Reviewed by DT (initials used to protect my childrens’ privacy)
My twins recently had their 9th birthday and I was looking for something really special to do with them to mark the occasion. They both seem to like experiences just as much as physical gifts, if not more. I cherish the precious memories. My mum, 3 children aged 9 (twins) and 15 and myself decided to go to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo for the day. The Plan Your Day area of the ZSL Whipsnade Zoo website is packed with useful information such as accessibility info, opening times, a zoo map and ticket booking. The zoo was well signposted from Dunstable and it didn’t take long to get there at all. Whilst we chose to park in the car park and walk round the zoo, vehicles can be taken into the zoo for an extra charge.
Upon arrival a helpful steward saw us into a car parking space. Parking was free of charge which was fantastic. The entrance to the zoo was easy to find thanks to being well signposted from the spacious car park.
We did have to queue for a short time, but not for long at all. As a mum of 3, I was very pleased to see that there were fantastic toilet facilities within the visitor centre which are accessible before you enter the zoo. The whole building was so well thought out. We made our way over to a member of staff at in the visitor centre and in no time at all we were off to explore what the zoo had to offer.
I was pleased to see that there were 2 members of staff just outside the visitor centre available to answer any questions that visitors had. They were friendly, approachable and very knowledgeable. There is a board just as you enter the zoo where you can find details of the talks/shows on that day. At the moment, the time of the bird show/talk does vary, but you can find details of when it is on by looking at the before mentioned board. Whilst we did not see the bird show/talk on this occasion, we have thoroughly enjoyed it on past visits to the zoo.
One of my twins had one thing on his mind above everything and that was going for a ride on the steam train around an area of the zoo, The Great Whipsnade Railway. We headed over to the train station and a helpful member of staff informed us what time the train rides start. The prices were very affordable and there is even a discount for members. Please see here. Trains ran every half an hour and so there is good capacity for zoo visitors. Once we had figured out our plan to go on the train later in the day, we headed off to see the amur tigers. They were beautiful, striding up and down in their good sized enclosure. We then headed up the pathway to take a look at them from higher up.
I did at this point want to mention that there were various toilet facilities available throughout the zoo, so no long walk to get to one as well as plenty of picnic benches. They were clean, well stocked with toilet roll and the soap dispensers had plenty of soap in too.
We opted to eat our lunch fairly early and then go queue up for the steam train. Whilst we took a picnic with us, there was reasonably priced food and drink on sale at the zoo. Please see here for more information. After lunch my twins and I queued to go on the train. It was a fun ride and gave us an excellent view of so many animals. Railway staff were really friendly and approachable.
One of mine and my children’s favourite animals that we saw were the elephants. I could have watched them all day. I was fascinated by them. Their enclosure was spacious and made fun for them.
As we walked around we saw several adorable wallabies roaming around. As a mum who loves it when my children learn while having fun, I was delighted to see signs up with info about each animal exhibit.
Other exhibits we visited were the butterfly house and aquarium, the African lions, giraffes, white rhinos, zebras, hippopotamus, rhinos, meerkats, lions and brown bears. One brown bear had me in stitches. He or she was right near the glass area you can watch the bears through. The lions were enjoying a sleep at the time we visited their exhibit. They were absolutely beautiful.
Our next to last stop of the day was Hullabazoo adventure play and Hullabazoo farm. This was spacious with plenty of equipment to keep little humans amused as well as benches/green areas where you can sit and have a bit of a rest. Whilst we did not visit the indoor play area, there is one at the zoo. My twins really enjoyed walking amongst the cute little pigmy goats. Some of the other animals in the farm area included donkeys, rabbits and guinea pigs. The hand washing facilities were great.
Our final stop of the day was the penguins. My 15 year old daughter was as fascinated with them as my 9 year old twins. They had a generous sized area of water to enjoy too.
Walking round you could see how well looked after the animals are and that each exhibit is well thought out for the purposes of making each animal’s habitat a lovely place to live. I think that the conservation work that ZSL does is fantastic and so important.
Whilst we didn’t visit the shop, a spacious shop was available for those who wish to buy a keepsake as a memory of their zoo visit.
A visit to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo costs from just just £15.60 for a child and £24.00 for an adult. (this includes a voluntary donation) To book tickets click here. If you plan to visit several times in the same year, membership might suit you. For more information please visit the Membership page of the ZSL Whipsnade Zoo here. There are also several experiences which you can book such as ‘Keeper for a day’ and ‘meet the animals’. For more information, please see here. .
We all had a fantastic day and it was the highlight of my twins 9th birthday. I cannot wait to go back and that’s me a 40 something grown up. My 15 year old daughter had such a good time too. I think it is the perfect day out for those with children of varying ages.
If you visit the zoo this summer, I recommend paying Zoorassic Park a visit which is a prehistoric world where you will come face-to-face with immense, moving and roaring dinosaurs, including an 11m tall brachiosaurus and a 12m long tyrannosaurus rex. The exhibit is open until September.
Rating: a very well deserved 5/5
This review has been written as part of a wider piece of coverage about a Summer Birthday Celebration. Do have a look out on the website for the other reviews that are a part of this coverage plus the main review-led article. At the time of writing this review, the review-led article is not yet online.