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Moms Tell All: My Bronx Zoo sleepover experience

Written by
Time Out Kids contributors

Hey there, readers! My family tried the Bronx Zoo’s Family Overnight Safari, and I’d love to share our experience with you! I’m going to be honest: When I signed on for this adventure, I was excited, but as a novice camper I wasn’t quite sure how prepared we were. I’d ordered a tent on Amazon a few months prior but hadn’t used it yet. Would the other families have bigger and better tents? Would my five year old wake up crying in the middle of night to go potty? Did I bring enough layers of clothing if the temperature suddenly dropped? Read on below to see how things went.

Photograph: Courtesy Nicole Perrino

The details:

Since we have a two-person tent, I decided to make our Family Overnight Safari a mother-daughter experience with my five and 11-year-old. That afternoon, my husband dropped us off at the main gate at 4:30pm, just as the zoo began to empty out. A cart was there to throw our belongings in and drive them over to the Mouse House Lawn, where we’d be setting up camp for the night. I had practiced putting the tent together the night before—but staff members were on hand to help if need be. Plenty of zoo visitors asked questions while we set up our tents, and giraffes grazed in the distance. We then headed to the Dancing Crane Cafe where families enjoyed their meals brought from home (dinner is not provided, but coffee, tea and water are offered during the dinner hour). There was also an ice cream cart filled with Nestle classics like ice cream and chocolate chip cookie sandwiches so everyone could enjoy an after-dinner treat—even the adults. At 6pm, it was time to jump right into the fun activities planned throughout the evening. We split up into teams—we were on Team Armadillo—and then headed to our first station. The evening’s stations included a scavenger hunt in the World of Reptiles, animal encounters, a Wildlife Theater performance, a late night ride on the Bug Carousel and the chance for families to craft their own zoo exhibit. 

Photograph: Courtesy Nicole Perrino

At the end of the night we all met up again at the Dancing Crane Cafe for “midnight” snacks and hot chocolate during a fun sing-along. The kids had a blast navigating the zoo at night with flashlights as we moved to each activity and were definitely snoring the second they cuddled into their sleeping bags. For breakfast, we enjoyed the hot buffet, tea, hot chocolate, apple juice and—of course—coffee for the adults (provided by the zoo). After breakfast, we enjoyed early access to “World of Birds,” the Children's Zoo, the 4-D Theater and the Butterfly Garden before everything opened to the public.

Photograph: Courtesy Nicole Perrino

During our overnight experience, we met many families who had returned from previous years. While the price may be a bit steep for all families to make it an annual adventure, it is definitely worth the once-in-a-lifetime experience. How many people can say they've camped at the Bronx Zoo?! 

Photograph: Courtesy Nicole Perrino

Find information about upcoming Family Safari Overnights here.

Know before you go: 

Campers are required to bring their own tent, sleeping bags and a picnic dinner to enjoy upon arrival.

You’ll definitely want to bring extra layers of clothing since the temperature drops overnight. 

While hard coolers are not allowed, you can bring a soft insulated cooler for snacks and bottled waters.

Be aware that there are no outlets: If you’re bringing inflatable mattresses, bring a battery-operated pump. If you need to charge your phone or other devices, bring a portable charger.

Don’t forget extra flashlights, pillows and toothbrushes!

Contributed by Nicole Perrino

Nicole Perrino runs Bronxmama, a lifestyle site for Bronx families. There, you can find what’s happening in the borough, fun giveaways, reviews, and more

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