Grandparents' guide to Chester Zoo
11th July 2022
Chester Zoo is the most popular zoo in the UK, receiving more visitors a year than any other. Not only is it a favourite here in the UK but it is also one of the most visited zoos in all of Europe. As one of the UK’s very best attractions, Chester Zoo makes for a perfect day out, and it’s a particularly great choice for grandparents and their grandkids. If you are looking to make plans with your grandchildren, this guide acts as an introduction to Chester Zoo, informing you about all you need to know when bringing the grandchildren for a visit.
Here you will discover useful information such as where to get tickets, opening times, how to travel, what to bring, and what animals can be seen. Stairlift users and those with limited mobility can also learn how accessible Chester Zoo is. So, click the links below to find the information you need and get planning for a wonderful day out at Chester Zoo.
- How to get to Chester Zoo
- Opening times at Chester Zoo
- Where to get Chester Zoo tickets
- What to bring to Chester Zoo
- How accessible is Chester Zoo?
- What is there to see and do at Chester Zoo?
- Food and drink at Chester Zoo
How to get to Chester Zoo
Chester Zoo is located in Upton-by-Chester, Cheshire, England, not far from the M56 or Chester city centre. The main entrance to Chester Zoo is just off the A41/Moston Road. The postcode for Chester Zoo is CH2 1EU.
Travelling to Chester Zoo by car
In order to get to Chester Zoo by car, take the A41 and follow signs when you approach Chester. Look out for a roundabout with a large wooden ark on it and then simply follow the signs until you reach the zoo entrance.
Chester Zoo is just over a 10 minute drive from Chester city centre, 38 minutes from Liverpool, and just over an hour from Manchester.
There is also free parking on-site at Chester Zoo for a stress-free experience.
Travelling to Chester Zoo by train
If you fancy travelling by train for your visit to Chester Zoo, it’s easily done. The zoo is just a couple of miles from both Chester railway station and Bache train station. Depending on which station you arrive at, you can get to Chester Zoo by bus in around 15 to 35 minutes, leaving at regular intervals.
Further travel advice and directions can be found here.
READ MORE: Top Tips for Car Trips with Grandchildren
Opening times at Chester Zoo
Chester Zoo opens daily from 10 am and usually closes at 5 pm so there’s plenty of time to spend exploring and seeing all of the animals.
Opening times may vary at different points throughout the year due to special events. This isn’t always a bad thing, however, as sometimes the zoo doesn’t close until 6 pm. Just make sure to check the Chester Zoo website for the most up to date information.
Where to get Chester Zoo tickets
You can get your tickets for Chester Zoo very easily by visiting the zoo’s website. Just head to the zoo admission page, select which date you would like to visit, and then select how many people will be going.
There are cheaper prices for children, and free tickets for those two and under, so make sure to choose these options for your grandchildren.
Once you are ready, add the tickets to your basket and continue to the checkout. If you are travelling with young grandchildren, there’s even an option of adding single or double buggy hire to your purchase once you have added your tickets to your basket.
How much are Chester Zoo tickets?
At the time of publishing this article, ticket prices for Chester Zoo are as follows:
- Adults: £29.08
- Children: £22.72
- Students: £27.27
- 2 and under: Free
- Carers: Free
If you live close to Chester Zoo and think you might like to take the grandkids numerous times throughout the year, you can also purchase a zoo membership from the Chester Zoo website. There are memberships available for both adults and children.
What to bring to Chester Zoo
Like any attraction in the UK, there are certain items you should pack for a visit to Chester Zoo and this section takes you through some essential things to pack.
Chester Zoo is an outdoor attraction and what you wear or pack can be dependent on the weather. Warm layers, waterproof clothing and sun cream are all must-pack items no matter what time of the year you visit. You should also wear clothes that are cosy and ensure the shoes you have on are comfortable to walk in.
If you are visiting in the winter or autumn months then items like a small umbrella are worth packing, while in the summer and spring when the temperatures can get hot you should consider wearing shorts and bringing a cap.
Packing list for Chester Zoo
- Warm layers like jumpers and fleeces
- Waterproof clothing
- Sun cream
- Comfortable shoes
- Small umbrella
- Sun cap
- Reusable water bottle
How accessible is Chester Zoo?
