After more than four months of lockdown, New York City’s five zoos reopen to the public next week, with timed entry, reduced capacity, new social distancing rules, and face coverings required for visitors.
The Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo and Queens Zoo open to members on July 20 and to the general public four days later, on July 24.
The Staten Island Zoo opens to members on July 24 and to the general public on July 27.
The reopening of the New York Aquarium at Coney Island has been postponed.
When the zoos and aquarium reopen, New York State will require that those facilities limit their employees and visitors to no more than one-third of their maximum occupancy.
Both outdoor and indoor exhibits will open to visitors, although some exhibits that pose a heightened risk will remain closed, including the 4-D theater at the Central Park Zoo and the camel rides at the Bronx Zoo.
Zoos have been in an unusual predicament since the pandemic shut down the city in mid-March.
Unlike Broadway theaters or museums, they could not go dark because of thousands of animals that required daily care by workers deemed “essential”.
Since they closed to the public on March 16, the zoos have had a portion of their employees on site to feed the animals, keep them on their daily routines and provide medical attention.
(There were several coronavirus scares to deal with at the Bronx Zoo after a tiger tested positive and other tigers and lions were found to have similar symptoms.)
“WCS is committed to following all guidelines from the state and city and ensuring that guests have a safe and enjoyable experience in its parks,” the organization said in a statement. “All its zoos offer extensive outdoor exhibits and grounds that allow guests to have experiences with nature and wildlife.”
New Rules for Visiting NYC Zoos
Tickets must be purchased online in advance for a specific date/time. No walk-up/on-site tickets will be available.
All visitors will be required to wear face masks unless they are 3 years old or younger.
Health care workers can visit free, but must obtain tickets online and these tickets too will be date and time specific.
At the Bronx Zoo, tickets will be sold for entry at 10am; noon; and 2pm.
At the other parks, entry time slots will be sold on the hour all day until closing.
The traditional free Wednesdays at the Bronx Zoo will begin Wednesday, July 29 and require advance ticketing online.
Social distancing protocols will be in effect throughout the parks.
Cleaning procedures will be enhanced, especially in high-touch areas.
Lines, stores, and food concessions will be monitored to ensure that mask wearing and social distancing recommendations are met.
Day camps and education programs will be available online and will be virtual.