We’re members of New York’s Wildlife Conservation Society, which means free entrance to city Zoos and the Aquarium. And we visit them all often, but usually when it’s warm out. Thanks to Carol Cain (NYCityMama), though, who blogs for Babble New York, we found reason to zip up to the Bronx Zoo last weekend. Carol’s recent Babble post on things to do in New York over the holidays mentioned a very important happening — the Zoo is screening The Polar Express 4-D Experience now through January 2. (That’s the trailer above, though you won’t be able to enjoy the “4-D Experience” part anywhere but at the Zoo.)
This is big news for us.
Jasper is a train fanatic, so anything railway-related is of extreme interest. But there’s big love for The Polar Express — both book and movie. It brings together many things that make him happy — trains, Santa, snow, presents. Seeing it all up on the big screen, with super-cool added effects, was too good to pass up. Plus, of course, the fun of visiting all the animals and just being able to run wild and free at the Zoo. (Have I mentioned before that I am the mom whose kids *never* stop moving? Outdoor settings are good for us.)
The movie was pretty impressive, so I’d definitely recommend putting this on your list of holiday activities, even if you don’t have a train-obsessed kid. But first, a few things you should know:
You won’t be sitting through the entire film (which, to my mind, is a good thing. Tom Hanks yells a lot and I find the animation a little freaky, although children seem unfazed by this.) Running time for this 4-D shorty — featuring favorite scenes from the full-length version — is 13 minutes.
It’s not included with entrance to the Zoo. If you’re a member, don’t forget to take one of your “special attraction” passes along with you. If not, it’s $5 a ticket, or $7 for a double feature of The Polar Express and Dora & Diego’s 4-D Adventure (also surprisingly worthwhile — we saw it over the summer.)
Wondering what the hell 4-D means? You wear 3-D glasses, so you do get the bizarro effect of things flying at you — Santa in his sleigh, for example — but you also get extreme sounds, motion, smells, and cool extras like wet, chilly snowflakes. You smell the hot chocolate, you feel the rumble of the train.
Younger kids might find it scary. It’s LOUD. And while the effects are fun, they can also be startling. Magnolia sat through it even though I gave her the option of leaving, but she’s not a fan of LOUD and she spent most of the time with her hands over her ears. Still, she said after that she loved it and answered without hesitation that her “favorite part” was when Santa Claus holds up the silver sleigh bell and booms out, “The first gift of Christmas!”
Other cold-weather Zoo highlights:
No crowds! The kids could run ahead without getting lost in the hordes and there were no lines at popular spots like the Bug Carousel.
Also on through the holiday season (weekends only), are Carriage Rides with the Zoo’s beautiful Clydesdale Horses. Jesse and Monty were the two draft horses doing the honors the day we were there — kids get to pet them and say hi after the ride.
The peacocks were feeling social! As you know if you’ve been to the Bronx Zoo, the peafowl get to roam freely, but they often seem shy. The cool weather and thinner crowds seemed to suit them.
New baby tigers! There are six new cubs at Tiger Mountain and they’re super cute.
See all of the winter happenings at the Bronx Zoo.
And get more ideas for things to do in New York in the cold weather: