Knowsley Safari Park in Merseyside has been entertaining and educating children since it opened in 1971
What is it?
Knowsley Safari Park has the longest animal safari drive in the country. Visitors drive five miles through animal enclosures which house over 750 animals.
There’s also a walk-around zoo, animal shows and talks, a bird of prey centre and a small fairground.
Where is it?
It is in Knowsley, just off the M62 motorway on the outskirts of Liverpool in Merseyside.
What did we think?
We thought there was a great mix of activities here and different elements to enjoy, making a busy day out for children and families. We stayed five hours and could easily have filled the whole day.
*The safari drive – we saw camels, lions, deers, baboons and more in the various zones and the animals have more space to roam than traditional zoo enclosures. When we went it was raining, so we perhaps saw fewer animals than usual and no monkeys jumped on our car – to my disappointment and my husband’s relief! There are two lanes so you can overtake or pause to look as you please.
*Timetabled animal talks during weekends and school holidays with the giraffes, meerkats, bushdogs, tigers and wolves. Check the timetable at the start of the day so you don’t miss any you want to see (they don’t give you a timetable with your ticket and map at the entrance).
*Timed flying displays at the bird of prey centre and fabulous sea lion shows in a large arena.
*The Amur Tiger Trail – a spacious new area with great tiger viewing opportunities.
Tiger viewing area
*Our children loved the training camp section, where you could pit yourself against the jumping and running abilities of a tiger.
*The wolf patrol – a nice little walk next to the lake, with information on how to track wolves.
Our top tips
Safari top tips
*You will obviously need your own vehicle for the safari drive unless you book a place on the baboon bus. This is a 16 or 33-seat minibus which you catch at the information centre at weekends or in the school holidays. This is great for anyone who doesn’t want to drive or arrives by public transport plus those who don’t want to risk their car being damaged.
*You can’t get out of the car during the safari drive-through, so make sure nobody needs the toilet or feels sick! There are toilets you can park at before or after you come out. There are two lanes going round so you can exit more quickly if you do need to leave and you can return as often as you like within your visit.
*If it’s raining, you will obviously stay dry on the drive-through however visibility won’t be as good for little ones in the back as you can’t clear the windows. Plus, some of the animals may be sheltering.
*The right-hand/driver’s side of our car seemed to have the best viewing on our trip, to our daughter’s disappointment on the left.
*The safari park takes no responsibility for damage caused by animals – if you don’t want to risk it, use the car-friendly route which avoids the baboons or book the baboon bus.
*Soft top cars/vehicles are not allowed through the lion or baboon areas.
*Don’t feed the animals! Staff are all around the route and are very vigilant about this.
*There is a number you can call if you break down – or you can just blow your horn.
*You can drive around as many times as you like.
Tips for the rest of the park
*Prams and buggies are not allowed in some areas including the bird of prey centre, the bat cave and the sea lion auditorium.
*Fair rides cost extra – you need to buy a £10 wristband or individual tickets for £2 each, from a kiosk. Rides are aimed at younger children and there are some height restrictions. Adults are allowed to ride for free with smaller children on most rides.
*There is a little train which costs an extra £2 per person. It doesn’t take you any where, it finishes where it starts.
*There are baby changing facilities and staff can warm bottles or baby food for families in the cafe.
*Don’t be put off by the long queue to see the sea lion show – there is loads of room to sit inside.
Sea lion show
Knowsley Safari Park information
Food: Picnics are welcome and there are lots of tables and benches dotted around. At the park is a restaurant, an outdoor grill over the summer, an ice cream parlour and a coffee house which serves cakes.
Opening hours: 10am to 5pm. Last entry to safari drive at 4pm.
Cost (on the gate – 10 per cent off online) adults £17.50, children three and over (and 60+): £13.50, children under three: free. Family of two adults and two children: £59, family of two adults and three children: £72.50. Membership deals are available.
Best for: Ages three to eight.
Time needed: Four to six hours
Access and restrictions: The walk around area is on one level with ramped kerb-access.
There are adult changing rooms with hoist facilities.
All viewing areas are accessible by wheelchairs and pushchairs, except the giraffe platform.
There is a separate carriage for wheelchair users on the train. The Baboon Bus can be converted for one wheelchair, if given 48 hours’ notice.
Address: For sat navs, use postcode L344AN.
Have you been? Let us know what you liked best. If you are planning to visit, feel free to ask us any questions below.
Is Mattel Play! in Liverpool as perfect for young children as it sounds – we review it.
What is it?
An indoor children’s adventure play centre split into three themed areas, Thomas & Friends, Bob the Builder and Fireman Sam.
Where is it?
It is located at the iconic Albert Dock in Liverpool near to where This Morning used to be filmed.
What did we think?
It was done very well, it is not huge but all of a high standard and staff work hard to keep it tidy and clean and fresh so that nobody finds a section in a mess. Fans of Fireman Sam, Bob the Builder or Thomas the Tank Engine will be thrilled to visit. Our two children love Fireman Sam so this final section was their favourite.
