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Take a sleeping bag if you want to see some animals!
Member Name: Holland1
Advantages: Lots of animals, plenty to see, good full day out
Disadvantages: Quite expensive, animals sometimes hide from public
I was brought up not far from Chester, just over the border in north wales, so with this family attraction just down the road, I have been there several times with varying experiences. As a child, the zoo seemed a magical place and a brilliant day out which lasted forever because there is so much walking to do. There were lots of animals to see and we'd usually take a picnic to eat on one of the benches to avoid paying the inflated prices within the zoo.
The last time I went to Chester Zoo was for my 30th birthday. My fiancé took me because I said it was somewhere I'd like to go....must have been wanting to relive my childhood what with it being a milestone birthday. Although we had a good day, I was a bit disappointed that the zoo wasn't as good as I remembered it (nothing ever is when you view it through an adult's eyes!), the biggest disappointment being that we hardly saw any animals!
My favourite animals at any zoo are owls, penguins and meerkats, and in fairness we did get to see these. We visited the meerkats at feeding time which was the highlight of the day because they kept running off and hiding instead of coming forward to be fed, so there was a game of chase going on between the meerkats and the zoo worker. The owl section was full and we got a good view walking through them all. The penguins were their usual sociable selves and kept us entertained for a little while waddling around and dipping in and out of the water.
The biggest surprise for me was the butterflies. We went through this beautiful indoor area (sure it probably has a name but I can't remember it off the top of my head). There were so may beautiful, striking butterflies sitting on the tree branches and flying around, it really impressed me and I took quite a few photos. I didn't think I'd be bothered about them to be honest, but they were lovely and all had beautiful markings and patterns. Maybe it's a sign of my age that I am more in tune with nature than I was as a childhood visitor.
We wandered around and tried to prioritise the animals we wanted to see first, because you rarely get time to see everything with the zoo being quite large. We stopped to see the elephants and then the giraffes, but none of them were making an appearance and were hidden in the indoor bit where the public aren't allowed. I wasn't too bothered as these aren't my absolute favourites, but I really love lions, jaguars and cheetahs and we had to be very patient for these to come out and do something as they all seemed to be sleeping.
The monkeys and chimps were another highlight, as they have swings and allsorts of contraptions set up to keep them entertained. I could have watched these for hours as they were winding each other up and jumping from rope to rope. This is definitely worth seeing if you have kids as they'll keep you entertained for ages, whereas some of the other animals are cute but don't do very much.
Each animal has a board by where it is homed, and the board tells you all about them including where they originate and what they eat. This is really nice for children and school trips, but as an adult I skim-read a lot of them just out of interest.
You will do a lot of walking at Chester Zoo, and I've always been lucky and had reasonable weather. I'm not sure it would be quite so enjoyable if it was raining, although there are cafes, a pub and various other eating areas to shelter in the event of showers. The prices can be quite high in these places though so beware if you're feeding a family of four. On top of the entrance fee (which has been sneaking up over the years), it can be an expensive day out with all the extras. The standard prices are £17 for an adult and £13 for a child, although there are concessions and family tickets available.
There is an overhead cable car to help people get around a bit more quickly and easily, although I have never used this myself so I'm not sure if they charge extra for it. I imagine the view is quite good though and you wouldn't miss seeing any animals as you'd save time walking around.
All in all, I think Chester Zoo is a good fun family day out. The only advice I'd give is to wear flat shoes, take a brolly, and take a packed lunch. And be patient if you really want to see certain animals as you might have to wait for them to wake up.
Summary: A fun-packed family day out
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