Paradise Wildlife Park, Hertfordshire review

Our rating 
4.4 out of 5 star rating 4.4
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In a nutshell

Much more than a zoo, with multiple activity areas, a new dinosaur attraction and plenty of additional play options to keep families happy all day
Fun for kids
5.0 out of 5 rating 5.0
Fun for parents
4.0 out of 5 rating 4.0
Worth the money
4.0 out of 5 rating 4.0
Facilities
4.0 out of 5 rating 4.0
Family friendliness
5.0 out of 5 rating 5.0
Pros: Large zoo, multiple attractions, special events, huge playpark
Cons: Hard to get to by public transport, poor toilet facilities, some added costs, minimal food offering

When we visited:  

We braved the crowds on a hot Sunday on August 2018 Bank Holiday weekend

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What age and family is Paradise Wildlife Park best for?

  • Best for: Kids aged 6 – 14 will have a brilliant time
  • Still good fun for: The whole family
  • Avoid if: Some vegans and vegetarians won’t visit animal attractions on principle. Pregnant women should avoid the petting zoo area

How much does it cost in 2018?

Entry prices into Paradise Wildlife Park vary depending on season (split into high, mid and low seasons) and age (kids are aged 2-15 included), with under 2’s admitted free

High season family ticket: (2 adults, 2 children): £75

Family ticket (December): £54

Parking is free and plentiful and there is a £3pp charge each way for station pick-up/drop off if you come by train. 

It’s not cheap, and age 2 is very young to require an expensive ticket, but it does compare favourably with other attractions as there are so many options for entertainment once you’re inside.

Can I use my Tesco Clubcard points for Paradise Wildlife Park?

Unfortunately, Tesco Clubcard points cannot be used for this attraction

Any extra charges once I’m there?

There are no unavoidable additional charges, although some activities do carry a small fee, so beware of pester power.

We kept extra costs to a minimum, only going on the great little train, now named Rex Express, which costs £2 per person.

Other chargeable attractions include:

  • go-karts
  • crazy golf
  • coin-operated sideshows.

If you’re feeling flush you can pre-book for photography, zookeeper and animal experiences such as meeting the meerkats (we saw several groups doing this) which costs £148 for 2.

There are gift shops but there is no compulsion to go in. We bought nicely-boxed dinosaur toy sets for £8.50 each – possibly slightly pricier that the high street but not by too much. 

There were also pocket-money-priced souvenirs available.

How long will we spend at Paradise Wildlife Park?  

It’s a full day out and no mistake! Our family has been twice and there are still parts of the park we have not tried out yet – the paddling pool and go-karts will have to wait for another day!

You’ll probably spend 2-3 hours in the zoo, and another hour larking around in the dinosaur area.

To be honest, my little one would have happily spent the entire afternoon in the playground area, which is really second-to-none.

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Paradise Wildlife Park is an out-of-town attraction with something for everyone. This was our second visit, (and we’ve also visited London Zoo twice in the last couple of years).

My 4-year-old definitely preferred Paradise Wildlife Park on his first visit last year – probably because there are so many additional things to excite small children.

Now that World of Dinosaurs area has opened (it was new for March 2018), there is no contest – I am constantly being asked when we can return. 

Does the zoo have any really unusual animals?

The first zoo on this site was opened in the 1960s with a major overhaul and refurb more than 20 years later.

There are many animals here that you won’t easily find elsewhere –  the UK’s biggest anaconda, snow leopards, white tigers and white lions among them.

There are many questions these days about the suitability and size of zoo enclosures for animals (and Paradise Wildlife Park has quite a small compact footprint) however the owners have an impressive conservation record, and are constantly working on improvements.

They’ve even taken lions to Africa to release into the wild.

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Are there any attractions for rainy days?

This is a very manageable zoo for children. I particularly like that you can mix up your plan for the day with other activities.

This was very handy last time as my son grew fearful of the big cats and it was great to take him to the Tumble Jungle soft play to help him calm down, before going sloth spotting indoors.

I also love the fact that, although most of the site is outside, there are enough indoor areas – and areas with basic shelter, to mean all is not lost in a rainstorm.

Sure, you’re a bit stuffed if there is persistent rainfall, but it is well planned enough to ensure you have plenty of options for shelter from showers, without feeling you’ve missed what’s going on.

What’s it like for animal lovers?

There are also more than a dozen animal demonstrations and talks per day and keepers seem very knowledgeable and friendly as they go on their way. 

Truth be told, I think zoos are more suited to slightly older children and I’m not sure if my little one has quite come to appreciate the fact he has such wonderful animals there before him.

He’s gonna keep coming until he does appreciate them!

This is where Paradise Wildlife Park really comes into its own as a whole day out because there is such a wide variety of other things to do.

