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Holiday Magic in the Heart of Central Park

Sea Lion

The holidays are right around the corner and the Central Park Zoo is celebrating the season with Winterfest – a holiday celebration that includes special performances, holiday lighting displays, and presents for the animals. During the first three Fridays and Saturdays in December (Dec. 2-3, 9-10, 16-17) the zoo will stay open until 6:30 p.m. inviting visitors to stroll through the zoo and enjoy thousands of white lights, theater performances, and presents to the animals.

Lights and festive greenery line the pathways to winter-themed activities. At Winterfest, the polar bear and penguins will receive presents filled with their favorite treats including fish-sickles and fruits. Animal keepers and zoo guides will be available to talk to guests about the animals and answer questions.

Polar-themed performances by WCS’s Wildlife Theater and live animal encounters in the Zoo Gallery will headline this year’s Winterfest activities. Families can also make a special winter craft to take home.
The Central Park Zoo’s 4-D Theater will be showing The Polar Express™ 4-D Experience is based on the film
from Warner Bros. Pictures and Shangri-La Entertainment and Planet Earth: Ice Worlds 4D Experience from BBC

For a break from the chilly air, the Central Park Zoo’s Tropic Zone is a steamy 80 degrees all year long. Home to
tropical birds, lemurs, and more, it is the perfect place to take a break from the cold.
The Dancing Crane Café will be serving holiday treats, hot chocolate, and other festive fare. The Zootique will be
offering holiday discounts and is the perfect place to find wild gifts.

Winterfest Schedule: December 2-3, 9-10, 16-17.
2-6 p.m.-Wildlife Theater performances on the hour in the Zoo Gallery
2:30-5:30-Live Animal Encounters on the half hour in the Zoo Gallery
2-6:30 p.m. – Crafts in the Zoo Theater Classroom
3:15 p.m.-Presents to the penguins
5:30- Presents to the polar bear
Special Performances and Meet and Greet:

December 10 – If You Really Love Polar Bears – performance by Making Books Sing. 2 and 3 p.m. in the Zoo
Dec. 18 – Sprout TV – Super Why and Character appearances at 2:00 in the Zoo Gallery.
Sophie Bass: 718-265-3428; sbass@wcs.org
Max Pulsinelli – 718-220-5182; mpulsinelli@wcs.org
Steve Fairchild – 718-220-5189; sfairchild@wcs.org

Charles A. Dana Discovery CenterCelebrate the beginning of the winter season with free programming throughout the Park.

Each December, the Central Park Conservancy marks the beginning of winter with the Women’s Committee’s annual Winter Holiday Lighting of the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center (pictured), followed by a variety of free programming. Enjoy ornament-making crafts, solstice stargazing, Kwanzaa celebration, an interactive winter sword dancing performance, and lots more

Social Hour: Ornament Origami
Thursday, December 15
6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Dana Discovery Center
Fold paper ornaments you’ll treasure forever at this ornament-origami workshop with author and famed origami genius Sok Song.  Ages 18+

Kwanzaa Celebration for Families
Friday, December 16
3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Dana Discovery Center
Celebrate the harvest, family, community and culture by crafting a work inspired by nature and African art. Co-presented with the Museum for African Art.

Solstice Stargazing
Wednesday, December 21
5:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Belvedere Castle
Celebrate the first day of winter! View the night sky as guided by the Amateur Astronomers Association. Bring your own binoculars if you have them; telescope provided. Ages 10+

 Winter Holiday Crafts
Thursday, December 22
2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Chess & Checkers House
Capture the smell of the winter holiday season through a fun paper gingerbread craft.

Evergreen Craft
Thursday, January 19
2:00 – 4:00 pm
Chess & Checkers House
Learn about the evergreen trees and shrubs that keep Central Park looking beautiful in winter while crafting your own wintery landscape.

Ice Festival @ Tavern
Saturday, February 11
11:00 – 3:00 pm
Tavern on the Green
Watch master carvers from Okamoto Studio turn blocks of ice into Central Park icons. Fun family activities will be offered.

