Our Visit to Oregon Zoo – Review and Tips

While we were in Portland at the end of our USA road trip holiday, we were kindly given complimentary entry to Oregon Zoo in order to review it. During our research on things to do in Portland with kids, a visit to Oregon Zoo came highly recommended so we were thrilled to be invited to review the zoo during our trip. We arrived in smoky Portland on the Tuesday afternoon and had decided to do our visit to Oregon Zoo on the Thursday. So, after breakfast in our hotel, we drove along I-26 from Hillsboro, where we were staying, to Oregon Zoo, which is in Washington Park. It was easy to get to and there was plenty of parking, despite what I had read online.Our visit to Oregon Zoo - blog post header

We arrived before their opening time of 9.30am to collect our tickets and the gates opened just as I exited reception. As you enter the zoo initially you pass through the Entry Plaza where there is the main gift shop, a restaurant and where you can get your photo taken. our visit to oregon zoo - entry ticketsWe decided to go clockwise around the zoo and the first area we visited was the Great NorthWest. Boy, were we blown away by this zone. Set among the trees and forest, this area is simply stunning and houses animals and birds that can be found across the Great North West of the North American Continent. Many of these we wouldn’t have seen in other zoos we have visited.our visit to oregon zoo - Great Northwest Zone of Oregon Zoo our visit to oregon zoo - Great Northwest Zone of Oregon Zoo

It was absolutely beautiful among the trees and waterfall, almost peaceful. We saw gorgeous Black Bears, beautiful Bobcats and the symbol of North America, the Bald Eagles. These are majestic looking birds and an easily recognisable bird.our visit to oregon zoo - black bears From there, we carried on and saw River Otters that were very playful and BattleKid was quite taken by them. We didn’t manage to spot any beavers, I think they were hiding on us. Next up were the Cougars and BattleDad absolutely loved these cats. There were two that we could see and they were beautiful creatures.our visit to oregon zoo - playful otters our visit to oregon zoo - Cougars in Oregon Zoo

From the cougars, we passed by the Petting Farm where we saw a few goats but the gates were locked so we couldn’t go in and pet them. It was a shame as I am quite fond of goats and always enjoy meeting them like at the Small Breeds Farm in Kington.

Just passed the farm and barn is the Carousel. Having been on one in Missoula just a few days before, BattleKid was most definitely not going to let us pass this without at least one ride. So I joined him. We were very lucky as the lady had just opened the carousel at 10.30am so along with one other boy, we were first on.

After our ride, we continued our visit to Oregon Zoo by visiting Nora, the Polar Bear. She was in a very playful mood, sticking her head into an orange bin. We were very lucky to see her as we later discovered she was being moved to a zoo in Utah the following week to be paired up with a male polar bear.our visit to oregon zoo - Nora the Polar Bear

Next, we visited the Primate Forest before going to see the Lions and my personal favourite, the Cheetahs, in the Predators of the Serengeti area. We also came across an animal we had never heard of, let alone seen before; the Caracals. These medium-sized cats are native to Africa, the Middle East and parts of Central Asia and were beautiful looking creatures. BattleKid also had great fun at the meerkats!

our visit to oregon zoo - BattleKid pretending to be a lion
RAWR

our visit to oregon zoo - my favourites, the cheetahs

After the Predators of the Serengeti, we walked past the rhinos and hippos and BattleKid was fascinated by the hippos as they were making a lot of noise! Off Rainforest Plaza, we saw the giraffes, which we always enjoy, before we decided to stop for some refreshments at the Coffee Crossing in the Discovery Zone. The price for a tea, coffee, 1 cake, 1 cookie and some crisps (or chips as they are called in the USA) was only $14, which I think is reasonable.our visit to oregon zoo - Giraffes

We enjoyed our pit stop and afterwards, BattleKid had fun in the playground next to the café, even making friends with a little girl. It was good to let him stretch his legs and burn off some energy after the mammoth hours and miles he had just done in the car.our visit to oregon zoo - discovery Zone palytime

While we were enjoying a break, BattleKid also spotted the zoo train. Before we went on the train we finished off visiting the rest of the animals which included BattleKid’s favourites, the penguins, and the seals which seemed to be playing with BattleKid at the glass. They would swim away, turn back, swim directly towards him and turn at the last minute. He found this all very funny.our visit to oregon zoo - Laughing at the Penguins our visit to oregon zoo - Seals playing with BattleKid

