I remember being amazed and surprised at how beautiful this zoo was and how many interesting animal exhibits we had. I had worked for the Bronx Zoo for the previous 10 years, another Wildlife Conservation Society zoo, and I confess I had not been out to see the Queens Zoo prior to my interview for the curator job.
During that first walk around, I remember chatting with an older couple with their grandchildren and a young mother pushing a stroller. Both told me the same thing – they were delighted at how pretty the zoo was, and both of them expressed surprise that there was a zoo in Queens.
I distinctly recall one man saying he had lived in Queens for years, and never knew there was a zoo here. Little did I know how many times over the years I would hear that same thing from visitors as I walked around the zoo. Of course then, as now, I was delighted to hear the positive feedback. I am very proud of the zoo and the people who take care of it to make it such a beautiful and family-friendly place for people to come visit.
What has changed though, is how I feel about the part where the visitors say, “I never knew there was a zoo here.” They almost all say it in the context of a compliment to follow, but I confess it is really beginning to bug me. Everyone who works at Queens Zoo has done their best to make the zoo a wonderful haven of fun and recreation in Flushing Meadow Park. The experience and the recreational and educational value for families and school groups are very high.
It is true our attendance is increasing every year, and in conversations I do not have to explain where the Queens Zoo is nearly as much as I once did, but we are still too much of a secret amongst New Yorkers – especially among Queens residents.
Don’t get me wrong - this lack of fame and notoriety has its advantages. You will not be met by the crowds and mayhem you might get at some of the larger, better-known zoos during peak times. You can usually get a great view of even our most popular animal exhibits, and the keepers are usually happy to talk and answer all your questions about the animals.
The price is right as well. At $7 for adults and only $3 for children, a family of four can have a wonderful afternoon at the zoo for only $20.
So now I have let you in on one of the best little secrets in Queens. If you have read this far and you have a free morning or afternoon this spring, come pay us a visit. And if you have a good time (as I know you will), do me a favor: let someone else in on the secret.