Sword Dancing Family Performance
Saturday, February 18
1:00 pm & 3:00 pm
Dana Discovery Center
Be Amazed by dancers who weave swords into complex configurations as part of this ancient winter celebration.

Holiday Fun in Central Park

Arsenal Wreath

Arsenal Wreath

The festivities continue this week in Central Park with the Conservancy’s extensive list of holiday events.  Celebrate the season in Manhattan’s Victorian winter wonderland with the Central Park Conservancy.   All events are free and open to all ages unless otherwise noted. No advance registration. Click on the program names for details.

Besides all the usual Holiday activities in the Park the Central Park Zoo is adding a new wrinkle to the festivities

Gus opening his presents

Gus opening his presents

This year you can enjoy the beauty of the Zoo through the winter holidays! On Fridays and Saturdays in December, we’re extending our hours until 6:30 p.m. so you can stop by in the afternoon or after work for a stroll under thousands of twinkling lights. Visit cold-weather creatures, enjoy family activities and Wildlife Theater in the Zoo gallery, and watch the animals unwrap seasonal treats during holiday enrichment sessions.

Also enjoy holiday shopping at the Zootique, take a family holiday photo, and treat yourself to roasted marshmallows, candy apples, and hot apple cider. Activities take place 2:00–6:30 p.m.

Event Schedule

Wildlife Theater
Time: 2:00–6:00 p.m.; performances begin on the hour
Location: Zoo Gallery

Live Animal Encounters
2:30–5:30 p.m.; encounters begin on the hour
Location: Zoo Gallery

Time: 2:00–6:00 p.m.
Location: Zoo Gallery

Presents to the Penguins
Time: 3:30 p.m.
Location: Penguin house

Presents to the Snow Leopards
Time: 4:30 p.m.
Location: Allison Maher Stern Snow Leopard Exhibit

Presents to the Polar Bears
Time: 5:30 p.m.
Location: Polar bear exhibit

Baby Mongoose Pups at the Central Park Zoo

Mongoose Pup

"I'm ready for my closeup Mr. DeMille"

Rikki Tikki Tavi would be so proud – four banded mongoose pups and their parents have moved into the Tropic Zone. These petite African carnivores get their name from the black stripes across their backs. And what’s tinier than a dwarf mongoose? Well, their pups, for starters. The dwarf mongoose family lives in the Tropic Zone as well. In the wild, both dwarf and banded mongooses form extensive social groups. Check out this ridiculously cute video of the pups doing their “we’re more adorable than a shoe box full of kittens” routine.

For the record – Mongooses (Herpestidae) are a family of 33 species of small carnivorans from southern Eurasia and mainland Africa. Four additional species from Madagascar in the subfamily Galidiinae, which were previously classified in this family, are also frequently referred to as “mongooses”. Genetic evidence indicates that the Galidiinae are more closely related to other Madagascar carnivorans in the family Eupleridae, which is the closest living group to mongooses.

Snowfall and Snow Leopards

This evening has brought a delightful frosting to the park, although it is scheduled to be replaced by slushy grey muck by morning. One of the most romantic views in the park is Belvedere Castle in the snow.

Belvedere Castle In The Snow.

And while we’re on the subject – Snow leopards will soon have new digs in Manhattan, at the Central Park Zoo. The Allison Maher Stern Snow Leopard Exhibit is expected to open in spring of 2009 and was made possible by a $7 million leadership gift to the WCS Gateways to Conservation campaign by Allison and Leonard Stern.  The new exhibit will replicate the scrubby evergreen forests in the mountainous region of Central Asia, where the highly endangered snow leopard lives. Zoo visitors will be able to go nose-to-nose with the big cats and see them perched on rocks and boulders. Hot and cool rocks for winter and summer will create a comfortable environment for these high-altitude animals, and ledges and other behavioral enrichment features will encourage them to pounce and play.  Some lovely watercolors that are being prepared for the Zoo can be found at the Natural History Artist site.


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