Satisfied we had seen everything we wanted to during our visit to Oregon Zoo, it was time to take the train, or Spencer as BattleKid called him (from Thomas the Tank Engine). The train meanders through parts of the zoo including the Great Northwest and the Elephants Lands, which we had visited after our ride on the carousel. It was a lovely way to end our visit to Oregon Zoo.

our visit to oregon zoo - waiting for the zoo train
Patiently awaiting “Spencer”
our visit to oregon zoo - BattleKid wearing an explorers hat
Our little explorer

As we passed through Entry Plaza on our way out, we stopped by the gift shop to buy a magnet (something we always do on our travels) and got BattleKid a small toy. Overall, we absolutely loved our visit to Oregon Zoo. It was a great way to spend some time together as a family outside of the car. Dare I say it, BattleDad and I think Oregon Zoo tops even Chester Zoo which has been our firm favourite since our visit last year!

Facts about Oregon Zoo

  • Oregon Zoo was formerly known as the Washington Park Zoo, mainly due to its location.
  • It is set among 64 acres and houses no less than 1955 animals from 232 species.
  • Founded in 1888, it is the oldest North America zoo west of the Mississippi.
  • It’s exhibits include the African Rainforest, Savannah and Predators of the Serengeti, as well as Elephant Lands, Amazon Flooded Forest, Bears, Condors of the Columbia and the Great Northwest (our favourite).
  • Oregon Zoo has species survival plans for 21 endangered or threatened species and has successful breeding programs for the California Condors, Asian Elephants and African Lions. 

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

  • The zoo opens daily in peak season from 9.30am to typically 5.30pm. During off peak season, the zoo closes at 4.30pm.
  • Oregon Zoo is not as big as some we’ve been to but there are plenty of areas and zones to explore so a stroller/buggy would be advisable for young kids.
  • There is a zoo train and carousel (additional costs for these). We went on both and enjoyed them, although the train more so than the carousel.
  • Oregon Zoo has 4 main restaurants/cafes, serving drinks and food which varies from snacks and cakes to full meals. As mentioned we had two hot drinks, a cake, cookie and crisps/chips and the total was $14, which was reasonable compared to other zoos we have visited. There are also smaller drinks huts around, mainly during the summer and on busy weekend.
  • Picnic areas are available.
  • There is a big gift shop at the entrance.
  • Toilets are dotted all over the zoo. We were actually surprised by how many, certainly more than some other zoos I won’t mention.
  • Information signs are really good and animal signs are informative. For kids, there is a zoo key available from the admissions kiosks which unlock secrets of the zoo, costing $2.50. We didn’t get one but they would be brilliant for older kids.
  • There are a few play areas around the zoo and we tried two of them at the primate area and discovery zone. BattleKid enjoyed both.
  • Parking is available beside the Zoo and Children’s Museum and is payable. It costs $1.60 per hour or a maximum of $4 in off peak season and $6.40 during peak season. We arrived at 9.20am on a Thursday morning after the summer and there was plenty of parking but I’ve heard it gets very busy during the summer so arrive early!
  • Baby changing facilities are available around the zoo.
  • The zoo is fully accessible and wheelchairs, strollers/buggies and electric scooters are available for hire.

Oregon Zoo prices**:

March 1st to September 30th:       Ad £14.95            Child £9.95

October 1st to February 28th:        Ad £9.95               Child £4.95

Child prices are for children aged between 3 and 11 years of age. Children aged 2 and under are free. There are discounts available for senior citizens (65 and over) and military personnel. Discounts may also be available, check the Oregon Zoo website for details. Tickets are available for purchase online.

our visit to oregon zoo - facebook post

 

I am so glad we had the opportunity to visit Oregon Zoo. We were especially blown away by the Great Northwest zone and had the chance to see many animals we wouldn’t normally see in European zoos. Oregon Zoo is easily doable in one day and children of any ages will thoroughly enjoy it. I highly recommend you visit it if visiting Portland.

Cath x

*We were kindly given complimentary entry to Oregon Zoo for the purpose of this review. However, as always, these are my own honest thought and opinions.

