The 80-acre Utica Zoo was founded over a century ago at what’s now the Roscoe-Conkling Park. Thomas Proctor, a Civil War veteran and prominent local businessman, donated the land for the park, in 1909, to the city of Utica. Proctor envisioned a park similar to Central Park in New York City.
The zoo opened in 1914 with only three fallow deer. Today, it cares for over 200 animals representing 99 species. 140 of those animals are in the zoo’s main exhibits. The remain animals (35 species) are used in the zoo’s education department for animal encounters at birthday parties, on its “zoomobile” which brings live animals to other locations, and during classes and events on site.
While at the zoo, you can watch daily camel and sea lion feedings while their keeper tells you more about them. If you want to feed animals yourself, you can purchase food for a few quarters and then give it to the goats, sheep, alpaca and chickens in the Children’s Zoo.
The zoo is laid out with indoor pavilions and outdoor habitats. Among the reptiles and insects in the Wildlife Hall, you’ll find a Burmese python, Chilean rose-haired tarantula and critically endangered cotton-top tamarin. The Primate Hall houses rare Mexican spider monkeys, white-handed gibbons and red pandas. The Asian Realm includes Chinese alligators and white-naped cranes. Africa Alley has lions, vultures and zebras, and the North Trek Nature Trail showcases animals closer to home, such as lynx, bald eagles and porcupine.
The zoo also has a playground, in which kids can slide out of the mouth of an enormous snake, and the world’s largest watering can, verified by the Guinness Book of World Records.
The zoo’s mission is to “foster public understanding and appreciation of wildlife species and their ecosystems through education, conservation and recreation”. It participates in the Species Survival Plan (SSP), an inter-zoo program that breeds and provides homes to threatened and endangered species from around the world. Some animals have been successfully reintroduced into their native habitat.
Events at Utica Zoo
Utica Zoo does an excellent job with programming throughout the year with a number of great events for families and adults. Don’t miss the Eggstravaganza to meet the Easter Bunny and explore and celebrate the many different species of animals that lay eggs and truly different and unique each egg can be, Earth Day Celebration, Girl Scout Day, Free Admission for Moms on Mother’s Day, Wine in the Wilderness (21+) to sample and purchase New York State wines, Free Admission for Dads on Father’s Day, Brewfest (21+), New York Power Authority’s Wildlife Festival (Free), Spooktacular or the Holiday Hoot.
Utica Zoo Admission and Concessions
Children 2 & Under: Free
Children 3 to 12: $4.75
Adults 13 to 61: $8.00
Seniors 62+, Military, College Students with ID: $6.75
The Utica Zoo concession stand is Voss’ at the Zoo. Open spring through fall. You may know them from their other locations in Central New York. Voss’ is a cash-only establishment that offers favorites like hot dogs & hamburgers to homemade ice cream and cold slushies. Want to bring your own lunch? Go right ahead! Bring a cooler for the family and enjoy one of the many picnic tables and pavilion spaces to relax and enjoy a meal. No alcoholic beverages allowed.
Vending machines are also available; one located in the Sinnott Education Center and the other is in the Main Barn in the Children’s Zoo. Snacks and candy are also for sale in the Gift Shop.
“They have done some amazing things here over the past few years. New exhibits, a fun interactive trail for the kids (fun for snowshoeing during the winter), and very friendly and knowledgeable staff.”