Bristol Zoo Gardens

One of our favourite places to go as a family is Bristol Zoo Gardens in Clifton. We have had family membership for the last 18 months, so we can pop in whenever we get the chance and don’t need to feel guilty if we only visit for an hour or so in the afternoon.

One day last week the four of us made the visit to the Zoo. The weather was a bit drizzly, but knowing that there are plenty of indoor enclosures we decided to risk it. The Zoo is set just off the Bristol Downs in a residential area, and it is hard to believe that just behind the white entrance building there are hundreds of exciting animals.

Our toddler absolutely loves animals and never seems to tire of seeing the same animals on every visit. However, it is fair to say that every time we visit we see something new; new babies, an animal we’ve never spotted before, or an animal doing something unusual. This visit was no exception as we made our way round the lions, red pandas, bats, tortoises, and lemurs to name just a few.

The Gorilla House is a fairly new addition, and its main attraction is the glass floor that the gorillas walk on above the visitors’ heads. We love watching the gorillas lying or walking above us, and our daughter loves seeing them up close. We are looking forward to catching a glimpse of baby Afia (born in February after a dramatic pregnancy and delivery) when she is fully integrated with the gorilla family. We were surprised to see the gorillas shouting and chasing each other on this visit. There had obviously been a disagreement in the pecking order that needed resolving! Our toddler thought it was great fun to watch but we could see that the zoo keepers were keeping a close eye on the situation.

The Zoo is cleverly designed so that you never need to walk far between animals, but nor does it feel cramped. It’s also perfect for buggies and little legs, as it’s flat with wide pathways. There is a big green space in the centre which is perfect for picnics or for letting children burn off some energy. There are also plenty of benches laid out around the zoo for pit stops, which is ideal with a toddler who demands snacks every 20 minutes. The cafe has a lot of seating inside, and there is a large undercover area with an abundance of picnic benches for those who prefer to bring their own food.

In the summer our daughter loves Splash, the water play area. This area is designed with rock pools, streams and fountains for little ones to cool down or splash in during the warmer months. It also has a small area for picnics, although you could put a rug down if a table wasn’t available. Next to this is the play area, a large area with lovely wooden play equipment. Our only criticism when our daughter was younger was that the play equipment for smaller children seemed much too advanced as she was unable to use it on her own.

We have not experienced this ourselves, but the high ropes course (ZooRopia) is built above the zoo and has a number of features including stepping stones, cargo nets, and a long zip wire at the end. The children (and adults) always seem to be having a good time on this when we look up!

Each time we visit the Zoo we are reminded how lucky we are to live near to such a great attraction. Like our daughter, we have not got tired of visiting and feel that having membership has been worth every penny.

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