Penguins and Puffins on 64th and 5th – New York City, New York, USA

Penguins and Puffins on 64th and 5th

New York City

Animals at theDelacorte Clock stand ready to march
Animals at theDelacorte Clock stand ready to march
Where in New York City can you walk through a rain forest, watch a violin-playing hippo march around a clock tower, and shop at a zootique? The Central Park Zoo – of course.

We were in town for a business meeting – convention hotel, cocktail parties, dinner for 500. An afternoon spent at the Central Park Zoo was a welcome respite. In the middle of the city, on 5th Avenue at 64th Street, we found a place where snow monkeys swing from trees, otters paddle streams, oblivious to the yellow cab gridlock just feet away, and polar bears swim lazily in their private pool. In the central garden around the sea lion pool, there are benches for relaxing. The walkways lead to the pavilions that house the rain forest, the polar circle and the penguin and puffin accommodations.

For an eight dollar adult admission ($4.00 if you’re over 65 and $3.00 if you’re 3 to 12), we walked through the rain forest pavilion and got a free facial in the damp warm air – a sea change from the frigid December air outside the door. We watched the rollicking circus performance of feeding time. The enthusiastic New York crowd cheered as the sea lions hammed it up with their keepers – barking and waving. For a mouthful of fish they balanced their 300-pound bodies on flippers, tails in the air, and dove with grace into the pool. The sea lions hale from California but they give a Broadway performance. Harbor seals and chinstrap penguins also work for lunch.

Our lunch was at the Leaping Frog Café, a child-friendly, casual eatery with indoor and outdoor seating. We dined with parents and grandparents who looked like they enjoyed zoo-discovery as much as the munchkins in tow.

Giraffe jewelry box for sale at the Zootique
Giraffe jewelry box for sale at the Zootique
Our next stop was the Zootique, a boutique with everything animal. Looking for an African safari moveable action play set? Zootique is your place. In the market for handcrafted tableware from Zimbabwe or animal jewelry boxes from Poland? Check out Zootique. There are un-bear-able tee shirts, coffee mugs with elephant trunk and giraffe neck handles, dragon kites, monkey masks, zebra fleece blankets and stuffed animals of every persuasion. A best seller is a picture book, And Tango Makes Three, about some famous zoo residents – Silo and Roy, a pair of male chinstrap penguins who hatched and raised an abandoned chick named Tango as their own.

After Zootique-ing, we ambled among friendly New Yorkers along the cobblestone path to the Delacorte Clock. This majestic musical timepiece rumbles into action every half hour playing a selection of nursery rhyme tunes. As we walked under its archway, two bronze monkeys struck the bell and an instrument-playing penguin, kangaroo, bear, elephant, goat and hippo lurched into action around the tower. The path under the clock leads to 65th Street and the Tisch Children’s Zoo, a separate petting zoo. Admission to the Central Park Zoo includes admission to the Children’s Zoo. The receipt must be saved for admittance.

Four-legged moocher gets hung up at petting zoo
Four-legged moocher gets hung up at petting zoo
The petting zoo is a delight for the stroller set. Children can crawl into a make-believe turtle shell to check out what it’s like to live in a permanent mobile home. Or they can pretend to hatch out of an egg. We bought food from automated dispensers to feed the goats and sheep, who hung over the fences, unashamed of their flagrant mooching. At the Petting Zoo exit automatic dispensers provide hand wipes to sanitize after the avalanche of tongue licking.

Natives and visitors alike have beaten a well-worn path to the Central Park Zoo. An afternoon’s worth of strolling will tell you why it’s a good choice for a break from whatever important business brings you to the Big Apple.

For more information call:
The Central Park Zoo – 212-439-6500

Or visit these web pages:
Central Park Zoo Homepage
Complete Guide to Central Park

The CPZ is open 365 days a year. It hosts educational programs for pre-schoolers through middle-schoolers and is available for public and private events from birthday parties to black tie dinners. The web site is replete with relevant information.

Winter hours: October 31 – March 31 (10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
Summer hours: April 1 – October 30 (10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. weekdays, 5:30 p.m. weekends)