Newest Review: ... kids being rather upset. We visited Blackpool Zoo last year and the range of animals was much better. In Edinburgh Zoo, there are no elep... more
Animal Antics at Edinburgh Zoo
Member Name: cookie334
Date: 25/02/09, updated on 25/02/09 (511 review reads)
Advantages: A great day out, relatively cheap, lots to do
Disadvantages: The hill, the polar bear
** Arriving at the Zoo **
Living just across the water and a mere 20 minute drive away, Edinburgh Zoo is a regular family day out for us.
If you are driving to the zoo, I have to forewarn you that there is a charge of £3.50 to park your car here (unless you are a member of the zoo in which case it's free) and you will receive a car sticker when you pay at the entrance to the car park.
Cost of entry is
£12.50 per adult
£8.50 per child (3-14 years)
£10.50 per concession
Children under 3 are free and there are various options for a discounted family ticket depending on the number of adults and children. I find this great as it's much better than most places which assume a family is 2 adults, 2 children. Edinburgh Zoo have options for couples with 3 children and also single parents. Of course if you have more than 3 children this will still be an issue.
There are discounts for group bookings and you can become a member of the zoo which will entitle you to unlimited entry for a year and other benefits (your own entrance, discounts, access to members areas etc).
I've heard people complain about the prices before and while it is a bit expensive, for a special day out I don't feel it's too bad. If you don't buy food and souvenirs then this is all you will pay, so for a family day out I'm happy to pay it.
Upon payment for admission, you will be given a map of the zoo and details of any shows/talks etc that will be going on around the zoo throughout the day. It's quite normal for you to also be given a leaflet with details of all the new arrivals at the zoo.
I should also forewarn anyone planning a trip to Edinburgh Zoo that the zoo is built on a very steep hill and can be quite hard work, particularly for little children (and grown ups pushing buggies!).
** Services and Facilities **
There is a "Hilltop Safari" bus which runs from the entrance to the very top of the zoo. This can be handy if you think you or your little ones will struggle with the hill. You can bus it to the top and then walk back down. Personally we prefer to walk up one side and back down the other as it's easy to miss things if you just walk back down.
There are two sit down cafes in the zoo - Stripes and Oasis. Both are situated very centrally and very close to one another. They both serve hot and cold food and drinks and both are very busy and very expensive in my opinion. If you have time to pack a picnic before you go, it will save you a lot of money and there are lots of picnic areas throughout the zoo which are really lovely - even on the coldest of days! We have had to buy food at the zoo once and still ended up eating it outside as there were no tables left. Oasis is the larger of the two cafes and has a play area inside for the kids. Our children have never used this but it's similar to what you would find in a soft play centre and I suppose it would be very helpful if you were queuing for food with impatient children.
There are many toilet stops set all around the park. I find this very useful when visiting with children. As I'm sure many parents will know, it's always a bonus if there are many throughout. From my personal experience I have found the cleanest toilets are the ones in either of the cafes (Stripes or Oasis). Some of the toilet "blocks" can be cold and a bit dirty at times. The toilets in the cafes are also the ones with baby changing facilities.
There are many kiosks round the park, more in the summer than the winter, but whenever you visit, you'll never be far from a nice coffee to heat you up or a delicious ice cream to cool you down.
There are two gift shops at the zoo. There is a large one at the main entrance and a smaller "Penguin Shop" which is quite central. I'm sure this is only open in the warmer months though, as the last few times we've visited it has been closed. I love the fact that there's not merchandise being thrown in the kids faces throughout the whole day. Many places like this have shop after shop and you end up with kids nagging for things the whole day. The penguin shop, when open can be very easily avoided and the main gift shop can also be by-passed quite easily. However, I have always found the prices quite reasonable and average for these sorts of places and we like to get the kids a little something on the way out. The smaller gifts start at just a few pounds, so a small price to pay to help have a relaxing drive home.
There are many play parks throughout the zoo and these look great fun and are always very busy. They used to have a giant maze until a few years ago. Unfortunately it is no more, as it has made way for the newer attractions.
** The Animals **
OK so I've gone on about everything else, but what about the animals? Isn't that what people go to the zoo for? Well yes, but I'm afraid this can be where Edinburgh Zoo is a bit of a let down for me. I remember Edinburgh Zoo when there were elephants and giraffes and the likes, so for me personally, the fact that it's now over run with penguins and monkeys disappoints a little. However, for my children who have never known the former zoo it is still a place where they can see lots of animals they would never otherwise have the chance to see.
