Our Visit to Chester Zoo – A Great Family Day Out

Last August Bank Holiday weekend we visited Chester with the sole purpose of using our Bristol Zoo annual passes for our visit to Chester Zoo. We had caught some of the TV show about the zoo, The Secret Life of the Zoo, and it made us more determined to visit. So, with the long weekend, we drove up and stayed only 15 minutes from the zoo.our visit to chester zoo

We arrived at 9.40am to start our visit to Chester Zoo and quickly found parking, which is free. We headed straight to a staff member who checked our Bristol Zoo annual passes and letter, and she directed us straight to the turnstiles where we didn’t have to queue. It was so easy.

We decided to start from the elephant’s enclosure and waited beside their enclosure until zoo barriers opened at 10am. The elephants weren’t out by then so we started to walk anti-clockwise. We first visited the Butterflies, whose house is like the one in Bristol Zoo but with more vegetation in it. From there we walked through the Spirit of the Jaguar but they weren’t out.our visit to chester zoo

Next on our hit list was the Realm of the Red Ape where we saw gibbons and a huge python. I stayed well back but BattleKid was fascinated.

We carried on around to see the flamingos, penguins and cheeky little otters on our way to the aquarium. I think BattleKid rather enjoyed this as he tried spotting both Dory and Nemo in each tank. He was delighted when he finally spotted them.

From the aquarium we passed the aviary where I was absolutely shocked at the size of the vultures. I had never seen one in real life and really had no idea how big they grew. They are shockingly huge birds!our visit to chester zoo

By now it was 11.30 so we decided it was time for a pit stop. We visited June’s Food Court. We had tea and coffee, and cakes, and got BattleKid a kid’s lunch box which was well stocked. We got two bottles of water to take with us and the total cost of this was £16, which I didn’t think was too bad.

Fueled up we headed to see the lions but their enclosure was being cleaned so they were in their houses. Daddy lion didn’t seem too happy. We then headed over the wooden bridge and managed to spot the cheetahs hiding in the bushes. We also saw deer and for split second I actually thought they were in the same enclosure! We also saw the bongos, tapirs and capybaras. I didn’t know their name and was surprised when BattleDad told me. You learn something new every day!

On the way into the new Islands section, opened in summer of 2015, we saw the Babirusa, an animal I had never seen before and who reminded me of warthogs. We also spotted crocodile and tortoise, saw more gibbon and the orangutans, saw Rhinoceros hornbill birds, which are beautiful and also Warty pigs. The main attraction of the Islands is the Sumatran Tigers and they are just stunning animals. We spotted them through the bushed at the side of their enclosure before seeing them through the viewing glass at the front. Beautiful creatures, so majestic.our visit to chester zoo

I have to say we were very impressed with the Islands of Chester Zoo which include animals from Sumatra, Sulawesi and Bali. They are quite new to the Zoo and are simply beautiful. There is even background noises and music playing which reminded me of the background music you hear at Disneyland Paris. The lazy boat river ride in the Islands looks great too although we didn’t get a chance to do it.

From the islands we headed towards the painted dogs, which were recommended by a work colleague, passing zebra, antelope and rock hyrax along the way. And the painted dogs were worth seeing. Just as we arrived at their enclosure they came towards the viewing windows and lay down right there. BattleKid was fascinated by them.our visit to chester zoo

From there we went to see black rhino and meerkats. BattleKid got very cranky at this stage but refused a nap in his pram just like when we visited Folly Farm. We went in to see the monkeys before heading back towards June’s Food Court to collect a handprint picture we had gotten done earlier in the day.our visit to chester zoo

It is a monkey made using BattleKid’s hands and is framed and cost £18. It’s a lovely memento of our day. As it was past lunchtime we decided to stop for fish and chips and BattleKid ate well. The rain started as we sat eating and the playground nearby quickly cleared. An adults fish and chips cost us £7.25 including any side and a kid’s meal cost £5.50. BattleKid had chicken nuggets, chips and ad rink and they were really nice chicken nuggets too.

As we had pretty much seen all we wanted to we decided to end our visit to Chester Zoo with a trip into the gift shop at the entrance. BattleKid got a toy jeep while I got one or two other gifts. Typically, as soon as we left Chester Zoo BattleKid had a danger nap in the car!

Overall our visit to Chester Zoo was a great day out and well worth it. We definitely needed the full day there to see everything we wanted to.

