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Queens Zoo - Review and Guide to the Zoo in the Park

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California sea lions

California sea lions at Queens Zoo

Photo (c) John Roleke
The Queens Zoo is a small wildlife center devoted to North and South American animals, tucked away on the Corona side of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. It's an especially worthy destination when you have a few little kids in tow. Here's all about the Queens Zoo and how to get there.

What We Like About the Queens Zoo:

  • The California sea lions are total hams and a real delight. Try to plan your visit to their habitat at their feeding times (11:15 a.m., 2 p.m., 4 p.m.).
  • Great for young kids; there's even a playground near the exit.
  • Easy walking route around the habitats (wheelchair- and stroller-accessible).
  • Nice place to take a stroll: over the duck pond's bridge, through the beautiful geodesic-dome aviary, around the natural habitats...

What We Don't Like About the Queens Zoo:

  • The "petting zoo" isn't really a petting zoo, it's a small farm; but you can pet the goats when they poke their heads over the fence
  • On a busy, sunny weekend, the zoo feels its small size when you wait your turn at each habitat. Too crowded.
  • Tough to reach by public transportation.
  • Will not impress your nephew who lives to see crocodiles, elephants, and giraffes.

What to Do at the Queens Zoo:

  • Costs - $6/adults, $2/kids, $2.25/seniors
  • Times - Open all year, seasonal hours
  • Services - Gift shop; self-serve cafeteria
The zoo focuses on American animals, dividing most of its 5-acre space into spacious "natural" habitats: California coast, Northeastern woods, Great Plains. A walking path wraps around the habitats, making the zoo easy to navigate and traverse.

It's always a treat to see the American bison (buffalo) padding their hill at the zoo. Other highlights are the big cats (that puma is huge!) and endangered spectacled bears. I love watching the many types of wild ducks quacking in their woodsy waterway.

A separate farm area is home to domesticated animals--goats, sheep, chickens, horses, and llamas. You can feed the goats and sheep, so bring quarters: It's 50 cents for a (very small) handful of feed from a vending machine.

A geodesic dome is the zoo's home for birds (and a porcupine). Inside this structure from the 1964-65 World's Fair is a steeply inclined walkway that takes you into the trees, even eye-level with a vulture.

Near the zoo's exit, there's a small playground where your kids can blow off the last of their steam. (The zoo plans to revamp the area by mid-2008.)

What to Do After the Zoo:

You can combine a visit to the zoo with a stop at the Queens Museum of Art to see the Panorama of NYC. It's a visual treat: the whole city laid out as a giant diorama. Or gawk at the Unisphere next to the museum. To get there, follow the walking path that crosses over the Grand Central and walk toward the Unisphere.

If you're more ambitious, the New York Hall of Science is a close walk on the Corona side.

Where to Eat Near the Queens Zoo:

Possibly the best empanadas in all of Queens can be had at the very popular Empanadas del Parque (56-27 Van Doren St, Corona, 718-592-7288). Get an icy treat at the much-loved Lemon Ice King of Corona (52-02 108th St, Corona).

Across the square from the Lemon Ice King is Parkside (107-01 Corona Ave, Corona, 718-271-9871), a great old-school Italian restaurant. If you want to imagine yourself an extra on the set of The Sopranos, this is the place.

About the Queens Zoo and the Wildlife Conservation Society:

The Queens Zoo is operated by the Wildlife Conservation Society, through a partnership with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. The zoo opened its doors in 1968 as the "Flushing Meadows Zoo" on the grounds of the 1964-65 World's Fair. In 1992 it reopened as the Queens Zoo, after a significant rebuilding by the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The Wildlife Conservation Society is a non-profit devoted to saving wildlife and wild lands. It runs the Bronx Zoo, the New York Aquarium, the Central Park Zoo, and the Prospect Park Zoo. It's active in conservation and education in countries around the globe.

Directions to the Queens Zoo:

  • Address - 53-51 111th St, Corona, NY 11368
  • Phone - 718-271-1500
  • Map (Google Maps)
From the LIE - Exit 108th Street (From Manhattan, turn left onto 108th Street. From Long Island, turn right onto 108th.) Then turn right on 52nd Ave, and right onto 111th St (lot is on left)

Parking - The lot at 111th Street between 53rd and 55th Avenues (to the right of Terrace on the Park) is your best bet. Walk downhill into park and turn left toward zoo.

Subway and Bus - You could take the 7 subway to 111th Street, but that's a long walk. You could pair it with a ride down 108th Street on the Q28 bus.

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