I have been a casual zoo-goer since I was a child, so when I learned of the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, I was filled with curiosity and nostalgia. Located a mere seven miles away, the zoo is reachable by public transportation in approximately an hour. Although the trip was nothing like I expected, I still had a pleasant experience.
Getting to the Franklin Park Zoo requires a fair bit of knowledge about the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) system. To get there, I took the T from Davis Square station to Downtown Crossing station, at which point I transferred to the Orange Line headed to Forest Hills station. After a few stops, I got off at Jackson Square station and took the 22 bus right to the entrance of the zoo. Unfortunately, users of public transportation have to pay for the train and the bus separately, but if you take the bus within two hours of taking the train (or vice versa), you get a reduced fare on the second leg of your trip.
When I arrived, the zoo appeared deserted from the outside. For a few moments, I thought it might be closed. However, there was an attendant at the box office, and I was admitted after paying what I think was a pricey $19.95 fee. A light mist enveloped the park, and the dense tree cover provided a respite from the sounds of traffic in the surrounding city. Amidst the quiet, I was astonished to discover almost no other people at the zoo. I spent the next hour ambling around the largest indoor area, often the only person in sight. At one point, I walked into a room to find a very surprised gorilla. We hung out together for a few minutes. It was quite eerie, sitting in a quiet room mere feet from a gorilla. We made eye contact a few times, but it mostly seemed interested in some grass near his feet. I eventually moved on.
As I wandered through the zoo, I thought more and more about the extreme lack of people. Is it like this every day? How is the zoo staying afloat? These questions bounced around in my brain as I trekked from one foggy area to the next, surveying the animals in silence. At lunchtime, I decided to grab some food from the Giddy-Up Grill, the in-zoo restaurant. My chicken sandwich and fries came out to $12, and the food itself was nothing to write home about. I would recommend finding food before entering the zoo.
The exhibits themselves weren’t out of the ordinary, but I very much enjoyed being the only person in any given area. There were no families trying to take pictures of the animals, no deafening shrieks from eager children, no dropped food littering the floor of the park. Instead, there were endangered species like the pygmy hippopotamus, resting peacefully deep within a winding corridor of exhibits. I don’t know if my experience is easily repeatable, but I absolutely recommend going to the zoo at an odd day of the week (I went there Friday at noon) for a meditative animal-viewing experience.