A Day at Chester Zoo

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We were sent a family ticket to visit Chester Zoo as part of MoneySupermarket's quest to find Britain's Best Family Days Out. I was confident that we would have a great day out there as Bud is animal obsessed, we weren't disappointed.

Red Rose Daddy was off work for a week but the weather forecast was wet. We scoured the forecasts and worked out that the Thursday might be dry. It dawned fine so we crossed our fingers and set off for the Zoo.

Chester Zoo Rhino Banner

The Zoo is very easy to find. Brown heritage signs, complete with elephant, directed us in from the motorway. Parking is free and plentiful and next to a Park and Ride station which would get you to or from the centre of Chester quickly.

Admission to the zoo is simple. There is a large ticket office to buy tickets on the door and then manned turnstiles for access. It is possible to pre-book tickets online and I would recommend this. Anything that makes admission easier is always a bonus with children! As we already had a ticket we sailed through with no queuing. You will be offered a map and a list of animal talks, I suggest you take them as, although lots of maps are scattered around the park, it is always easier to have your own to refer to. If you are interested in the keeper talks the leaflet is the best way of getting this information.

The main concourse has a gift shop, restaurant, toilets and guest services. I popped into guest services and found a variety of leaflets including one which gave you a route to use in the rain. Handy if you aren't confident about the weather. They also have wrist bands that you can write a parent's mobile number on and put around your child's wrist. I picked one up for Bud. I'm glad to say we didn't need it but it is a really good solution for lost children.

The Zoo is really large and I think, with toddlers, it is difficult to try and see it all in one go. We decided to take it easy and see what we could. Enclosures are arranged, loosely, in areas themed around habitat. The first animals you meet after entering are the elephants and, from there onwards you can find your own route around the park.

The animals are usually easy to spot. Many of them can be seen both indoors and outdoors which is useful if in bad weather. There is a mixture of animal houses and outdoor enclosures and we were able to see about 75% of the animals (we didn't try for the rest as we were short of time). We weren't left disappointed as you sometimes are by fruitlessly looking for animals that are indoors or hiding.
Chester Zoo Animals Meerkat Lion Penguin Flamingo Elephant Fish Tiger

Something I took notice of on this visit was the amount of art and variety of plants around the Zoo. It was really pleasant to see a mixture of plants which added to the colour of the Zoo and were clearly designed to work throughout the seasons. Some of the art is really striking, from a bronze baby elephant with a polished back from thousands of small bottoms sitting on him, to a beautiful sculpture in the sunken garden. Clearly the Zoo wants to make every part of the park interesting and they succeed. There are lots of ways for children to engage with their surroundings too..
Chester Zoo Art Plants
Chester Zoo is firmly on a mission to educate their visitors about animals, especially endangered species. The Zoo has informative and educational displays attached to most of their exhibits, from posters showing the names of the elephants, to a large display about the Palm Oil industry. The Monkey House had blackboards showing the menus for that day and tubs of the actual food they would eat. We could talk about this with Bud even though he is so little and even the smallest children will be able to learn a lot.

Chester Zoo Educational Displays

We took a picnic with us which we ate at one of the seating areas dotted around. Bud was very excited that we were visited by a few ducks who knew that they could expect a snack from us. They are his favourite animals and, when anyone asks him what he saw at the Zoo, are ahead of elephants, giraffes and meerkats on the list. If you choose to eat at the Zoo there are two restaurants open all year round that offer a wide range of food at reasonable prices. There are a number of smaller food sellers too but they were closed in low season. The large gift shop by the entrance offers a wide range of souvenirs at different prices. We escaped lightly with the purchase of elephant and penguin grabbers. Bud was very pleased with his new toys. Admission prices are reduced in low season, as are the opening hours so check out the Chester Zoo website to plan your visit.

Small boy toddler penguin elephant grabbers chester zoo

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Chester Zoo and it will be somewhere that we will revisit as a family, especially if Bud's interest in animals continues to grow. I have never thought of visiting a zoo in winter before but I will certainly do so again. It was quiet and easy to get around without the crowds of high season. Chester Zoo has so many attractions that are available to keep you dry that a downpour wouldn't spoil your day. Luckily we experienced only the smallest shower as we walked from the rhino house to the meerkats. We definitely chose the right day. I'd definitely recommend visiting in winter. Wrap up warmly and stop for a hot drink and you will have a wonderful day.

Disclaimer: We received a free family ticket to visit Chester Zoo as part of a project with Tots 100 and Money Supermarket. The thoughts and opinions contained within are honest and unbiased.
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