Thomas & Friends
Start at Knapford Station and meet characters including Thomas, Rosie and Percy. My children’s favourite was Harold the Helicopter’s ball pool, where they could climb aboard Harold on a sea of balls. And my daughter enjoyed a ride on a miniature locomotive.
Harold the Helicopter’s ball pool
Bob the Builder
The children donned safety gear from Bob’s mobile office, before getting to work in this section of Mattel Play! The four of us spent quite a lot of time building a wall of bricks. There is also a creative part where you can do light box sketching.
Scoop the digger
This is the smallest section but has lots to entertain children who like Fireman Sam. They can climb aboard Jupiter, go to sea on Titan and Juno and put out pretend fires. There is even a Dilys’ grocery store.
Part of the Fireman Sam area
There are regular appearances by Bob the Builder, Fireman Sam and on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the Fat Controller.
Meeting Fireman Sam
Interactive photo experience
Next to the shop is a camera with a screen that you can operate. You pose for a photograph and are then shown pictures of yourself amid four different backdrops related to the characters at Mattel Play! You can buy the pictures if you like them. There was no queue when we were there so my daughter, who loved this, posed a few times to see the results!
Some seven-year-olds might be too old for this, but ours still likes Fireman Sam so got quite a lot out of it. And our four-year-old daughter loved it, especially meeting the characters.
Our top tips
*Those who like it quieter should visit at 9.20am when it opens.
*Book in advance to guarantee entry.
*It normally operates timed entry slots.
*It is an autism-friendly venue and offers special autism sessions on the last Wednesday of each month between 4.30pm and 6.30pm.
Mattel Play! information
Food: There is a cafe, picnics are not allowed.
Opening hours: 9.20am until the last pre-booked admission, which varies each day.
Cost: £12 per child (aged one to 12), £3 per accompanying adult. Babies (0-12 months) £6 when accompanied by a paying adult and free when with a paying child and paying adult.
Best for: Younger children, aged two to six.
Time needed: Two hours
Access and restrictions: There is full access for disabled visitors.
Address: If you’re using sat nav, use the postcode L3 4AA. It has not got its own car park, use one of the nearby car parks.
Read our family review of Imagine That! for children in Liverpool
What is it?
Imagine That! is an indoor, imaginative children’s play centre in Liverpool. It opened at the start of 2017. It was previously known as Underwater Street and was based in the city centre.
Where is it?
It is in Wavertree and is easily accessible from the end of the M62.
What did we think?
Imagine That! is nondescript from the outside, in adjoining, low industrial units with minimal signing.
Part of the exterior
Step inside and your senses are assaulted by sights and sounds.
It’s fun, it sparks children’s imaginations and it is educational. It also feels very safe, with lots of staff about.
Reading the news
This role play area includes a pizza restaurant, veterinary centre, hair salon, supermarket, car wash and American diner. Children can pretend to read the news on TV and practise crossing the road with a pedestrian crossing (the constant beeping of this must surely drive staff mad)!
There are plenty of dressing up clothes and a small stage, plus buttons to press for sound effects and stage lighting.
In charge of the stage sounds and lights
Entertaining for younger children with mini cranes and soft bricks, plus a popular pulley system.
Lots of space for children to get arty, you can even paint a car – thankfully aprons are provided!
Our two children enjoyed an alarm tunnel where you had to jump and crawl to avoid setting off an alarm. And you can envelope yourself in a giant bubble using soap and a rope. There is also a water play area to have a splash about.
Big bubble fun
It’s a learning environment, especially a section about electricity where you have to pedal a static bike to make power.
The overwhelming favourite activity for our youngsters involved putting silk scarves in an wind-filled hole, which then raced around see-through tubes, before being ejected at the end, floating down to be caught.
Workshops and shows
Science and design shows and workshops run throughout the day. We enjoyed a bubble show which ended with a bottle filled with water, lemon and baking powder shooting water over the ceiling and a slime making lesson.
A lovely, different place to take younger children, to spark their imaginations.
Our top tips
*As this is indoors, it is much quieter when the weather is good.
*Go straight to the shows and workshops you are interested in when they are announced, it is a fairly small venue so you can easily go back where you were to carry on exploring afterwards.
*It caters for school trips and birthday parties.
Imagine That! information
Food: Picnics are not allowed. There are two cafes, one with sandwiches and hot meals, the other specialising in cakes, ice creams, sundaes, waffles and crepes.
Opening hours: Open 10am to 4pm Tuesday to Friday and 10am to 5pm weekends and bank holidays. Closed Mondays except in school holidays and bank holidays.
Cost: Peak prices (weekends and bank holidays), children aged 2+ £13.95, children aged one £8.95, babies free with a paying sibling. One free adult per paying child, additional adults £5.95. Family of four would be £27.90. Off-peak (Tuesday to Friday in term time) prices are cheaper.
Best for: Ages two to seven
Time needed: At least two or three hours
Access and restrictions: This all-inclusive attraction has something for everybody regardless of ability and says individuals with a wide range of special needs are regular visitors.
Address: 26-32 Faraday Road, Wavertree Technology Park, Liverpool , L13 1EH. Parking is free.
Have you been? What did you think? Tell us below!