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FIELD TRIP SERIES: Central Park Zoo & Children's Museum of the Arts

Before I get into this post, I wanted to explain what Field Trip Series is. Field Trip Series is a series of post about any day trips, night trips, tourist trips, fun trips, etc we take in our home cities. They are not weekly post just yet, but this is a start for us and an effort to get us to experience more of our local communities. Kiera lives in Virginia, but also commutes to DC and I live in New York. Sometimes we take for granted the hidden gems in our own city, because to the residents it’s nothing exciting or out the ordinary. Or we are deterred by the tourist who flock to these attractions. We’re taking more of an initiative to visit these local hidden gems, cherish them and share them with others.

For this field trip series, I took my 3 year old niece to Central Park Zoo and then to the Children’s Museum of the Arts in New York City, and we were traveling by train. As someone who lives in Brooklyn, traveling to the city isn’t something that I do often because it can be a hassle and exhausting, but today we weren’t going to be deterred. It was the first time I took my niece on the train with me. She was amazed by the different people she saw and just the overall experience of being on the train. We had to take the L train to the D train, which was actually running on the A train line. This is another reason I tend to stay away from the city. Between delays and servicing, sometimes your train isn’t running on time or on the right track and sometimes driving isn’t worth it. The train ride was a little over an hour long, so by the time we got to Central Park Zoo, she was starting to feel a bit tired. This was both of our first time going to Central Park, so it was a new experience for both of us.

Once we got off the train we started our trek to Central Park Zoo. The zoo is within Central Park itself, which is pretty big, so you have to walk a bit to the actual zoo entrance. Luckily for us, my niece had a fascination with the bike taxis and we ended up taking one to the zoo entrance instead of walking 10-15 minutes. Once you enter the park, you can find a bike taxi anyway, so it wasn’t hard. This was probably the best option, since the walk would have tired my niece out even more. Before we left, I purchased the full experience tickets for both of us, which included the main zoo entrance, the Tisch’s Children’s Zoo and the 4D Theatre. While Central Park is big, the main zoo itself is not that big, but has just enough to keep you entertained. There were sea lions, penguins, a grizzly bear, a snow leopard, a few birds, and a few other animals. It took us about 30 minutes to an hour to get through the main zoo and that’s with stopping, oooo’in and ahhhh’in. My niece loses interest pretty easy, and this kept her engaged for a little bit, but after a while she was more concerned with getting ice cream.

The gem of Central Park Zoo is the Tisch Children’s Zoo. Tisch Children’s Zoo isn’t located in the main zoo, so it has its own entrance and entrance fee. This is where her attention was the most engaged, and that’s probably cause everything catered to her age and height. It was more interactive for her. The Tisch Children’s Zoo has a feeding and petting area for sheep and goats unlike the main zoo. We got some pellets, that were only 50 cents, and she was able to feed the sheep herself. She was also able to pet the sheep once the pellets ran out. Thankfully, there is a hand sanitizing machine for when you are done, so you can pet them all you want. There were also a ton of little things they could do, like crossing over a little pond via lily pads, playing on a big rope made spider web (only for little kids, but I wish it wasn’t), playing in big turtle shells (not real ones), etc. It was a really good zoo for little kids, because it allowed them to engage with the animals, play a bit and experience the zoo in an interactive way. If my niece wasn’t so concerned with ice cream, we would of stayed longer or probably even went to the 4D theatre.

It was time to EAT! The zoo has a cafeteria within it, so we sat for some lunch and of course she got her ice cream. At this point, we were suppose to go home, but the zoo didn’t take up much time, so I figured maybe we could do something else. When we were originally deciding where to go I asked my niece if she wanted to go do arts and crafts or see animals. She chose to see animals, but now we were going to do both. After eating lunch, we started our journey to the Children’s Museum of the Arts. I knew my niece was getting tired, because she fell completely asleep on the train but she was adamant about going to do arts and crafts, so that’s what we did. We took the N Train to the 1 train and got off in lower manhattan near the west side highway. I’ve never been to the Children’s Museum of the Arts, so I didn’t know what to expect, but it was seemed interactive so I was all for it.

We didn’t purchase tickets before going, but we were able to easily purchase tickets at the front desk. It was $26.00 for both of us and at the suggestion of the many reviews I read, I signed her up for the Clay Bar right away. We arrived around 2:45 ish and the museum closed at 5, but we had just enough time. Because of her age, we started in the wee arts studio. This studio was absolutely perfect for my 3 year old niece. There was painting, play doh/clay, flubber (something like play doh but gooey), coloring, etc. They could play with blocks or read a book. It was a decent size room with parents and their kids sitting around little round tables creating art. The kids are free to express themselves as they please and can take home any artwork they create while there. They even give you a bag for their goodies.  I was ready to go home and sleep, but my niece got her second wind and she wasn’t ready to go anywhere. It didn't help that she made a friend, as well. The clay bar, which everyone raved about in the reviews, was a nice experience, although my niece was too young to create exactly what they were suppose to, she had fun playing with the clay and sitting with all the kids. They do say the Clay Bar is for kids 5 and up, but it wasn’t strictly enforced. I think the biggest thing I loved about the museums was that it was simply a place for kids to express their artistic nature. Not too many rules, it wasn’t over crowded, and strictly catered to kids, but still allowed for parents to help or create with their kids.

All in all the day was good, not only did I get to experience two new places, so did my niece. In my 24 years of living in NYC, almost 25, this is my first time going to Central Park Zoo, and I must say it is without a doubt a gem within the city. For one you completely forget that you’re in a park surrounded by tall skyscrapers, which is hard to forget in New York. This gives it more of a nature feel, which brings some comfort in the concrete jungle. The Tisch’s Children’s Zoo is definitely a must visit for any child, along with the Children’s Museum of the Arts. More than anything my niece and myself were able to experience two things we hadn’t before and we enjoyed ourselves. There is so much in the city to see and we should be taking advantage of that. I would definitely recommend visiting the Central Park Zoo and the Children’s Museum of the Arts.

What are some really cool places in the city you’d recommend, whether for the family, or just the adults? 


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