Wild Encounters in Brooklyn with the Kids
Until now, we hadn’t really considered Brooklyn as one of those places you have to take your kids. With Manhattan and the multitude of activities there, it’s easy to overlook this outer borough for great things to do in New York with the family.
In Brooklyn, the first place most people think of for family fun is Coney Island. The old-school boardwalk and amusement park is a classic. However, there are plenty of other fun things to do in Brooklyn with kids, especially if you’re looking for some wild animal encounters!
2 Fun Things to do in Brooklyn, NY with Kids
New York Aquarium
Located right next to Coney Island, the New York Aquarium is a great place to get out of the hot summer sun. You can make an entire day of visiting the aquarium for the morning and then heading to the beach and Coney Island later in the afternoon. The New York Aquarium has its own private parking ($13). However, if you are part of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), parking is free, which is great if you are planning to spend your entire day in the area.
The aquarium has plenty of things to do to keep everyone in the family engaged and learning, including hands-on activities plus animal shows and feeding times. We watched the Sea Lion show and had a great time. The trainers had a lot of personality and easily combined teaching the audience about the animals and conservation with amusing entertainment.
The rest of the aquarium had all the sharks, fish and other sea animals that you would want to see. My favorite part was the section about coral reefs. One of the displays showed how the WCS is creating man-made reefs in order to protect all of the species that are being left homeless due to the destruction of the natural reefs from pollution and the warming of the oceans.
When we were there, the aquarium was still undergoing extensive renovations due to Hurricane Sandy. When you visit, you will see the new buildings under construction and they look impressive. The new area of the aquarium creates a home for over 100 types of marine animals, and the centerpiece will feature a 500,000-gallon shark tank. I can’t wait to come back again and see the brand new exhibit when it opens.
Prospect Park Zoo
While in Brooklyn, we had to take some time to visit the Prospect Park Zoo. The zoo is located right off of Flatbush Avenue near several other great places to visit such as the Brooklyn Library and Prospect Park itself. Please note that there is only street parking available for the zoo, so during busy hours it can be difficult to find a space. Once you are in the park, there is plenty to see; the boys and I really enjoyed watching the baboons, one of which had the cutest little baby baboon.
The zoo is broken out into two different areas, the Discovery Trail and the Barn. The Discovery Trail has a number of unique animals from all over the world including red pandas, prairie dogs and tufted deer. The Barn area is full of farm animals like ducks, goats and even alpacas. In certain cases, kids can feed the animals with supervision.
Depending on when you visit the zoo, there are also seasonal activities. Right now in the spring you can watch the sheep get their haircuts. In the summer, visitors can have the chance to milk a cow. In addition, there is the Discovery Center (open from 11 am to 3 pm) where families can participate in a number of learning activities and even bring home some zoo-inspired crafts from their little ones.
Best of all, both the aquarium and the zoo allow you to bring in your own snacks and drinks. Fear not: there are also concession stands if you forgot or just want to fuel up with a treat. Other family-friendly features include changing tables in both men’s and women’s restrooms, along with stroller and wheelchair access throughout both locations.
If you live close enough to Brooklyn, the $195 Wildlife Conservation Society Premium Family Membership gives you unlimited admission to both of these very educational attractions, along with free parking and 10% off your café and gift store purchases. For those coming from out of town, luckily Hilton Brooklyn is less than 3 miles from the Prospect Park Zoo and 12 miles away from the New York Aquarium, so you can definitely add some wild New York fun to your vacation.
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Hornbill photo credit: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS
Know Before You Go
- Opt for walking tours instead of bus tours if you want to eliminate the issue of traffic – just make sure to pack comfortable shoes!
- If you bring your own ice skates, Bryant Park allows you to ice skate for free in the winter.
- The Bronx Zoo is pay-what-you-wish on Wednesdays.
- Utilize the New York Subway to travel like a local – it’s also a great way to avoid traffic!