England Theme Parks / Zoos National
Paultons Family Theme Park (Hampshire)
I live quite near Paultons Park but hadn't been since I was a small child so when I had children of my own I thought it would be a great place to take them. My first reaction was shock at the price of tickets! Thankfully my two are quite short so I didn't have to pay for them as they were under 1metre, that just left over £40 for me ... and hubby! However when you get there, there really is loads to do, it seemed like one day wasn't enough to do it leisurely even when we didn't go on 50% of the rides be cause the kids weren't tall enough.
I first went before Peppa Pig world was built and it was still great so the Peppa Pig world section is a fantastic added bonus.
The main park has a variety of rides for all ages, some are traditional fun far type rides such as a magic carpet and teacups and then there are a few more adult theme park rides. Also dotted around the park are the little cars you normally pay 50p to sit in at the supermarket, at paultons these are all included and the kids can go on every single one!
There is some lovely non ride parts to the park, such as the dinosaur walk with life size Dino models and the bird aviary and penguin talk. The gardens are also amazingly creative and very well tended, think snakes and ladder sets made of plants etc.
Moving into peppa pig world , the first thing you notice is the piped theme music playing everywhere, this could drive you a little insane but I managed to block it out!
The rides are pitched perfectly at the core audience of peppa pig and don't have long queues. There is also a great indoor soft play for when the weather turns!
There is a lovely safe feel to the park. I felt quite happy leaving our pushchair at the entrance to the rides and not worrying that it or its contents would be pinched!
The main drawback to the park is the food, which is quite poor. The outlets are dated now and the food offered is of a limited unhealthy range. Mostly burgers, chicken nuggets and chips. It is not too over priced for a theme park but given the beautiful surroundings and gardens in the park, a picnic would be the best way to eat.
Look out for special theme days on the company website and book your tickets at least a day ahead as you get quite a good discount doing it like this. The park is best value if you're children are over 95cm but under 1m as they are tall enough to go on most rides don't have to pay to get in!
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Blackbrook Zoo (Staffordshire)
Blackbrook Zoo Winkhill, Staffordshire, ST13 7QR This little zoo is probably the one closest to us and my grandson had his birthday party here recently with thirteen children including him. We were invited to go to help with transport and share his birthday treat. PRICES AND TIMES Open all year round except ... Christmas day
February half term - 5th November : 10am - 5.30pm each day and last admission at 4pm
6th November - February half term : 10am - Dusk but last admissions 3pm
Admission: these prices include a gift aid but it is a little cheaper without this.
Adults: £9.95 Concessions / Carers: £7.95 Children: £6.50 Family Ticket: £29.95 ( 2adults + 2 children ) Under 3's are free
If you visit in the winter the admission price is drastically reduced to £1.99 per person or £2.20 gift aided. Winter is from 30th November to 31st January so that is useful to know if you live nearby.
A BIT ABOUT THE ZOO
Blackbrook Zoo has the largest collection of birds in the country and is known for its breeding of rare bird species, with over 300 successfully breeding species to date which is a very good thing for conservation.
GROUPS AND PARTIES
They not only have normal admission for families but they also offer a wide range of activities and special group rates. We bought our admission through Groupon and paid £9 for a family ticket. When we arrived my step daughter was sorting out the birthday party admission and so when she had finished i explained that we were with them but this was for our admission, could we take our other stepdaughter in on the ticket as she was our child even though grown up. Very kindly they let us all three in for the Groupon voucher which saved her an extra £9ish.
Birthday parties need to have a minimum of ten in the group and cost £12 per person for entry to the zoo and a lunch either hot or cold. We didn't see the food as the room was pretty small but I believe there were sandwiches and cakes and my step daughter took her own birthday cake which they brought in ready lit at the appropriate time. An extra £40 per group means that you get a guided tour of the zoo with food for the cassowary, pelicans and then the birthday person plus another person can go into the pelican enclosure and feed the penguins. With our lot they let Mum and Dad plus the children into the enclosure and then took two at a time over to feed the penguins so all the children had a turn. While they waited for their turn they had to stand at the other end of the enclosure so that the penguins were not disturbed too much.
