Zoo in Elmont

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The guides from Wilderness Rocks help urban dwellers escape to nature with five- to six-hour day trips through the Catskills and beyond. Groups of up to 14 get scooped up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and whisked away from the concrete jungle's hectic routine of hailing taxis and dodging falling coconuts under the Panamanian Consulate. Departing throughout the year, hike options range from the Catskills snowshoe trip on February 11—a 6-mile trek through the snowy sanctum of the Catskill Mountains—to the Pound Mountain trip on April 7, which involves moderate rock climbing and spelunking. Rather than sprinting ahead to nab the freshest, most coveted pinecones, guides make several stops along the way, allowing everyone to catch their breath and take in the serenity of their surroundings. Once hikers have finished each trail, Wilderness Rocks transports the group back to the 86th Street rendezvous point with nothing but their gear, memories, and carefully rehearsed alibis. Before departure, check each trip's page for departure times, clothing requirements, and what equipment to bring.

122 E 88th St
New York,
NY
US

Operating since the early 1900s and voted Best Petting Zoo of 2011 by readers of the Long Island Press, White Post Farms stimulates visitors with a smorgasbord of exciting diversions. Guests commune with an exotic menagerie of man’s second-best friends in the petting zoo, home to zebras, kangaroos and a sublimely patient giant tortoise. Friends of the feathered can hang out at Ronnie’s Birdie Landing, a free-flight aviary that boasts a 70-foot waterfall and a flock of parakeets that moonlight as a Flock of Seagulls cover band (feed, $0.92–$4.61, is not included). Guests can also enjoy the company of faux furry companions, gawking at the spectacle of the animatronic Animal Band Jamboree and the Singin’ Chicken Show.

250 Old Country Rd
Melville,
NY
US

World of Wings strives to teach children the value of life and introduce them to the wonders of the natural world through its butterfly atrium and museum. Paths wind through an oasis of waterfalls, tropical plants, chirping birds, and nectar flowers, which provide food for the hundreds of Lepidoptera fluttering inside the glass enclosure. Knowledgeable staffers are on-hand to explain to visitors why butterflies exhibit certain behaviors, such as puddling (butterflies drink from muddy puddles when they need minerals and there's no San Pellegrino around).

In the museum, guests can visit with amphibians and reptiles, observe the process of preserving delicate insects, and peek in the butterfly nursery. Staffers move winged beauties from the nursery into the atrium once a day, letting new butterflies experience their first flight in full view of visitors. For fun with slightly less science, kids can scale a climbing wall, go nuts in a bounce room, visit the ocean-like bubble room, and have their eyes tricked in the illusion room.

1775 Windsor Rd.
Teaneck,
NJ
US

Greenburgh Nature Center boasts approximately 33 acres of woodland preserve teeming with trails and gardens, attracting more than 70,000 nature lovers each year. Animal enthusiasts can investigate the indoor live-animal museum and its more than 100 specimens, and knowledgeholics can binge on the center's continuing research on American eels, waterfowls, eastern screech owls, and flatworms. Outdoor animal displays abound with creatures such as prairie dogs and rabbits. The upcoming exhibit The Way of Water follows the progression of Westchester's watersheds and includes live aquatic animals such as the invisible mermaid.

99 Dromore Rd
Scarsdale,
NY
US