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ZSL London Zoo Days Out Review for families

Our rating 
4.1 out of 5 star rating 4.1
User rating
zsl-london-zoo_208242

In a nutshell

The Zoological Society of London has been wowing families for almost 2 centuries. Kids of all ages will love exploring the distinct kingdoms as well as daily talks and the chance to wander through some of the zoo’s enclosures where the animals roam free
Fun for kids
4.5 out of 5 rating 4.5
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
4.0 out of 5 rating 4.0
Pros: Plenty of animals to see, up-close experiences areas with some creatures, lots of picnic spaces, fantastic aquarium.
Cons: Animals may be sleeping or hidden from view in wet weather

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 London Zoo’s website before travelling or booking.

Visited by:

Liz visited on a very hot and sunny Saturday in the school summer holidays with children aged 5 and 7.

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Fellow reviewer and MadeForMums Community Manager Dani visited on a wet and drizzly Sunday in May, with her husband and two daughters, aged 8 and 12.

What age is ZSL London Zoo suitable for:

Best for: Babies and children up to 12 years

Still good fun for: Children age 13+ years

What’s ZSL London Zoo like since Covid-19?

Apart from the odd reminder sign to wear a mask dotted around the zoo, there was hardly any Covid protocols in place. Barely anyone, including staff, were seen with masks on. It felt very much like a pre-covid day trip.

There are still many handwashing stations dotted all over the zoo, but other than that, there were not any limitations in place.

However, there are limitations on the number of tickets sold and prebooked per day online, which is currently set at 6,200 to help control the number of visitors, with no plans to change this in the near future.

How much does it cost in 2022?

Prices really vary according to the date of your visit, so it’s worth working this out beforehand on the ZSL site.

  • Online prices: Off-Peak Adults £30.50. Peak times which are weekends and bank holidays, costs £33 per adult and school holidays costs £35.50. Children 3-15 £19.85, Peak costs £21.45, and school holidays costs £23.10. Under 3s free
  • Concession 65+, student, disabled: Off-Peak £27.45, Peak £29.70, online price £24.30

Are there discounts or cheap tickets available for ZSL London Zoo?

Sporadically! At the time of publication Voucher Cloud had various offers such as discounted child tickets starting at £16.90, but these offers are changing all the time. Worth noting that if you shop at Tesco’s, sometimes you can use Clubcard vouchers towards the cost. ZSL London Zoo is also part of the National Rail 2 for 1 offer so if you travel by train that day you can get 2 adults in for the price of 1, or 1 child free with a paying adult, as well as the Blue Peter Badge promotion where one 1 enters for free with a full paying adult when they present their Blue Peter badge and card at the gate. If you’re looking for staycation options, check Holiday Extras for deals including overnight stays and Zoo tickets.

Is it good value?

It’s in the special treat category but is genuinely a whole day out with so much to see. The aquarium alone is one of the largest in the UK with a huge amount to see and a fraction of the crowds compared to, for example, the Sea Life London Aquarium.

Fellow reviewer Dani and her family would agree with this wholeheartedly. Although this can be a costly day out, you really do feel like you got your money’s worth, and felt really satisfied with the sheer amount of animals available to you.

Any extra charges once I’m there?

Visitors exit through the gift shop as expected, but I was impressed with the range of goods on offer – there were cheap souvenir pens, pencils and toys for only £1 and a good selection of half-price gifts in the sale section. We bought our children a soft toy squirrel monkey and a baby penguin that were reasonably priced at two for £4.

The zoo is well set up for families bringing their own picnics as we did, but you might want to set aside an extra £10 or so to spend on ice creams on a hot day (cones start at £2.50).

How long will we spend at ZSL London Zoo?

We spent the whole day at the zoo, from 10am when it opened until 6pm when it closed, and we still didn’t have time to go around all the exhibits. Both children (and us as parents!) would happily find more to explore on a repeat visit. Fellow reviewer Dani and her family spend a good 5 hours there, and felt they covered everything there was to see.

What does ZSL London Zoo offer for families?

The Zoological Society of London was founded in 1826 so it’s fair to say it’s experienced at catering for visitors. The zoo is one of London’s most popular days out and I think it earns its place as one of the top 10 family attractions. There are so many exhibits to view and creatures to encounter that it would be nigh on impossible to find a visitor – young or old – who’s not thrilled by at least a few of the animals.

If you’re looking to take a great day trip out, but turn it stellar, you might want to consider the Experiences on offer at the Zoo, which include a Komodo Dragon experience, Feed the Gorillas, a stay in the ZSL Lodges, be a Junior Keeper for the day, a Friendly Spider Experience, Giraffe Keeper Experience, Meet the Moneys, Meet the Meerkats, Meet the Penguins and Sensory Sessions too. All of these experiences vary in price and have age restrictions, but if you have an animal loving child, and want to treat them for their birthday, these are really worth investigating.

