Several times over the last couple of weeks, my friends have endured the announcement that I harbored a desire to go the zoo. They all started rattling off about how easy it is to get to the Bronx or Central Park from Astoria, and I was forced to interrupt their advice.
Why leave Queens, if you want to visit a zoo? The stunned reply has uniformly been: Wait, Queens has a zoo?
That’s how I found myself on the 7 train last Thursday morning, heading to the 111th street stop high above Roosevelt Avenue.
Critique is offered on the “wayfinding” front to the officiates and wardens of this institution, as I know exactly where the place is, but I still felt a bit “lost” while walking the short few blocks from the train.
Suffice to say, head downhill and for the Terrace on the Park building, which is an easy landmark that the Queens Zoo is next door to.
The signage issue continued to be confusing, to say the least, even at the periphery of the park itself.
Luckily, a fantastic hand illustrated map was displayed nearby the zoo’s entrance, which is about the equivalent of a city block back into the park from 111th street.
Tickets are on sale in the little building pictured above.
It’s $8 for an adult, $6 for seniors, and $5 for kids. Kids under 3 are admitted for free. Until November, their hours are: Monday–Friday 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., Weekends & Holidays 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
The Queens Zoo in Flushing Meadows Corona Park opened October 26, 1968 on the grounds of the 1964-65 World’s Fair. The last borough to get its own zoo, over 10,000 people attended the ceremony at which former Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, then-current commissioner August Heckscher, and Metropolitan Transit Authority President William T. Ronan all spoke at the opening.
One thing I discovered at the Queens Zoo is that no child in Queens can actually be found in a school building. They are all on class trips to the Queens Zoo. There were approximately 70,000 children there, give or take.
I hung back from the crowds of school kids, aware of how creepy I must have looked. An odd middle aged guy wandering around on a Thursday morning with a DSLR amongst a riot of 75-80,000 children? Yikes!
The zoom lens went on the camera, I was there to see the critters, not the 85-90,000 children.
The Queens Zoo sets up appropriate habitats for the animals in its collection, curating a natural setting for them to live in. The pathways which wind around the various niches offer spectacular visual opportunity. Pictured above is a Trumpeter Swan in the Waterfowl Marsh.
This is a Puma, I’m told, which was stalking about in the Woodland Trail exhibit.
The Aviary was full of some large percentage of the 90-95,000 kids, so I decided to skip this one this time around.
Adjoining the Sea Lion display (I missed feeding time, so nothing except wet rocks were visible) is the Great Plains display, which hosts American Bisons, amongst other herbivores. There’s supposed to be a Coyote, but he or she must have been napping.
The Southern Pudu posed for me. It’s the World’s Smallest Specie of Deer.
An adorable seeming South American forest dweller, these are Chacoan Peccaries.
There were a couple of Andean Bears, whom the Queens Zoo seems quite proud of. They were prowling around in a large enclosure that’s part of the South American Trail exhibit, trying to ignore the 95-100,000 kids roaming around on the path.
The Andean Bears were doing all sorts of Bear things, and at one point their activities might best be described as “frolicking in the sun.”
Also along the South American Trail, I saw a couple of Bald Eagles getting some sun.
At least half of the 100-110,000 kids at the zoo lost their minds and descended into a terrifying frenzy of joy upon entering the Petting Zoo section of the “Domestic Animals” display.
There were goats, of both four horned and two horned sorts. Pictured above is a two horned one.
There was a big corral, where several different breeds of Bulls were on display. This surly character was giving me the hard eye, and followed me along the fenceline.
He stuck his tongue out at me, which was more than a little bit rude.
I had a word with his supervisor, whose response to my complaint was unintelligible.
I turned around, and this fellow was still giving me the stink eye. That’s when I decided my day at the zoo was over, as I didn’t want to tell this bellicose creature off in front of the 115-120,000 kids. I didn’t need any more of this guy’s…
Note: Friends of mine who have two pretty young kids told me that they bought a membership at the Queens Zoo, as their girls demand to visit the place on a weekly basis. If you’ve got rugrats, this is definitely a place worth exploring. All 120-125,000 kids present last Thursday seemed to having the time of their lives.
Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman lives in Astoria and blogs at Newtown Pentacle.