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

our visit to oregon zoo - pinterest pin our visit to oregon zoo - twitter post

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

Our Visit to Bristol Zoo

Having not spent Easter with BattleDad we decided to take BattleKid to Bristol Zoo on the first weekend of April and today I’m sharing with you a round-up of our visit to Bristol Zoo. I looked into buying tickets online and decided to buy annual tickets as we would probably be back a few times in the year seeing as BattleKid is older and starting to become more interested in animals, so it would work out cheaper to get an annual ticket.

Armed with a printout of our confirmation email we set off before 8.30am on the Saturday and headed over the Severn to Bristol Zoo. We arrived around 9.30 and made our way to the membership desk to get our cards. The lovely lady at the desk explained our membership pack, took our pictures and we were set.

First stop was the flamingos, BattleKid’s aunties favourite. BattleKid looked on in awe as we watched one stamp the ground at the water’s edge before gobbling up whatever he or she had been after.

our visit to bristol zoo

our visit to bristol zoo

We then headed to the lion enclosure where BattleKid exclaimed “oh lion” before giving a roar as he does at the right parts in our ‘How to Hide a Lion’ story books. Imagine his delight when he realised there were two big cats in the enclosure.our visit to bristol zoo

We made our way clockwise around the zoo from the lions, passing the red pandas and giant tortoise which BattleKid thought was a dog! We then went into the reptile house and showed BattleKid the lizards which we called dragons for him and he loved them. BattleDad and I had a leopard gecko until a few years ago so we’ve always had a fondness for lizards, although I don’t like them all and definitely won’t have one as a pet again. BattleKid also enjoyed seeing the different types of frogs in the reptile house.

We decided to have a pit stop at the food court, so BattleKid tucked into fruit and a yogurt I had brought with us while BattleDad and I had cake and tea. It cost us £10.50 for two of each, which considering the size of the slices of cake we got was actually reasonable in our opinion. BattleKid had a little bit of cake but soon lost interest much to our delight. We polished them off and got on our way again.

Next on the agenda was the gorilla enclosure to show BattleKid one of his favourite animals. He is mad about monkeys ever since George entered his life nearly a year ago. Zoos can be a little bitter-sweet for me having been born in Africa but at the same time I do think they are a good place for children to see and learn about animals they would only see on TV, and if they help with conservation then all the better.our visit to bristol zoo

Soon after the gorillas we arrived at the highlight of our visit to Bristol Zoo for both BattleKid and us: the penguins. He has loved penguins just as much as monkeys, particularly since we started reading the Oliver Jeffers book “Lost and Found” which features a ‘pen pen’.

One particular penguin came over to BattleKid and he spent ages looking at him and talking to the ‘pen pen’. I think if we could have taken that penguin home with us BattleKid would have been overjoyed. It was lovely just watching his little face light up when the penguin came over to him. It is like it knew what it would mean to this small boy to interact for a minute with him.

our visit to bristol zoo
Watching the penguins swimming

our visit to bristol zoo

our visit to bristol zoo
Saying hi to the “pen pen”

BattleKid eventually prized himself away from that penguin to watch others swimming in the water, still truly fascinated by them. We then saw the seals swimming in their pool before going underneath to watch them in the water. It never ceases to amaze me how graceful a creature they are in the water. In the aquarium section we came across an interactive sensory feature that combined bubbles and different coloured lights which BattleKid did not want to leave. He spent a long time just watching the bubbles float upwards while the light changed colour. We had to remind ourselves that this was the first time he had ever seen anything like this and to be patient while he discovered it in his own good time. He also watched the seals through a port hole.

our visit to bristol zoo
Sensory Lights and Bubbles
our visit to bristol zoo
Peering through a port hole at the seals

Soon after the penguins and seals, little legs started to give way and a small boy asked to get into his buggy. We decided to wizz by the meerkats and through the butterfly house before heading to the car, having spent the best part of two hours at the zoo by that stage. We didn’t see all the animals but as we now have annual membership we can return at our leisure and maybe go anticlockwise next time to ensure we see the animals we missed.

We had a lovely few hours during our visit to Bristol Zoo as a family, spending quality time together amongst the animals after missing spending Easter together. Needless-to-say a small boy slept the whole way home and then some! And he loves his new ‘pen-pen’ we picked up in the gift shop on our way out.

For details on visiting Bristol Zoo and ticket prices, please visit their website. We’re looking forward to our next visit to Bristol Zoo already!