The party bag for each child was very generous and had a cardboard folder decorated with animals, a flamingo key ring which sold for about £2 in the shop, a packet of chocolate buttons and a free ticket for a child for the zoo.
School group prices are based on a minimum of 12 at a price of £5.50 per child, accompanying adults are also charged at £5.50, and for every 5 paying children 1 adult would have free entry. Again like the birthday party, for an extra £40 you can have a tour of the zoo with a keeper with feeding of some of the animals which can be tailored to suit the group. There is a maximum of thirty in each of these groups.
I was impressed that they had tied in their school groups activities and even lessons in a special room with the National curriculum and also recommend a pre visit by the staff ( free) and offer a risk assessment in PDF format on the website. If you want to take advantage of their lessons then that is an extra £30 per group. In fact if you take your teacher ID os some kind you can vist free in order to plan a potential visit anyway.
Mother and toddler coffee mornings allow children in free and adults are £5 on Tuesdays after 10am and coffee is included.
I'll do this first as you go through this in order to pay your entry fee. This offered a small selection of drinks and sandwiches which could be eaten in the picnic areas but was fairly limited and not as cheap as our M&S ones that I bought on the way. There were postcards, keyrings, cuddly toys and a range of souvenirs that catered for the pocket money and school trip groups as well as the wealthier purchaser. I have to admit we bought nothing.
We were a little early for our guided tour so we took the children around some of the exhibits before meeting our keeper. The first place we went into was an enclosed bird and reptile house presumably for animals that needed warmth as it was hot in there. There was a pond in the centre with some water fowl including a tiny little duck which was quite sweet. The most impressive birds in here for me was the tropical crowned pigeon which is the largest pigeon on earth, bright blue with the very large and elegant crest on its head.
The zoo is large and so I won't go through every single exhibit and creature in the place as it would be boring and very long. I will pick out some highlights for me and some that were exciting for the children in the group.
The cassowary was a large bird which looked slightly pre historic. Granddaughter was NOT keen but the older children enjoyed throwing fruit into her pen. They can be very vicious and could slit you open with their clawed talons so even the keeper wasn't going to put her hand through the fence to feed her.
There were other huge cranes and storks which were not popular with the youngest but I rather liked the fabulously coloured saddle-billed stork who was huge with a very carefully coloured head area.
Feeding the pelican was very entertaining. A huge bucket of small very smelly fish was provided for our group and every child got to throw fish to these pelicans. They were fine if they caught the fish but really struggled to pick fish up from the ground as they had to turn their heads on to one side and flick the fish up with their bills and try and catch them. The anti bacterial hand gel on the wall of the shelter got good use after that activity I can assure you.
We then moved on to the penguin enclosure when we had to wait and watch from outside but our little group went in and took turns in pairs feeding these wonderful little creatures. It was hard to see from outside because of the protective wall around the pool but my (step) son in law was there and took some close up photos of the children having their turn.
That was really the limit of the keeper tour apart from feeding the tortoise but I missed that as granddaughter needed the toilet and at two and half there is little warning for that request and so i took her off to the portakabins.
The meerkats were a delight and we spent some time watching them. It was especially nice to see the babies as they were so tiny and cheeky. These seemed to be quite small compared to those we saw in the wild in South Africa but I am not sure if they were a different breed. I discovered that only one pair of meerkats in each group breed, the rest have to share the various baby sitting duties.
Other animals that attracted our attention were the mongoose, the lemurs and the flamingos. The children were quite taken with the guinea pigs and rabbits but wanted to get in with them which was not such a great idea. The number of birds was quite breathtaking and huge ponds with wildfowl of various kinds at various places around the park. A couple of kookaburras called out which caused some interest amongst our little group as they are VERY loud and not at all what you expect to come from a bird that size.
