Sunday, July 01, 2007

A Day At The Zoo

Ava is scheduled to get her cast off on Thursday. So - as we confronted the last Saturday of the summer (we hope) during which water and sand represented challenging issues to manage, as opposed to good-time seasonal fun - it seemed a perfect opportunity to spend a day at the zoo. We took the girls to the Central Park Zoo last spring and had a nice pleasant experience, but there wasn't anything there driving interest in a return engagement. I remember standing in a small and sweltering room with a crowd of uncomfortably close strangers watching a polar bear swim and scratch up against a glass window, and that's about it.

This time out we weren't taking any chances. We were determined to get it right, go big time, blow the girls away. In the New York metropolitan area that could mean only one thing. We were going to the Bronx.

Growing up around here, I must have been dragged to the Bronx Zoo at some point. Maybe a school trip or family excursion, I'm not sure how I could have missed the place 41 years in a row, but as we pulled up yesterday I had absolutely no recollection of ever having been there. We were advised by friends to park in Lot B if at all possible, which we did, stopping off at the new "Eco-Restroom," which lovingly diverts wastewater into a garden of beautiful plants nearby, and also down a paved walkway that zoo-goers are forced to splash across, unaware, on their way into the place.

At the ticket counter it looked like we were faced with at least $80 or $90 just to get in for the day. Gwen gravitated over to a little cart offering "membership," which included unlimited access to the zoo and a number of other area facilities for one year. Even if we never came back, the idea seemed appealing - members received 10 percent off food and gift shop purchases, plus "no questions asked" access to the various attractions that carry an extra charge - like the shuttle, the Wild Asia Monorail, Butterfly Garden, Congo Gorilla Forest and basically anything else featuring species that aren't indigenous to the five boroughs of New York City.

It was a nice afternoon. It was fun to stand with the girls and see real live elephants, gorillas, giraffes, lions and a dozen other interesting creatures right out of the stories we read at night. We rode a monorail and a sky tram and they got a genuine kick out of both experiences.

But as we walked out of the zoo, shortly after 5 p.m., with both Madison and Ava begging (make that "demanding") to be carried, Gwen and I agreed that we would have had a very different feeling about our day with the animals if we'd visited on one-time tickets - additional fees and expenses waiting around every corner - instead of basking in the glow of membership. Will we be back? Who knows... but it's nice thinking about it. Especially as a no-cost option on the other end of a manageable drive.

A few photos from our day:

[Ava and her own little endangered species - her cast, which will be extinct (we hope forever) on Thursday - regard the Bronx River. Yes, that's right, this photo was taken in THE BRONX.]

[The girls are mesmerized by some sort of fierce looking reptile. "Daddy," Madison wants to know, "if he had the chance would he eat us?" Very short answer to this question, Madison, "YES!"

[Taking a break from the formal exhibits to torment a peacock that has unwittingly strayed into civilian territory.]

[On our way out of the park, Madison and Ava momentarily taking a break from demanding to be carried, exhibiting a level of stamina and joie de vivre that has us seriously rethinking tackling Disney anytime soon.]


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