When it opened its gates in 1899, the Bronx Zoo had only 843 animals. But today, with 250 acres and more than 4,000 animals (of more than 650 species), it's the largest metropolitan zoo in the United States. Get up close and personal with exotic creatures in outdoor settings that re-create natural habitats; you're often separated from them by no more than a moat or wall of glass. Don't miss the Congo Gorilla Forest, a 6½-acre re-creation of a lush African rain forest with two troops of lowland gorillas, as well as white-bearded DeBrazza's monkeys, okapis, and red river hogs. At Tiger Mountain an open viewing shelter lets you get incredibly close to Siberian tigers, who frolic in a pool, lounge outside (even in cold weather), and enjoy daily "enrichment sessions" with keepers. As the big cats are often napping at midday, aim to visit in the morning or evening. In the $62 million exhibit Madagascar!, the formality of the old Lion House has been replaced with a verdant re-creation of one
of the most threatened natural habitats in the world. Here you see adorable lemurs and far-from-adorable hissing cockroaches.
Go on a minisafari via the Wild Asia Monorail, May through October, weather permitting. As you wend your way through the forest, see Asian elephants, Indo-Chinese tigers, Indian rhinoceroses, gaur (the world's largest cattle), Mongolian wild horses, and several deer and antelope species. Try to visit the most popular exhibits, such as Congo Gorilla Forest, early to avoid lines later in the day. In winter the outdoor exhibitions have fewer animals on view, but there are also fewer crowds, and plenty of indoor exhibits to savor. Also note that there is an extra charge for some exhibits. If you want to see everything, you'll save money by purchasing the Total Experience ticket.