*Is Lanterns and Light free for Chester Zoo members? Chester Zoo members pay the same price for tickets as everyone else. Organisers say this is because it is a special event outside usual opening hours which raises funds for the zoo and its mission.
*What to do if you are visiting the zoo in the day – you need to go back to the main entrance at 3.30pm when it closes and wait for your ticket time so book as early as you can.
*What happens if the weather is bad? The event will only be cancelled in extreme weather and you will be contacted in advance.
*What to wear? This is all outdoors so make sure to wrap up warm and bring waterproof clothes.
*There are three little rides for younger children including a carousel, which cost £3 each. The virtual reality experience at the end costs £6 each or £10 for two and there are three different options. Ours enjoyed a Christmas experience where they became an elf – the other two are animal-based.
Lanterns and Light map
*You might catch a glimpse of Santa.
Chester Zoo Lanterns and Light information
Dates: It runs on various dates from November 17 to December 31.
Food: There is festive food and drink around the trail to enjoy, mostly within a Christmas Market Foodhall. Stands include pizza, burgers, hot chocolate, popcorn, crumble and giant, stuffed Yorkshire puddings.
Yorkshire pudding menu
You are also allowed to take your own food, just no alcohol.
Opening hours: There are timed tickets every 15 minutes with sessions from 4.15pm to 8pm. The event closes at 9.15pm.
Cost: Prices for Lanterns and Light range from £18 to £22 for adults and £12 to £17 for children, depending on the day. Children under two and carers are free but still need a booked ticket.
Best for: All ages.
Time needed: The trail takes 60 to 90 minutes.
Access and restrictions: The trail is flat but a bit uneven in places, plus it can be hard to see in the dark.
You can hire a mobility scooter or wheelchair by emailing email@example.com or a buggy at rentals when you get there.
For guests who need a quieter environment there are quiet times at 4pm on November 18, 23, 24, 25, 29 and December 6, call 01244 380280.
We take our children on a family day out to Peak Wildlife Park
Peak Wildlife Park
What is it?
A small zoo with exotic and endangered animals from three continents including wallabies, lemurs and penguins.
It specialises in walk-through experiences.
Where is it?
Peak Wildlife Park is in Winkhill, Leek in the Staffordshire Peak District.
What did we think?
We had a lovely time here, it’s a nice size attraction to explore, not too big to tire out little legs.
Being able to walk among some of the animals, without enclosures, is fantastic.
You can walk among the lemurs, who entertained us with their playing and swinging, especially a cute baby lemur.
You’re allowed go gently stroke the wallabies, which resemble small kangaroos.
The penguins can be seen from three different vantage points, including through a window to watch them swim under water. You can also get right up close to them and they may even cross a path in front of you.
There are different play areas including an indoor soft play which is free to use. Outdoors is a bouncy castle, sandpit and more traditional play equipment.
An outdoor play area at Peak Wildlife Park
*Don’t miss any of the site
We thought we had explored everywhere but when we were near the exit, discovered an extra bit with more animals and play areas past the cafe.
You can pre-order food and drink from your smart phone and collect at a time that suits you by following this link.
We hadn’t done this so ordered, in person, a pizza to share and used the 20-minute wait time while it cooked to explore more. Staff give you a buzzer to carry which alerts you to when your food is ready if you don’t go too far out of range.
If you want go get even closer to the animals or it’s a special occasion, you can buy an Animal Experience.
Where did we stay?
We stayed at a beautiful five-star, spa hotel, the Buxton Crescent, read our full review of it next.
Peak Wildlife Park information
*The Courtyard Cafe serves stone baked pizzas, sandwiches, crisps, cakes and ice creams. There are gluten-free and vegan options.
*There are outside picnic areas and a family room you can eat in.
*Another area serves ice cream.
Opening hours: Peak Wildlife Park opens at 10am. It closes at 6pm in the Spring/Summer season and at 5pm in the Autumn/Winter season.
Cost: Adults aged 17 to 64 pay £12.95.
Children aged two to 16 are £10.95. Under-twos are free.
Concessions – senior citizens from aged 65 and students with valid card photo IDs pay £10.95.
Carers are free.
Annual pass: Peak Wildlife Park offers an annual pass which entitles you to visit as many times as you want for a year.
It costs £35.99 for adults (aged 17 to 64), £29.99 for children aged two to 16 and also for concessions (senior citizens from 65 and students with valid ID cards).
Best for: All ages who like animals but especially two to 10-year-olds.
Time needed: Two to four hours.
Access and restrictions: The park is fully accessible and wheelchairs are available to borrow for free. The paths are wide enough for mobility scooters.
There are disabled toilets.
Baby changing facilities: Baby change facilities are in the ladies toilets, disabled toilets and baby change rooms next to the family room.
