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A wonderful day out for all the family I can't recommend it enough
Member Name: jillycat
Advantages: Lots of well thought out attractions lots of wonderful animals to see in different ways
Disadvantages: Lack of pushchair space in the Ark restaurant and baby changing room
Having just come back from a few days away with our 2 year old in which we visited Chester Zoo I thought I would do a review on the Zoo and our experiences there. I am not going to discuss all the animals we saw but will instead focus on the highlights for us and I will not be discussing the rights and wrongs of Zoo's as I guess people reading this review will be pro them and wanting to know what it is like to visit..
Where is it?
Chester Zoo is located on the outskirts of Chester we found it very easy to get to from our Hotel in North Wales and very well signposted by the brown places of interest signs. Once there is plenty of parking. It is also accessible by bus and bike if you fancy doing your bit for the planet. The zoo website gives all the details about bus times and how to get there including the satellite navigation code to enter.
As the zoo tickets for us were included in the our hotel stay we were able to use the fast track queue to get in, but as we had arrived at 9.50 there wasn't a queue at any entrance and staff we letting people in early. However some of the experiences inside were not open then so we just used these 10 minutes to visit the bathrooms and look at the map and plan our visit.
The first animals for us to see were the elephants and the Elephants of the Asian Forest exhibit. This is a walk around some enclosures which different tropical rainforest vegetation. One of the things that my son appreciated straight away was the various noises and calls of the birds within this and was listening to them avidly and pointing at rustling in the trees. We were able to see some of the elephants in their inside and outside enclosures. All of us loved seeing them enjoy their breakfast and start to rub themselves up against the wall to get rid of a scratch.
We decide to head next towards the Spirit of the Jaguar exhibit as both me and my son love big cats. The smell inside this enclose is weird and I can honestly say I have never smelt anything like it. Inside there you can see the landscaping of the enclosures and the jungle effect. But we saw no Jaguars inside and thought that they were maybe out side hiding from us so out side to see if we could spot them. At the first part of the outside we saw no jaguars but did see a lot of people looking for them so we decide to go over to the other side of the outside enclosure to see if because this was slightly quieter and more hidden they were there. This was the case and we all felt very privileged as we got there as a jaguar was stalking down the cage straight towards us and walked along the front of the cage and then to back of it and back inside the whole think last just a few minutes but it was breath taking. He seemed to be doing a loop to see where they had put his food that morning. It happened really fast and too fast for us to get a camera out and take a picture but the image in all of our minds will last and our son was just enthralled by it.
We then headed off to the Realm of the Red Ape and the orangutans. I was hoping that this would be to my sons liking more than the chimpanzees as though he loved looking at them when they started to be noisy he got a little scared. It was me I was worried about in this exhibit though as not only did they have orangutans in their and they had a few snakes and in particular a type of the worlds longest snake now as a snake phobic person I was hoping that the snakes wouldn't be too visible so I could just focus on the organ tans and get my breath on my way though it. Fortunately for me the snake bits were all to the left of the walk ways so provided I stayed focused on the central area with the apes in I was able to cope without panicking. Both my husband and son looked at the snakes and jumped as a one of them reared up a bit apparently so I was glad I didn't look. The orangutans were great and a huge pull for a lot of people as they hung right next to the Perspex windows and pulled some faces all of which made my son laugh along with other children in the area. We spent quite a while in this area watching the orangutans swing pull faces and groom one another as it appealed to our son so much. Just outside this area was an otter enclosure which was great to watch as these delightful creatures swam and munched on their lunch.
One of my son's favourite enclosures was the penguins not so much the fact that these birds waddled but that you could see them swimming under the water too from different windows. This just fascinated him as they gracefully swam around and cheekily dived up and down. I think he wanted to be able to swim like that to.
My husbands favourite bit was the twilight world with the flying bats. In this bit you walk through the enclosure and the bats are flying around above you and to the side of you. Their brilliant sonar stops them flying in to you but some times you feel a change of air beside you as one fly's past. It takes a few minutes for your eyes to accustom themselves to the dark but once that is done you see them zooming around and hanging on the trees. All the staff's wear a light up red badge so they are easy to see if you want to ask any questions and we found them to be informative when we ask them about the different types and did they get on OK.
