I moved to Syracuse in 1990 with my family. I was 10 at the time, my little brother was 8, and my youngest brother was not even a thought. Throughout middle school and high school, I knew there was a zoo in Syracuse but I had never actually been there. I left Syracuse for college, returned to Syracuse for college, left Syracuse to begin my adult life, returned to Syracuse to get married and, eventually, start a family. It wasn’t until my return to Syracuse in 2003 that I even knew where the zoo was located. I only learned about the zoo then, in my early 20s, because of an event they hosted called Brew at the Zoo. Alcohol and animals? Genius! That year, my now-hubby and I went with some friends to check it out and loved it. I didn’t even see the whole zoo that first visit but I knew a place that could host such a fun event had to be on my top-10 places to visit in Syracuse and we made plans to return.
Fast forward seven years.
My second visit to the Rosamond Gifford Zoo came on a whim. We had a two month old baby girl and wanted to take her for a walk somewhere fun. After a quick Google search, hubby suggested the zoo. I agreed and we packed up enough baby gear for a week in the wild and drove the short 10 minutes to the zoo.
By the time we left the zoo that day, we were members and we haven’t looked back since.
I honestly believe that if you have kids in Syracuse, the zoo is the best place all year round. It’s easy to get to from pretty much anywhere in the city. It’s open from 10-4:30 all but three days of the year. There are new exhibits and animals all the time and their events are well planned and always fun for the kids.
At its base, the zoo has a wide range of animals and there is always something new to see. In the winter, it’s a fantastic place to walk inside and let the kids run from exhibit to exhibit. When we get the winter blues, we head to the zoo almost daily (over school breaks for me and my oldest, almost daily for the hubs and the twinkles) to let the girls squeal and squawk at the fish, turtles, alligators and monkeys. There is no place better to play inside for an hour or two when it is snowy and yucky outside. The rest of the year is when the zoo really comes alive, pun totally intended.
It is a great walk for kids to toddle around. By the time we do the whole loop, the kids are happy and ready for a nap. Win, win! There are plenty of animals out and about in the outdoor exhibits and there are plenty of zookeeper talks and animal information stations to keep all the kids entertained. The zoo also has member events constantly throughout the spring, summer and fall. They have loads of things for the kids to do (think Bubbleman, magicians, crafts, snacks, etc.) that always flow with relative ease. I never have to worry that they will run out of goody bags or balloons. They really do plan events with their youngest attendees in mind and, for that, I am always grateful.
When the kids get a bit older (3 and up), there are even more offerings. My oldest has attended the EdVenture Academy programs since she was 3 and loved every one of them. Zookeepers present fun information, kids get to interact with the animals on many levels, and they make adorable snacks (loved the octopus cupcakes!). Next year, we plan to try a day or two of the Winter Break camps as well.
One of our favorite activities is their Breakfast with Santa/Easter Bunny. We go with our playgroup and have a blast. Tickets are presale only, which keeps the event and the line to see the characters manageable. This makes for happy kids and happy parents! They always have one or two craft stations, tattoos, cookie-decorating, and breakfast while also positioning Santa or the Bunny out for the entire event so no one really has to wait to see them. Brilliant! Plus, you get to enter the zoo right from the event and spend as much or as little time as you please. It makes for such a stress-free way to see the Big Guy or the Bun-Bun that we go every year. Great breakfast and a hassle-free visit for the kids. Another win for the zoo!
If you haven’t been to the zoo since your Brew at the Zoo days, I highly encourage you to check it out with the family. It really is the best way to spend $40-$86 a year here in Central New York, and you get oodles of year round entertainment with your membership. We started our membership career with a Dual Membership for $55 a year which is for two named adults (kids under 3 are free). (They also have a Single Membership available for one named adult plus kids 3 and under free for $40). We used that bad boy until our oldest turned 3 and then we graduated to Family Membership which is $72 a year and includes two adults and all kids between 3 and 18. This year, because of the mobility of the twinkles, we went with the motherlode, the Family + 1 Membership for $86 a year. This plan gets us two adults and all the girls plus a grandma or a babysitter to help corral our monkeys as they try to escape to get closer to the exhibits. For the number of times we visit, it works out to be $4-$5 a visit for our whole family. You can’t beat it!