During the summer holidays we used our Tesco Clubcard vouchers to visit ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. I remember visiting with my grandparents as a young child but the kids had never been. It’s a long time since we visited a zoo so we were looking forward to it. By sheer coincidence my sister had visited the week before and gave us some handy tips which I’ll pass on to you in this review.
When you arrive at the zoo you have two options for parking. The first one is to park in the free car park opposite the entrance. This has a pedestrian subway to get you across the road safely directly to the entrance of the zoo. The second option is to pay an extra £25 to take your car in to the zoo itself and park in there. You can then return to your car easily or use it to drive from one area to the other if you wish. There is a drive through safari part in the zoo which we didn’t know about until we were walking round, so if you have paid to take your car in you can do the safari bit too.
We chose to park in the free car park . It’s literally across the road so not a huge walk to get to the entrance and the subway has ramps for wheelchairs and buggies.
The queue to get your tickets is straight forward and there were plenty of cashiers to serve customers so the queue moved quickly and easily. We used Tesco Clubcard vouchers to pay for our entry. Once you have your tickets you then walk through the cafe area to get outside into the zoo. We found this quite difficult as there were people at every table and it was very crowded to get through with buggies, etc. It seemed a bit of a strange layout.
We spent the next few hours exploring the zoo and its various ‘themed’ areas. These are Europe, Africa, Base Camp and Hullabazoo. One thing to note is that it’s a huge site so if you have little ones do take a pushchair. We took our YippieYo Crossbuggy which was brilliant. There were also a lot of kids riding scooters which was ideal for older ones to help prevent them getting too tired or fed up. Alternatively there is a free bus service which takes passengers around the site and a train ride too (train tickets cost extra).
Be warned that a lot of the animals like to hide. We had to go back later on to see some of them which meant even more walking. It was worth it though to see the bears playing and the chimpanzees. Personally I love the giraffes and elephants. The tigers had cubs but they were hidden in the undergrowth so we couldn’t really see them. We enjoyed a talk about the squirrel monkeys who were super cute and fun to watch.
The bird show is well worth going to watch. It’s lovely to see the various birds flying and the finale is like something out of the film Rio. We loved it!
There are lots of opportunities to meet the farm animals in the Hullabazoo Farm with goat walk through area and various keeper-led activities. The adventure play park nearby is also huge and really good fun. It has a coffee shop conveniently placed next to it and the indoor soft play centre too which is handy on a wet day. Book your time slot in advance to guarantee entry on busy days).
During our visit there was a special superhero event on for the summer. The kids got to design their own mask and take part in superhero challenges before facing the evil Plastico. All the activities were free of charge and carried the important message of reducing plastics to help wildlife. The kids really enjoyed it.
One thing we really didn’t like about the zoo was the fact there are cars driving round it. This meant we were constantly on edge and couldn’t relax and we felt this was a real shame. It seemed odd to be walking around a zoo with cars going past us. Personally I didn’t feel it was safe with so many young children around.
Overall we are a bit 50/50 about our visit to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. We enjoyed some parts and didn’t enjoy other parts. There were lots of animals to see which was great and plenty for the kids to enjoy. On the downside it was a huge amount of walking which made it a really exhausting day even for us adults. Often it was so busy it was hard to get near anything and with the constant cars moving around as well meant we didn’t feel it was very safe. I guess my advice with this one would be go with older kids rather than little ones. Of course that is only my personal opinion and others may totally disagree.
Address: Whipsnade, Dunstable, LU6 2LF