Family Fun at London Zoo27/06/2017
London Zoo is over 150-years old and usually gets called small and old-fashioned. It’s certainly a modest area at the Northern end of Regent’s Park but it’s probably better described as ‘classic’, focused more on the animals and education rather than trying to draw in punters with flashy rollercoasters or gimmicks. It can be an expensive option for a family outing but offers plenty of variety for the kids.
If you’re planning a trip to London Zoo then definitely look-out for a deal beforehand. If you turn up at the gate then it’s an eye-watering £30 for adults, £22 for 3-15 year-olds while under-3s go free, and there is a £75 price for a family of four.
If you book online before visiting then you could shave a few quid off those prices. The best option for those coming from outside London is to travel by train and get a 2 for 1 voucher from Days Out Guide. Just make sure you print out the voucher and also keep hold of your rail tickets to show at the London Zoo entrance when you buy tickets on the day you visit.
This 2 for 1 offer can work even if you live in London! Just buy cheap single rail tickets to a nearby station. The tickets have to be for a National Rail station, TfL stations won’t count. The best price is £5.90 for Harrow-on-the-Hill to London Marylebone, which is a big saving on the London Zoo entry price.
If you’ve got a Tesco Clubcard then you can turn £2.50 worth of vouchers into £10 to spend on London Zoo tickets. We took £30 worth of vouchers for a kid’s ticket and the Zoo just used the few pounds leftover on the tokens as a donation.
Unfortunately London Zoo hasn’t got a nice, convenient tube stop on the doorstep. The closest is Camden Town (Northern line) which is about a 15 minute walk away and it’s not got a lift for pushchairs so you’d be lugging that up and down a spiral staircase in one of London’s busiest stations. Regent’s Park (Bakerloo line) sounds close but the station is to the South of Regent’s Park while the Zoo is at the North. Regent’s Park is lovely to walk through but absolutely massive!
To save little legs it’s a good idea to look at bus options as there are several routes that take you within minutes of the London Zoo entrance. We got into London Victoria and opted for the C2 bus to the North-East side of Regent’s Park. It took less than 30 minutes and being on a double-decker meant the kids got great views of Oxford Street as we went past. Hey, another few quid saved not having to get a tour bus! If you’ve got a pushchair, buses are much easier to get on instead of having to figure out a way down into the deep, dark tube and crossing your fingers there’s a way back up again the other side.
When using tubes and buses in London don’t forget your Oyster Card! If you forget then you can use a contactless card to save busy queues at the ticket machines.
If driving then London Zoo is outside the congestion zone and there is a large carpark which charges £14.50 for the day. There is pay and display parking on the road around the Zoo but it’s £2.40 an hour, with a maximum of 4-hours. There are usually spaces when the Zoo opens at 10am.
Generally when travelling in London at the weekend early mornings can be quiet. We got to the zoo around half 10 after the bus had breezed through a near-deserted Oxford Street. It gets much busier after 11am, so we just needed to allow for extra time heading back.
You’ll get a free London Zoo map with your ticket so make sure you check-out the whereabouts of things and when animal feeding and demonstrations are happening. The website has a list of current daily activities at London Zoo so you can plan things out. There’s lots going on but you can catch the main stuff without having to rush. All our littlest one wanted to see was rabbits and, phew, they had rabbits!
All our littlest one wanted to see was rabbits and, phew, they had rabbits!
The big highlight is Penguin Beach which is a large pool teeming with penguins - around 70 of ‘em - who have plenty of nests and rocks to jump off. There’s a seating area off to one side which gets full before feeding time but there’s plenty of standing room around the pool itself, littles kids might need a boost though. Watch out for seagulls who like to swoop down and grab some of the fish!
The tiger enclosure is also expansive and you can walk around the outside and then up into a room that overlooks the area. The tigers themselves might be hard to spot so it’s worth going along at feeding time. When we were there we saw the Dad tiger getting fed in the indoor bit by a brave guy poking through meat on a stick while Mum and the two cubs were fed outside.
Unfortunately, as with any zoo, you can’t expect the animals to be performing all the time. Going at the height of summer most of them were understandably lazy in the heat. The lions especially were all sprawled out in the grass and didn’t even flinch. So not quite as exciting as the flashy ads suggested for ‘Land of the Lions’ but there is a cool Indian themed area built up around them that’s fun to explore.
Similarly the gorillas seemed less than impressed at being gawped at by us humans but all the animals had large areas to roam around and places to go for privacy. It’s a much better state of affairs than the stone boxes they would have sat around in when the Zoo opened 150 years ago.
Other highlights are the aquarium which is a huge, arcing tunnel with loads of fish and a seahorse conservation area. Yes, the kids can find Nemo, and Dory and loads of other weird and wonderful fish like the huge Giant Gourami. There’s also the hot and sticky butterfly tunnel with loads of colourful species and massive Atlas Moths, and if the kids prefer something a bit more familiar, like rabbits, there’s a farm area where they can walk amongst goats and turkeys.
Don’t forget that part of the zoo is on the other side of the main road which is accessible by a couple of tunnels. On that side there’s the rainforest exhibit, a lemur walk-through and larger animals like giraffes, zebras and hippos. Sadly there aren’t any elephants, they’re over in Whipsnade Zoo these days.
With tickets being expensive it’s worth bringing a picnic for feeding your own little monkeys. There are loads of areas with picnic tables, plus a couple of playgrounds if the kids need a run around.
Buying food from stalls or restaurants isn’t too expensive. Coffee and Magnums - the two staples of any family outing - were £2.50 a pop, very reasonable for central London. It gets more expensive for burger and chips, nearer the £10 mark, but the Indian version at the Amreli Street Food stand did look tasty.
Coffee and Magnums - the two staples of any family outing - were £2.50 a pop
There are also a couple of little extra rides for kids if you need something to bribe them with, a merry-go-round for £2.50 plus a lion-themed bouncy castle - £2 for 5 minutes. Both of those are next to the play area between the butterfly house and the exit.
We managed to see plenty in the 5 hours or so we were in the Zoo. It didn’t feel overcrowded or too busy and although the Zoo is small it had a lot of wide pathways, perfect for strolling around with a pushchair at our own pace. London Zoo probably wouldn’t be at the top of the list if you only had a limited time in London and wanted to see bigger and better things, but for a day out it was great fun. The zookeepers knew their stuff and gave enthusiastic demonstrations, we’d certainly go back to learn more!