The Bronx Zoo in December

A Rhino Statue at The Bronx Zoo in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

A festive Rhino Statue greets you at The Bronx Zoo (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

I turned sixty this month, for me a monumental date that had me pondering ways to celebrate such a special day. After all, it’s December in New England. Certainly not the best time for outdoor activities of interest to a passionate gardener like myself. After some thought, I decided that if I couldn’t see dazzling plants and flowers I’d settle for the next best thing; animals! And the nearest location chock-full of all sorts of critters is the Bronx Zoo, less than two hours away in Bronx, N.Y. 

A handsome gorilla poses for me at The Bronx Zoo in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

A handsome gorilla poses for me (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

One of the largest zoos in the United States, the Bronx Zoo was created when the City of New York allotted 250 acres of the Bronx Park to the New York Zoological Society with the express purpose of creating a park to preserve animals and promote zoology. Within a year, the New York Zoological Park (now known as the Bronx Zoo) opened its doors to the public on November 8, 1899, featuring 843 animals in 22 exhibits. The present day Bronx Zoo encompasses 265 acres, houses more than 4,000 animals of 650 species, many that are endangered or threatened, and is visited by over 2.15 million people each year.  (To find out more about the Bronx Zoo and their extensive conservation efforts, visit: 

A yawning male lion at The Bronx Zoo in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

A majestic male lion smiles for the camera (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

My husband, Ged, and I arrived at the Bronx River Gate at 10:30, bundled in warm jackets and toting cameras. The first thing I noticed was the overall beauty of the landscape and the openness of the exhibits, providing many different view points for the animals and complementary backdrops for photographing. The second thing I noticed was people, or should I say, lack there of. One of the best reasons to visit the Bronx Zoo off-season is the opportunity to observe many of the animals without being crowded out. And noise? Other than traffic surrounding the park and an occasional group of school children, the zoo was peacefully quiet. Throughout the day, we often felt as if we had the park to ourselves.

A grizzly bear observes us from up high in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

A grizzly bear observes us from up high (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Another benefit to visiting the Bronx Zoo in winter is the animals themselves. They are simply more relaxed without all the noise and hubbub of oversized crowds. Almost every animal we visited was close enough to be easily observed, a few even came out of hiding when we arrived. Remaining quiet, silencing our mind and projecting love and respect resulted in some of the most incredible animal interactions imaginable. A gorilla strolled down from the mountain and sat down right in front of me, posing for his picture. A grizzly bear gazed down from high atop a boulder and proceeded to lay down, all while continuing to watch us. The lions that ignored the small group viewing them, turned and acknowledged us almost upon our arrival. Within minutes they both rose, stretched and yawned, allowing us to admire their magnificent profiles. Tigers came out from hiding and looked right at me as I took picture after picture. Even the rhinos wanted to come closer, one reaching between the fence strands with its giant horn. 

A bison mother nurses her baby in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

A bison mother peacefully nurses her baby (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Bison mothers peacefully nursed their young. Eagles and owls were regally perched, while flamingos splashed nearby. Sea lions swam playfully together in their pool and penguins strolled about the aviary with Inca terns flying overhead. Hyenas basked in the winter sun and giraffes grazed leisurely in the pasture next-door. Antelope leapt and frolicked about while the neighboring baboon family snuggled together and groomed each other. A curiously striped Okapi licked its side with a long black tongue and red pandas snoozed on branches up high. Peacocks meandered down pathways or sat on railings, casually observing passersby. It was all so magical.

A Crocodile lounges in a viewing tank at The Bronx Zoo in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

A lounging Crocodile is easily viewed in its glass tank (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Then we explored the numerous indoor exhibits, many with open rooms so the birds could fly about freely. There were hundreds of brilliantly colored birds in the trees with reptiles draped over nearby branches looking down on the crocodiles and alligators swimming below. Giant glass tanks provided such a clear view you actually felt you were underwater with the various aquatic life. Each section was filled with plants and trees appropriate for the setting; some very tropical and others similar to our own backyard, with evergreens and fruiting shrubs. The thoughtful designs throughout the property helped to inspire a feeling of place, for that brief moment you actually felt as if you were in a tropical rainforest or on an African plain. 

Architecturally ornate buildings are part of The Bronx Zoo experience in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Architecturally ornate buildings are part of The Bronx Zoo experience (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Worthy of the most honorable mention are the various buildings and structures throughout the property whose architectural elements were truly exquisite. The hand carved eagles, lions and panthers remind us of an era when such skills were highly revered and remain a testament to the passion and dedication of the early planners and developers of this incredible park. Looking back at all we experienced that day, I realize that even though it was a month without colorful foliage or scintillating plants in bloom, the naturalistic indoor settings, captivating outdoor landscaping and awe-inspiring architecture were equally thrilling. Indeed, visiting the Bronx Zoo in December was the most wonderful way to spend my 60th birthday ♥


  1. Patty Wahlers says

    What a wonderful way to enjoy your Birthday! And it looks like the animals enjoyed you both being there to show them in the off season!

    • Thank you, Patty! Yes, it was a wonderful day and the animals could not have been more photogenic! I highly recommend the Bronx Zoo for those looking for a “day-cation” in the winter.

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