Eating and drinking
There are plenty of places for you to buy food from around the zoo this includes various snack stalls selling burgers and ice-creams and drinks as you go around the zoo. There is also a fine dining restaurant and a canteen style restaurant. Equally there are plenty of places you can sit down with a picnic. As we were staying at a near by hotel we had elected to eat in a restaurant there.
We ate in the Ark restaurant which I think the best way to describe it is a glorified school canteen. You queue to get you food be it hot or cold. As it was a windy April day when we visited we choose some hot food. The bill for two adult meals and drinks and a child's meal and a bottle of milk was just under £19. The food we choose was a chilli con carne a cottage pie and fish and chips for our son. I have to say were well cooked and lovely and hot and we had no complaints. The food is severed on paper/ cardboard plates so this lets you know it's not a fine dining experience but the food is wholesome filling and well made. The problem we had with the place was how busy it was and how cramped the tables were. It is almost impossible to steer a push chair through it and you need to pick a table on the aisle if you need to park your pushchair. This we found lead to our son being hugely distracted by everything and he didn't really eat his meal. In the Ark restaurant there are both toilets and baby changing faculties. The toilets were clean and fresh and we had no problems with them. The baby changing room is really too small and they have tried to fit too much into it and it is really hard to steer a pushchair in so if you have a double buggy you won't fit this into this room.
We also had an ice cream from the real ice cream kiosk during our trip and this was lovely so I would definitely recommend you try one of these and there was plenty of flavours to choose from mine had bits of honey and hokey pokey in it and was delicious if not that good for the waist line.
The toilets we used in the park we regularly cleaned and had plenty of all the necessary toilet paper in them. They are also well sign posted so you can find them fairly easily we found. There are both ladies gents and disabled toilets around the park and these are all well sign posted.
Getting around the park and accessibility
We found all the areas within the zoo to be very well signposted and it gives clear directions to each of the exhibits with the use of wooden sign posts. With your admission you get a map and this we found useful to help us decide where we wanted to go and in what order. The paths are we maintained and we had no problems pushing a pushchair around the zoo and through all the exhibits there is the odd steep gradient to go up and down some bridges but nothing that left us feeling breathless. The whole place seems to be very accessible to both pushchairs and wheelchairs alike. You can hire pushchairs if you wish but we had taken ours so I can't comment on how good they are. It is worth noting that though the mono rail can take pushchairs and wheelchairs it can take mobility scooters on it.
Contact details and prices opening times
The website is www.chesterzoo.org a lot of information about opening times planning your visit adopting animals is on there and I would definitely recommend you visit there before your visit to help you get the most out of your trip.
The price of admission varies dependent about what season you go and cost between £13.60 and -£16.90 for adults. Children under 3 are free children between 3-15 costs between £9.90-£12.45. You can also get a family ticket. If you purchase your ticket on line before your visit you also save 10% on the price.
The zoo generally opens at 10 am closes at 5pm it is opening all year bar Christmas day and Boxing Day
There are plenty of other things to do around the zoo for both adults and children you can pay extra for a boat trip or mono rail journey to see the animals from a different view. I would definitely recommend the mono rail.
Children will probably enjoy some of the adventure play ground equipment and my son did enjoy trying to have a go but he was really just a little bit too small for it all at 2 years old.
You can pay extra to get face painting done or have a go at pottery painting.
There are educational talks through out the day by the zoo keepers at the enclosures of the relevant animals we didn't do this as I don't think our toddler would have stayed still for them.
The zoo also allows you to purchase extra things such as being a keeper for the day or adopt and animal.
Overall and recommendation
I would definitely recommend Chester Zoo for a visit as we had a great time it s a wonderful day out for all the family. I know we will probably be going back in another few years when our son is a little older say 4 or 5 so he can experience the animals again. I think the zoo has put a lot of time an effort in to making your visit enjoyable with well planned attractions to enhance the experience for both the animals and the visitors. There are plenty of places to eat and spend you money but I don't think that they have priced them too high really considering they have you trapped there as a captive audience as it were. My only criticism is the lack of space in the Ark restaurant for pushchairs to get through and the lack of space in the baby changing facilities.
Summary: A great day out and one we will certainly repeat as we enjoyed so many different things on our visit
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