For grandparents who have considerations when it comes to their mobility or the mobility of their grandchildren, they will be pleased to know that Chester Zoo is a very accessible attraction. In fact, a study has found that Chester Zoo is one of the most accessible attractions in the UK.
There is free disabled parking on-site at Chester Zoo’s main entrance and there are accessible pathways throughout the zoo to help those with limited mobility enjoy the attraction.
If it is of help to you during your visit, Chester Zoo offers free wheelchair and scooter hire with a £25 refundable deposit and there are accessible toilets available across the zoo – these can be located via the zoo’s map.
The ‘Realm of the Red Ape’ house requires a ramp to access but there is a wheelchair lift available if you prefer. Wheelchair users can enjoy the ‘Lazy River Boat Trip’ too, as it offers wheelchair access. There are some steep gradients to be aware of, however, such as at Elephant Bridge and Wooden Bats Bridge but assistance is available if required.
Those who rely on the aid of assistance dogs can enjoy the park and there is a special map available as a guide for assistance dogs. This is due to the fact that some animals can get spooked by even the most well-behaved dogs.
Chester Zoo also caters to those with hidden disabilities. For example, if your disability causes you to have difficulty queuing, the zoo’s team will be able to help. Chester Zoo can even arrange a tailor-made visit to suit any needs or requirements.
Jen, from the health and lifestyle blog Just Average Jen, has been to Chester Zoo with her son who was in a wheelchair and has shared her very positive view of its accessibility based on their experience: “The accessibility at Chester Zoo had really been thought about and everything at every exhibit was made to be suitable and just as enjoyable for those in wheelchairs. Each enclosure had viewing points at all heights! There were no points, to my recollection, where we needed to do anything differently from able-bodied people and enjoyed the day out greatly. Our favourite area was the penguins!”
Accessibility at Chester Zoo
- Accessible toilets
- Assistance dogs welcome
- Free wheelchair and scooter hire
- Accessible pathways
- On-site disabled parking
- Free carer tickets
- Multiple animal viewing points
Further accessibility information can be found on Chester Zoo’s dedicated accessibility page, and further in-depth third-party accessible information for each part of the zoo, including eating areas, is available on the AccessAble website.
What is there to see and do at Chester Zoo?
Although the animals that live at Chester Zoo are the star attractions, there are lots of other things you can see and do. Read on to find out about the animals you can see, the experiences you can enjoy at the zoo and other things you can do.
Experiences you can enjoy at Chester Zoo
Chester Zoo offers a range of experience days that allow you to get closer to the incredible animals and plants at the zoo.
When you meet the wildlife at Chester Zoo you will gain behind the scenes knowledge as the zoo’s experts will share some fascinating insights into the animals you are meeting, such as their diet and other fascinating facts. Not only will you get great insights into the animals, but you will get an idea of the work that goes into looking after the wildlife and what a day in the life of a zookeeper is like.
There is a new dining experience which you can enjoy at Chester Zoo. This means you can enjoy a delicious breakfast while lions roam in the distance or enjoy some treats as you watch penguins play. There is even an experience offered by Chester Zoo that means you can enjoy a tour of the zoo before it opens in the morning and can help the keepers prepare for the day ahead.
Below are some of the experiences that you can enjoy at Chester Zoo:
- Tropical Adventure for two – An experience for two that allows you to explore the zoo’s reptile, bug and aquarium habitats. You’ll meet some of the world’s most endangered species.
- Lion Experience – Chester Zoo offers you the chance to go on a zip line and feed the lions their food.
- Giraffe Experience – This experience allows you to get closer than ever before to the tallest land mammals in the world as you get to meet and feed the zoo’s Rothschild’s giraffes at head height from a viewing platform.
- Secret Life of the Zoo Tour – This new experience guides you around the zoo’s 128-acre site in a specially outfitted tour bus before the zoo opens. You can see the animals and zookeepers as they prepare for the doors to open.
- Elephant Experience – This experience allows you to get a close-up experience with the elephants at Chester Zoo as you wash them with a water hose and learn about these majestic animals.
- Rhino Experience – You can meet the zoo’s greater one horned rhino and help the keepers with the rhino’s feeding routine.
