What to do at the Weekend: Visit Chester Zoo
As the weather got better in April, we nipped over to Chester Zoo for a fun-filled Saturday looking at the animals – particularly the red pandas which are Tanith’s favourite (if you don’t count actual pandas).
What we did at the weekend:
Location: Chester, Cheshire
Our Rating: 8/10
Our Experience of Chester Zoo
There’s really nothing like a spring day after months of cold, crappy weather in winter in the UK to make you want to get out into the fresh air, and what better place than a zoo to spend a sunny Saturday?
We are both huge animal lovers (as you will quickly realise from 30 seconds of flicking through this website), however this was actually Tanith’s first ever visit to Chester Zoo – Ben’s 1029498th (give or take a few).
“We’re taking Ben back home”
Overall, we had a good time at Chester Zoo and pretty much stayed for the whole day.
Tanith was very proud of her “we’re taking Ben back home” Facebook post when we initially checked in.
We got there just after opening time and were diverted into the overspill parking section, a clear indication that we were in for a busy day.
Chester Zoo does get pretty busy but to be fair, the zoo is spread out over a large enough area that it doesn’t ever feel overly horrendous – maybe just getting back from Disney in Florida helped with our tolerance to crowds though.
No one quite knows busy until they have experienced ‘Disney’ busy.
Book Your Tickets Online
Anyway, we found that if you do a bit of forward planning, you should get to see everything without fighting hordes of people.
To this end, we recommend booking tickets in advance online to avoid the queues at the ticket window, which looked pretty long.
It gets you into the zoo quicker and there is also something delightfully satisfying about skipping past people waiting.
Don’t Follow the Crowd
The elephant enclosure is on your immediate left when entering the zoo – you can usually catch a glimpse of them as you enter so naturally that’s where everyone heads to first.
However, maybe consider going in another direction if you want to get a march on people and get a clear view / some decent snaps of some animals right off the bat.
We did this and returned later in the morning for the elephant talk – they’re Ben’s favourites.
You can actually do an Elephant Experience at Chester Zoo – costing £75.00 per person.
Maybe next time.
Chester Zoo don’t give you a physical map anymore, (I guess in part due to Covid, cost saving, and litter reduction) so make use of their QR codes which link you to park information, including feedings and animal talks.
The animals are always a bit more active when there is a prospect of being fed at the end of it (a bit like Ben).
Great Animal Enclosures at Chester Zoo
One of the great things about Chester Zoo is the visibility of the animals.
The enclosures are clearly well constructed with a nice balance of pleasing the paying public and respecting the animal’s privacy in our opinion (though we’re not zoologists).
As was the case with our visit, most of the animals were out and about, or at least within eye / camera shot.
The enormous Orangutan draped in its curtain-like hair was particularly active, much to the delight of the onlookers and small children.
While at the zoo, you can catch a glimpse of their red pandas who are likely to be hidden in the trees taking a nap (you can’t blame them)!
These ridiculously cute creatures are well worth a visit…they will well and truly melt your heart.
If you would like to read about our red panda experience, take a look at this post.
The Only Downside of our Chester Zoo Visit
At the far end of the park lies the Islands section.
According to the Chester Zoo website, “Islands recreates the amazing tropical environments of South East Asia and after exploring on foot you also have the option to discover Islands from a different perspective on the Lazy River Boat Trip.”
Perhaps the only downside to the day was seeing the Lazy River Boat Trip in a of a state of disrepair and looking a bit sorry for itself. *
A victim, no doubt, of Covid times.
Having said that and all-in-all, there is plenty to see there and generally it’s just a nice place to be!
We’re looking forward to going back again.
*Update – We understand that the Chester Zoo Lazy River Trip is back open now (great news!)
What is the Chester Zoo Lazy River Price?
It’s FREE – and included in your entry fee. So it’s definitely worth a try if you are over towards that way of the park.
How much does Chester Zoo cost?
If we’re being completely honest, it feels on the pricy side.
An adult can expect to pay nearly 30 pounds a ticket (concessions are available), but having said that, we generally look at the conservation efforts that zoos and similar places make and figure it’s for a good cause.
The animals do have to eat and have medical care, after all.
Plus, the huge variety of animals on display and really high-quality enclosures does provide value for money.
Still, at that price point, you’ll want to make a day of it to make it to get your money’s worth.
How long to spend at Chester Zoo
About three to four hours is probably about the average.
Having said that, we got there for opening time at 10am and stayed until about an hour from closing time (6pm on a weekend).
Wear comfortable shoes because there is a lot to see over a big old area – the website says around 120+ acres.
There are restaurants and little snack stalls littered throughout the zoo if you fancy a bite to eat.
We took our own Tesco meal deals in backpacks however to save a bit of money (our mums would be so proud).
What we liked about Chester Zoo
Variety of Animals
Well I’ve been quite a few times over the years, I think my first visit was at around four years old.
But, I always point to the fact that Chester Zoo has a massive range of animals to look at and, I don’t know if it’s something they put in the water over there, but they are usually quite active.
You generally come away with some great shots of the animals for your Instagram or, in this case, blog!
The sloths for example, you know those lazy ass creatures that sleep 15- 18 hours a day, always seem to be up and about when I visit Chester.
They have a cool enclosure with ropes that hang over the general walk-way and gather a big crowd when they are moving around.
It’s a nice place to be
Whether you see anything or not, Chester Zoo is a nice place to spend the day – particularly in the sun.
There’s a great vibe and, although it gets super-busy at times, it generally doesn’t inhibit your day to a major extent.
There are plenty of places to sit if you brought a picnic with you, but please don’t be feeding the pigeons, ducks, and squirrels chips and ice cream when they come begging for food – drives me mad when I see folks doing that.
Obviously for me – as alluded to earlier – the red pandas were the highlight of my day!
Any place where I can see these fluffy, adorable creatures goes to the top of my list. They sit just below giant pandas in the list of my favourite animals and it’s always a treat to see them in person…even thought they’re never particularly active.
Since they are an endangered species, it is great that zoos – such as Chester – are working to conserve and protect them, and I hope we will see them become less and less threatened over the years to come.
After all, it would be devastating if they were no longer around for future generations to witness.
The range of talks available
There are so many ways you can spend your time at Chester Zoo, whether you’re aimlessly meandering around the many paths from animal to animal, or if you strategically plan your route to pack as much in as possible.
There’s no wrong way to experience it, and no matter what route you take, you’ll see some pretty awesome animals.
Every day of the week the zoo hosts a number of talks at various animal enclosures, allowing you to learn more about each fascinating creature.
You find out so much about the animals this way, and it’s nice to get that insider knowledge you wouldn’t ordinarily have access to.
Prior to your visit, you can easily see what talks will be available to you on the zoo’s website – a great way to get ahead of the crowds if organisation is your thing.