I don’t think you’re ever too old to be left awestruck at the sight of wildlife.
Seeing beautiful and powerful creatures like lions, hippos and tigers up close is such an incredible experience – it’s definitely not just one for the kids.
We’ve been wanting to take our toddler for her first trip to a zoo for quite some time, so when we were invited by AttractionTix to visit ZSL London Zoo for their Boo at the Zoo half term week of Halloween fun we were thrilled.
The visit not only meant we could tick a visit to the zoo off of our list of things we wanted to do with her in 2017, but we were also able to carve a pumpkin. Double tick!
With my two being very young – 10 months and two years – I always have a bit of a worry going into days like this about how it’s going to pan out.
Kids of their age are unpredictable and if they’re overtired, teething or just in a bad mood, it can make the day a bit trying.
Thankfully they were both on top form all day. Although my baby spent most of the day strapped into her buggy, her little head whipped all round constantly as she took it all in.
I’ll never forget her face when she saw a giraffe for the first time. It was a mixture of amazement and total joy,
My toddler giggled and squealed the entire day. I’m not sure which animal was her favourite, as she spent most of the day insisting the last animal she saw was definitely the best, but she was so excited to see these incredible animals up close.
What I love about ZSL London Zoo the most is that you get a sense of real passion for animals and conservation everywhere you turn.
The wildlife have beautiful enclosures that have clearly been very carefully thought out to be comfortable and engaging for them. It also adds to the experience as a visitor to see these animals playing, eating and sleeping in somewhere close to their natural environment.
There are informative boards everywhere, featuring fun facts and details about animals and highlights of the many, many conservation projects ZSL is involved with.
There are also lots of little games and challenges for children to enjoy as you move through the zoo. It’s so interactive that between the animals and the fun activities to try, we didn’t stop all day.
When we had to ask for directions a few times, the staff were always really friendly. There were also staff giving you extra bits of information at various points. In the butterfly house a lady had a box of baby caterpillars that had just hatched the day before.
They were munching frenetically on a green leaf. My toddler was really amazed to see this, as she is such a big fan of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
In the spider walk, where you get very close to some very large spiders, there was a member of staff answering questions and giving loads of information about the creepy crawlies we could see.
I’m not a fan of spiders, I confess, but seeing such huge varieties up close was pretty special.
One of my favourite areas of the zoo was the Land of the Lions – which is a pretty new attraction. The design has been inspired by India’s vibrant Sasan Gir – a beautiful destination to go on safari.
There are three walkways giving you fantastic views of the lions and monkeys (in separate enclosures of course). The vibrant artwork is mixed with installations such as vans, a tuk-tuk and railway station to make you feel like you’re going on a real journey as you search for the zoo’s lions.
Another memorable moment for me was when we discovered a tiger lounging right by the viewing glass of his enclosure. We were able to get some brilliant pictures and my toddler was excited to pretend to stroke the big cat.
We also got close to some penguins – which are one of my favourite animals – at Penguin Beach. They were swimming and diving energetically all over their pool. The glass viewing wall meant we could see them gliding underwater.
I think my toddler could have watched them for hours.
Another animal that stood out for me was the Galapagos tortoises. My toddler’s mouth opened she was so gobsmacked by how huge they are. It felt like such a privilege to see these amazing animals up close.
Our only problem as we wandered around the zoo was we often found ourselves a bit lost. We didn’t have a map and I didn’t find the “you are here” maps dotted around particularly easy to read.
There are signposts, but I think there could be more of these. It’s a compact site but we found we lost our bearings quite a few times.
All in all though we had such a memorable day and I would definitely hurry back.
Here’s a rundown of everything else you need to know about visiting the zoo:
We drove and parked at the zoo’s car park which cost £14.50 for the day. There were loads of spaces at 9.45am when we arrived. There’s also parking on the street outside the zoo with pay and display. The nearest tubes are Camden Town and Regent’s Park, which are just a short walk, so it’s definitely easy to reach by public transport.
Boo at the Zoo
This half term event runs until October 31. There’s a huge programme of Halloween themed activities and crafts for families to enjoy.
We carved a pumpkin, which cost an additional £3 for the pumpkin and the carving tools. We took ours home with us so it was worth the extra cost.
There are crafts in the bat cave, where kids can decorate bat masks or create their own spiders. For children who love to dance, there’s a Pumpkin Party featuring spooky tracks, and the zoo has opened a Ghoul School where children can learn how to cast a spell.
The zoo is divided into multiple exhibits, with some indoors and some outdoors.
All of it is really immersive, encourages interaction and inspires kids to want to find out more about these animals.
Facilities and access
Getting around with a buggy is easy. It’s one of the best buggy-friendly venues I’ve ever visited. This is impressive, particularly as there are loads of walkways and viewing platforms dotted around.
There are slopes everywhere to make parents’ lives easier.
There were also plenty of toilet facilities with baby changing. We never seemed to be far from a loo no matter where in the zoo we were, which is handy when you have two young children in nappies with you.
Many doors are double and automatic. The butterfly house is tricky to get into due to the plastic sheets hanging in front of doors to stop the butterflies getting out, but they only cause a bit of a faff with the buggy. It didn’t stop us getting in.
Food and drink
We brought a packed lunch with us but there’s a restaurant, cafe and various kiosks selling refreshments all over the zoo.
I snapped these gorgeous Halloween goodies in the restaurant.
Tickets at the gate cost £29.75 per adult and £22 for children aged three to 15. Children under three go free. There are deals and discounts available for booking online in advance.
For more information about ZSL London Zoo visit the website here.
If you liked what you’ve seen and read here, you can save an extra 10% off tickets when you book through attractiontix.co.uk – just use the code BLOGGER10 at the checkout. The code expires on 31st October 2017 and is valid for half-term dates and beyond. Visit AttractionTix to book.