Thanks for reading,

Cath x

*I was not asked to write this post.

Cefn Mably Farm Park

This weekend saw us visit Cefn Mably Farm Park on the outskirts of Newport. Not far from Junction 28 of the M4, it is a farm park with lots to see and do.

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We decided not to sit in the house on Saturday morning and had been meaning to find and visit this farm park so thought it was as good a day as any to visit. It took us about 40 minutes to get there from our house and when we arrived at around 11am, there was lots of space in the car park. We made our way into the farm park building, paid our entrance fee (more on that below) and found our bearings. Inside the building is the coffee shop/bistro, the soft play area that has a section for babies and older children, the toilets and the farm shop. From here we made our way outside to explore and see what animals we could spot.

We first passed by the indoor animal pens which included sheep, goats and lots of rabbits. These rabbits, of all shapes, sizes and colours, are pets which have been rescued and need adopting. It was quite sad to see how many they had, and although I felt like this we didn’t crumble. I know from friends having had rabbits that I have enough on my plate looking after the two BattleDogs. We had bought a bag of animal feed when we paid our entrance fee and I fed the animals as BatteKid was having none of it. I guess he’s still a little young and wary of the various animals.

After this area we ventured outside and passed some horses which BattleKid was fascinated by. We stopped to play in the small play area. The Farm Park has two play areas, this small one and a much larger one too. We pushed BattleKid on the swings and then he had a ride on one of the many play tractors they had around the Farm Park. He didn’t want to get off it but I had to play bad cop and let another boy behind us have a go too.

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There were lots of various farm animals including pigs, donkeys, sheep, goats and horses.

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2015-09-26 11.36.54Ducks roam freely near their pond, and the horses are clever animals. If they see a brown paper bag of animal feed in your hand as you pass by they run their hooves on the ground to attract attention. Clever! I couldn’t resist feeding these ones. They’re not stupid.

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We spent about an hour wandering around but BattleKid was starting to get a bit tired and cranky so we didn’t hang around much longer. We passed by the pony rides which cost £2 per go on our way back to the farm building. I’ll definitely be taking BattleKid on one when he is older. The pen for the ride is long enough so I feel £2 is a fair price.

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To exit the farm building you pass through the farm shop and we took a few minutes to browse the shelves. They have everything you can imagine from chutney and jam of all flavours, to fresh vegetables grown locally, to a butchers selling meat produced on the farm itself. We couldn’t resist buying a few things including sausages and rashers for Sunday morning breakfast.

2015-09-26 11.55.58We also bought some of their lamb and mint burgers and their award-winning beef burgers. We’ve yet to try them but I’ll report back once we do. I can tell you that their smoked back rashers are extremely tasty.

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All in all we had a lovely Saturday morning at Cefn Mably Farm Park before heading for home where the reason for BattleKid’s crankiness became apparent. As it is quite close to home I think we’ll be visiting this more as BattleKid grows up. However, I do feel it doesn’t beat the Small Breeds Farm Park in Kington that I’ve written about before. That farm park remains our favourite, although it’s much further away!

Cefn Mably Farm Park is a great place to visit with children of all ages. Open from 10am to 5pm, with last admission at 4pm, it has lots to see and do. It costs £4 per person during weekdays and term time, and £6 per person during weekends and non-term time. There is an additional charge for animal feeds, pony rides and for actual farm diggers (which BattleDad wants a go of next time we visit). As mentioned there is a coffee shop and bistro, indoor soft play area, which we are yet to partake of, and a farm shop. You can touch and hold animals in the indoor area and pet the various farm animals through their pens in the outdoor area. They’re all very friendly and none of them tried to eat my fingers!

There are plenty of hand washing stations dotted around the park to keep both little and big hands clean and free of germs. You can buy animal feed at the admissions desk and parking is free of charge. As I’ve already said we arrived around 11am on a Saturday morning and there was plenty of parking, but by the time we left at 12.30pm the main car park was full and arriving visitors were starting to park in the overflow car park. It takes approximately 10-15 minutes to get to from Junction 28 of the M4 and I’d recommend it to anyone in South Wales as it’s a great place for little people to get up close and personal with farm animals of all shapes and sizes. We enjoyed our morning there and I am sure we’ll be visiting again soon.

*Prices correct at the time of writing this post.

**I was not asked to write this post.