The part of the park housing the flamingos and other pink birds is called 'pink paradise'. They are very beautiful and you can sit and enjoy your picnic within the enclosed area or sit in the cafe overlooking this section. Boards around the park give you some little titbits of information such as what the animal is, where it comes from and sometimes other interesting information such as the colour of flamingos comes from natural chemicals in their diet the pink or orange pigments are found in the brine shrimp and blue-green algae that the birds eat. Captive flamingos are given a special diet including prawns and additives such as beta-carotene or canthaxanthin which have these colours - just think of carrots which are rich in beta carotene for the colour!
This was enclosed so children could be in here and you could relax knowing that they were not able to run off except through the gate. There was a good variety of equipment which catered for a range of ages and the children were very happy playing in there for a fair time while waiting for their lunch.
This is something that is quite unpleasant as they are portakabins and there is a distinctly unpleasant odour despite the fact they were all very clean. I think a bit of money should be invested in creating proper plumbed in facilities when they are catering for large groups. I would have hated to bring an entire class of children to use these as there were three in each cabin and another set with similar I believe but we only used one set. I made sure all those children we took washed their hands carefully.
There was a sink with soap etc in the lunch room so presumably the adults in charge sorted out the handwashing prior to the eating but I was not with them as there were not enough seats for all our group plus the extra adults.
We sat below the room where they had their lunch in the cafe. We had bought M&S sandwiches to eat and bought a couple of coffees from the cafe. The other grandparents ordered the burger meal which came with salad and chips and was a pretty substantial meal. They said it was tasty and my step daughter (not the mother of the birthday boy) had some of their spare chips with her sandwich which she had bought from the gift shop as we came in.
There were tables inside and outside so if it was cold we could have chosen to sit inside but we shared an outside table with an umbrella for shade. We visited on a weekend and it was quite busy however there were still plenty of spaces at this cafe and I believe the other cafe also had plenty of seating but somehow with toilet visits and chasing up children I wasn't able to inspect that.
This may not be the biggest or grandest zoo in the country and you won't see giraffe or elephants but they have a huge variety of animals, mostly birds but still enough mammals and others to be interesting. They do a magnificent job in conservation of rare species and the way the park is laid out is attractive and the animals all have good sized enclosures with plenty of vegetation and variety of landscape within them. I am not a huge fan of zoos as I don't really like animals in cages but I realise they do a great job in conservation and this is the only way many people will be able to see some animals too.
You could happily spend a day here with children as there is plenty to see and if you take a picnic you can eat it in the picnic areas or outside tables or you can use the cafes which were not too expensive really.
I would recommend this if you are in the area with children or if you have a particular interest in rare bird species then this would give you the opportunity to see these.
I have removed a star for the yukky toilets.
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So last week wednesday was my daughter's 3rd birthday (gosh, where did the time go?) and so I decided from a while ago that her treat was to go to the zoo. She loves animals, especially pointing them out to me everywhere we go so I knew this would be an ideal birthday treat for her! ***Where Is The Zoo?*** London ... Zoo is located in Camden in North West London. Being money cautious we didn't drive to the zoo as it would mean we would have to go through congestion charge (I don't even know how much this costs anymore, can't be more than a tenner right?!) and also pay a whopping £14.50 for parking in their car park! There was a large group of us, so this would mean travelling in 3 cars and so as only 2 of us adults were driver, this was a no-no so we hopped on the tube. Exiting Camden tube station, literally cross the road, and walk straight past a small road of shops and restaurants, until there is a big sign to direct to go right at a large set of traffic lights. We followed the signs and walked for what seemed like forever! I would say for us it was a good 20 minute walk to the actual entrance of the zoo, which when you have 6 excitable kids all wanting to see the gorillas and asking "are we there yet?" this is a long duration of walking from the tube station to the zoo! Nevertheless, getting there is easy enough and is clearly signposted so you won't get lost.
