See Animals in NYC Without Going to the Zoo

Where to see animals in NYC—all without stepping foot in a zoo. 

You’ve been to all the zoos in the area; checked out the usual farms; and spotted a plethora of pigeons, but your kids still want to see more animals. We’ve scoured the city for the most unique and off-the-beaten-path places to see, hang, and even play with animals in New York City.


Get a hug from a golden retriever.

If you’re walking around Chelsea in Manhattan, and you see a dog giving hugs, go ahead; stop and see if you can get a hug, too. Louboutina, or as her fans call her Loubie, became a social media sensation earlier this year for clinging to the legs of passersby. As with all dogs, make sure you ask her owner if it’s okay to get some puppy lovin’.

Hang out with adoptable kitties.

Love felines but can’t have one due to an allergy in the family or a strict landlord? Head to 1 of 3 cat cafés in New York City, where you can enjoy snacks, play with cats, or cuddle with the adoptable felines while you read a book: Koneko Cat Café and Meow Parlour, both located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, or Brooklyn Cat Café, located in Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn. Reservations are not needed but strongly recommended to guarantee time with the kitties. 

brooklyn cat cafe
Courtesy Brooklyn Bridge Animal Welfare Coalition Inc.

At Brooklyn Cat Café, run by Brooklyn Bridge Animal Welfare Coalition, families can play and hang out with adoptable cats.    

Go on a safari in Midwood, Brooklyn.

A Wild Parrot Safari, that is. Wild monk parakeets live near the Brooklyn College campus, and multiple sources have confirmed that they either escaped or were released from JFK airport, likely in the late 1960s, according to Steve Baldwin, who leads the tours. Participants gather at Brooklyn College, at the intersection of Hillel Place and Campus Road, and will be led on a tour to see and learn about the parrots. Summer tours are scheduled for Saturdays, June 3, July 1, and Aug. 12. Visit to learn more and to RSVP for a tour date.

Become one with a brood.

Every year the folks at Randall’s Island Urban Farm purchase 10 chicks and raise them in the garden. You can hang out with the chickens during Urban Farm Exploration Days on Saturdays and Sundays, 11am-5pm, through Oct. 14. 

randall's island chickens
Courtesy Randall’s Island Park Alliance

Each year Randall’s Island Urban Farm purchases 10 chicks to raise in the garden.   

See all the animals mentioned in the Torah.

You can see every beast, great and small, named in the Hebrew Bible in taxidermy form at Torah Animal World, located at 1601 41st St., Borough Park, Brooklyn. Exhibits include Animals of the Torah, Birds of the Torah, and Animals of the Tefillah (prayer).

Spot the red-eared sliders in Central Park.

I used to think the lake at the Loeb Boathouse was Turtle Pond, until I took the time to wander around Central Park and found myself near Belvedere Castle. That’s where Turtle Pond, a smaller, more secluded pond, is located (mid-park, between 79th and 80th streets). The man-made pond is home to five species of turtles, the easiest of which to identify is the red-eared slider—it has small red spots near its ears. See how many you and your kids can find.

Talk to a parrot.

Pinkie, a salmon-crested cockatoo from Pet Resources in the Bronx, will spend June at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, July at St. Philips Church in Harlem, Manhattan, and will return home in August, as part of …circle through New York, a unique project of circulating things commissioned as part of Guggenheim Social Practice. 

pinkie the parrot
Giacomo Francia, courtesy the artists

Pinkie, a talking parrot from Pet Resources in the Bronx, is drawn by students at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria, Queens, on March 8 as part of Lenka Clayton and Jon Rubin: …circle through New York.

Say “Hi” to Max on Governors Island.

Governors Island used to have a problem with too many goose droppings on the lawns—until Max, a border collie, was hired in 2015. Max’s job on the island, apart from being an official greeter, is to herd and discourage geese from hanging out to ensure the enjoyment and safety of guests. Jim Reed, the director of park and public space for Governors Island, adopted Max from the Mid Atlantic Border Collie Rescue Program in Maryland. Visitors are encouraged to take pictures, and are allowed to say hi if Max, and his new friend Quinn (who joined the goose-patrol team May 18), are not actively herding.

Courtesy @GIWorkingDogs

You can follow Max and Quinn’s adventures on Instagram @GIWorkingDogs.

Main image: Several wild monk parakeets (aka Quaker Parrots) mob a bird feeder in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
Steve Baldwin  


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