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Local zoos

Bronx Zoo Wildlife Conservation Society

The massive institution is home to more than 5,000 creatures in myriad exhibits, including an outdoor baboon reserve, a sea lion pool and an exhibit dedicated entirely to Madagascar, where you'll encounter little Ares, the newest Coquerel's sifaka lemur. Visitors can ride the Wild Asia Monorail, which tours 38 acres of exhibits that house elephants, Indo-Chinese tigers, deer, antelope and Mongolian wild horses, or wander over to see two gargantuan Nile crocodiles. At Tiger Mountain, six new cubs made their debut in late September. Have kids try to spot the color differences between the three Amur and three Malayan cats. In the African Plains, tots can catch a glimpse of a young rhino as he wallows in the mud with his mom or view two ostriches and a family of lions—three cubs named Nala, Adamma and Shani were born in the spring. The grizzlies in the Big Bears exhibit recently made some new friends: The zoo adopted four cubs that were orphaned and unable to survive in the wilds of Alaska and Montana. At the World of Reptiles, your clan can spot six juvenile Galapagos tortoises. Amphibian fans can also read about the Wildlife Conservation Society's efforts to save the Kihansi spray toad, a species now extinct in the wild. Kids might be delighted to learn that the small yellow toad gives birth to babies instead of laying eggs that become tadpoles. On a rainy day, step into any of the indoor attractions: the World of Birds, Mouse House, World of Reptiles and Congo Gorilla Forest. Step into the Mouse House to coo over a litter of baby degus, tiny chinchilla-like rodents native to Chile.

  1. 2300 Southern Blvd, (at Fordham Rd)
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Central Park Zoo

  • Critics choice

More than a million visitors a year flock here for quality time with some 130 species that inhabit this 6.5-acre corner of Central Park. Don't miss the Allison Maher Stern snow leopard exhibit, where tots can look for the critically endangered cats in a rocky evergreen landscape meant to replicate the mountainous regions of Central Asia. Visit the frigid penguin house to see the gentoo and chinstrap penguins waddle, and try to spot four new king penguins. Also look for the adorable California sea lion pup named Bruiser, a new addition to the sea lion exhibit. At the Amphibian Crisis Center, children can observe jungle frogs, poison-dart frogs, Surinam toads and tons of other little critters. Your fam can also gape at a giant indoor ant farm complete with interactive "I Spy…" challenges. Or explore the outdoor Tisch Children's Zoo: It houses more than 30 species, including goats and cows that enjoy being petted. A pair of rare Babydoll sheep (a chocolate–brown ram named Sid and a white ewe named Nancy) share the space with other sheep and the zoo's resident alpaca. The newest denizens are four miniature Nubian goats, as well as a teensy kid that was born a few months after their arrival.

  1. Southeast corner of Central Park,, (enter at Fifth Ave at 64th St)
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New York Aquarium

See a living re-creation of the Pacific coastline, and catch sight of various East River species. There's also a lively sea lion show, plus some truly awesome sharks and sea jellies. Fantasize about upcoming summer months as you visit Glover's Reef, a 150,000-gallon tank stocked with 35 species—give or take—of marine life from the coast of Belize, including jawfish and moray eels. At the Explore the Shore exhibit, kids can learn facts about the ocean and the animals that in and on it; the salt-marsh area mirrors the Jamaica Bay wetlands, allowing an underwater view of sheepshead minnows and hermit crabs.

  1. Surf Ave, (at 8th St)
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Prospect Park Zoo

At this interactive wildlife center, kids can walk along the Discovery Trail and come face to face with Oggie and his new pal Dixie, two North American river otters. Keep hopping down the path to find the Australian Walkabout's kangaroo and the new rock wallabies, whose grooved hind paws easily grip the boulders in their steep habitat. A pair of native South African scops owls—recognizable by their bright white faces—roost in the aviary along the trail. On spring days, you might also find a commotion at the sea lion court: the graceful swimmers like to entertain onlookers by diving, high-fiving their keepers and chowing down on fishy food. Three major indoor exhibits keep visitors occupied year-round: Barn and Garden, where kids can walk among alpacas, goats, sheep and other beasts; the Animal Lifestyles building, where they can trade funny faces with a pair of Geoffrey's tamarin monkeys named Tira and Misu (they were born in April), and hoot and holler with Jabari and Azizi, a couple of boisterous hamadryas baboon babes who were born in late July; and Amazing Animals, which allows aspiring zoologists to observe animals that adapt to their environment in diverse ways, including creatures that use their colors either to attract attention or deflect it. Have tots keep an eye out for the latest addition to the Amazing Animals area—a pair of big-eyed pygmy slow lorises (nocturnal primates).

  1. 450 Flatbush Ave, (at Empire Blvd)
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Staten Island Zoo

Among the inhabitants of this eight-acre haven, you'll find a brother-and-sister pair of fossas, which make their home in the African exhibit, next to two tiny tenrecs—nocturnal, hedgehog-like animals that are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and may have up to 42 teeth. The Reptile Wing, occupied by more than 200 cold-blooded critters, houses an extensive collection of North American rattlesnakes, as well as a baby eyelash viper, five small carpet pythons, a reticulated python and two anacondas. If your tots can't get enough of meerkats, bring them to see the little mammals feasting on crickets and mealworms: Eight slender-tailed additions are currently on loan from the Minnesota Zoo. The animal kingdom has also expanded to include Cheyenne and Toni, a pair of female American bobcats hanging out in spacious digs with rocks for climbing and a waterfall. A glass partition allows the cats to get (safely) close to visitors—and kids to get some major thrills. The zoo recently adopted Henry Ford, a red panda native to the Himalayas, to inhabit its new bamboo forest.

  1. 614 Broadway, (between Clove Rd and Forest Ave)
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Queens Zoo

This outdoor institution focuses on the wildlife of the Americas. Among the new residents are three pronghorn antelope, which your family can spot mingling with the bison. Also look for the pudu (an endangered species of deer about 14 inches tall at the shoulder)—resident Josephine recently gained a companion named Hamilton—and four Jacob four-horned lambs, born in March. Kids can expect to see some hugs pass between Spangles and Cisco, the zoo's South American spectacled bear couple (you can identify them by their black fur and beige facial markings. The zoo's aviary is a geodesic dome originally designed for the 1964 World's Fair; visitors can duck in to see some feathered friends, including a bobwhite quail that moved to the borough last December. Speaking of feathers: Try not to ruffle any when you visit Winton, a trumpeter swan in the marsh area.

  1. 53-51 111th St, (at 53rd Ave)
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