I had planned to go out to Punxsutawney, PA again for Groundhog’s Day but the weather really turned this year. There was an Arctic Vortex (or whatever they are calling it this week) and the weather plunged in Pennsylvania. It was going to be 20 degrees on Groundhog’s Day (that meant 0 degrees that night) and raining when I would drive home on Sunday and I thought that would be over doing it for me.
I later saw that it did go up to 38 degrees that day in Punxsutawney, higher than expected but the overnight Friday night into Saturday was 4 degrees and sorry but the thought of standing in Gobbler’s Knob for five and a half hours in that weather was too much. I did that in 2016 in 30 degrees and that was bad enough. I will wait until next year.
I wanted to celebrate Groundhog’s Day this year and had fully planned to go to Punxsutaway, PA to see the Groundhog’s Day festival again (see Day Thirty-Seven of ‘MywalkinManhattan’) but a ‘Arctic Vortex’ swept all over the Midwest with its fringes reaching the middle of Pennsylvania. It would be 30 degrees on Groundhog’s Day with a temperature of 4 degrees that night. The thought of sitting in Gobbler’s Knob in almost 0 weather had no appeal to me and I changed my plans.
I had remembered that there was a festival on Staten Island at the Staten Island Zoo with ‘Staten Island Chuck’ on Groundhog’s Day so off I went early the next morning to see the groundhog see his shadow.
The Staten Island Zoo had a fun and engaging Groundhog’s Day ceremony (see Day One Hundred and Thirty One of ‘MywalkinManhattan’) with a musical concert with the students of P.S. 29 and a private band who made up a song to go with the festival. At 8:00am, they presented Staten Chuck to the audience and he told us that there would be an early spring (its still freezing out!).
After the ceremony was over, the Zoo gave us plenty of time to explore the park before it opened to the public. With it being so cold outside, a lot of the outdoor animals were not in their pens outside but I was able to most of the exhibits.
Map of the Staten Island Zoo
I was able to visit all the inside exhibitions which was nice because the crowds began to thin as the morning went on. It is a nice sized zoo with a lot of indoor exhibitions for a rainy or cold day.
I visited the Birds of Prey exhibit which contains many types of birds in their simulated natural habitat. There were some interesting colorful birds that the zoo keepers took out so that we could see them up close.
There was a Fox exhibition where the small furry creatures were crawling and climbing all over the rocks and formations. They just stared at me looking at them leading me to believe that they were used to humans looking at them.
I walked through the African, Tropical Forest and the Aquarium which were located towards the front of the zoo. I walked through the aquarium which is small but still nice and you are able to see many types of fish and plant life. In the African exhibition, I loved looking at the bearded monkeys who just looked back at me and then it was off to the reptile wing to look at snakes, turtles and frogs.
I went outside later in the morning and looked at the horses (who looked freezing) and the kangaroos, who looked at me like they wanted to run back inside (it was about 35 degrees at that point). The emus looked at me with desperation as well like ‘at least he is going to feed us’ look. None of the outdoor animals looked comfortable in this weather. Even Staten Island Chuck was inside because his keeper said that it was too cold even for him to be outside.
Groundhog’s Day 2020
The one thing about the Staten Island Zoo is that it is compact and you can see the whole zoo in one afternoon. There is also plenty of parking behind the zoo in the park. The Zoo also has a nice gift shop, where a ‘Staten Island Chuck’ stuffed animal will cost you $20.00 ( in 2020 I bought the little stuffed animal. It is really cute). There is also a restaurant with stand kid fare like chicken fingers and burgers in the afternoon hours. There selection of doughnuts are really good. For a dollar, it is worth the trip.
Staten Island Chuck
The Zoo I would think would be more fun in the warmer months but with the indoor exhibitions, there is lots to see and do at the Staten Island Zoo.
At least Spring is on its way!
The Groundhog Day ceremony in 2020!
Watch the video on the event right before the country’s shutdown:
Check out my blog on ‘Visiting the Staten Island Zoo for the Groundhog’s Celebration Day One Hundred and Thirty-One’:
After visiting the zoo, take time to walk through the park and then walk down Forest Avenue to visit the shops and restaurants. Don’t miss Bruno’s and Moretti’s Bakery’s for a snack.
Very clever cartoon when the Mayor dropped the Groundhog.
The stuffed Staten Island Chuck toy is so cool!
The History of the Staten Island Zoo:
In August 1933, the Staten Island Zoological Society was created and the park built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. On March 25, 1935, the Egbert-Robillard Bill was passed by the New York State Senate to have the city provide maintenance for the zoo. Two months later on May 7, 1935, the Governor of New York signed an agreement to allocate public fund for the zoo to cover operational and maintenance costs while the exhibits, animal care and educational programs were to be maintained by the Staten Island Zoological Society. With the land now owned by the city and a program to convert the 8 acre estate into a zoo. The zoo opened to the public on June 10, 1936 and was considered the first U.S. “educational zoo”. (Wiki)
Staten Island Zoological Society:
Unlike all the other zoos in New York City, which are operated by the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Staten Island Zoo is operated by the Staten Island Zoological Society which was created in August 1933 under the organization of Harold O’Connel. Local legend maintains that the society was partially formed from the Staten Island Reptile Club, which was located nearby on Britton Street and Broadway. Although no written documentation exists regarding the merger it would explain the newly formed Staten Zoological Society’s affinity for reptiles and why the zoo was (and still is) known for its extensive reptile collection. Just short of one year after its organization on July 24, 1934, the Staten Island Zoological Society was officially incorporated. (Wiki)
The zoo is home to Staten Island Chuck, a groundhog who is the official Groundhog Day forecaster for New York City and Grandpa, a black-handed Spider Monkey, who made local newspapers when he accurately ‘predicted’ the outcome of six out of nine matches during the U.S. Open Tennis Championship. (Wiki)