Chester Zoo in Cheshire Days Out Review
In a nutshell
Meet 21,000 animals spread over 125 acres of zoo. It’s a well-kept, family-friendly environment with something for everyone in the family to enjoy
What we tested
- Fun for kids
5.0A star rating of 5.0 out of 5.
- Fun for parents
5.0A star rating of 5.0 out of 5.
- Worth the money
3.5A star rating of 3.5 out of 5.
5.0A star rating of 5.0 out of 5.
- Family friendliness
5.0A star rating of 5.0 out of 5.
- Fantastic family day out, amazing array of animals, designed for families
- Expensive day out, large area for younger children to cover, some experiences scary for young children
COVID-19 safety update
Some facilities and attractions may be closed or restricted this year, due to COVID-19 – and there may be extra safety rules, pre-booking requirements or one-way systems in place. Please check Chester Zoo's website before travelling or booking.
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When we visited:
A Sunday afternoon in mid-September
What’s Chester Zoo like since Covid-19?
- Visitors must pre book their spot online before they visit. Members and those with pre-paid tickets do not need to book
- The Zoo is reviewing ticket allocations all of the time and adding extra capacity whenever it is safe to do so
- Visitors should not visit the zoo if they or anyone they have been in contact with has the symptoms of coronavirus or if they have to self-isolate
- Guests should consider wearing a face mask in indoor spaces, as recommended by government guidelines
- Guests should use the hand sanitising and hand washing stations
- For animal health reasons guests must wear a face covering when visiting the lemur walk through experience. This applies to all visitors excluding children under 3 when carried by an adult
- Staff will carry out enhanced cleaning and provide plenty of hand sanitising and hand washing facilities
- The Zoo will monitor visitor numbers each day
- Staff will ensure there is as much fresh air in the indoor spaces as possible
- Chester Zoo will provide and NHS Test and Trace QR code at the entrance to the zoo and in some restaurants and cafes so visitors can check in
What age is Chester Zoo suitable for?
Best for: Children aged 5-10 years old
Still good for: Under 5s as long as you have a pushchair (or you can hire one from the zoo for £8 for a single buggy and £12 for a double buggy with a £10 refundable deposit) and over 10s.
How much does it cost?
Visiting Chester Zoo is definitely a special treat. It’s hard to avoid it being an expensive day out, especially for a family with several children. Prices vary according to time of year.
- Adults: £30
- Children: £22.72
- Children 2 and under: free
Are there discounts if you buy tickets online in advance?
Yes – as follows:
- Adults save up to £4
- Children (3-17) save up to £4
- Children 2 and under: free
- student/senior save up to £4
Any extra charges once we’re in?
The entry price is good value given you can easily spend the entire day at the zoo but the cost can soon mount up even further.
Watch out for extra charges such as the:
- Monorail (£4 for adults, £3 for children for unlimited trips on the monorail)
- Souvenir book for £4.95
- Face painting (£5 per face)
With all the walking around required, you’ll probably want to treat your children to a drink or an ice cream so don’t forget to budget for that - not to mention food if you’re planning to buy food at the zoo.
There’s a well-stocked gift shop full of animal-themed toys, books and other souvenirs but you can avoid the gift shop as it’s located to one side of the exit.
How long will we spend at Chester Zoo?
You can easily spend all day at the zoo - in fact to do it justice, you need to. Plan for a minimum of 6 hours in the zoo and even then you might not see everything.
What’s it like for families?
Chester Zoo is perfect for families. It’s not just the thousands of animals - someone has really thought about how to enhance the experience that children have at the zoo.
Whether that’s themed areas liked the islands area of the zoo, home to the amazing Sumatra Tigers, signs written especially for children to add to their understanding and enjoyment or the oversized talking chairs, each with its own story to tell.
Does it work well for groups of mixed ages?
It’s hard to imagine anyone who wouldn’t love a day at Chester Zoo. It’s a perfect day out for families who have children of various ages - our kids are 10, 8 and 5 and they all loved the day.
I think 5-10 years is the perfect age bracket for children visiting the zoo, although my 5 year old did get tired after a few hours, so definitely take a pushchair for younger kids.
The zoo has a real focus on conservation and you’ll find facts about the animals around their enclosures so the zoo will appeal to animal lovers and budding zoologists and conservationists.
Is it easy to find your way around?
It is such a huge space that you’ll need help getting around - you’ll be provided with a printed map when you arrive and there’s a dedicated Chester Zoo app which includes an interactive map of the zoo.
What to bring:
You’ll be outside for a lot of the day so bring sun cream or waterproofs or both, depending on the weather forecast!
Although there is a brilliant choice of places to eat, and drink kiosks everywhere, you might like to bring a picnic and/or snacks and drinks to keep the cost of your visit down. If you have little ones, a pushchair is highly recommended.
What to watch out for:
- The monorail: The monorail is a great way to travel around the zoo but queues can build up, plus there is an additional charge for this
- The Fruit Bat Forest bats: The Fruit Bat Forest is fantastic for anyone who likes bats but be warned - the bats are flying freely around you in the dark which one of my children loved and one hated so it might be best to avoid this if you think your children might be nervous
- Too many talks: Although we as parents enjoyed the talks we went to about Elephants and Sumatran Tigers, all the children got bored (even the 10 year old, although he took some information away from it). So aim for the talks aimed at children and I would advise keeping the amount of talks you attend to a minimum - pick out the ones you’re really interested in at the start of the da
How much walking you’ll be doing:
Walking around 125 acres of zoo is exhausting for all family members so plan some breaks where the children can have a rest otherwise you’ll end up with whiny children!