Facts about Chester Zoo:

  • Chester Zoo is one of the UK’s largest zoos at 125 acres.
  • It houses over 20,000 animals which includes 500 different species.
  • It played host to 1.7 million visitors in 2015.
  • It has been featured in the documentary The Secret Life of the Zoo.
  • It receives no government funding at all.
  • They are heavily involved in conservation and also in conjunction with other zoos across 30 countries worldwide.
  • It is consistently rated one of the top ten zoos in the world.

 

Things we discovered during our visit to Chester Zoo for you to consider if visiting the zoo:

  • It opens daily from 10am to typically 5pm. Entry is allowed up to 30 minutes before closing.
  • You are allowed entry to the gift shop and entrance restaurants at 9.30am but the zoo barriers don’t open until 10am.
  • Chester Zoo is huge and buggies, scooters and wheelchairs are available to hire. Bring a buggy for younger children, you’ll need it!
  • We didn’t see all of the zoo in the one day we went, so two days could easily be needed.
  • There is a mono rail and lazy boat river ride (additional costs for these) but we didn’t get to use either.
  • There are 4 main restaurants at the entrance, on the islands, June’s Food Court and the Oakfield Pub. Food is ok for what it is. It could work out expensive for large families so bringing a picnic would be advisable if you want to save yourself some money. There were enough seats at the eating areas both inside and outside for the ones we visited or saw. There are also smaller coffee shops around too.
  • There is a cash machine at the entrance.
  • There is a big gift shop at the entrance and on the islands.
  • Toilets are dotted all over the zoo.
  • Information signs are really good and animal signs are informative. There are also plenty of staff around should you need help or information.
  • There are a few play areas around the zoo but we didn’t go into any. They all looked well equipped.
  • There is free parking at the zoo, and we would advise getting there before the gates open at 10am to enjoy as much of the day as possible.
  • Baby changing facilities, bottle warming stations and feeding friendly locations
  • Various animal talks throughout the day but we didn’t attend any.
  • For full visiting informaiton, please visit the Visiting Chester Zoo website.

Chester Zoo prices*:

  • Weekday term-time:     Ad £24.00            Child £20.00
  • Weekend term-time:     Ad £26.00            Child £22.00
  • School holidays:             Ad £28.00            Child £24.00
  • If booked online there is a saving of 10% so weekday term0time tickets cost £20.00 per adult and £16.36 per child, for example.
  • Families which include 3 adults and at least 1 child can save 16% on their tickets when bought online.
  • Children tickets are for those aged between 3 and 17, children aged 2 and under are free.

We visited on a bank holiday weekend, yet we never felt like it was overcrowded, even when we were leaving at 3.30. There is plenty of space in Chester Zoo, which in my mind make it stand out from other zoos we have visited. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Chester Zoo last year and definitely plan to return in the future when BattleKid is older.

I can highly recommend Chester Zoo as a family day out. There is something for everyone and the number of animals and species to see is incredible. If you do go, make sure you visit the Islands of Chester Zoo. These were definitely our favourite part of our visit.

Thanks for reading. We also filmed a little vlog of our visit to Chester Zoo which is below if you’d like to watch it.

Cath x

*Prices are correct at the time of writing this post.

**We visited Chester Zoo via our Bristol Zoo annual passes. We were not asked to write this post.

our visit to chester zoo

Chester Day 4: 29/08/2016

After a slightly better night with BattleKid, I took BattleKid out into the living area when he woke and left BattleDad to get some more sleep. We had tea and toast together with CBeebies on in the background. I gave BattleDad tea and toast once he got out of bed and I started to pack us up, ready for our trip home. I’d done a bit the night before so only really had the kitchen and food to sort before we were ready to hit the road by 9am.

I was pleasantly surprised at the small number of cars on the road. We didn’t have much to complain until we turned off the A5 towards Welshpool and got stuck behind a lorry. We didn’t actually mind as we weren’t in a hurry. We had decided that we would take a different route home than we had taken going up to Chester so that we could visit Powys Castle, a place we’d never been to before, but one that was on our to-do list.Chester Day 4

We arrived by 10.15 and parked in the third row back from the castle. We got our tickets and were informed that the castle would open at 11am. So we decided to have a very civilised tea and cakes in the courtyard of the castle as it was such a lovely morning. The sun was shining and the surroundings were very pleasant. BattleDad went inside while BattleKid and I found a seat and watched a small plane circling above our heads.Chester Day 4

Chester Day 4

Chester Day 4

After our tea and cakes we entered the castle and started in a drawing-type room just inside the main entrance. We wandered around the castle, which to be honest is more like a stately home than a castle. Unfortunately there were no hiding places for dragons inside this castle so we decided to move outside to hunt one down.