Are dogs allowed?: No, dogs are not allowed at Peak Wildlife Park. Foxtwood Kennels, situated 10 minutes from the park, is happy to take dogs for the day, you can call them on 01538 266 667 to make a booking.
Address: Peak Wildlife Park, Winkhill, Leek, ST13 7QR.
The wildlife park is two miles south of Burford on the A361 on the southern edge of the Cotswolds, in Oxfordshire.
What did we think?
It is a cross between a traditional zoo and a visit to a National Trust-style stately home and gardens. There are lots of interesting animals for children to see, but adults can also enjoy strolling around the lovely gardens.
Watch our video below before reading our highlights, top tips and essential information!
*There are good views of the animals, even for little ones thanks to cleverly designed fences and slopes.
*You can get face-to-face with the giraffes as there is a high viewing point called the Giraffe Walkway.
*The adventure playground and skymaze is a fantastic play area for children, even those older and more daring.
The adventure playground
*The fabulous gardens – beautiful to walk through on the sunny day we were there.
*The range of animals include red pandas, giraffes, rhinos, penguins, lions, wolves, tropical birds, meercats, zebras, tapirs, camels, otters, lemurs, monkeys, snakes and crocodiles. In case you have an elephant-lover, note that there are no elephants at this zoo.
*There is a farmyard section where you can pet goats in an open field.
Our top tips
*We asked a member of staff for the best route to walk around the park and as we had arrived first thing she recommended we visit the walled garden first of all. See the penguin feeding at 11am and the lemurs feeding at 12pm in the Madagascar area, then head around the park either clockwise or anti-clockwise. That brings you into the grounds in time for a picnic.
A meerkat relaxes
*There is a little train which takes you around the park and which is worth doing to rest tired legs at only £1 per person (under 3s are free). It runs from April to October, weather permitting. There isn’t an organised queuing system though so make sure you don’t miss your turn to get on board. The train ride lasts around 10 minutes and departs from near the walled garden and playground. There is a place to leave pushchairs and wheelchairs next to the platform and there is room for two wheelchairs on the train.
*The lemur collection in the Madagascan Walkthrough, is only open for part of the day so check opening times if you are keen to do this.
*A guide book and map costs £2.50. If you just need a map there are boards around the site. Just snap one on your phone and take it round with you! Or click here for an online map.
*Dogs can be taken here as long as they are kept on a lead. There are some areas with free ranging animals that they aren’t allowed into including the Bat Belfry, Reptile House, Children’s Farmyard.
Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens information
Food: Picnics are allowed and there are plenty of nice spots and benches to eat them.
There is a restaurant – the Oak Tree Restaurant – behind the manor house. And seasonal (only open on busy days) kiosks selling hot drinks, ice creams and snacks.
Opening hours: Daily 10am to 6pm April to October, 10am to 5pm November to March. Last admission two hours before closing time.
Cost: Adults £16.00, children aged three to 16 £10.50, under 3s free. E-tickets booked online in advance are £14.00 and £9.50.
There are no disabled concessions but there is a discount for groups of six or more disabled people and their carers.
Best for: All ages but it is a large site so under 5s might get tired without a buggy.
Time needed: At least three hours, potentially all day if you take your time.
Access and restrictions: This is a flat site with good paths throughout so great for wheelchairs prams and buggies. There are disabled toilets in every toilet block as well as a Changing Places toilet near to the gift shop with a bed, ceiling hoist and shower (ask in the gift shop for the security code to get in).
There are wheelchairs available to hire for free. Mobility scooters can be hired for a charge and must be booked in advance.
Address: Cotswold Wildlife Park, Bradwell Grove, Burford, OX18 4JP
We review Crocodiles of the World in the Cotswolds and give our tips for visiting families
What is it?
This is the UK’s only crocodile zoo with 150 crocodiles and alligators plus other reptiles like Komodo dragons and giant tortoises. It was opened in 2011 by crocodile conservationist Shaun Foggett.
The centre wants visitors to learn about crocodiles and see them closely but safely, to boost awareness and conservation.
Where is it?
Crocodiles of the World is at the bottom of the Cotswolds, a mile off the main A40 to Oxford not far from Burford, in Oxfordshire.
What did we think?
There are lots of types of crocodiles, caimans and alligators – creatures you don’t often see in zoos, so it was great to get up close to some of the bigger ones! It is fairly small, the site is a little ramshackle in places and some parts are very humid to keep the crocodiles feeling at home.
*The zoo is split into four sections, the largest creatures are in the Crocodile House, smaller ones in the main zoo, there are also two outside areas including an education zone housing otters and meerkats.
*There are lots of talks through the day with something every half an hour between 10.30am and 4pm. The Croc Talk we attended was really interesting, relaxed and well delivered. We learnt plenty, including the difference between a crocodile and alligator (crocodiles have their bottom teeth visible when their mouth is closed, alligators don’t).