Food and drink at Chester Zoo:
Long gone are the days where the only food available at an attraction like this is a burger and chips - Chester Zoo has 6 different food outlets and countless kiosks dotted around the place.
You can still get burger and chips if that’s what you’re looking for but you can also get:
- South East Asian inspired street food
- Pub food at The Oakfield
- Head to June’s Food Court where you can choose from a number of outlets including a healthy deli, as well as concessions selling burgers, fish and chips and pizza.
Vegan options are available.
There is also a coffee shop in there selling ethically-sourced Shuka coffee and it’s located right by the brand new Wildlife Wood playground which kept all three of our children happy for ages while we sat and drank coffee at the benches around the edge of the park.
The food outlets tend to get pretty busy around lunchtime so plan to eat slightly earlier or later than you normally might to avoid the worst of the scrum.
Can you take a picnic?
There are several covered picnic areas around the zoo with plenty of tables and chairs - it was raining around lunchtime on our visit so ducking into one of these with our picnic was the perfect way to get out of the rain.
People don’t tend to hang around so if there aren’t any free tables when you arrive, you shouldn’t have to wait long.
There are kiosks around the zoo selling drinks and ice creams, although not all of these open on quieter days.
Or, for a real treat for you and the kids, head to the Madagascar Market Place & Ice Cream Parlour for ice creams, milkshakes and cakes (again, this can be closed on quieter days).
What are the toilets like?
There are toilets (including accessible toilets) located throughout the zoo - including at the entrance/exit so you can make it your first and last stop - handy if you have a long car journey.
The 2 blocks of toilets we visited were clean and well stocked with toilet paper. There were low-level sinks and toilets for little guests plus changing facilities in both the male and female toilets.
The team at Chester Zoo has done everything it can to make the attraction accessible to everyone.
The pathways around the zoo are flat, perfect for pushchairs and wheelchairs, but as I mentioned, there is a lot of walking involved so I recommend bringing a pushchair for any younger children who might need it. There are, however, 2 bridges where wheelchair users might need help.
The features available for visitors with wheelchairs or limited mobility include free disabled parking at the main entrance, free entry for carers and free wheelchair and electric scooter hire (subject to availability and a £25 refundable deposit).
Assistance for people with other disabilities
Registered assistance dogs are welcome but you’ll need to contact the zoo in advance - they will give you a map with a dog-friendly route.
Many members of staff have had training on challenges faced by visitors on the autistic spectrum so if you have any questions or concerns of this nature when visiting the zoo, you will be able to find someone who understands and can help.
What to do before you go to Chester Zoo
You must pre-book tickets online - you're not able to buy tickets on the day.
There are so many animals to see at Chester Zoo that you may not get round them all. So, before you set off, check with your kids which animals they most want to see.
Then, using the map on the app or the interactive map on the Chester Zoo website, you can plan a route around the zoo that takes in everyone’s must-see animals.
The app and website also have a list of animals talks so you can factor them in too.
Check the weather forecast - most of the zoo is outdoors so you may need to plan carefully if there are showers in store.
What are the opening dates and times?
Chester Zoo is open every day of the year except Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
It always opens at 10am and closes between 4pm and 5.30pm depending on the time of year (or 3pm on Christmas Eve).
See the Chester Zoo website for full opening hours.
Nearby attractions for a long day out
The Ice Cream Farm is just over a 20 minute drive away, and Chester is ideally situated not too far from either Liverpool or Manchester so if you're planning a break to the North West — take a look at our list of the best attractions for families in the area.
Worth a long car journey?
A visit to Chester Zoo is absolutely worth a long car journey - we set out at 8.30am for the 1 hour 45 minute drive and it was worth every minute.
Tips for getting to Chester Zoo
We travelled to Chester Zoo by car - it’s not far off the M56, making it very easy to get to and there are plenty of signs once you get close.
The zoo advises you follow the signs rather than your sat nav once you get to the A41. There is lots of free parking.
If you travel by bike, you get 15% off your entry fee! There are cycle racks at the main entrance.
The zoo is located about two miles from Chester railway station and there’s a bus link (the X8).
You can get a combination ticket for the train, zoo and bus link from your train station which will save money.
If you’re in Chester already and want to travel by bus, you can take the Number 1 service from Chester Bus Exchange - or the X8 from the railway station.
If you’re coming from further afield and want to book a hotel, the zoo has teamed up with LateRooms.com and Darwin Escapes to offer you a good deal - find out more here.
We were extremely impressed with Chester Zoo - the scope of the animals you can see, the facilities, the thought that has gone into making it family friendly.
There’s a huge array of animals - from lions and tigers, to elephants and giraffes and also an aquarium and a tropical area with all sorts of weird and wonderful reptiles and amphibians. Makes sure you don’t miss the orangutans - a big hit with all of our family!
And as well as the animals there are play areas located around the zoo if your children need a change of scene and the schedule of expert talks throughout the day includes some delivered especially for children.
It was a fantastic day out for all of us - and it’s increasingly hard to find a trip that suits all 3 of our children. It is expensive but worth it for a treat and you’ll get a full day out for your money.
Visit the Chester Zoo website
See more reviews of Chester Zoo on Trip Advisor.
Intro to me:
I visited Chester Zoo with my family - my husband, my sons aged 10 and 5 and my daughter aged 8 - on a Sunday afternoon in mid-September when the zoo was just starting to quieten down