What shouldn’t be missed?

Highlights for us were:

  • Catherine and Hannah both absolutely loved the enclosures where visitors can get right up to the animals
  • The Butterfly Paradise is filled with an astonishing number of beautiful butterflies and it was magical to watch the children’s faces as some of the biggest butterflies fluttered by and even landed on people’s heads. However fellow reviewer Dani, also advises, not to take kids in here who might be freaked out by the proximity of the butterflies, as we spotted some kids flapping and swatting the butterflies away, and some making a hasty retreat from the enclosure!
  • Matt and Hannah also enjoyed ‘In With The Monkeys’, where a troupe of inquisitive Black-capped Squirrel Monkeys roamed through the trees and scampered right up to us as we walked by
  • Similarly the ‘In With The Lemurs’ enclosure prompted big smiles, especially when we sat quietly for a few minutes to allow the animals to come up close
  • Some of my favourite moments were seeing the biggest creatures, including a very close look at the magnificent Sumatran tigers
  • The graceful giraffes were completely gorgeous too, strolling in and out of their Grade II listed home with its 5-metre tall custom-built doors, designed and built by renowned architect Decimus Burton and used as a giraffe enclosure since 1835
  • Fellow reviewer Dani would suggest trying to catch the gorillas at snack time – it was a real sight to behold seeing the gorillas running from their enclosed den, dashing off to find their hemp sacks and foraging in them for their fruit and veg. There isn’t a set time that this happens, but there are informative talks scheduled every day, which often coincide with animal feeds, so do check the events board when you arrive to find out the latest activities and plan your day.
  • Dani would also suggest taking your time around the Tiny Giants attraction which opened in May 2021 – it was amazing to see so many critters up close!
  • There’s a new attraction, called Monkey Valley which opens this summer. It’s a new home for the black and white colobus monkeys which looks wonderful.

What you need to know before you go:

  • We visited on a very hot July Saturday in the summer holidays but never felt like it was overcrowded or too busy for us to see the animals easily. Our girls were always able to get right up to the glass or fence
  • There are talks and chats throughout the day as well as the chance to watch the animals being fed but we chose to avoid those in favour of a more relaxed visit without the need to watch the clock
  • We walked past a large number of people watching the penguins at their 1.30pm talk but preferred going to Penguin Beach later in the day when the whole area was much quieter
  • It is definitely worth pre-booking tickets to save money – and if you think you are likely to visit at least 3 times in a year then it would be worth buying an annual membership
  • The website is huge and filled with photos which will get your little ones excited about what they’re going to see
  • There’s a good app to help you plan your trip – it’s split into Before and During sections, with information on what’s on, how to get there, and then an interactive zoo map to help you navigate round that day
  • Visitors get a well-designed paper map at the entrance too which was colourfully laid out with words and pictures, allowing younger visitors to point at which creature they want to find

Does ZSL London Zoo run any seasonal/school-holiday activities for children?

Every half term/school holiday is marked by a different on site activity. At Easter ZSL celebrated 40 years of the classic book Dear Zoo with an on site trail and storytime sessions, while for May half-term they’ll be holding their Zoobilee celebration – to mark the Platinum Jubilee. Everything is always updated on the ZSL website, so do check before booking your visit.

Any bits of the zoo that some children might find scary?

I was very proud of the arachnophobes in our family when we went to the B.U.G.S. pavilion – and went in with the spiders! Huge golden orb spiders roam free and we wound our way through the exhibit, past vast metre-wide webs and spiders dangling down. BUGS stands for Biodiversity Underpinning Global Survival and is designed to highlight how vital bugs, insects and mini beasts are to our planet. It’s a good reminder that ZSL undertake a massive amount of scientific research.

Fellow reviewer Dani would highlight that if your kids are afraid of insects, the Tiny Giants attraction might prove a bit much – we loved looking at all the different types of stick insects (we played a great game of stick or stick insect!) and wonderful critters, but appreciate it might be too much for some, even from behind the glass!

Read our MadeForMums family review of sister attraction ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Did ZSL London Zoo cater well for a range of ages?

Yes. It has 18,000 residents – everything from the tiniest ants to the tallest giraffes – and that means there really is something for every member of the family to enjoy. The site is very pushchair friendly for smaller babies with lots of sheltered seating available to feed hungry newborns on the way round. Primary school-aged children will get a good workout dashing between the enclosures.

Teenagers and adults will discover a vast array of facts and figures on everything from animals, conservation, habitat and the history of the zoo, a real A to Z! Information boards are easy to read without being dumbed-down.

However, older visitors like grandparents who struggle to walk long distances, will get tired walking around as the site is enormous.

Was it pushchair friendly?

ZSL London Zoo is very pushchair friendly and I’d recommend bringing one even for older pre-schoolers who will tire by the end of the day. Visitors can also hire pushchairs on a first come first served basis, costing £7 for a single and £10 for a double buggy.