Altogether we had 5 adults and 6 kids. Under 3's are free entry (my daughter just turned 3 that day so I was going to be cheeky and get her in, not paying for her!) and so we had 3 kids under free (a 1 year old, a 2 year old and my daughter who was 2 years and 365 days old lol!) that we did not pay for and 3 kids over 3 (aged 5,6 and 11) who each cost £15.45. Personally I think under 5 year olds should be free, but nevertheless I could not quarrel as I know the zoo needs a good income to maintain it as it does not receive any government help/funding (at least that's what an employee at the zoo told me anyway!) Adults entry into the zoo cost £20.90.
Looking to try and save a few pennies, only groups of 10 paying people apply for 20% ticket prices. As we did not have 10 paying people, the only deal I could salvage was 10% off 2 paying adults and 2 kids. This saved us about 7 quid, but at time of writing this review, this deal was only available online. Nonetheless, we bought all our tickets online and these are the prices without the option of a donation to the zoo:
Senior = £19.09
Student = £19.09
Child = £15.45
Disabled Child =£15.45
Disabled Adult = £19.09
Under 3 = £0.00
If buying a disabled child's ticket the carer enters for free and so if buying tickets online, still click on the adult ticket and enter promotional code 1001 to get the fee deducted for the paying adult. It should be remembered, just because you don't pay for under 3's you still need to book them a ticket and print off (if buying tickets before hand) as if you don't you'll still have to line up when you reach the zoo!
***At The Zoo***
When we finally reached we were happy to be in the fast track line as we already had our tickets so we had a nice speedy entrance. Hoorah we made it! First stop...where are the toilets??
Toilets were quite a nightmare. With a 2 year old and a 3 year old with the bladder the size of a rice grain and the heat meaning they were drinking quite a lot we found we needed toilet trips quite often. The only toilets we came across were when we first entered, they were about a 2 minute walk into the zoo past the gorillas. We initially ended up in the mens as it was a lot closer and the kids were bursting but after a lot of turning the zoo map upside down, sideways, trying to figure out where we were and then where the loo's were we eventually found it! The next set of toilets we found was about 3 hours into zoo time and near where the giraffe's were caged. Which of course smelt just lovely lol. So about 4 times between these 2 toilet visits my daughter just used a travel potty. One of the occasions was even to do a poo....how lovely. Was starting to think she would have been at home in the zoo!
Anyway, now the toilet routine had been completed it was time to start enjoying the zoo! Our first adventure was the reptile house!!
The reptile house was a lot of fun for all the kids as there were a range of snakes, lizards, komodo dragons and frogs etc. At the time we actually got here it was about 1.30pm and so sadly all the snakes were sleeping and a lot of the reptiles were snoozing in the deepest darkest corners of their habitat so was more a game of trying to find where the animals were more than anything! There were some swimming turtles that my daughter enjoyed watching and with all the large lizards and chameleons she would shout "mummy it's a dinosaur!" haha! It was too cute but a really fun interactive experience.
~ Gorilla Kingdom
Next up was the gorillas and monkeys. To get in, you had to go through a door made out of thick sheets of plastic and pass through some cute colourful birds flying around. In the gorilla kingdom there were also a variety of monkeys all flying around, fighting each other and leaping from tree to tree which all the kids found to be so amusing! The gorillas were a big attraction for all the kids, there were 3 in total, not doing much, simply sitting swinging on a tyre or on a tree trunk being very relaxed. There are clear signs not to bang on the glass as this makes the gorilla's aggressive and all the people and kids included were good sports and simply viewed the gorillas. Photographs were allowed just no flash photography as this too may agitate the animals. They were beautiful creatures to look at, especially as I don't remember seeing a gorilla before and I was genuinely amazed at how similar to humans they actually are.
