Well, actually we went last week - after our excellent Maynards Discovery Patch tweet-up. How good is London Zoo for toddlers? Awesome.
London Zoo has a reputation in London circles for being an expensive day out. And, to be honest, it is. The price for a family of four is £74.70 for the day but check online here for cheaper online tickets and it is certainly worth looking for discount codes, going off-season and even, for the die-hard animal fans among you, buying membership. Details of joining as a member are here but in summary you can buy a family ticket by direct debit for only £207. If you live in London, it is probably worth it.
London Zoo is very accessible once you are there, with ramps for buggies, many exhibits allowing decent views for the vertically challenged and high chairs available in the cafes. It is important to bear in mind the difference between what a toddler wants from a zoo and what an older child wants though.
7 year old child thinks :
Toddler thinks :
Pretty cool. These things are really fast underwater. Where's the lions?
Awesome. Primary colours. Whizzing around. Keep coming to the window. Wish I could lick one.
Boooorrrrrriiinnggggg! Where's the lions?
Awesome. Tall, slow, easy to watch. That one's looking at me! OMG he just ate a whole branch. I want one as a pet.
It's just sitting there. Maybe I could bang on the glass? Grrr. Stop telling me off for banging on the glass. Where's the lions?
It looks like a big fat hairy man. He's staring at me. I can stare too. *remains rooted to spot for five minutes*
That one just did a poo! That's a lionfish! It's like a lion. But not. Where's the lions?
Lift me up! I can't see anything. No, now put me down. Next tank. Pick me up! I want to get down again.
Where are they? Why's it sleeping? When are they going to feed it? Do they ever feed other zoo animals to it?
Toddlers like very different things to older kids so it is worth planning ahead, either by downloading a map here or by getting one when you arrive and sitting down for five minutes when you arrive.
Lots to see?
London Zoo is a weird experience. It is actually not as big as you might think but there is a long half day and possibly a whole day of entertainment there. The relatively small size makes it very easy to get around and there are lots of benches and places to sit down all over the place if there are tired legs.
There is a great range of animals there as well. Unfortunately for little people with short attention spans, the enclosures are designed with the animals in mind, which can mean that the lions and tigers may not be visible at all times as they sleep in the long grass. However, patience will be rewarded. Doofy's favourites were the giraffes (on the right) and the penguins. He even changed outfits so that he matched the giraffes when he arrived!
It's not all about the big animals though, the Bug exhibit and the butterfly house are excellent and a lot of attention goes into small details. There are educational signs everywhere so it can be a real learning experience for kids.
Up close and personal
Of course, kids want to get close to the animals. London Zoo does this very well. There are raised platforms to get up to head level by the giraffes, the gorillas are behind (presumably very thick!) glass but easy to see and there is a monkey area that you can walk through and have them running around you. Virtually all of the exhibits are designed to be seen from all angles - kids can go through a tunnel so that they pop up right in the middle of the meerkat enclosure!
Tips for your day
*London Zoo is NOT next to a tube station. The best idea is to visit the TFL Journey Planner. We normally go to Camden station or drive there. Allow 15-20 mins to walk from the tube
Consider going during term-time as it is much, much quieter
Plan your route ahead of time by downloading a map
Buy tickets in advance to save money
Take snacks and a picnic with you. Like any tourist venue in central London, mark-ups on food are high
Remember that you leave through the shop, so save buying things until the end so that you don't fork out twice
Consider buying the kids a disposable camera so that they can take some snaps of your day out
Most importantly, take your time and enjoy it. It is one of the jewels in London's tourist crown.
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