Thursday, November 18, 2010

Central Park Zoo

In some cases, bigger is not better. I think it’s safe to say that short shorts, phone bills, oil spills, to do lists, and egos are a few things that are never better in larger sizes. And I, for one, generally make it a rule not supersize anything. (I know, right? How very un-American of me.) Well, my first trip to the Central Park Zoo last week further reminded me that oftentimes, good things come in modest packages.

I ventured last week into the labyrinth of the bowels of Central Park with my friends Rachael G, Brittany, and her adorable son, Max. Now, unless I’m running on the track that circles the outside of the park, I regularly get somewhat lost amongst the trees and playgrounds of Central Park. It’s hard to believe that anyone could get lost on a patch of land that’s circumference is barely six miles, but I’m apparently really good at it. Unless I can see buildings, I’m pretty screwed. My advice? If you don’t know your way around, take someone who does or you’re likely to end up in the North Woods after dark stepping over severed body parts and homeless meth addicts. Trust me, no bueno. Luckily, Brittany was wise in the ways of park navigation and successfully led us (via stroller-friendly paths) to the adorably bustling zoo.

We walked through an entrance lane of wooden snack bars and gift shops artfully woven into a tunnel of trees and bushes landscaped to look like a part of the nature surrounding it. The sun shone through the tree branches, a light breeze ticked our faces, and Brittany pulled out some of her famous baked goods for our afternoon snack. Yes, this was a perfect day. We paid our admission and set off to search out some wildlife that doesn’t live above 110th street.

The quaint zoo is set up in spokes that lead out from the central attraction – the circular open-air “sea lion island”. As Brittany had wisely checked the sea lion feeding schedule before we departed, we meandered toward the penguin palace to bide our time until the 4:15 feeding/show. The penguin building, despite smelling like fish, was a cool respite from the hot summer sun and we ooh’ed and aah’ed over the cute waddling creatures as they dove after shrimp and teetered along the rocks above. We then left the cool shaded penguin sanctuary and headed out and around to another spoke to see some polar bears. Along the way, though, we came across a bridge that crossed a little bubbling brook. Collectively, we three sat on the edge to watch a group of turtles crawling on the side of the water. I looked around and noticed that we were practically alone. How wonderfully peaceful and exceptionally rare to find oneself alone in Central Park. I realized throughout our stay at the zoo that there were many such little alcoves and serene benches on which to idle and watch the various animals behind glass or underfoot. And oh how different from the Disney World-esque shoving and jostling of the huge Bronx Zoo.

After the sea lion show (see the video below), we spent some quality time in the rainforest area watching brightly colored birds strut around us, fly over us, and build nests in the trees. It would have been just as peaceful as the turtles if I had not been preoccupied with the very likely possibility of one of those lovely birds defecating on my head. Y’all know I’m not so big on the nature. Either way, it was a fun experience. As a matter of fact, the whole zoo was a peaceful and lovely experience. I was pleasantly surprised. I did not feel stressed out about seeing all of the animals, but I felt I had gotten my money’s worth in a few hours. Now, I understand that some folks want to supersize their zoo experience, but I’m more of a hang out and spend time with the animals kind of girl. For instance, if you hang out with the penguins for a while, you see that they puff up their stomachs as a sort of floatation mechanism when they get in the water, ants can carry things that are more than twice their size, and polar bears possess a sort of heartbreaking melancholy quality in their eyes that is almost human.

All in all, we had a lovely time hanging out with the animals in Central park and I would recommend a trip to anyone in the area with a few hours to spare. Just don’t get lost on your way. 

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