~ Deadly Birds Live
Roll onto 2.30pm and about an hour into our zoo trip we were tired and hungry haha! We sat on some benches and being organised mummy I had brought drinks, crisps, chocolate, sandwiches, chicken everything so we all stopped for the kids to have a munch. Timing as it would be, on the grassy area next to us it was time for the Bird show! There was a demonstration of eagles as they flew around the crowd but always to a trained member of the zoo team. The kids were excited and amazed at the skill of the bird and I was interested to listen to the design, why it is called a bald eagle (I'm not telling you here you have to go to the zoo and find out for yourself!) and how they hunt for food. There was also another bird that looked like a deranged chicken when it ran but could jump about 10 feet high, a pity I cannot remember the name of it now! But still, this show was really good!
~ Big Cats
This was one of the kids favourite things to see, and mine too if I'm honest! Boringly enough the lions were asleep, but the tigers were awake so was amazing to see them move around with such poise and finesse. I had both before when I went to a safari aged about 10 years old (long time ago now haha!) so was amazing to see them again. Of course they are caged quite far away, but could still get a good enough visual to see them and the children had great fun imitating a tiger roaaaarr!!!
~ Into Africa
On the map it seemed situated on the opposite side of the road but we actually found this segment in the main area of the zoo. There were hunting dogs, who were rabidly eating at a fresh carcass of an animal (eeew! but guess that's the circle of life!) which the kids seemed very interested to watch lol. The animal I had wanted to see all day was the giraffe and here they were! Tall and elegant they were a beauty to watch and so amazing to see in real life! There was a bridge to stand on for a close up view of the giraffes, but as their space was so large sadly they did not come close enough to be touched (even though I am sure they would not want this!) but I was happy to stand and stare at them for a good 10 minutes. The zebras were next to them and all seemed disinterested, as they were all well hidden amongst some trees so I could not get a good enough picture which was disappointing but my daughter still took pride in showing me these animals as I reminded her that yes I could see them too!
~ Petting the Donkey
Leaving the African segment we passed back where the deadly bird show was earlier and there was a small event where you could pet the donkey. Of course instigated by me, the kids were all eager to do this and so off we went. The donkey was extremely well behaved and the kids loved stroking the donkey. The zoo keeper holding him on a lead reminded us to only stroke his head and neck or side, and to steer clear of the back end as the donkey often kicked his legs up or stood on feet without realising so we kept this in mind and the donkey (and kids too!) was good as gold. My daughter didn't want to let him go! But as other kids had to have a turn we reluctantly left him alone haha.
This was right back by the front entrance of the zoo and the main game in here was....can you find nemo?? There were loads of sea creatures like jelly fish, piranhas, crabs, big fish and small fish. They were all very colourful and the kids loved finding nemo and dorie, however once this was achieved they all quickly lost interest in the fish and was a swift exit after that lol.
~ Bouncy Castle
Since spotting it about 3 hours earlier, all the big kids wanted to do was go on the bouncy castle. Who comes to the zoo just for this? So after holding them off for some time (and the main reason they wanted to leave the aquarium so quickly!) this was the next main event. Costing £1.50 for 5 minutes (yes cinco minutos!) 4 of the kids trotted off, and the 2 littlest ones stayed behind giving us adults a few minutes of peace and quiet. Phew!
The penguins were a bit boring as we had missed the morning show of diving with the penguins. There were probably about 40 penguins pretty much standing around doing nothing, and I felt quite sorry for them as they didn't seem to have much to do! Maybe I could get them a part time job at sainsburys, they seemed like they needed a hobby lol. So we literally popped in here for about 30 seconds and as the day was getting on we decided to leave them alone.
~ Butterfly Paradise
To see the butterflies meant going into a pod like building which was very hot and humid like a tropical climate. In here was an array of plants and trees which were to imitate these butterflies natural habitat and they were beautifully fluttering all over the place. Anyone with a phobia of insects will probably hate this as they literally are flying around on their own whim but I loved seeing all the different patterns and designs on their wings and watching their movement.