What’s the playground like?

Great! Remembering his last visit, my son begged to go to the playground from the moment we arrived and was over the moon when we got there.

Obviously brought together over a number of years, and repurposing equipment from other places, I love the inventiveness of it all.

The playground includes a steam train slide, steamroller slide, a helter-skelter, and a house made out of a shoe.

This time around his favourite was an a pirate boat that he’s just growing into now. And when I asked him: “Please come and see the ultra rare white lion, one of the most endangered species in the world …”, he replied: “No! Never! I’m on the shoe slide!”

My son loves to be in the playground specifically – and he can increase his appreciation of the other sides of the park as he grows, hopefully fostering an interest in conservation as we go.

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What were the highlights of the trip?

World of Dinosaurs

Since our last visit, the park has revamped a (previously rather neglected) woodland area with the addition of 30 massive animatronic dinosaurs aka World of Dinosaurs.

Well, let me tell you, it rocks. It feels like another attraction entirely, with a slightly odd juxtaposition, so it feels like your entry ticket is more of a multi-attraction one.

Rex Express

First off, we took the Rex Express – a charming narrow gauge train with a dinosaur frontage glued on to its engine in a somewhat incongruous fashion.

It cost £2 a head to take a trip on, and turned out to be one of the best parts of the day, although not in the way we expected! Unfortunately the train broke down halfway round the track and in true Jurassic Park style all of us passengers had to get off and follow the track through the dinosaur park to get back to the ‘station’.

This is a bit of a pain in the bum, frankly, if you are a grown up, but if you are a 4 year old inexplicably stranded in the wilds of dinosaur land for the very first time, and the dinosaurs are gobsmackingly realistic, and roaring, and moving, it is beyond exciting!

Especially if one of your favourite TV shows is Andy’s Prehistoric Dinosaur Adventures, where said ‘stranded!’ situation happens completely by chance every week.

We loved it. It should break down more often, if that can be arranged.

Afterwards, we realised there is a separate entrance to World of Dinosaurs, with tracks through the woodland meaning that once we’d gotten over the initial fear of the creatures, we could get up close to them on foot.

I was particularly impressed by the Jurassic-Park style Jeep being ‘chased’ by a T-rex ( a fab photo op) and watch out of the stegosaurus near the end of the trail who has a tendency to spit! 

I was also impressed by the strangely-placed festival portaloo in the undergrowth, with helped us out of a tight moment halfway round.

We loved the whole thing so much when we got to the trail’s exit we went around again straight away, the kids couldn’t get enough of it.

Dinosaur dig

Then we stopped off at the dinosaur dig (giant covered sand pit where you can dig up ‘dinosaur bones’) and the dinosaur egg area (photo opp) at the end.

I think the owners are great at utilising space and squeezing every last bit of fun from it. 

Tumble Jungle soft play

Elsewhere we’ve tried the Tumble Jungle Soft Play (with café) which is great on rainy days. It’s pretty much a standard soft play (free with entry to the park) but I like the way it’s designed as it’s a long skinny space meaning kids can’t escape without you (this is the best way to judge soft play, I’ve found).

Next door is the completely unexpected National Speedway Museum which is a small but chock-full cornucopia of memorabilia related to the sport.

I believe the Wildlife Park’s owner Peter Sampson was a dedicated rider in the 1960s and so decided to share his passion with zoo visitors.

It’s a completely weird thing to have here, but I love it! My only criticism would be, the museum then becomes a footnote, rather than being appreciated for itself. 

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What to bring:

I’d recommend bringing a picnic and swimming gear for the kids if using Paradise Lagoon.

On entry, your hand is stamped which means you can pop back to the car if necessary to collect whatever you’d rather not carry.

What are the queues like?

Although we were there on one of the busiest days of the year we didn’t encounter any queues except for the little train, which cleared within 10 minutes.

Busy days will mean kids find it a little trickier to see through the panels into the animal enclosures etc, but certainly won’t ruin a day out here. 

What to watch out for:

The toilets

I honestly can’t think of anything bad to say about this park, except perhaps the toilets (which I’ve said more about further down in this review).

The road that runs through the park

I should mention that the park is cut in half by an access road, which operates a gate system at either side for safety, ie, like a more secure level crossing (but with people v cars!)

There are plenty of staff here to ensure crossing goes smoothly, however.

Food service

I did hear some mumbles about the food service, with meals mostly looking like basic burger & chips-type fare. 

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Does it cater well for families with children of mixed ages?

Yes! There really is something for everyone here. For example, if parents need to supervise young kids in the Tumble Jungle play area, older teens can go off and check out the speedway museum or go-karts.

The play park also contains equipment suitable for all ages of kids.

There is also wheelchair accessible play area, called Learn and Play, on site.If you’d like to use that please ask staff when you collect your ticket.