The croc talk
*The Komodo dragon is an interesting sight and has a reasonable-sized enclosure next to the picnic and play area. A good place to sit, eat and relax outside.
*There is a small playground with modern equipment outside, which is handy as the main zoo and crocodile house are both very hot and humid so the creatures can feel at home. You need a blast of fresh air so the playground is handy. There is a small slide for under 5s and some good monkey bars in a climbing area.
Watch our video below before continuing to our top tips to read before you visit.
Our top tips
*The biggest and most dramatic crocodiles and alligators are in the Crocodile House. It isn’t that well marked and we nearly left without seeing this area altogether!
*It is EXTREMELY hot and humid in the Crocodile House and can be close to unbearable for young children so head straight to the top section with the huge saltwater and Nile crocodiles then work back down. That way you see the best creatures before you get too hot and sweaty. Our son lasted less than a minute before he needed to go outside so missed this part.
This one is not real!
*The talks are good and well-spaced out through the day, try and combine one Croc Talk and a feeding session too to get the most out of your visit. The site isn’t huge so without doing the talks it won’t take long to get around everything.
Crocodiles of the World information
Food: There’s a small cafe – Croc Cafe – which serves hot and cold food, drinks and ice creams. Picnics are allowed with tables outside near the playground.
Opening hours: Open every day, 10am to 5pm.
Cost: Adults £8.95, children aged three to 16 £6.50, under 3s free. Family tickets (2 adults, 2 children) £27.00.
Best for: Children aged four upwards.
Time needed: 90 minutes, a bit longer if you want to hear more talks.
Access and restrictions: The site is flat and wheelchair friendly, especially the main croc house. There are a couple of steps in other sections. There are disabled changing facilities.
Advice and all the information you will need for a family visit to Blackpool Zoo
What is it ?
Blackpool Zoo is a medium-sized zoo which has been open since 1972, with animals to see including elephants, tigers, lions, orangutans and live sea lion shows.
Where is it?
The zoo is set in lovely, green woodland on an old airfield in Blackpool, near the town’s large Stanley Park.
What did we think?
The zoo isn’t too big and the route is flat and well-signposted meaning it is relaxing and simple to get around.
There were really good live shows, a well-done dinosaur safari set around a lake and a large selection of animals.
*As you go in, the Elephant Base Camp and impressive Dinosaur Safari are a great way to start. The elephants have a new indoor enclosure and plenty of outdoor space to enjoy.
*The Dinosaur Safari features replicas of around 20 dinosaurs lurking around a lovely lake. Our children loved this area and we went round it twice.
*The live shows. The Sea Lion Pool and Arena is very well done and we enjoyed a fun 15-minute show with tricks and information about these amazing animals.
*The Bird of Prey Show is also worth seeing in the Display Arena with flying macaws and owls.
*The entertainment at the children’s farm is also good fun for younger ones – they can see and touch donkeys, pigs, sheep and goats.
*At Lemur Wood, you can get close to these lovable creatures in a short walkway. This area isn’t huge but is very cute.
*An unusual species to see, our children loved the Wolf Ridge area with particularly creative signage and information as you walk up a gentle slope to where the wolves have lots of land to roam.
Our top tips
*Bring £2.50 in cash for the car park with you. The machines don’t take cards and you have to go to the reception, get a ticket and go back to your car if you don’t bring the cash with you.
*On busy days, go around in an anti-clockwise direction doing the dinosaur and elephant areas last as these seemed to be the busiest places. Alternatively see these areas first thing in the morning or late afternoon.
*Follow the show and feeding times closely. We found the shows were well spaced out and you had time to get around to all of them if you wanted.
*Get in early for the Sea Lion Show – it was full when we went – plus they shut the doors a few minutes before it starts.
Blackpool Zoo information
Food: The Nawala Street Food area near the Dinosaur Safari was the most interesting food outlet with curries, samosas as well as the usual chips and burgers. There is also the large Lake View Cafe. Alternatively, there are plenty of picnic areas in pleasant surroundings.
Opening hours: From 10am daily except Christmas Day. Closing varies depending on the season from 3.45pm in winter to 5.45pm in summer.
Cost: Family ticket (two adults, two children) £59.99. Adults £18.99, children (from 3-15) £14.50. Discounts available for pre-booking online.
Best for: Ages two to 10
Time needed: three hours.
Access and restrictions: Excellent flat site for wheelchairs and buggies. Wheelchairs available to hire. Entry discounts for disabled children and carers.
Address: East Park Drive, Blackpool, FY3 8PP. Parking on site for £2.50 per day.
Note: We were given complimentary tickets for the purposes of this review. All opinions are our own.
We take our children to explore this big zoo in the south of England
What is it?
