Monkeys, giraffes, hippos, camels, penguins, giant fish and every jungle cat you could dream of – family days out don’t get much better than London Zoo.
We’ve been looking for an excuse to visit London Zoo for years, and with our little boy being such an animal lover we finally found one. Sonny almost has a heart attack with excitement every time a blue tit lands on the bird feeders in our garden, so how would he handle coming face-to-face with the most exotic and awesome animals from all over the world?
There was only one way to find out…
The dreaded train journey to London
Since Sonny started crawling at nine months old, getting him to sit still has been one of life’s great challenges. It only takes us one hour to travel to London by train, but getting the little devil to stay in his seat on a crowded Saturday morning train proved every bit as tricky as we expected. Sonny has an attention span of around 30 seconds, so we had a constant stream of books, toys, snacks, and games of eye-spy to keep him entertained. Luckily for us our train came into Kings Cross, which is only a 30-minute walk from London Zoo through Camden, so there was no need for a terrifying toddler tube journey.
Meeting the London Zoo residents
It’ll probably come as no big shock that our 18-month-old boy was blown away by the animals he came face-to-face with. He was definitely interested in the big-ticket attractions like lions, gorillas, hippos and giraffes, but the fact they were shut away in large compounds meant he couldn’t quite grasp what they were. Contrast that with the giant tropical fish in the aquarium, the camel that stuck its face so close we could almost pet it, the monkeys that swung around our heads in ‘Meet the Monkeys’ zone, and the cheeky penguins who swam right up to us at Penguin Beach, and we had clear winners. Sonny charged around the zoo, pointing at every paddock, cage or tank shouting “More! More! Mooooorrrrrre!” with a deranged look of happiness and desperation on his face. Success!
Surviving the toddler meltdown
We left the house at 9am and got home at 8pm, and it’s fair to say we had a few testing moments along the way. I’d say Sonny loved around 75% of the day, and was on the edge for the other 25%. He’s in a pretty fixed routine at home with meal and nap times, so days like this are always a bit of a shock to the system. But for the most part he was so excited he didn’t seem to notice. We fended off a few tantrums with snacks, drinks, dummies and the occasional monkey, and overall it was pretty successful.
Breaking up the day
There was no way we were going to get away with just walking and staring at animals all day, so we tried to mix things up as often as possible. Luckily for us London Zoo did a lot of that hard work for us with its mixture of shops, cafes, adventure playgrounds and fairground rides. Sonny rode his first ever carousel (on a lion, naturally), chased kids through tunnels, petted goats, climbed on giant model lions, ate ice creams, gazed in amazement at the parakeets gliding between the trees above, and generally had the time of his life.
Already planning our next London Zoo visit
This sounds like a cheesy line, but I didn’t realise how much I loved places like London Zoo until I went there with my own kid. I remember being blown away by places like this when I was younger, but seeing the amazement and excitement on Sonny’s face was a really incredible feeling. I realise he probably won’t remember his trip to the zoo when he’s older, but the fact he’s been there to experience those amazing sights, smells and sounds can only be a good thing – even at his young age. We’ll be back to London Zoo, and probably Whipsnade, Colchester and Chester too. And that’s before we even get started on the UK safari parks. Lots of good times ahead!
Tip: We paid for our entire trip with Tesco Clubcard vouchers. If you use Clubcard Vouchers on days out or meals instead of spending them in store they’re worth 4x their original value. We got free entry to the zoo and a three-course meal at Prezzo on the way back to Kings Cross – and it didn’t cost us a penny!