It’s a fact — kids love zoos.
Whether they’re toddlers, tweeners, teenagers or — let’s face it — even adults, everyone loves a good zoo.
The UK is home to some brilliant zoos, in all corners of the country.
We’ve chosen a handful of the best zoos in the UK, focusing on those that get the balance right between entertainment and education – and particularly those that are a hit for families who have toddlers.
Let’s dive straight into it.
Best Zoos In The UK for Babies and Toddlers
ZSL London Zoo
London Zoo is probably the most famous zoo in the UK and certainly one of the oldest in the whole world — it first opened all the way back in 1828! Even all these years later, it’s still entertaining everyone from babies to grandparents.
There are almost 20,000 animals making their home in these 14 hectares, including giraffes, hippos, meerkats, lions, penguins, camels, tigers, gorillas and crocodiles. There’s more than enough to do here in a day, with plenty of feedings and other events to see on the daily schedule.
It’s located in Regent’s Park in central London and is best accessed from the tube at Camden station. There are a number of cafés and kiosks around the zoo if you fancy any food and drink during your day out in London.
Another famous and very popular zoo with toddler families is the amazing Chester Zoo in Upton-by-Chester. With over 50 hectares and 35,000 animals at their disposal, this is an enormous zoo with plenty to see and do while you’re here.
Asian elephants, black rhinos, Bornean orangutans, capybaras, cheetahs, giant otters, penguins, jaguars, lions, red pandas, reticulated pythons, spider monkeys, tigers, sun bears, warthogs and many more animals have made their home at Chester Zoo.
There’s also a beautiful botanical gardens to explore, and they have plenty of events throughout the year — as well as the normal daily feeding schedule.
If you’re in the Southwest, head on over to Bristol Zoo in the heart of Clifton, Bristol. This is another heritage zoo that was opened way back in 1836 but is a little smaller than the offerings in London and Chester.
There’s still plenty to see here though, including lots that is toddler-friendly. Younger kids will love Meerkat Lookout, the sociable African Penguins, Monkey Jungle and a fantastic aquarium which alone is home to 115 different species of fish.
There are plenty of different events throughout the day, including Meet & Greets with the penguins, meerkats, lemurs and giant tortoise. VIP experiences include lion feeding and gorillas!
West Midlands Safari Park
For something a little different that still offers you the chance to get up and close with a number of different animals, we’d recommend West Midlands Safari Park.
Located in Bewdley, this safari park is a drive-through experience that lets you see over 165 different exotic animal species in a more natural environment than most zoos allow. It’s split into 4 parts: African Plains, Wild Asia, Carnivores and Elephant Valley.
Alongside the safari experience, there’s also a small theme park to enjoy, Land of the Living Dinosaurs (a must-explore for dino fans!), Ice Age, Discovery Park, African Village and — ideal for toddlers and younger kids — Boj’s Giggly Park, which is a multi-sensory play area.
Marwell Zoo is found in Winchester and is a very popular attraction among families with toddlers. With just over 1,200 animals (almost 150 different species!), this is a smaller zoo than some of the others on this list but just as worthy of inclusion.
Some of the ‘star’ animals at Marwell include penguins, giraffes, tigers, snow leopards, meerkats, cheetahs, rhinos and hippos. There’s also a tropical house to explore, the Lemur Loop, Australian Bush Walk and much more.
Toddlers and young kids will love the 4 adventure playgrounds, road and rail trains and the brilliant Wild Explorer discovery zone which gets kids involved in the conservation of 3 endangered species.
Twycross is another super popular zoo, this time located in Leicestershire. Probably it’s biggest draw is the fact that it has the largest collection of monkeys and apes in the Western hemisphere! This is the only UK zoo that you’ll be able to see every type of great ape.
But there’s still plenty to see aside from primates. Some other highlights include the Amur leopard, boa constrictor, Eastern black rhino, giraffe, Humboldt penguin, meerkat, lemurs, snow leopards, zebra and more.
There are a number of kids play areas scattered across the zoos, as well as the Explorer Zone and Safari Cars, which toddlers will love. A number of cafés and kiosks will keep you well fueled as you make your way around.
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo
Whipsnade is another zoo in the ZSL family and can be found in Dunstable. It’s a huge zoo at 600 acres, with plenty of space for the animals to roam and has more of a safari park feel than its London equivalent.