Edinburgh Zoo is famous for its Penguin Parade. This has been going on as long as I can remember. Every day at 2.15pm, just outside the penguin enclosure, the path is lined with adults and children alike waiting to see if the penguins will walk today. The walk is completely voluntary, so it's luck of the draw whether you will be lucky enough to witness the penguin parade and as penguins are social animals if there are not enough "volunteers" the zookeepers will not allow them to walk on their own. If the penguins don't want to do it, you will have picked your spot half an hour early for nothing. However, in all the years we have been going to the zoo there has only been the odd occassion when this has been the case and the penguins do choose to walk most days. This can be lovely to watch and kids love being able to get so close. When we visit we tend to head to this area at around 1.30pm. This enables us to get a great spot and it's a lovely area for a picnic, so we have our lunch here and usually grab a coffee/ice cream (depending on the weather). By the time we've done all this, more often than not, it's time for the penguins to come out, but if we find ourselves with time to spare, the kids can have a wee play at the park while we wait.
I wont go in to all the animals that you can find at the zoo. As I said a lot of them are monkeys of all sorts and there are deer etc. You can find most large cats including lions, tigers, jaguars etc. The walk to find the felines can be just as fun for the kids as they keep an eye out for paw prints and scratch marks (and the odd and very entertaining pile of tiger poo). If you're brave enough to venture to the very top of the hill, you will find zebras and camels and kangaroos, not to mention the most amazing views out over Edinburgh. I believe there is also a bird show shown here in the summer months, however I have no personal experience of this as I'm sure it clashes with other events at the zoo.
There are various talks throughout the day. You can hear about the big cats as you watch them being fed, you can watch the sea lions doing tricks at their mealtimes and of course if you arrive early for the penguin parade you can learn a thing or two about the life of a penguin aswell.
Edinburgh Zoo is also home to Mercedes - the UK's only polar bear. Edinburgh Zoo seem to take great pride in this. However, I'm sure anyone that has visited the zoo would agree that they should be more ashamed of this fact. People travel many miles to see this and yet it's the one area of the zoo I now try to avoid as it saddens me. Mercedes looks thoroughly miserable in her tiny enclosure and IF she has water available it is the most disgusting water I have ever seen. In the summer she can be seen hiding from the hot sun in the only piece of shade in her cage. I always get the feeling that this enclosure is very neglected by the zoo.
** Not to Miss **
Budongo Trail is the new chimpanzee enclosure which opened in 2008 and is the largest in the world. This has a huge area for the chimpanzees to have great fun in. It has been designed to encourage natural behaviour and replicates their natural environment. There are indoor and outdoor areas for the animals and there is plenty inside for children (and adults of course) to learn.
Close Encounters is a hands on experience. I believe there are 2 or 3 sessions throughout the day where visitors can hold various animals and learn all about them. The sessions are free, however, there are limited places, so I recommend that if you intend to do this, you get your tickets at the start of the day. Tickets are available from either the Penguin Shop or the kiosk opposite. The animals we've been lucky enough to hold are snakes, giant snails, guinea pig, cockroaches, frogs and a few others. The children love this and always talk about it for days afterwards.
Rainbow Landings is another relatively new experience and is personally my favourite. It is a large enclosure for Rainbow Lorikeet (exotic birds) where you can purchase nectar and feed them on your way through. We did this on our most recent visit and the kids were so taken with the birds. The Lorikeet are very friendly and will sit on your hands to get to your food. My wee boy talked for ages about how the pretty bird was pecking his hand instead of the nectar. You can have professional photos done here and we did just that. The photographer asked permission and then took quite a few pictures of us all together. There was no sales pitch at all and she gave us a card and told us where the kiosk was to view and purchase pictures. There was no obligation at all and it is completely up to you whether you walk down to the kiosk to see them or not. We did and got a lovely family picture with the birds for a very reasonable £10. We got to look through all the pictures and took our time to choose which one we wanted, again without any sales patter or anything and were very pleased with our photo souvenir.
** Overall **
In the last few years the Edinburgh Zoo has come a long way, with its new playparks, the recent opening of the £5.65 million Budongo Trail Chimpanzee Enclosure and the addition of Rainbow Landings. I believe there are lots more renovation plans for the future, so hopefully it will continue to improve in the years to come.
Overall, although I find the animals slightly disappointing, Edinburgh Zoo does make for a great day out for the family and we will continue to visit regularly. There is plenty to do and will certainly keep you busy for the day. Not worth a special trip from afar, but if you are local or are in the area anyway, it's definitely worth a visit.
Summary: A great day out for the family!
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