We can revisit Chester Zoo over and over again and the entertainment never ceases. The variety of animals, exotic planting, constantly-updating exhibits and efforts for conservation make this a world-class zoo.
It is also vast. Form a plan. Don’t simply glance at the map and then run off like a headless chicken into the lion’s den! Last time, we decided to visit everything. Really, I mean everything! Using the numbering on the map, me and my six and nine-year-old engaged in a military-style approach – No Dawdling Allowed! We staggered through the gates at closing time, satisfied smiles on our faces, ticking off No. 68, The Condor Cliffs. If you have younger children, or simply want a more leisurely day, pick out some must-sees to get you started.
Despite our pace, we had many magical moments – a baby black rhino kissing its mum, jaguars dramatically play-fighting, penguins gliding and butterflies dancing. We spent ages observing the orangutans, our favourite being an enormous shaggy male who we christened Mr Bombastic! Of course there was a dark moment when Oliver dragged me into the fruit bat forest. I lasted about 20 seconds – it was time to move on!
We ate our picnic in a yurt overlooking the cheetah enclosure, an excellent choice of location as Felix got nose to nose with a cheetah cub – I think it liked the look of his ham butty! The Jaguar Picnic Lodge looks a cosy place to picnic, and has a small coffee house nearby if you’ve not packed a flask. For warmer days, there are lawns and benches. If you’d rather not carry a rucksack around all day, there are two main restaurants offering self-service meals. We had juice and a cake in June’s Pavilion in the afternoon. It was busy, noisy and quite expensive, but plenty of seating was available
As it got chilly we took pleasure in the warmth of the tropical houses – the boys were wowed by a display of cacti in Plant Paradise, a more recent addition to the zoo. There are so many interesting indoor animal houses here, that a day trip would still be worth doing in the rain.
A monorail circumnavigates the zoo, allowing a birds-eye view of the park. It’s a chance to rest weary legs too! Another different perspective can be seen from the water bus. These (and crazy golf) are not included in the entry price; but when you consider that the zoo have 11,000 mouths to feed, you can’t blame them for trying to make more money!
A wonderful highlight for me came when we got home. As the boys told Dad their tales of the day, about painted dogs and poisonous blue frogs – they were so animated and enthused I could tell that they had loved their day at the zoo. It had been worth every penny.
Daily from 10am. Check website for up-to-date information on closing times, seasonal dates and events.
Low season: Adult £16, Child £13, Family £54. High Season: Adult £20, Child £16, Family £67. Book online more than 7 days in advance for 10% discount. Free Parking. Pushchair Hire available.
Chester Zoo, Caughall Road, Upton-by-Chester, Chester CH2 1EU
Tel: 01244 380280