip. We have not seen everything, but have used the Total Experience ticket well and we need to pay another visit to cover the others that we have missed. One more first summer weekend gone!!!