What are the food and drink facilities like at Paradise Wildlife Park?

Safari Sam’s diner

The main place to eat is Safari Sam’s diner, which also serves alcohol (handy if you’re not driving!) It’s pretty basic but is not outrageously priced.

Tiger Treetops cafe

Tiger Treetops is a small café overlooking the big cat enclosures – too bad it was shut for a wedding reception on our day!

Kiosks

And there are a couple of additional kiosks, and you can buy drinks and snacks while you watch the kids in soft play.

It’s fair to say no one comes to this venue specifically for the Michelin stars, so if you’d prefer some nice antipasti and hummus dips, bring your own!

Can you take a picnic?

We took a picnic and sat on a picnic bench to scoff it (there are several clusters of these beside food kiosks). 

They do get busy but you will always find a space somewhere – by Paradise Lagoon is great!   

What are the toilets like?

Let’s just say they vary! We visited the loos just after lunch and unfortunately they weren’t great.

Clearly the park is trying to rectify the lack of facilities, the toilets we used (near the dinosaur attraction entrance) were of the semi-permanent portacabin variety, but there were still queues, it was cramped, and a couple were badly blocked (indeed my son refused to use them at all).

We visited the same toilets late in the day however and they had obviously been well cleaned and were now spotless.

The Tumble Jungle soft play have the best baby changing facilities, while the toilets near the entrance have the best disabled facilities. 

Pushchair/wheelchair access and special needs:

  • The zoo area is all hard-standing so getting around in a wheelchair or buggy is easy, though the flooring around the dinosaur attraction is rougher (more natural finish) so slightly trickier 
  • There are handy unofficial buggy park areas near the train and playpark. Animal enclosures have glass panels so wheelchair users can see into them while seated
  • Depending on the animal’s habits, however, some animal enclosures are best viewed from overhead walkways
  • There are 2 sets of disabled toilets (the one by the Discovery Centre has a hoist). There is comprehensive info for disabled guests on the website
  • There is also a great visual story available online for ASD guests, which highlights which areas could lead to potential sensory overload and what can be done to minimise discomfort
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What should you do before you go to Paradise Wildlife Park?

It’s marginally cheaper to buy tickets online, so perhaps do that after you’ve checked the weather forecast and before you programme the satnav. (The postcode is EN10 7QA by the way.)

Pack the kids a change of clothes or swimming costume if you intend to visit the Paradise Lagoon paddling area!

Opening dates and times:

Paradise Wildlife Park is open 7 days a week, and every day except Christmas Day.

It will be cheaper to visit in winter, and you can buy a cut-price season ticket which runs from November to February for just £35 – great for regular visitors.

Does it host any special events?

There are sometimes special events and late night extravaganzas such as Halloween and firework celebrations.

Worth a long car journey?

It’s certainly easier to get to Paradise Wildlife Park by car than by public transport. There are zoos around the country, and all offer something different, so you probably wouldn’t travel more than a couple of hours to get here (although if you’re a big fan of white tigers, for example, you’ll be aware they are a rare find and certainly worth a longer trip). 

It is certainly worth taking a trip out of London to visit, or even popping down from the Midlands for the day.

I love the mixture of attractions here, because there really is something for everyone, and no one’s going to get bored as it’s easy to change pace though the day.

If being out of town is the price to pay for a larger site and great facilities, it’s certainly worth it here. 

Tips for getting to Paradise Wildlife Park:

By car

Parking is free and plentiful with overspill car parks in operation on busy days (we parked in one of those, with attendants to show us the way). 

We travelled from North London and it took about 45 minutes each way, making it a comparable journey time to ZSL and much less traffic along the way. 

By train

Trains run to Broxbourne from London’s Liverpool Street and it costs a further £3pp each way to pre-arrange a zoo-organised transfer from Broxbourne Station to the attraction.

MFM Verdict:

This is a fabulous day out with some surprises along the way. Having some of the more unusual animals – like snow leopards – is pretty amazing.

And there are so many extras here, like Dinosaur World – it really is a great day out.

There are so many more attractions it is hard to list them – and I haven’t included all of them here.

Some other highlights, though, include:

  • a climbing wall (which has an additional charge)
  • a huge astroglide slide (if that’s what they’re still called after all this time)
  • On Safari golf (an extra £2 per person)
  • face painting (quite expensive at £5 per face)
  • Paradise Lagoon, which is a big paddling pool with slide

We left the park just before closing time. Everyone was exhausted and I was asked how soon we can go back a couple of dozen times on the way home.

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When we visited

We visited Paradise Wildlife Park on a hot bank holiday weekend in August. Our party consisted of 2 adults, 2 4-year-olds boys, and a very good-natured baby in a pram