Marwell Zoo is a 140-acre zoo with more than 1,200 animals from 135 species. It opened in 1972 and is owned by conservation charity Marwell Wildlife.
Where is it?
It is in Owslebury, just eight miles from Winchester in Hampshire, signposted from the M3 and M27.
It is also 10 miles from Southampton, 16 miles from the New Forest, 19 miles from Portsmouth and 40 miles from Bournemouth.
What did we think?
This is a lovely zoo with great staff interaction and talks. It is really spread out over a large area so if you have young children and are wondering whether to take a buggy or pushchair, don’t hesitate – it is a lot of walking for little legs.
*There is a good view of the animals, including giraffes, penguins, tigers, meerkat, rhinos and snow leopards.
The train at Marwell Zoo
*The train is fun but don’t miss it, there is only one station near the entrance, next to the gift shop. Expect a long wait to get going while they sort out tickets etc as the system isn’t a fast one but feels authentic with a proper ticket inspector.
*There is also a free land train which stops at several points.
*The hippo – you don’t get to see these as often as other animals so it is exciting to see one here.
*Staff are friendly with lots of useful information to impart as you move around the sections.
*My son loved interactive screens in places like the Tropical House.
*There are great adventure play areas for the children – in fact we found it hard to get them away from these to see the animals
A play area at Marwell Zoo
*As it is spacious, a busy August day when we visited didn’t feel too crowded.
* Most of the animals seem to be in nice big enclosures.
Our top tips
*Buy tickets online to save time
*The land train is free and stops at different destinations to give tired legs a rest. The little rail train only stops at one station near the entrance. It is £2.50 for a 15-minute ride and fun.
*Take a picnic if you can. There are loads of picnic areas but the queue at the cafe we visited was long.
*The information cabin has all the times for the animal talks.
Marwell Zoo information
Food: There are cafes, kiosks and picnic areas.
Opening hours: Open daily from 10am apart from Christmas day and Boxing day.
Cost: Children aged two and under are free. Peak times including a donation – child £17, adults £21, family £72. Includes optional donation.
Best for: All ages.
Time needed: At least four or five hours, preferably a whole day or until children get too tired.
Access and restrictions: Accessibility good. One free carer admitted with each guest with accessibility needs. Some free wheelchairs available to hire.
Read our review of Holgates Silverdale Caravan Park on the Cumbria/Lancashire border
A long black tongue curls around a handful of leaves my son is holding out at arm’s length and his face lights up with excitement.
Feeding a giraffe wasn’t something we expected to be doing on our holiday to Silverdale.
But from meeting these gentle giants, to bird spotting and watching a Chilean rodent settle in my son’s hood, our week on the Cumbria/Lancashire border brought us closer to nature.
And nature was certainly close by at our base for the week – Holgates Silverdale Caravan Park – an immaculate site overlooking Morecambe Bay.
Expectations were high as it is multi-award winning – and it didn’t disappoint.
Located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the only sounds from the decking outside our holiday home were birdsong.
The static caravan soon felt like a home from home. It was modern with a sea view and included everything we could need.
Our two children loved the outdoor play areas and the woodland walks from directly outside our plot. Facilities include a leisure centre with pool, gym, games room, soft play area and a bar and restaurant.
The swimming pool
Many of the holiday homes are privately owned but there are others to rent as well as space for touring caravans and tents. Or if you like camping but crave a bit more comfort, you can even hire a camping pod with lighting, heating, a plug socket and a sofa bed.
There is plenty to do in the surrounding area and we packed as much in as possible.
Our animal interaction began at the nearby Greenlands Farm Village where Josh enjoyed feeding lambs, stroking puppies and riding a donkey.
He held a rat-like creature called a degu and was unfazed when it ran up his arm and sat on his neck before getting comfy in his coat hood.
A friendly degu
There’s plenty to do here even when it rains as this former dairy farm also has a playbarn, go karts, shops, a cafe and a garden centre.
Next stop was Leighton Moss nature reserve, run by the RSPB, where the enthusiasm of the staff is infectious.
Our two took part in their monthly Nature Tots session for young children, which was a great way to start exploring.
They were lent a fabulous child’s backpack with binoculars, magnifying glass and other useful bits to properly look around this site, where our discoveries included some baby wrens.
Further afield was South Lakes Safari Zoo where you can wander amongst kangaroos, monkeys and emus and get closer than usual to other animals like bears, hippos and wolves.
Feeding the giraffes
Our children gave food to birds and lemurs and – in case you were wondering how a small child goes about feeding the world’s tallest land animal – stood on a high platform to feed the giraffes.
So our holiday certainly brought us closer to nature, which we expected, and closer to a giraffe’s tongue, which we didn’t.
For more ideas, see Cumbria’s official tourist board website.