There are a huge number of animals and exhibits to see at Whipsnade, including Lions of the Serengeti, Sea Lion Splash, Rhinos of Nepal, Cheetah Rock, Birds of the World arena and lots more. As it is so big, little toddler legs may appreciate using the land train to get around.
Speaking of little ones, there’s plenty to amuse toddlers at Whipsnade, including a children’s farm park, indoor and outdoor play areas and daily meet-the-animals experiences and feedings. Cafés and kioks can be found all over the zoo as well.
Longleat Safari Park
Longleat is a safari park in the Southwest with an impressive pedigree — it was the first drive-through safari experience outside Africa when it opened in 1966!
There’s a huge amount going on at Longleat and toddlers will be especially impressed by Tiger Territory, Lion Country, Cheetah Kingdom, Monkey Mayhem and the Big Game Park. Make sure you keep your eye out for the roaming deer that have lived here since the 16th Century too.
There’s lots of other stuff for the kids to do after your safari, including playing in the adventure castle and Little Explorers Garden, getting lost in the hedge maze and meeting plenty more animals in the farmyard, Animal Adventure and Jungle Kingdom. There’s also a miniature railway 🚂
Down in Devon you can find the popular Paignton Zoo, which is home to over 2,000 animals across 6 different habitats: Forest, Wetland, Savannah, Tropical Forest, Primley and Desert.
Lions, monkeys, rhinos, tapirs, cheetahs, flamingos, crocodiles, zebras, giraffes, red pandas, lemurs, pythons, meerkats and much more are at home in Paignton. There’s also a nocturnal house, Monkey Heights, Avian Breeding Centre, Reptile Tropics and The Ranch to explore.
Toddlers will love the indoor and outdoor play areas and nature trail. There are plenty of shops, cafés and picnic areas if you need to rest and recharge too.
RZSS Edinburgh Zoo
If you find yourself north of the border, Edinburgh Zoo guarantees a great day out for the family. It’s home to over 1,000 animals (almost 200 different species) across its 82-acre land.
This zoo is most famous for being home to the only giant pandas who live in the UK — Tian Tian and Yang Guang — but there’s plenty more to see here besides. Some of Edinburgh’s other attractions include Penguins Rock, Budongo Trail, Koala Territory and Wallaby Outback.
Toddlers will likely also love exploring the Wee Beasties and Brilliant Birds exhibit, as well as the beautiful zoo gardens. There are plenty of refreshments points all around the zoo so no one will be going hungry!
Port Lympne Reserve
Slightly different than your normal zoo but still a fantastic animal experience is Port Lympne Reserve in Kent.
A mix of wildlife park and unique lodgings, the reserve is set over 600 acres and is home to over 900 animals. This includes the UK’s largest herd of black rhino, gorillas, leopards, lions, bears, tigers, giraffes and more. Day visitors are welcome to explore the safari, woodland walks, play parks, gardens and Dinosaur Forest — a must-visit for budding paleontologists.
If you want to take your visit to the next level, consider booking a short stay. There’s glamping available, hotels, forest hideaways, treehouses, and even unique, immersive experiences like Lion Lodge and Tiger Lodge with some unprecedented views.
Colchester Zoo was once famously home to a white tiger but is still regarded as one of the best zoos in the Southeast with plenty to see and do for families.
Some of the animals making their home in Colchester include sun bears, Komodo dragons, elephants, cheetahs, giraffes, lions, meerkats, penguins, leopards, tigers and much more. Toddlers will absolutely love the Lost Madagascar Train which takes you to the brilliant lemur walkthrough.
There are also plenty of play areas, outdoor and indoor, for the kids to enjoy. The huge Kids’ Safari adventure playground even has a dedicated space for younger children to get involved. A face painting station can also be found here, and an AR exhibit that allows you to walk with wooly mammoths!
Newquay Zoo is one of the smaller zoos on this list with just over 1,000 animals but it still makes for a great day out with the kids if you’re in Cornwall.
African lions, capybara, lynx, zebra, lemur, penguins, sloths, meerkat, wallabies, red pandas, armadillos and spider monkeys are just a few of the animals that live at Newquay Zoo. There are lots of exhibits to explore as well, including African Savannah, Madagascan Walkthrough, Tropical House, Dragon Maze and Gems of the Jungle.
Toddlers will love the Village Farm and Tarzan Trail, and there’s a good children’s play area as well. Cafés and kiosks can be found throughout the zoo, as well as baby changing facilities.
What is the best zoo in the UK? Let us know your favourites!
Looking for alternatives? Make sure to check out our activities section for more ideas.