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Twycross Zoo (Warwickshire)
Member Name: Fritzthecat
Twycross Zoo (Warwickshire)
Advantages: A great zoo that doesn't charge you the air you breathe
Disadvantages: Food in the park pricey and not great
Twycross Zoo also calls itself "The World Primate Centre, which should give you a very good idea what they are specialised in. We visited them during the summer holidays as part of an offer of the Leicestershire County, which combined a hotel stay and admission to 3 out of 5 participating local attractions.
The zoo is located along the A444, just outside the village Twycross. It is well signed out and offers ample parking facilities. If you do not have your own transport you'll have to find your way to either Nuneaton or Ashby de la Zouch from where you can take a bus that will deliver you directly to the entrance.
For us it was easy as we had the pre-paid ticket from the offer, which meant no queuing up at all ! They seem to expect to get really busy as the line they have available is a very long and winding one. It was fairly busy when we arrived and we had to park our car a loooong way from the entrance but they seemed to cope very well and there really wasn't a long queue at all.
You can book your ticket over their website if you want to avoid queuing.
I'm not going to bore you now by adding all the admission fees, if you are interested visiting you can find them on their website at http://www.twycrosszoo.or g/buy-tickets.aspx.
To reach the entrance or payment booth you will have to pass from their visitor centre which houses their huge shop and a food court. The food court looked interesting and seemed to offer a large variety of dishes from all around the world at reasonable prices. However cheap and lovely the food smelled, we'd arrived directly from the breakfast buffet of our hotel and weren't hungry, so didn't eat here. The kids were keen to get into the zoo, so we managed to ignore the shop also (not on the way out though!) and only paid a quick visit to the toilet before making our way to the gate.
The ladies' room was clean and there was no shortage of toilet tissue or soap. The décor might not be to everyone's taste as there is an ant colony on display somewhere in between the hand wash basins and the mirrors, which is probably the strangest place to encounter them I imagine. It took a lot of persuasion to get my daughter, who hates creepy crawlies, to wash her hands here.
We were handed a map at the entrance and found out that there are 4 different set "trails you can follow, each named after a different animal: Gorilla, penguin, elephant and rabbit .
Gorilla: Will lead you to all the apes in the zoo and end at the enclosure of the gorillas.
Penguin: On this trail you'll meet the smaller monkeys, merkats, sea lions, and eventually the penguins.
Elephant: You'll pass from the giraffes, the Uda Walawe elephant walkway and the Mary Brancker waterways and end at the Borneo Longhouse.
Rabbit: This will lead you to the more local animals and pets, some of which you can touch, and a small funfair.
Our family is totally without any discipline and we just wandered off - and only consulted the map after we managed to arrive at the same spot the third time. If running in circles is not your thing and you like to follow a set itinerary you'll probably love the trails, and might not even find it inconvenient that only two of the four are actually an extension of the other, while for the other two you will have to make your way back to the entrance each time to start. However way you decide to explore the zoo the map surely comes handy to ensure you haven't missed anything.
As mentioned before, Twycross is a primate centre. This does not mean that they only have primates, but they do dominate and the majority of their animals are monkeys of all sizes. We love them and had fun watching them, at some enclosures we spend ages because they were just so entertaining.
They have more than 1000 animals and there is a wonderful selection from all around the world, including the ever-so-cute merkats, Chimpanzees, camels, elephants, deers, hyenas, a large variety of birds, ...
One of their stars is a snow leopard who's given birth to two adorable cubs in May 2011. Of course we were dying to see them but sadly had no luck. Both times we visited the Himalaya enclosure neither the mummy nor her babies were anywhere to be seen.
We had more luck with the gorillas, which also had a baby not long before our visit, and managed to get a very good and long look at the proud mum and dad and their little one.
One of the highlights of the day were the themed areas which are not to be missed. We loved the Borneo Longhouse and the Sri Lankan themed elephant walkway, both are superbly designed and offer so much to explore !.
There are several cafes in the park, so when we got hungry we decided to visit the Gorilla Outpost Café. This café is not the most pleasing on the eye spot in the world but neither are the others I fear.
Unlike the really impressive food court in the entrance area the choice of food we found was very limited. Not in the mood for some greasy chips and nuggets or a jacket potato we opted for sandwiches and coffee for us grown-ups and a lunch-box for the kids (sandwich, a small packet with apple slices, some carrot sticks and a small yogurt). The lunch boxes where £3.95 per child, no drinks included, prices for sandwiches start at £2.95. We paid almost £ 20, which clearly is not cheap at all for 4 sandwiches and drinks but sadly common place at attractions like this. Our sandwiches were very nice and generously filled but not enough to fill the husband who moaned that he was still hungry, and would have probably loved to have a slice of cake if there hadn't been so many wasps ! They were everywhere and made eating very uncomfortable.
