The UK is home to some of the best zoos and wildlife parks in the world, offering amazing opportunities to hang out with hundreds of animals, including rare and exotic species from all over the globe.
The zoo is the perfect way to keep the kids entertained, making it a fantastic day out if you’re looking for things to do on your family holiday. There is so much to see and do on a trip to one of Britain’s wildlife attractions, including zoo keeper talks and exciting animal encounters, meaning you can get even closer to some of your favourites.
We’ve unearthed our top ten zoos in the UK for you to discover on your next break with Parkdean Resorts, all of which are in reach from one or more of our holiday parks.
1. Chester Zoo, Cheshire
Considered to be the most visited and one of the biggest zoos in the UK, a day out at Chester Zoo is well worth the 45 minute drive if you’re staying at Ty Mawr in Wales. Set in 128 acres of gardens with over 35,000 animals to see, your biggest problem will be trying to fit it all in!
From excitable apes to beautiful big cats, and not forgetting an abundance of exotic amphibians and reptiles, there are so many different species of animal to discover. The zoo is also a charity, so you can learn more about wildlife conservation and how the zoo looks after some of the world’s most endangered animals. It truly is an inspirational and exciting day out for the whole family.
2. Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park, Devon
Nestled within sub-tropical gardens and only 40 minutes from Ruda Holiday Park, Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park has lots to offer. Not only can you get up close and personal to some of your favourite animals, but you can travel back in time and see the prehistoric creatures that once roamed the earth – these fascinating animatronic dinosaurs are the closest you’ll get to the real thing and make for an unforgettable experience.
Say hello to cheeky squirrel monkeys and lemurs, roar-some lions, trouble-making meerkats and more. You can get even closer to the action with special animal experiences, such as swimming with sea lions or shadowing a zoo keeper. There are free daily shows and talks too, where you can learn more about the natural world and how the animals are cared for at the zoo.
3. Colchester Zoo, Essex
Within driving distance from all of our holiday parks in Essex, prepare to explore different habitats from all over the world with a trip to Colchester Zoo. Set within picturesque parkland and lakes, the zoo is home to 220 different species and offers a whole array of unique experiences - including becoming a keeper for the day and exclusive feedings with elephants and giraffes. The zoo even provides a ‘Bad Weather’ map, outlining the undercover areas and ensuring you can still enjoy a visit, whatever the weather.
Head over to the Kingdom of the Wild and feel as though you’ve stepped into Africa itself, where you’ll see giraffes, zebras, kudu, white rhinos and ostriches. Or, for penguin lovers, check out Penguin Shores to see your favourites play and swim. Then jump aboard the Lost Madagascar Express Train where a ranger will guide you across several continents towards the end point – an exciting lemur walkthrough exhibit!
4. Knowsley Safari Park, Merseyside
Whether by car or by foot, discover over 500 animals at Knowsley Safari Park, just over an hour’s drive away from our holiday parks in Lancashire. A major highlight of the park is the Safari Drive, where you can view hundreds of wild animals from the comfort of your own car, including the magnificent lions within their enclosure. Next, take a wander around the Foot Safari and you’ll see meerkats, giraffes, sea lions and more. You can even sign up to exciting encounters like Bird of Prey Displays.
You’ll find so much more than animals at Knowsley to keep the kids occupied too. The little ones can enjoy a multitude of rides and a play area – it’s a fun-filled day out guaranteed to put smiles on their faces.
5. Edinburgh Zoo, Scotland
If you’re travelling through Edinburgh on your way to any of our holiday parks in Scotland, why not make a pit stop at Edinburgh Zoo? It’s one of Scotland’s most popular visitor attractions and is easily one of the best zoos in the UK, with over 1,000 brilliant animals to meet. The zoo offers a jam-packed programme of activities and events, from animal encounters to keeper talks, plus it’s one of Europe’s leading centres of conservation.
You won’t want to miss out on seeing the UK’s only giant pandas, and don’t forget to head over to the penguin enclosure, home to over 100 penguins of 3 different species and renowned for the famous Penguin Parade. You can also expect to see Sumatran tigers, koalas, and many different kinds of reptiles, birds and fish along the way.
6. Monkey World, Dorset
Just a short drive from both Warmwell and Sandford Holiday Parks, at Monkey World you'll see all kinds of primates from orangutans to ring-tailed lemurs. The rescue centre was set up in 1987 to provide a home for abused chimpanzees, and later many other kinds of primates. Now open to the public, you can admire these fantastic creatures in a comfortable environment.
If you are interested in learning about the monkeys and the history of the park, you can attend one of the many talks and guided tours which will give you fantastic insight into the work carried out at Monkey World. There are also several events which run throughout the year that the kids will love getting involved in.
7. Howletts Wildlife Park, Kent
Explore 100 acres of close to 400 glorious animals at Howletts Wildlife Park. Just a half hour drive from St. Margaret’s Bay, the park houses the largest herd of African elephants in the UK, plus many other fascinating creatures such as rhinos, gorillas and three species of tiger. Conservation is at the heart of everything the zoo does, meaning many of the animals you’ll see are endangered and rare.
The excitement doesn’t end there – if you’re up for an adventure, make sure to check out the Treetop Challenge, a high ropes course where you can experience fantastic views of the park. Or for young explorers, the Animal Adventure Challenge offers a fun course of slides, monkey bars and a children’s zip wire, guaranteed to tire them out before bedtime!
8. South Lakes Safari Zoo, Cumbria
If you’re staying at one of our holiday parks in the Lake District and are on the hunt for an animal adventure, be sure to make a trip to South Lakes Safari Zoo. Containing over 1,000 of the most endangered animals within natural environments, you can stroll amongst kangaroos, marvel at the white rhinos and watch lively marmots play hide and seek in their holes in the ground. The bird enclosure is also a must-see, where you can revel in the brightly coloured macaws soaring above your head.
If you’d like a closer look, get involved with one of the zoo’s feeding experiences, whether it’s hand feeding big cats or coming face to face with cute red pandas – there’s something for everyone. Or, for a once in a lifetime day out, sign up to a Zookeeper Experience where you can shadow a keeper and spend the day with some of your favourite animals.
9. Folly Farm Adventure Park and Zoo, Wales
Formerly a family-run farm, Folly Farm Adventure Park in Kilgetty provides 120 acres of fun and is a great UK family attraction to visit if you’re on holiday at Pendine Sands. The zoo comprises over 750 animals including the only giraffes in Wales, plus zebras, camels and a wealth of unusual birds and reptiles. Younger children will also love discovering the Jolly Barn, where they’ll encounter all sorts of farm animals and will be begging for cuddles with the rabbits and guinea pigs.
The fun doesn’t end with the animals – you can choose from 17 different rides at the vintage fairground, and not just one, but seven adventure play areas! It’s an unforgettable experience for both adults and kids alike.
10. Pettitts Animal Adventure Park, Norfolk
A family day out like no other with endless attractions on offer, Pettitts Animal Adventure Park is a haven for kids, and if you’re staying at one of our holiday parks in Norfolk, you’ll be in close proximity. The animals consist of both small and furry and large and feathery, with a variety of species ranging from red squirrels to royal pythons. New for 2020, the Meerkat Kingdom is a must-see!
Once you’ve appreciated all of the animals, head to the rides and you’ll find something suitable for all ages - including the Crazy Caterpillar roller coaster and the Mad Hatter’s tea cups. End the day perfectly by letting the kids blow off some steam in one of the three fantastic play areas. You won’t be disappointed!