- Penguin Experience – You can feed the colony of Humboldt penguins as part of this experience and ask the keepers about these popular birds.
- Zoo Keeper for a Day – This experience begins at 8am and finishes at 5pm and during this time you will be involved in every part of the keeper’s day, from preparing food to feeding and cleaning out.
What animals can you see at Chester Zoo?
The animals at Chester Zoo are the star attraction for any visitor and there are species from every corner of the globe that call the zoo their home.
Chester Zoo is home to around 35,000 animals and this includes hundreds of the world’s rarest species. This number is the highest since the zoo was opened more than 80 years ago!
You can see your favourite animals at the zoo, from big cats like tigers and lions to elephants, rhinos, giraffes and chimpanzees to name just a few.
Sam, from the blog, Travels With My Boys, has had a great time visiting Chester Zoo with her kids and she said the elephants were a major highlight: “My family and I are big animal lovers, so Chester Zoo is a great place to visit. When we visited the zoo, we all loved the elephants, especially the baby ones! We stood for ages watching them run around and play in the water.
“My top tips for visiting would be to grab a map and plan your day. The zoo is huge and little legs may get tired quickly. You may not get around the whole zoo in one visit. There are many great places to eat within the zoo, but if you are on a budget then bring a packed lunch with you. It is always a positive to save money on a day out with the family.”
Laura, the writer behind the Five Little Doves blog, said her family loved seeing the tigers and exploring the islands area of Chester Zoo: “For us, the islands are the main attraction of Chester Zoo and well worth making sure you save time in your day to really explore. There are Sumatran tigers which are just amazing to see and you can even take a Lazy River boat trip which is such a fun addition to the day out! We always spent the majority of our day on the islands!”
Animals to see at Chester Zoo
- Sun bears
- Eastern bongos
- Komodo dragons
READ MORE: How accessible is the UK?
Other things to see and do at Chester Zoo
Chester Zoo is home to some fascinating wildlife and whilst they are the main attraction for visitors, the zoo boasts lots of different attractions and activities.
Plants and gardens at Chester Zoo
The zoo is home to award-winning gardens that not only make it look beautiful but help the local environment too. There are National Plant Collections located at the zoo and these include:
- The nepenthes collection: Home to over 2,000 carnivorous plants, making it one of the largest collections in the world.
- The cacti collection: With over 1,500 individual cacti at the zoo, the collection is one of the largest in the UK.
- The orchids collection: There are more than 1,500 enchantingly colourful, exotic plants in the orchids collection.
On top of these national plant collections, you can explore the Botanist’s Lab, which is a unique garden that is a perfect spot for a picnic, or you can walk around the enrichment garden that is home to herbs, flowers, leaves and fruit which will be given to a variety of wildlife, like primates, parrots and tortoises. The Madagascar Grasses garden at Chester Zoo is also a great place to wander as you’ll not only learn how the grasses family is probably the most valuable on the planet but will uncover a small beach, water feature and a little hideaway right in the heart of the zoo.
Speaking about the time she has spent at Chester Zoo, Sarah, from the blog The Urban Wanderer, has highlighted what else the zoo has to offer, particularly its plant life: “Although I very much enjoy looking at, and learning about, the animals, there is something which catches me in the plant areas. The zoo has designed the outside areas to reflect the parts of the world they represent. This, I think, both softens the walks between areas and also gives you a greater feel for the life in those habitats. Long billowing grasses and short desert-style plants help you imagine how the animals would move around there.”
Nature Park and islands
Visitors can also explore the tropical environments of six South East Asian islands and their habitats. You can explore Panay, Papua, Bali, Sumatra, Sumba and Sulawesi as part of Chester Zoo’s island experience and you can even enjoy a Lazy River Boat Trip and walk through a bamboo forest.
The zoo even has its very own nature park that was established in 2013. This stretch of land is nestled just a short distance from the zoo and is home to UK wildlife such as hedgehogs, kingfishers and even the occasional otter. You’ll also see wildflowers blooming here and can enjoy some lovely walks.
Visitors shouldn’t be put off visiting the zoo in the rain as there are plenty of indoor attractions that you can visit. In fact, Karen Beddow, the blogger behind Mini Travellers, speaks about why you should visit the zoo on a rainy day.
