Indoor Winter Fun at your Favorite Summer Spots

Last Saturday, surprisingly, my family put on our winter clothes and headed to Coney Island. The Cyclone may have been closed for the season and the stores in and around the boardwalk may have been even more boarded up than normal (which is saying something), but Nathan’s was still open with plenty of warm indoor seats. The boardwalk was freezing but had a certain serene beauty to it not always present at Coney Island.  But the main attraction of Coney Island in winter was the Aquarium, a destination we generally think of as a summer spot. 

Coney Island and the Aquarium aren’t the only summer destinations that can be a great winter destination as well, here are some fun options:

The New York Aquarium might not be the world’s biggest aquarium but it will definitely fill an afternoon.  The best part about winter is that once there, although not empty, it is also not crowded, making it ideal for small children to get out some energy.  And although the outdoor pavilion and activities may be colder than normal, inside everything is pretty much the same as it is in summer.  The aquarium even keeps up its daily schedule of public feedings.

The Bronx Zoo is also open year round and winter is a great time to beat the crowds there too, even if it means focusing on the indoor spaces like the monkey house, Madagascar,  and the world of reptiles over the outdoor exhibits.  One big bonus to going to te Bronx Zoo in winter is that some of the animals you typically only see from afar will be housed indoors for the woner and you can see hem righ tup close. We had a great time getting to know some giraffes up close. The zoo also keeps up a regular daily schedule of feedings and events throughout the winter. 

Down the road from the Bronx Zoo, from February 6th to April 11th, the NY Botanical Gardens is presenting a children’s program entitled “Chocolate” where children can learn about how vanilla and cocoa are grown and processed as well as get the chance to eat vanilla-flavored food and Mayan hot chocolate (read our review from last year).  The “Chocolate and Vanilla Adventures” is meant as a complimentary program to the Garden’s  84th Annual Orchid show “Cuba in Flower” which doesn’t begin until February 27th.  Until then, you can take a break from the cold by viewing the tropical rain forest plants or the cacti and desert flowers.  Or embrace the cold by enjoying a winter tram tour.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden also has activities unique to winter, including a special discovery week timed to match the Spring recess (March 30-April 2; 1-3pm).  Or stay inside and check out the various greenhouses in the large Steinhardt Conservatory with rain forest plants, including tropical fruits, desert plants and an indoor café.

And while the Prospect Park Zoo and Queens Zoo don’t have the same amount of indoor space as the Bronx Zoo, they are also open all year round and it's always a pleasure to step into the warm rainforest or ogle the penguins indoors at the Central Park Zoo on a cold winter's day. 

[Editor's Note: That cute baby is contributor Adam's adorable little boy, Henry]

The New York Aquarium
Surf Avenue & West 8th St
Brooklyn, NY 11224

The Bronx Zoo
2300 Southern Boulevard
Bronx, NY 10460

The New York Botanical Garden
Bronx River Parkway at Fordham Road
Bronx, 10458

Brooklyn Botanical Garden
1000 Washington Ave
New York, NY 11225

Prospect Park Zoo
450 Flatbush Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11225

Queens Zoo
53-51 111th St
Flushing, NY 11368

Central Park Zoo
64th St and Fifth Ave
New York, 10021