So recently, we went as a family to London Zoo. I had not been to the zoo, itself, for a long time, in fact, the last time we went, I think I was still pregnant with Little Man so it was a fun day out, but I have some thoughts on our visit.
The last time we visited the elephants and rhino had been moved to the sister zoo wildlife park at Whipsnade, which whilst sad that we couldn’t see them, although I have seen elephants in the wild, is infinitely preferable to being in a small space in a zoo so I am glad they are somewhere with more space to live in.
This time round, with two children in tow, I had done a bit of reading, as to what was on at the zoo, and what facilities were there, and what was best in terms of tickets. We went with my brother and his family, and he strongly advised that we book our tickets in advance, on-line, which I did, very easily. You print off your ticket, to present at the entrance. I have to say, the tickets are a bit expensive, and it did annoy me that after paying a fairly large amount for five adults and three children, that they go on to ask you for a donation as well. I realise that as a charity and an organisation doing a lot of conservation work and research, and with very little funding from the government, they do need all the support they can get, but it did rub me up the wrong way slightly. I will say that pre booking tickets was an excellent idea though, as we walked up to the gate and went straight through, avoiding the very large queue of people buying tickets on the actual day. I would definitely recommend doing this, if you don’t want to queue for ages, with small children.
What we liked about the visit:
The Gorilla Kingdom and the Invertebrate House. Both are interesting and easy to walk around and we saw a silver back gorilla up close (picking his nose, actually) and also we enjoyed Meet the Monkeys, although I did spend the whole time trying to stop Little Man from sticking his fingers anywhere near them, lest they get bitten off, as per the many warning signs dotted around.
We also liked the splash pad area, and the play area and enjoyed visiting the Lions and other big cats.
What we didn’t like:
The cafes and food service areas are VERY slow, which I realise in peak time, is sometimes hard to avoid, but when we went to get coffee after lunch, there were four people behind the coffee bar, yet it took nearly 5 minutes for our two cups of coffee order to appear and they weren’t very good at processing the queues of people waiting to pay for lunch. The cafe tables and eating areas get VERY full, early on, at lunchtime, I would say to find a quiet spot elsewhere is probably better or get there early and hold onto your table if you can.
The Tiger Territory was VERY busy, which is understandable, everyone wants to look at the cute cubs and see the beautiful tigers, in their new enclosure, but it was almost impossible to even get to the glass to see, and the lady doing the talk on the tigers was hard to hear.
I think, to be honest, going on a Saturday, in the summer, probably meant some of these things were unavoidable. We did really enjoy the day out, and the children loved seeing the animals, and exploring and learning but I would definitely say:
- get there early
- book on-line to avoid the queue for tickets
- bring your own lunch/food
- Avoid the cafe areas, find somewhere else to sit to eat
- Visit the Tiger Territory as early as you can, before it gets busy
My Dad, who came with us, also was wondering if at some point London Zoo would consider a cheap shuttle type bus from Camden, as the walk from Camden Town Underground Station, or Camden Road rail station, and whilst the buses are ok, it doesn’t add to the fun of the trip, if you are walking with tired children in tow. Some of the London buses say they “go” past the zoo, but in fact, it’s still a good ten minute walk, from the stop to the actual zoo entrance.
We did enjoy the day, the children had great fun, and were tired out at the end of the day, and they learned some interesting things about some of the animals we met but I would say, that unless you are local to that part of London, plan your day carefully, to make sure you and the children enjoy it, and it’s as stress free as possible.