Feed the Animals!
September 27, 2013

In parks throughout New York City, the ubiquitous rules and regulations signs remind visitors not to feed the squirrels or pigeons—or presumably any other wildlife that comes into view.  There are some logical reasons behind this, but still, feeding animals is great fun for kids, adults, and animals alike, so what’s a city dweller to do?

Hit the zoo!  At ages 10 and 7, Riley and Halina have mostly outgrown the climbing webs, mock logs to crawl through, and gigantic faux turtle shells to crouch down in, located in the children’s zoos that the Wildlife Conservation Society maintains within the big zoos in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx.  But still, they always ask to take a swing through the children’s section in order to indulge in innocent nostalgia by marveling at how small all the equipment now seems. They also want to feed the animals. 

Just remember to bring lots of quarters for the grain dispensers because the dollar change machines—in the zoos that have them—don’t always work; so far in our explorations, the hand sanitizers in every location have always been stocked. 

Tisch Children’s Zoo in Central Park

Outside a mostly wetlands habitat environment, the Tisch Children’s Zoo in Central Park has two small mangers where you can feed grains to goats, sheep, alpacas, ponies, and big, fat pigs. We have visited this zoo several times a year over the past six years, and on a recent visit, we realized how little the children’s feeding styles have changed in that time. 

Halina has always thrust a hand full of pellets as far into the animal pen as she can and screamed with delight as her furry friends nip and lick the delights off her outstretched palm.  Riley, for his part, is far more timid, choosing instead to throw single pellets deep into the habitat so the animals have to scramble around and look for them.  It follows that Halina still goes through her pellets at a much faster rate than Riley, and then makes all sorts of deals to try to get him to give her more. 

Queens Zoo

Located a stone’s throw from a lovely carousel, the Queens Zoo has a bigger barn that you can visit, and here, Highland cows and Flemish giant rabbits lope around in addition to alpacas, goats, pigs, and sheep from all over the world.  The Queens Zoo itself sits on the edge of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, which is one of our favorite parks in the city for all its amazing relics from World’s Fairs past. 

Prospect Park Zoo

This zoo is nestled in the Children’s Corner of Prospect Park, which also contains a vintage carousel and the 200-year-old Lefferts Historic House which you can walk through for a glimpse of bucolic old New York.  The Barn and Garden area here features all the usual suspects—goats, pigs, sheep—and milking cows. 

Bronx Zoo

Unsurprisingly the biggest barn area is found at the Bronx Zoo, which, tragically, is closed for renovations until next summer—so mark your calendar!  The interactive exhibits and play structures are by far the best for older children.  Indeed, this remains a destination unto itself for our kids.  They still love the underground prairie dog habitat where they can pop their heads up in clear tubes to survey the applauding parents around them, the rope web that is a whopping 8 feet high in the back, and the piece de resistance: the high slide that curves down through a (fabricated) hollowed out tree.  The farm area here has several areas and a greater number of all the creatures you hope to see. 

Queens County Farm Museum

The granddaddy of all feeding zoos—though unrelated to the Wildlife Conservation Society—is the Queens County Farm Museum which offers visitors whole bags ($3) or buckets ($5) of pellets so they can wander around and feed the animals who are mostly wandering around in pens.  The legendary two-acre “maize maze” is now open for the season, challenging visitors young and old to find their way out.  Dating back to 1697, it is the oldest still-operating farm in New York State, which itself is something to experience.  It also has a greenhouse, small orchards, a vineyard, and beautiful flowers throughout. 

So please, feed the animals! 
 

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