SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – As coronavirus restrictions begin to ease, many tourist attractions in Central New York are getting closer to normal.
Zoos and museums in New York can operate at 50% capacity starting Monday, April 26, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse has a capacity of 4,000 people. Per Cuomo’s rule, the zoo can host 2,000 people. The zoo requires reservations. Half of the spots are reserved for members of the zoo and the other half is open to the general public.
“We have consistently sold out on the weekends because people want to be here,” said April Zimpel, head of the Conservation Committee at Rosamond Gifford Zoo. “They miss coming out and seeing the animals just like our volunteers.”
Danny Liedka, president of Visit Syracuse, thinks people want to participate in outdoor activities. He said more people are traveling again, which helps the tourism business in Central New York.
“I think the zoo and all of our county parks will see increased traffic,” Liedka said. “I mean our county parks had a record year last year, and that was just with locals. So, with people coming from afar, it’s going to be even better for them.”
Overall, family vacations are trending upward again. However, far-away destinations are not the popular choice in the pandemic.
People are more interested in road trips, according to April Engram, communications specialist at AAA Western and Central New York.
“You know that extra security of at least staying contained within your bubble of people, your immediate family,” Engram said. “At least you can get in the car and drive to your destination.”
Tourism is a $900 million industry in the county, according to Liedka. He said it drives sales tax, which benefits local residents and business owners.
With fewer COVID-19 restrictions and increased vaccinations, Zimpel, Liedka and Engram agreed more visitors will come to Central New York this summer.
To start the season off strong, Rosamond Gifford Zoo is celebrating Planet Earth this weekend. Clean-up day, the kickoff event, was postponed due to inclement weather. It was rescheduled for May 4.
Other events this weekend include a virtual conservation day, party for the planet, zoo keeper chats and World Penguin Day. To learn more about how to celebrate Planet Earth, visit the zoo’s website.