We’ve been looking forward to visiting the Bristol Zoo, and when we had a chance to check it out with a group of friends on a sunny day, we were not disappointed.
I should mention — well, I will mention, whether I should or not — that as a proud DC native, I can assure you that no Zoo on earth is a good as the Smithsonian National Zoo. I think my very first membership in anything was in FONZ. If only the whole thing weren’t on a damn hill, it would be perfect. I’m also fond of the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, not so much for its zoo qualities — although I really like the Maryland wilderness trail — but because I’ve been taking my kids there since they were babies, and it’s part of their history. Plus, we got to feed the giraffes. Never underestimate the loyalty a zoo inspires when you get to feed the giraffes. What I’m trying to say is: I have zoo standards. Or zoo baggage. Whatever.
The entry to the Bristol Zoo is unprepossessing, giving little hint of the size of the zoo:
Oh, did I mention we went on the first day of nation-wide school break? Yeah, it was crowded.
Entry in to the zoo is not cheap — again, I wonder how families in England go anywhere or do anything in this country — a membership to the zoo for a family of five is well over $200. Just the day tickets, thank you very much. After getting a ticket, you’re conveniently dumped into the gift shop, which you must fight your way through to find the zoo itself.
And, you know, the dinosaurs.
The animals were fairly active the day of our visit, although you can’t tell by looking at the lion:
The lion enclosure looked sadly small to me.
I’m starting to feel these animal art statues are being overdone. It was cool when I saw the Cows on Parade in Chicago in 1999. Thirteen years and hundreds of fiberglass animals in dozens of cities later … meh.
But, did I mention the Dinosaurs? These rocked. The roared, or moved, one even farted.
This one farted. Really. Compressed air blew out her rear. I don’t know who was more enthralled, the kids or I.
There’s a nicely dark Twilight House at the Zoo. No sparkling vampires, but lots of jumping rats, glow-in-the-dark cats (really), snakes, and a wall of naked mole rats. I’m not sure why this sign appealed to me so much. I think “We are the Naked Mole Rats” would make a nice t-shirt. I could wear it while watching the mama dino fart.
It’s been one of those days.
Ever had a fruit bat encounter? I think this dude wanted out. Their wings are amazing. Gives all sorts of new context to the oft-used descriptor “leathery bat wings”. I could totally rock some leathery bat wings, I think, along with my mole rat shirt. My son helpfully informed me, as we walked in to this enclosure: “Don’t worry, if these were vampire bats, we’d all be dead, but these just suck fruit, not blood.” “Fruitsucker” would also make a nice t-shirt.
Your dinosaur is not impressed.
However, your trout has lots to say about the aquarium.
This lemur is hanging out in the lemur enclosure, which one may walk through. The zoo guides told us he was new to the lemur group at the zoo, and none of the lady lemurs liked him, so he was pouting and ignoring everyone. Such a guy.
African Penguins at the seal and penguin enclosure.
The sign is funny when you know “bits” is colloquially used as a reference for genitalia. Ha! Ha! Until you read the part about seals dying, and then you feel like a jerk.
The African fur seal enclosure was very cool. It’s multi-level, so you see the seals from above, at water level, and then walk below the tank through a clear-roofed tunnel.
There seemed to be a good amount of room for the seals to swim, with interesting underwater corners and various depths.
I know, I don’t do photos of my kids, but look — she’s touching a seal through the glass. Awwwwww. This was probably my favorite area in the Bristol Zoo.
Oh, and did I mention the dinosaurs? This one just caught a bloody fish. And I wondered why my five year old had trouble going to sleep that evening.
There’s a cool reptile house at the zoo, although I must admit that it was so hot on the day we went I was happy to run ahead with the can’t-sit-still members of the troupe. But I liked this nearly-glowing iguana.
And did I mention … ?
This one must have come straight from starring in a bad sci-fi movie.
In the butterfly house we saw not only butterflies, but their eggs and leeeetle tiny caterpillars
and great big caterpillars
And of course:
There are many more animals than I was able to photograph well — including some spectacular gorillas and a variety of birds and fish. There’s a stage at the zoo with regular keeper/animal encounters, a cafe and ice cream stands, a picnic area if you want to bring your own food, a small play-splash area that was super crowded, an adventure playground, an activity centre, and decent bathrooms. If you are feeling really adventurous, you can hook into a harness and climb above the zoo in ZooRopia. The Zoo seems to get very crowded on summer days, so if you’re going for a visit, time your arrival near Zoo opening if you want to get a parking space — the small lots fill up quickly. If you do get a spot, three pounds to park for the day is not a bad deal.
That’s it! All and all, a fun day out. Not tops on my list of world-wide zoos, but a solid day of interesting-things-to-see for the kids, some education, room to blow off some energy, and a really engaging seal enclosure, in my opinion. And, you know, farting dinosaurs. What more do you need?