One of the six major zoos in the city where you will find wildlife that isn’t crawling down subway lines with a slice of pizza or on a leash on the sidewalk is Brooklyn’s Prospect Park Zoo. Here’s why you should take a day and bring your kids to this iconic park.
In the late 1800s, Prospect Park Zoo first operated a tiny menagerie with livestock and limited wildlife—sheep, cows, rabbits, birds, you know the drill—up until its first public opening in 1935. Since then, the zoo has come a long way and has made quite an impression on city residents. Although it’s not a huge zoo, there is something for every animal-lover to enjoy, from sea lions to pandas to baboons.
A Jacob’s four-horn sheep lives in the zoo’s domestic Barn and Garden exhibit, where you can take a turn feeding grain to some of the animals.
Year-Round Fun at Prospect Park Zoo
If you decide to do a simple self-guided tour, there are five exhibits you should check out. Animal Lifestyles includes the nocturnal and furry Pallas’ cats, as well as birds, lizards, and fish. Next up is the Barn and Garden, at which you can feel like you are on a farm in the south, feeding animals grain as if it’s a normal thing to do in New York City. Here, you can see sheep, cows, horses, chickens, and more. The zoo has two unique species of farm animals that are sure to be crowd-pleasers: a Zebu calf and three little Juliana pigs. In the Discovery Trail, you will find red pandas hanging on tree branches, a black-tailed prairie dog roaming around, and the North-American river otter exhibit. In the unique Hall of Animals exhibit, children can enjoy smaller creatures, whether it’s a dwarf mongoose, dart frog, or Madagascar jumping rat. A visit to the zoo isn’t complete without stopping by the Sea Lion Court, a popular exhibit at the heart of the park.
You can see red pandas climbing trees or snoozing on branches on the zoo’s outdoor Discovery Trail.
Kids are sure to enjoy the hands-on activities at the Discovery Center. Here, children can interact with animals up close in a fun yet educational space. This can be through playing pretend as a veterinarian, or utilizing any of the classroom and laboratory equipment available to learn about the art of zoology and environmental conservation. The Discovery Center is open Saturday-Sunday, 11am-3pm, and may be rented for private events.
Special Activities at Prospect Park Zoo
At the Sea Lion Court, there is an opportunity for you to participate in Sea Lion Training Sessions, happening daily at 11:30am, 2pm, and 4pm. Sea Lions are very smart mammals, and stimulating them may come as quite rewarding for your children. So, if you want some 1-on-1 time with one of these water creatures, this will be a perfect fit!
Guided tours are available for Scout troops, during which they will learn more about wildlife in general, as well as environmental conservation. In addition, troops can also earn the Prospect Park Zoo Patch during the visit by completing a series of fun activities and attending a follow-up meeting with your troop.
The Australian dingo exhibit is also on the zoo’s Discovery Trail.
Teachers: if you are looking for an exciting and educational field trip opportunity for your classroom, the Prospect Park Zoo is a great opportunity. There are a lot of options at the zoo, such as bringing groups on self-guided tours, or receiving an official tour of the park from a park guide and participating in classes. Either way, the kids will be sure to enjoy themselves with this perfect little city getaway.
Annual Attractions at Prospect Park Zoo
Prospect Park Zoo’s Summer Camp gives children ages pre-K to eighth grade the opportunity to explore wildlife in a week-long session. This includes live animal encounters, creative art projects, interactive games, science experiments, exhibit visits and meeting zookeeper staff, role-play and theatrical exercises, snack time, and a Prospect Park Zoo Summer Camp T-shirt. Campers are split into groups by age: Little Hatchlings (12-23 months), Toddler Time (2-3 years), Kinderzoo (pre-K and Kindergarten), Week of Wildlife (entering first-second grades), Zoo Explorers (entering third-fifth grades), and Jr. Scientists (entering sixth-eighth grades). The cost, sessions, and times vary for each group.
This wild turkey also lives in the zoo's Barn and Garden domestic animal area.
Details for Visiting Prospect Park Zoo
Address: 450 Flatbush Ave., Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn
Hours: Monday-Friday, 10am-5pm; Saturday-Sunday and holidays, 10am-5:30pm
Admission: $8; $6 seniors ages 65 and older; $5 children ages 3-12; free for children ages 2 and younger