“Grandparents should consider heading to Chester Zoo with their grandchildren on a rainy day because It is very very quiet. Throughout the year Chester Zoo has a steady stream of visitors and on some summer days, it can be incredibly busy. However, Chester Zoo in the rain in autumn or winter is lovely and quiet, and you can quite simply have entire areas to yourself. Kids usually don’t mind the rain it is only us that does and if they can run around in it in wide-open spaces and play happily even better. Chester Zoo on a rainy day also has plenty of puddles to jump in.”
Here are just some great indoor attractions you can visit:
- George’s Sweet Shop: Named after the zoo’s founder, George Mottershead, is a traditional Victorian style sweet shop where traditional sweets are weighed out from large jars and visitors can buy locally crafted chocolate and homemade fudge.
- Monsoon Forest: Here you can explore the dense jungles of South East Asia and discover meat-eating plants, ancient gharials, rare and colourful birds, and a family of orangutans.
- The Aquarium: Explore the underwater habitats for a range of sea creatures such as seahorses, brittle stars, blind fish, pipefish, anemone and clownfish.
Children’s Play Areas
If you are visiting with your grandchildren then you won’t struggle keeping them occupied as during your visit you can take them to one of the play areas in the zoo.
There is the Manado Play area in the South Asia area of the zoo, a Treetop Challenge area which has the biggest course of its type in the UK and boasts two mini zip lines, and Wildlife Wood which is a play area inspired by the wildlife in the UK and features slides, climbing frames and swings.
Samantha Rickelton, the founder of the North East Family Fun blog, has visited Chester Zoo and she said her children loved some of the play areas: “If the kids need to burn off some energy, there's a fab outdoor play area which is suitable for all ages next to a cafe. There are lots of picnic tables at Chester Zoo and food outlets serving snacks and hot drinks. My three loved pretending to be Lemurs swinging from the ropes.”
Food and drink at Chester Zoo
Wandering around the zoo all day can be tiring work, but fortunately, there are lots of cafes and restaurants at Chester Zoo where you can stop to relax. These food outlets serve up some delicious meals, so no matter whether you want a bagel or afternoon tea you can eat exactly what you want during your visit.
You can enjoy a freshly prepared breakfast bagel or baguette until 11am every day and if you are visiting early and need a wake-up then you can try the barista-crafted coffee served at Bembe Kitchen.
You can also enjoy freshly made cakes, light snacks and a range of fresh, homemade meals such as slow-roasted lamb shoulder, cottage pie and three bean vegetable chilli. The menu changes daily so there will always be something different you can try. The Bembe Kitchen is located at the zoo’s entrance gates.
The Oakfield is located in the heart of Chester Zoo and it is a unique contemporary British pub. You can try freshly prepared, locally sourced food and hand-picked beers, wines and spirits. If the weather is nice, you can explore the pubs’ award-winning gardens.
Manado Street Kitchen
The Manado Street Kitchen is located near the Islands in Chester Zoo and here you can enjoy tasty street food and other authentic South-East Asian inspired dishes.
June’s Food Court
June’s Food Court is named after June Mottershead, the daughter of Chester Zoo’s founder. The food court serves up classic dishes such as sustainably-sourced fish & chips and freshly made burgers!
The burger selection ranges from vegan options to gourmet options. There is also a range of pizzas and sweet treats such as ice creams available.
Jaguar Coffee House
The Jaguar Coffee House is open from 10am-4pm and if you’re looking to take a break during your visit, it is the perfect spot to grab a drink or to grab something to eat.
You can enjoy Fairtrade coffee made from 100% organic Puro beans, fresh hot and cold snacks or something a bit more substantial. There are freshly made cakes and sandwiches also available from the coffee house.
Food and Drink Outposts
If you don’t want to stop for a full meal, then there are food and drink outposts dotted around Chester Zoo that you can head to for snacks and other light bites.
Visiting Chester Zoo as a grandparent
Hopefully, this grandparents’ guide to Chester Zoo has been informative and helpful for planning your future trip with the grandchildren to this wonderful attraction.
READ ALSO: Tips and advice for grandparents
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