Rosamond-Gifford Zoo, Syracuse, NY

Before the Rosamond-Gifford Zoo was titled such, I knew it as the Burnett Park Zoo, or more casually to us who lived in the Central NY area, “The Syracuse Zoo.”

We visited the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse this time last year. We hadn’t been there in over ten years, and my youngest child had never been. Yet even though the forecast called for rain, we were undeterred; we packed up our umbrellas and ventured out.

I hadn’t been through Syracuse in years. I used to live in the general area as a girl. I was shocked at how much the city has changed, and not for the better. The Route 11 area used to be a tidy business area, filled with the hustle and bustle of mom-and-pop shops and hot dog vendors. The area today is pitiable! Almost half of the buildings were boarded up, most were crumbling, and the rest seemed to be either porno shops or bars. Homeless people with their busted-up grocery carts and tattered shopping bags wandered aimlessly across the streets. I know all of Syracuse isn’t this way, but enough of it was to make me feel sick.

The zoo was busy. It had just rained when we entered the city, so most of the zoo’s visitors were crammed in the Gift Shop and indoor animal areas. We followed the crowd into a cave-like hallway where we encountered loads built-in aquariums filled with fish, amphibians, reptiles, and creepy rainforest mammals (like bats). The fish section was amazing. I didn’t remember this from last time- they now have all sorts of exotic fish and marine animals, and I was fascinated. I always loved Jacque Cousteau TV specials as a kid, so this was a real treat! You can peer in on them at their level. I took several photos, but very few turned out because the “cavern” was dimly lit. Here’s one of the better shots of anemone:


An odd thing happened while we were leaving the cavern area– the power flickered and then with a zap, all the lights went out. We could still see where we were going, thanks to streams of daylight coming in. It was so ironic, however, because one of the animals’ display signs said, “This Rainforest brought to you by National Grid!” Haha!

The zoo is huge. Once you leave the entrance building, the campus opens up into a large circle with various walkways and routes. We didn’t know where to begin! Since my kids all love birds, we decided to visit the aviary. It is a large tropical room with numerous birds flying around. A wire fence keeps visitors on the path, but the birds fly freely overhead. Watch out for birds above your head, on overhanging branches, heh heh. I took pictures of a macaw, some roseate spoonbills, and others, but the only one that turned out nicely was the one of this cute little thing in its nest and another unknown bird. A person could reach out and touch the bird (but no one did). The bird seemed oblivious to all the visitor activity.

Bird in Circle Nest

Pink Bird

We got to see the lions, which was very exciting. A lion and lioness were laying by the glass wall, taking their afternoon catnaps. One young lioness popped out from behind some rocks and meandered over to our crowd. She seemed disinterested. She padded her way to the snoozing male, nudged him in the face, and plopped down near him to begin her snoozing. My son thought it was the funniest thing.

Cat Naps

We loved the meerkats. They are kept in a glass room, in a desert-like environment. They scampered back and forth, back and forth, the entire time. Little paw prints peppered the expanse of sand. Once in a while, a meerkat would suddenly STOP its scampering and sit upright.


The mandrills were funny as well. A sign in front of their glass cage said that if you squatted down and made figure 8 movements with your head, you may get the mandrill to smile at you or respond in some way. One lady had the gumption to try it. The mandrill just stared at her and scratched his ankle. Okay…

Another very fun time was with the monkeys. Their name eludes me… they were black and had arms as long as their torsos and legs. They put on a very good show.

There was just one elephant at the zoo (that we saw). I wonder what happened to the others– years ago, we’d seen three of them wandering around. My sons had never seen an elephant, so this was a treat for them.


This elephant looked like he/she was playing in the dirt. It just kept swaying back and forth and would swish the dirt once in a while. Preparing to bathe?

Some California condors stared us down. What weird birds.

CA Condors

We’d gotten as far as the speckled bear display (minus the bear, due to “under construction”) and were looking forward to seeing the penguins, when we were informed by zoo personnel that the zoo was closing due to the power outage and rumors of a “big storm” coming. We were so disappointed! I’d wanted to see the penguins as I’d heard so much about them. And we’d finally come out all this way and had only been able to see half of the zoo. The zoo was great about it, and gave us rain checks for another visit, but I don’t know when we’ll be able to get out this way again; so they may be useless to us.

The Rosamond Gifford Zoo is a wonderful zoo. I’m sorry our visit was cut short. We hope to visit again someday.

If you are going to be in the Syracuse area, I heard that the Zoo is having a special reduced admission period from July 2 to August 27 on Wednesdays ONLY! Adults are $3 and kids and seniors are $2. Looks like a great deal!

About the Author

I've been traveling throughout New York State since I got the travel bug after touring the Herkimer Home on a school field trip as a youngster. We've been blogging about our travels since 2006 and have visited over half of New York's 62 counties so far.

Comments (6)

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  1. NYCO says:

    whoops, there are red pandas too.

  2. Vicki says:

    Wow, that anemone shot is spectacular. Thanks for taking us along to the zoo.

  3. The Syracuse Zoo! Having grown up in Geneva, NY, I was privileged to have the Syracuse Zoo on our field trip schedule every few years. I can’t say I remember much about it but it was my first zoo experience. So tell me, do you say “Sarah-cuse?”

  4. NYCO– I must have missed the red pandas. Or perhaps I didn’t notice them. They have these pandas at the Utica Zoo, too.

    Vicki– you’re welcome. 😀 Thanks for visiting. Please do not feed the animals. 😉

    SmallWorld Reads– ooo you might be interested in a post I did when we traveled to Geneva and Corning. Look in my Travel Archives link at the very top of the header and you’ll see our travels listed by county. Geneva is SOOO beautiful and we hope to stay at the Glenora Winery sometime soon.

    And I do not say “Sarah-cuse,” although my step-brothers (who were raised in the city) do. I was born and lived in Cayuga County in my early youth, so I say “Seera-cuse,” like Dave Longley of WSYR-9 News, lol.

  5. Monique Kischel says:

    I too was recently at the Syracuse Zoo. As always I found that there is not enough time in a day to truly enjoy all that a zoo has to offer. I reluctantly missed a number of animals.

    PS the cute little bird in the photo is called a “Bleeding Heart Dove”