Although parents with younger children may want to lift them up and out of the buggy for a closer look at the animals.

What are the food and drink facilities like at ZSL London Zoo?

The Terrace Restaurant seats up to 800 guests and offers a wide variety of snacks, salads and main meals. We went by at noon and spotted plenty of vacant tables, and there are other food kiosks dotted around the zoo for more takeaway style food. Main meals were between £8-£12 for adults and the kids’ menu was around £6 for a main meal which consists of a sandwich, Pom-Bear crisps, raisins, a jelly pot and a Pip organic juice drink.

Fellow reviewer Dani bought 2 coffees at £6.50 and some cake at £4.50 a slice, so it’s very easy to spend those precious few extra pounds, if you fancy a sweet treat or pick me up.

What about snacks and ice creams?

A can of coke costs £2.60, and there’s a few places to stop and grab an ice cream or an ice lolly on hot days. The ice cream selections change regularly but you’ll usually find Soleros at £2.20, Calippos at £1.90 and Cornettos at £2.50.

ZSL removed all single use plastic water bottles from their shelves in 2016 as part of the campaign to protect our oceans from the terrible impacts of plastic pollution, which is a brilliant move and one they are rightly proud of.

We took our reusable water bottle (and the zoo sells their own too) and there are 3 water refill stations across the site.

Can you take a picnic?

We chose to take a picnic and were impressed at how many benches were available all around the zoo, including many in shaded areas. This was much appreciated on a very hot day, and they’d also provide shelter on a rainy trip.

What are the toilets like?

There are toilet blocks dotted all around the site and plenty of them – we didn’t have to queue for the loo at any point in the day, and even at 6pm there was plenty of paper left. There are baby-changing facilities in all of them and the sinks and soap were low enough that our 5 year old could wash her hands by herself.

Fellow reviewer Dani adds: “We have a child who suffers with bladder and bowl problems, so always need access to loos, quickly. We always managed to find one, and they are generously spread over the zoo, though a little on the grotty portakabin vibe.”

How well does it cater for disabled visitors?

ZSL London Zoo is very wheelchair friendly, especially when you consider that the site is more than 170 years old, and filled with old buildings:

  • There are free wheelchairs available on a first come, first served basis
  • The paths are wide so it’s relatively easy to manoeuvre through busier areas
  • There are accessible toilets throughout, including one with a changing hoist
  • Unfortunately assistance dogs are not allowed inside because some of the animals react negatively, but the zoo is working with Guide Dogs UK in an effort to allow them into some areas of the zoo in the future
  • For more information visit ZSL London Zoo’s accessibility page
  • The Zoo hold BSL days once a month the dates and details on how to book tours are here

Opening dates and times:

ZSL London Zoo opens daily at 10am and shuts at 6pm in the summer months. It closes at 5.30pm in September/October, 5pm in October half term, and 4pm in the winter months.

How to get to ZSL London Zoo:

ZSL London Zoo is set within London’s Regent’s Park, postcode NW1 4RY

  • It’s very well served by buses and London Underground tube trains such as Camden Town and Regents Park
  • Designated visitor parking is close by but I’d recommend leaving the car at home unless you really love driving through Central London traffic and having to pay the Congestion Charge
  • There’s only 1 entrance to the zoo itself on the Outer Circle Road of Regent’s Park so have a good look at a map or you may find yourself with a long walk circumnavigating much of the larger park

Worth a long car journey?

This is definitely worth a long car or train journey. We left our house at 8am to catch the train and returned home at 9pm with 2 sleeping children, worn out with all the fun!

Which hotels or holiday accommodation are near ZSL London Zoo?

The central London location means there are plenty of accommodation options nearby, including:

Nearby attractions for a longer day out:

Madame Tussauds is a 25-minute walk away on the other side of the park, along with the Sherlock Holmes Museum in the next street. The marvellous British Museum is around 30 minutes away on the Tube, while the Science Museum, V&A Museum and Natural History Museum are a 45-minute journey.

MFM verdict:

Our day at the zoo was absolutely awesome – one of our best days out ever! There was so much to see and so many ‘wow’ moments. It may seem a splurge because it’s a lot of money for one day, but it’s excellent value because of the sheer volume of exhibits. If I lived locally I’d definitely look into an annual membership. Fellow reviewer Dani would whole heartedly agree with this. We all left tried, exhausted (we walked A LOT!) but with massive smiles on our faces, and some wonderful moments and memories made.

The staff were amazingly enthusiastic, engaging with the children to spark a passion for our natural world. My eldest was especially keen to see the Reptile House and the Aquarium, and the youngest is super-interested in insects so both were very happy to spot their favourites. We were all thrilled to see the Sumatran tigers up close after so many storybook encounters – The Tiger Who Came to Tea seems a lot more real now!

Visit the ZSL London Zoo website

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