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If you’re thinking of what to do with your toddler (or children or indeed adults) this weekend and half term in Greater Manchester, then you can’t go wrong with a visit to Chester Zoo.

We went last weekend and had a blast. Embarrassingly, after 6 years up north, it was our first time to the zoo and I wasn’t sure whether at 14 months, Flo would take it all in. But she LOVED it. 

We got there for opening time so we could make the most of the day (and the dry weather forecast) and as soon as we were through the gates, armed with a map of the zoo, we marched off on our merry way. Following a quick coffee and bag of hot sugary donuts (literally couldn’t walk past the smell of them cooking away and were the first order of the day!), we opted to see the elephants first (my personal favourites) and were delighted when the whole family were out having their breakfast and a bit of a play.

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Flo couldn’t believe her eyes (I’d love to know what goes through a toddler’s mind when they see things like this for the first time) and we were all beaming with delight like little children. I can’t say enough how Chester Zoo is just as much fun for adults as it is for the kids!

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We worked our way around the park on foot (they do have a monorail too, to save your legs) and before we knew it, we were half way round and it was lunch time.

Now there’s plenty of picnic areas along the way, if you bring a packed lunch and there’s lots of snack bars and places to eat. We ended up at the pub (obvs), which wasn’t actually open, but instead they were doing BBQ hot dogs and burgers (and they sold bottled beer and wine) so can’t complain. It was just about warm enough to sit outside in the Roman Gardens and tuck into our lunch. The much needed fuel gave us the energy to carry on and finish the rest of the zoo.

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Chester Zoo has 4 zones (coloured on the map) and you can definitely see it all in one day if you pace yourself. We managed to see the majority of the animals but skipped a few bits as the little one was getting a bit tired.

I think we did the right thing going early, as when we arrived, all the animals seemed to be wide awake and playing and out for us all to see. But after lunch, they all seemed to be napping bless them (don’t blame them, after a glass of wine at lunch, I needed a nap too!). So I’d say head straight for the animals you definitely want to see (which for us was the elephants, lions and orangutans) to avoid disappointment.

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Five and a half hours later, we were all knackered and decided to make our way home – what a day!

I’m not exaggerating to say we were all smiling like Cheshire Cats (how very apt) all day long.

Key tips for taking your toddler

If you’re thinking of going along to Chester Zoo with your family, then I’d recommend the following:

  • Book online, as it’s always cheaper than on the door
  • If there’s 3 or more of you, it’s probably cheaper to book a Family Ticket (but if you do it online, they’ll work all this out for you)
  • Under 2s go free (perfect for babies and toddlers)
  • Take some snacks and drinks for your little ones (to keep them fuelled-up on the walk round)
  • If your little ones aren’t quite up for walking long distances yet, then definitely take the buggy or hire one of theirs (you can even book double ones)

So there you have it – what a day out for the whole family. I know we’ll be going back lots as it’s so much fun and it’ll always entertain the little ones. Plus with ample parking and less than an hour’s drive from Manchester, it’s the perfect destination.

Have you been to Chester Zoo before? What’s your favourite animal there?