So it's now 5pm the kids are a bit restless, so me and my cousin only took 3 of the kids to the Bug house. In here there was a range of different bugs and creatures which seemed the zoo wanted to display but had run out of ideas where to put them lol! There were ants, bees, tarantulas (ahh!), grasshoppers, crickets, a rat (which was HUGE!) a mouse, some jellyfish and even a sponge (like spongebob square pants hehe!). I would definitely think this building was more suited to older kids as my daughter who is 3 wasn't understanding too much but was interested enough to see what all the different animals were.
There was a little playground where the other kids who didn't come to see the Bugs were playing, which had a slide, climbing frame etc to keep the kids entertained which was fun. Leaving the zoo was close from here, but they are crafty to make us have to walk through the gift shop to leave! Souvenirs in here were very expensive, but had things like cups, plates, t-shirts, keyrings and stuffed animals. Lucky for us, the kids were worn out and tired and had no interest in none of these things and were all ready to go home!
There were a few animals we didn't get to see sadly, like Reindeer, Otters, Lemurs, Meerkats, Fruit Bats and the Peacocks as these were across the road, and as we got to the zoo quite late we ran out of time.
Food and drink at the zoo, a 500ml bottle of ribena or coke cost £1.85 (yikes!) so we did not buy any food here. The most was treating the kids each to an ice cream which was quite small and itself was £1.50 but not too bad. There is an Oasis Restaurant for people wanting to eat in for lunch but food is obviously around £5 per person. Dotted around the place were hot dog stands with chips and burgers so food is accessible but looking to keep costs down we did not take advantage of this.
London Zoo also has an app for those tech savvy people who can buy tickets online and use this as a tool to navigate around the zoo and keep up to date with goings on. For example there is a new Tiger Territory opening in 2013 and the reptile house was under temporary construction at the time we visited.
The following info is from the website....
21 July - 2 September: 10.00 - 18.00
3 September - 27 October: 10.00 -17.30
ZSL London Zoo is open every day of the year except Christmas Day. Last admission is one hour before advertised closing time. Children under 16 will not be admitted without an adult.
ZSL London Zoo
Tel: 020 7722 3333
Fax: 020 7586 5743
To sum up we had a lovely day at London Zoo and I would definitely recommend it! It is very user friendly, as it caters for disabled there were ramps everywhere so us with 2 pushchairs could easily navigate about and enter all the different buildings. Staff were friendly and knowledgeable whenever we asked questions which was a big plus. My only gripe is that there are only 4 toilets in the whole zoo and they are situated quite far apart, which meant we were constantly crouched in a bush with the little ones and a travel potty! Nonetheless I would definitely recommend this zoo, even for the price we paid as we had a fantastic day out and my daughter thoroughly enjoyed her birthday!
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England Theme Park / Zoo National
Theme Park / Zoo National / The Alton Towers Waterpark is a heated oasis of fun for all the family, and is available to everyone. This Caribbean lagoon is open all year round.
Theme Park / Zoo National / A pass that allows unlimited entry to selected theme parks and zoos in the UK for 1 year.
Theme Park / Zoo National / 1 Goldsmiths Row, London, E2 8QA.Tel: +44 20 7729 6381
Theme Park / Zoo National / St Augustines Farm, Arlingham, Gloucestershire, GL2 7JN. Tel: 01452 740277 - Outdoor farm park in Gloucestershire
Theme Park / Zoo National / Berkeley Heath Farm, Berkeley, Glos, GL13 9EW. Tel:01453 810510
Location: Bickleigh, Tiverton / Theme Park / Zoo National / www.devonrailwaycentre.co.uk - Railway theme park, model village and more.
Go Ape / Theme Park / Zoo National / High wire forest adventure / Sherwood Pines Forest Park, Edwinstone, Nottinghamshire, NG21 9JH
Theme Park / Zoo National / Location: Alexandra Gardens, Barry Avenue, Windsor, Berkshire, SL4 3HY
Theme Park / Zoo National / Address: New Road, Mistley, Manningtree, Essex CO11 1ER. - Animal sanctuary and tearooms.
Address: The Seafront / Theme Park / Zoo National / Hayling Island / Hampshire / PO11 0AG / England - Family amusement park.
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