Before making our way towards the lake in the gardens we had ice cream at the castle entrance as we had been promising BattleKid all weekend but had forgotten each morning. By the time we remembered each day it got too late to chance him with the sugar. So we enjoyed some ice cream in the sunshine and then made our way towards the lake, checking for dragons along the way.Chester Day 4

We eventually found one hiding beside a tree on the edge of the lake. A little boy who was passing us asked his mum where his dragon was. Oops, we caused a bit of trouble! (Truth: we bring a dragon teddy bear of BattleKid’s with us to whichever castle we visit and one of us walks ahead and plants him for BattleKid to find. It makes for great adventures I can tell you).Chester Day 4

Chester Day 4

Chester Day 4

Chester Day 4

Chester Day 4

We left Powys Castle just after 1pm and headed down the A470, a road we know very well, towards home. BattleKid fell asleep almost as soon as we left the castle and got an hour and a half before waking up. Even I managed 20 minutes in the back with him.

We arrived home at 3pm, despite a dawdling driver as we came into Builth Wells, and unpacked the car. The usual post-weekend washing commenced. We had a lovely weekend together as a family, despite a few mammoth tantrums from BattleKid. We packed as much into it to ensure we made the most of having four days together, away from the house and the dogs. We’ll definitely be going back to Chester Zoo, although we’re not too sure about the Blue Planet Aquarium if I’m honest.

After that impromptu weekend away, next up on the holiday agenda is New York. Pop back in a couple of weeks for those holiday diaries.

Thanks for reading,

Cath x

Chester Day 4

Chester Day 3: 28/08/2016

After yet another awful night’s sleep with BattleKid, we got up at 8am and I made us scrambled egg, beans and toast for breakfast which BattleKid enjoyed. We got ourselves dressed, repacked the change bag and headed off just before 10am. Destination: The Blue Planet Aquarium.Chester Day 3

BattleDad and I had visited this many years ago with my nephew when he was visiting us in Telford and we really enjoyed it then. And as BattleKid is getting more into fish after having watched part of Finding Nemo (we had to switch it off at the sharks part as he didn’t like them), we thought he might enjoy the Blue Planet Aquarium. Again, this was less than 15 minutes from our AirBnB accommodation, which was really handy.

We parked the car and made our way to the entrance, paid up and in we went. We started on the upper level, visiting the Northern Rivers and Tropical sections before going down stairs to see the big fish tank and the underwater walkway. BattleKid hadn’t actually been too interested in the fish until we got to the sharks tanks and the underwater walkway. This certainly got his attention, so much so he didn’t want to leave. We finished off our visit to the Blue Planet Aquarium by visiting the otters outside.Chester Day 3

Chester Day 3

Chester Day 3

Chester Day 3

Chester Day 3

Chester Day 3

Chester Day 3

As we were done by 11.30am, we decided to make our way around to the Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet and parked with the hundreds of other shoppers in the multi-storey car park. This is where we saw the most people over the course of the bank holiday weekend. It was heaving!

BattleDad made a beeline for Hugo Boss and spent ages inside. BattleKid and I got bored outside waiting for him so took to taking selfies and messing while we waited. He finally appeared at the door about 20 minutes after he went in with arm loads of stuff, saying “Help, I don’t know what to get” to which I told him get it all, just to get him out of the damn shop. It still took him another 10 minutes to come out, this time with bags!Chester Day 3

We walked halfway around Cheshire Oaks before deciding to stop at Carluccio’s for lunch. We had a really nice meal, BattleKid ate well, and most of mine I’ll add, and all for under £50 which was great. We decided to walk back to the car and I popped into Paperchase and Warehouse. I would have liked to pop into a few more shops but BattleKid was starting to get cranky and tired so the car beckoned. BattleDad ran into Starbucks for drinks for us to take with us and, as I waited for him outside, I ended rocking BattleKid to sleep in my arms as he was exhausted. He had been quite good up till then and one man waiting outside the Mulberry shop for his wife asked if I’d rock him to sleep too! Ha!

