The summer holidays are almost upon us and parents thoughts are turning to dread as they try and come up with a hundred or so ideas to keep their little cherubs amused for the next six weeks. Now do you remember that great big yellow thing that used to appear from time to time in the sky? Yes that’s it, the sun, well rumour has it that it will make an appearance in the up and coming weeks so weather permitting, a trip to the zoo might be a good idea. If you take your own food you can keep the expense down a little and find one that is quite close to you to cut down on petrol costs, a day trip to the zoo will keep you kids amused for hours during and afterwards! Here are our five best zoos, whether you love monkeying around or staring down the lions!
Monkey World Zoo – Dorset
Monkey World is 25 years old this year and was founded by husband and wife team Jim and Alison Cronin. Sadly Jim passed away on 17 March 2007 but the zoo has grown from a small refuge to a 65 acre wildlife park that is home to more than 240 rescued primates of 17 different species, and it is rated as one of the most popular family destinations in England. The zoo is open every day of the year except Christmas Day from 10am until 5pm. During July and August, they extend their opening times from 10am until 6pm. Last entrance to the zoo is one hour before closing. The nearest public transport link to Monkey World is via Wool train station, which is approximately 1.5 miles away. There are usually taxis available at Wool station to complete your journey to the zoo. A family ticket of 2 adults and 2 children costs £34. To see full entrance prices visit monkeyworld.org.
Colchester Zoo – Stanway
Colchester Zoo is now one of the finest zoos in Europe due to a constant programme of development and has won the coveted Large Visitor Attraction of the Year” Award and the “Sustainable Tourism Award” for its efforts in recycling and green practices from the East of England Tourist Board. With over 270 species to see, set in 60 acres of beautiful parkland and lakes, Colchester Zoo is well worth a visit. There are over 40 daily displays, an undercover soft play area, 4 adventure play areas, The Lost Madagascar Express road train and much more. There are special late might summer opening with events planned such as the ‘Twilight Zone’ – A live animal show featuring creatures that make the most of the Twilight hours, and various animal feedings. Late nights at the zoo are on July 28, and August 11 and 25. Prices for admission start at £16.99 for an adult and £10.50 for a child. For more information visit colchester-zoo.com.
Longleat Safari Park – Warminster
2012 is a big year for this zoo, with loads of fantastic new animals arriving from all over the globe. Opened in 1966, Longleat was the first ever Safari Park outside Africa. Your drive-through safari adventure will take you unbelievably close to creatures you’ve only dreamed about. Also at the zoo is the new Cheetah Kingdom, a brand new gorilla attraction, the Monkey Drive Thru is back and Anne the Elephant has arrived safely. There are three new male lions as well as ten new lion cubs that the zoo welcomed this year. Admission charges start from £23.37 for an adult and £16.57 for a child, these are online discounted prices. For more information visit longleat.co.uk.
West Midlands Safari Park – Bewdley
This has to be the best value for money zoo in our five best zoos. And it is not all about the animals either. With events and exhibitions such as Art out of Africa, 2012 Bavarian Evenings, Caribbean Beach Parties and a Fireworks Extravanga. Animal attractions include an elephants appreciation weekend, a new penguin cove, African Village and lemur woods, and a safari drive through. If you don’t fancy driving yourself you can take a guided tour bus through the zoo for an extra charge of £4.25 on top of your admission fee. Buses go at 11.30, 1.30 and 3.30. Tickets start from £14.99 fro an adult and £12.99 for a child. For more information visit wmsp.co.uk.
Whipsnade Zoo – Bedford
I’ve kept this zoo until last as it is in my opinion – the ultimate overnight experience… a once in a lifetime chance to live next door to the wildlife in a zoo! Nestled at the heart of Whipsnade Zoo and surrounded by white rhinos, reindeer, wolves and others, you can actually stay in your own private lodge, complete with all your creature comforts. Each one is fitted with beds, a heater and lights to ensure you are ultra snug. Staying overnight at Lookout Lodge is a fully hosted experience, and includes a delicious dinner, hot breakfast and lots more. The Lookout Lodge is open from April – October 2012, on Wednesday – Sunday nights. The zoo runs family nights and adult only nights. Prices start from £135 pp and include:
- Free parking
- A complimentary drink on arrival
- Sunset tour, led by our knowledgeable and passionate guides
- Enjoy a mouth-watering barbeque with fresh and colourful dishes opposite the tiger enclosure!
- Torch-lit tour through the zoo
- Hot chocolate before bed
- Luxury accommodation for 1 night
- A full English breakfast
- Morning tour before everyone else arrives for the day
For more information visit zsl.org