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your next day out | Bristol zoo at half term

We went to Bristol Zoo Gardens today (that’s the posh name for Bristol Zoo). This was my first time as a school holiday parent, I’ve been loads of times as a pre-school parent. Completely. Different. Ballgame.

So, like me, you might be wondering, if you don’t have to go at Half Term, why should you? Here’s a few reasons why this week is a great time to go.


For a start, the Zoo has a very gentle Halloween thing going on. There’s Kuki’s haunted trail which is a kind of Mexican day of the dead skull hunt around the site, which our kids loved. There’s also spooky story time, face painting and some excellent skull crafts. Halloween at the zoo is just 21-29th October, so this week is a must.

£5 child entry

It’s only a fiver per kid over 2 this week. It’s usually £11. That’s a pretty ideal saving if you’re going with a fair few kids, which we were. Day trips really mount up, and one thing I love about going to the zoo (any zoo) is that there is EVERY sort of family there having fun. We consider Bristol to be a diverse place, but often, our attractions attract a very similar looking kind of family. Not so Bristol Zoo, and that makes me happy. It’s a treat for everyone.

Bristol Rocks

With a membership now of 20,000 Bristolians, all making and hunting for rocks, you’ve got to assume the zoo would be a cool place to seek out some decent rocks. We added our own, and as I write, we’re all wondering if somebody has found it. Just in case, here’s a picture.

Autumn picnicking

There’s a pretty smart new restaurant at Bristol Zoo, which was busy. But, at this time of year, what’s cooler than sitting outside with the kids, sharing some fresh air and some excellent treat foods? We went with quite a normal picnic, including our family favourite, Kit-Kats. My top tip would be take a blanket, and also, go deep into the zoo for some great undercover picnic areas with brilliant views of the wonderful animal residents.

If you need to warm up baby food, as I did, you need to go into the main restaurant and find the microwave on the bar. It would be great if that microwave was on the counter at the coffee kiosk outside the adventure playground, though. That kiosk also has make-your-own lunch boxes too, by the way, if you don’t want to go to the restaurant, which is table service.

The playground

I can totally see why you’d join the zoo as a member. The playground alone is worth the membership, as are the gardens. There’s this amazing aerial playground walk, with safety lines, that you can do over a certain height (average five year old and above).

The playground has something for every active kid and was a hive of activity.

The creatures, obviously

Now, this is pretty controversial, but my experience of zoos with my eldest who is 4.5 is that the wonderful animals are never as much of a thrill for them as they are for you. Earlier this summer, she was vibrating with excitement over a thistle, whilst five giraffes munched overhead.

There were bits she adored. The seals, the insects, the lions. There were bits her cousins loved, like the bats, and the penguins.

We, the adults, loved it all.

I’d like to give a special mention to Jess, the zoo staff member doing the shark talk in the aquarium. Her delivery and friendliness was perfect. Also, her colleague sitting nearby with the sensory table of aquatic stuff. I held a Narwahl horn for God’s sake! How cool is that!

Top tips

  • We arrived at 10.15 and took one of the last spaces in the car park. So I’d say you need to get there pretty early to be sure
  • Go anti-clockwise – turn left to the lions and you’re on the same track as everyone else. Turn right past the flamingos and go to the butterflies and through the gardens first. Quieter and you’ll see something different
  • Do watch the outdoor animal shows, we did, and we loved it
  • Take more water than you think you’ll need, otherwise you’ll be buying it from machines
  • Go up to the Zoo for your stocking fillers without the kids – they’ve got some brilliant stuff in the gift shop!

Thanks to Bristol Zoo Gardens for having us for the day, it was a great place to hang out with our wider family, and spend time with each other and some amazing creatures.

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