We managed to get the boy into the car and he stayed asleep. We dropped by the Tesco again and I waited in the car for BattleDad to get what we needed. BattleKid woke 5 minutes from our accommodation, ratty as hell even though he’d had a 40 minute sleep! When we arrived back BattleKid watched the end of Rio while BattleDad napped, he too was exhausted from the bad night with the boy. We had dinner at 5.30 and decided to take a walk around the lake and nature trail of the area we were staying in rather than stay indoors on such a nice evening. We figured it would also distract BattleKid, possibly wear him out, and maybe, just maybe, help to avoid any more tantrums, of which there had been many!

We ended up out for over an hour but had fun, checking holes for dragons and seeing if we could spot any cats along the way. Getting out of the apartment was a good idea and we had fun as a family. Once we got back it was well past milk, pj’s and story time, and thankfully BattleKid went down without too much of a fight.Chester Day 3

Chester Day 3

Chester Day 3

Chester Day 3

BattleDad and I read the papers he had picked up until we knew the boy was asleep before getting some tea and watching the weekend’s second episode of X-Factor. We turned in after this, exhausted from our day out and with the journey back to South Wales just ahead of us.

Pop by tomorrow to see if we managed to go dragon hunting on our last day of the bank holiday weekend.

Cath x

Chester Day 2: 27/08/2016

After a very bad night’s sleep with BattleKid we woke before 7am. I got pancakes, bacon and strawberries prepared for breakfast while the boys watched CBeebies. BattleKid has never watched anything on CBeebies so that was a treat for him and kept him quiet and happy until breakfast was ready.

After breakfast BattleDad and I watched the news over a cup of tea, a rarity these days before we got ourselves dressed and ready to hit the zoo. We left our accommodation at 9.20am and it took us less than 15 minutes to drive to Chester Zoo. There were lots of cars there already but we were lucky and found a space right beside the entrance which was handy.

We checked with the staff at the entrance as to how we used our Bristol Zoo passes and we went straight through the entrance, without needing to get any tickets or queue which was great. We decided to head left and start by the elephants and had to wait by their enclosure for the zoo gates to actually open at 10am, the official opening time of the zoo. Unfortunately we didn’t see the elephants as they weren’t out then.

From the entrance we headed to the left of the zoo to see the butterflies. Their house was very like that of the one at Bristol Zoo but with more vegetation and so more butterflies. BattleKid enjoyed it and loved seeing them flying around.Chester Day 2

We visited the jaguar enclosure, the Realm of the Red Ape, the penguins, flamingos and otters before going into the aquarium and passing by the aviary where we were very surprised at the size of the vultures in there. I’ve never seen flying birds as big as these ones.Chester Day 2

We decided to have a pit stop at 11.30 and had tea and cake before going to see the lions. However, their enclosure was being cleaned by their keeper so we only got to see the Daddy lion through the window of his indoor enclosure.

We headed over the wooden walkway on our way to the new section of Chester Zoo and during our walk BattleDad and I spotted the cheetah and some deer, albeit in separate enclosures.

The new section of Chester Zoo is a series of Islands based around areas of Indonesia. This new area is amazing and filled with all sorts of animals including Sumtran tigers which BattleKid loved. I plan to do a more in-depth review of Chester Zoo at some stage but for now I can highly recommend you make time to visit the Islands of Chester Zoo if you ever go.Chester Day 2

Chester Day 2

Chester Day 2

Chester Day 2

We moved on to see the painted dogs, black rhino, monkeys and a few more animals before we decided to get a late lunch back where we had tea and cake earlier. We also got a lovely momento of the day for BattleKid before enjoying fish and chips. Just before we finished our meal the heavens opened which was great timing for us as we were getting ready to head back to the car. We saw the elephants on our way to the gift shop where we picked up a few bits. All in all, we had a great day at Chester Zoo and will definitely be going again in the future. It was well worth the trek up from South Wales.Chester Day 2

Chester Day 2

We left the zoo and headed to a Tesco near our accommodation for some supplies. BattleKid had fallen asleep as soon as we left the zoo but it was only a short nap. We got back at 5pm and BattleKid had a snack while he and BattleDad watched the end of a film together while I pottered around.

BattleKid was into bed by 7pm and asleep soon after. It had been a busy day for all of us. BattleDad and I enjoyed a tapas supper with a cuppa and X-Factor which was starting on TV that night. With it returning to its original format and with judges we enjoy, we rather enjoyed this bit of Saturday night TV before going to bed early ourselves.

