Established over 100 years ago, Bristol Zoo Gardens is one of the top attractions in Bristol and the South West.
It is a city zoo – only 12 acres, so it’s not the biggest zoo in the world, but it manages to pack an incredible amount into a small space – a bit like a tardis! There are so many things to see and do, and it makes a great day out for kids of all ages, from grandad to the youngest!
The animals are of course the main attraction, with the largest amongst them being the lions and the gorillas. The Zoo made the decision to remove their giraffes and not to replace the elephants because of the space available, but there is always something new to see or do, and a big project is undertaken every year – this year the gorilla house is being imaginatively extended to be able to take in more gorillas. The idea is to learn about conservation, animals in the wild, and endangered species by enjoying a fun day out in Bristol. There is just the right amount of education included around the zoo for visitors, too.
The Zoo holds lots of extra events especially in the summer, both in the day and in the evening, including multi-cultural events, Victorian carol singing evenings, family fireworks, Shakespeare plays, fright nights, and films, and hosts corporate and educational events.
It is a safe and family friendly place with lots of extras to keep all age groups entertained, from the treetop walk to the beautiful award-winning gardens. Plenty of play areas, shows, animal encounters, the activity centre, all combine to make a great day out, and whatever the weather you will find something to fascinate you.
All this and more can be found on the website, which includes games to play, a webcam to watch the gorillas, and more information about Bristol Zoo Gardens, and it is possible to spend happy hours just looking at the website!
Over 400 species of animals are packed into this small space, with nine houses being under cover, including such diverse places as the Butterfly House and the Seal and Penguin Coast. You can get close up to the lemurs in their walk-through enclosure, or feed the lorikeets with small pots of nectar. Then just sit and watch the gorillas on their island while they play contentedly, peer at the sloths in the Twilight World, or look for the puffer fish in the Aquarium. Finish your day with the meerkats, flamingoes or lions – everyone has their own favourite animal.
The gardens at the zoo constantly win awards – a gold medal at Hampton Court Flower Show in 2012 – and the zoo includes both formal beds and informal rock gardens, mazes and lakes. There are unusual trees and plants from around the world, some endangered, but all of them contributing to beautiful and stunning displays. Set amongst the gardens is the Bristol Walk of Fame, a series of plaques which honour famous icons of Bristol. These include Marcus Trescothick, Wallace and Gromit, Cary Grant, and Tony Robinson – there are over 40 of them at the moment.
Children are specially catered for in the children’s play area, where they can have fun in safety, or get wet in the Splash! area. There is a large central lawn ideal for picnics, or why not experience one of the many food and snack outlets, ranging from takeaway pizza to restaurant meals. The fantastic ZooRopia, for all ages and abilities, is an assault course that you climb around and get an aerial view of the animals. At the end there is a zip wire – who wouldn’t want to do that? Or try the many challenges of the Zoolympics throughout the Zoo and compare yourself to the animals.
The Activity Centre, staffed by volunteers, offers activities aimed mainly at children for a small extra charge. Here you can find face painting, brass rubbing, colouring, badge making, temporary tattoos, also a touch table where you can learn about conservation and find out what certain skins and shells actually feel and look like up close.
At least four times a day, staff and volunteers give talks to the visitors, allowing them to meet some of the smaller animals close up. Did you think you would never ‘shake hands’ with a tarantula? You may surprise yourself! There is also a fantastic Animal show in the outdoors Terrace Theatre once a day, where you can see animals demonstrating amazing natural behaviour. They could include Colin the red ruffed lemur, Archie the armadillo, or Rio, a beautiful macaw.
An ideal destination for a school trip, the Zoo offers sessions and guided trails for all standards, and can tailor them to your needs. They also offer phobia courses, and if you can’t get to the zoo, they will bring animals to your venue with their “Zoo to You” outreach service, whether is for a school fete or nursery class.