There are also several play areas, surprisingly the kids didn't ask for playtime so we gave them all a miss. The park must have been good or they'd definitely asked to go on the playground.
The small fun fair offered a variety of carousels for smaller kids, sadly only one of them was open, and a train ride. The later is suitable for all the family. What we did like is that they do not charge you for these rides. They might be a bit dated but from our experience small children don't care about that at all. We've been to so many zoos where they charge you extra for rides, not just rides but generally for the air you breathe, and were more than just pleasantly surprised that the only thing that wasn't included in the entrance at Twycross was the food ! I really wish more attractions did operate like this, instead of charging entrance fees that are bordering on extreme, and then charge for every service and entertainment on the side on top !
Our last stop was the pet area where we met guinea pigs, snakes, rabbits, chicken, sheep and probably the cheekiest donkey I've ever met. A nice way to finish a great day out at a slow pace for feet and minds that were getting really tired and exhausted.
On the way out we had to pass from the shop again, and this time our kids were not distracted a bit, so we went, moaning husband included. We all were impressed by the size of the shop and the choice it offers, and there should be something for every wallet, no matter if you only want to spend a few pennies or totally blow it.
Soft toys, mugs, umbrellas, clothes, a plethora of African/Asian/South American mementos including some beautiful handmade jewellery, stationary, books, - you name it, they have it !
Each of our girls got something small, then a last trip to the loo with the ant colony and our visit was over.
We all had a great day and we were glad to have chosen Twycross as one of the 3 attractions our offer included. I cannot really fault anything in this zoo and we absolutely loved it !
Yes, the food we had was overpriced but I have seen much worse in similar attractions in the UK. We were expecting it to be more expensive than outside and were actually surprised that the sandwiches were of such a good quality, it seems more to be the norm that the quality of the food served in places like this is of extremely low standard, no matter how much they rip you off ! If we'd live somewhere in the area we'd brought our own picnic, they do offer enough tables.
After struggling a bit at the beginning we easily found our way around, even though we did not follow the trails. All the ways are paved and even, so getting around with a wheelchair or push chair shouldn't be a problem. There are enough cafes along the way to offer tired guests a chance for a break and refreshments.
The animal enclosures are all of good sizes and kept very clean and tidy, and the animals seem happy and well looked after. Twycross was founded in the 1960's and some of the enclosures still seem to be the same or at least look a bit dated. Do not get me wrong here, saying this I do not mean that they do not correspondent with modern expectations of size and environment, they are just not so pleasing on the eye, the interior of the cages is modern and animal friendly, I'm just talking about the shell ! The most attractive areas of this zoo are clearly the newer "themed areas which really get your and your children's imagination going !
The range of animals is good, much better than we were expecting from a zoo that markets itself as a specialist in primates. However, we did miss the big cats which they do not have at all.
I have mentioned in the beginning that they had a fairly busy day which was never a problem once inside the park. The people seemed to have spread out well, there was hardly ever a moment where we had to "queue to see an animal, there was hardly any queuing time in the café, and none at all when we visited the toilets.
All toilet facilities were clean although clearly not new and not very appealing, a bit of modernization wouldn't harm.
We did not go to any feeding times but did speak to a few "keepers, whom you can find throughout the park, and the kids did take part in an experience where they could touch skins, horns, spikes and bones of animals from around the world and guess to which animal they belong. They found this a great experience which ranged somewhere in between "weird", "yuk" and "awh"
The value for money you get is great. If we'd had to pay the normal entrance fee it would have cost us £ 44 for a family ticket for 2 adults and up to 2 children this summer. Admittedly, that is not cheap but for a zoo in the UK also not expensive. The good thing is that they really do not charge you extra for anything once you are inside and food is something you can always bring with you. I do hope they will never change this, it really hurts families if there are a lot of attractions within a park that cost extra and having to say "no" all the time is not much fun !
We got our ticket as part of an offer by the Leicestershire County that included a night in a 4-star hotel with breakfast for a family of up to 2 adults and 2 children, and entrance to 3 regional attractions for £99. Next to Twycross we chose Conkers and the National Space Centre, and this must have been the best offer around this year !
If you are interested, the offer is still available this year, although the price has gone up to £109, which is still great value for money:
Offer or not I'd absolutely recommend a visit and wouldn't mind going back at all !
This review has also been posted elsewhere.
Thank you for taking the time and reading it !
Summary: A great day out - go for it !
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