Unfortunately it was another disturbed night, the first half being as a result of the wedding music. Even with my earplugs in I could still hear the music. I have no idea why the second half was a bad as it was with BattleKid as the music had stopped when he started waking again. The next day’s agenda was the aquarium and I desperately needed sleep but didn’t get it.

Stop by tomorrow for the low-down on the aquarium.

Thanks for reading,

Cath x

Chester Day 1: 26/08/2016

We woke around 7am and after a little lie in bed together we got up and had tea and toast, BattleKid insisting on chocolate toast (toast with Nutella). After breakfast we got dressed and, while BattleDad and BattleKid dropped the dogs to kennels, I finished packing us, organising the food and the mountains of other things we were bringing with us. Once they arrived back, we packed up the car and set off just after 10am, with thoughts of dread about the bank holiday traffic we might be facing.

First on our agenda for this jam-packed weekend was the Small Breeds Farm Park and Owl Sanctuary in Kington, which we visited before. We wanted to visit this again as BattleKid is older and so would hopefully enjoy it more and interact with the animals more. Traffic wasn’t too bad on the way there and we arrived at 11.20am, and just about managed to find a parking spot.

We greeted some of the owls they have on display at the entrance before paying our entrance fee and picking up a bucket of animal feed. As usual, we started at the indoor barns and saw my favourite goats, the Boer goats. I have no idea why I love them so much but they’ve been my favourite ever since BattleDad and I started visiting the Farm Park a few years ago, pre-BattleKid.

BattleKid had no problem feeding the goats that were indoors. There was no fear in him in holding his hand out for them, although we were keeping a close eye on the animals, just-in-case.

After the goats we visited the rabbits, chipmunks and guinea pigs house where BattleKid wanted to take one with him. It’s hard explaining to a two-year old why you can’t pet them, feed them the same food as the goats and why you can’t take one with you! He was fascinated by the chipmunks who were very active, especially as one of them was running on a wheel, much to BattleKid’s delight.

We moved outside and saw the alpacas, pheasants and red squirrels, before moving onto the outdoor pens to feed more animals. It was lovely this time round to see BattleKid interact with the animals more than last year and the delight in his face when they took food from his hand.Chester Day 1

Chester Day 1

Once our bucket was empty and the animals fed, we decided to have some lunch from the café before continuing our journey north. BattleDad opted for a sausage sandwich while I ordered a ham and cheese toastie and a jacket potato with beans and cheese, as I wasn’t sure what BattleKid would fancy. I scooped out the soft potato from the skin, and BattleKid wolfed that and all the beans for lunch. I couldn’t get over how much he ate as it was a rather large potato. I had to satisfy myself with the toastie, although it was a good one!

Before we left we had a short walk around the owl sanctuary. We noticed that they are expanding the sanctuary with new, larger pens currently being built. BattleKid loved the owls as he loves Owl from the Gruffalo stories.Chester Day 1

After a quick bum change we set off again at 1.30pm. It was funny to hit the A49 just after Leominster as it’s a road BattleDad knows well, having travelled it twice a week for 6 months when he first started working in South Wales and we were still located in Shropshire. Traffic was ok until we hit Craven Arms and it took us over 20 minutes to get through the town due to damn road works traffic lights, even though there were NO workmen around!

There were more patches of typical bank holiday weekend traffic around Shrewsbury and on the A5 but it certainly wasn’t as bad as I had been expecting thankfully. We arrived at Manley Mere where we were staying around 4.30pm and were greeted by our AirBnB host, Kate, who let us through the security gates and showed us the mews apartment we were staying in. I’ll be writing all about our accommodation in more detail in due course, but it was really nice.

It was a 2 bedroom mews and was big enough for the three of us. We wanted to explore the gardens but couldn’t as they were setting it up for a wedding on the Saturday so we had a quick walk by the lake before heading back to get dinner sorted.Chester Day 1

After dinner we got BattleKid into his pyjamas and did our usual bedtime routine before putting him down by 8pm, a bit later than normal. BattleDad and I had a cup of tea and watched a BBC program (no Netflix due to no WiFi), before turning in ourselves by 9.30pm, shattered from a busy day.

Unfortunately BattleKid had a very disturbed sleep, as did mama, not great before our visit to Chester Zoo the next day! Stop by tomorrow to hear how our first ever visit to Chester Zoo went!

Thanks for reading,

Cath x