In the unlikely event that a break to Blackpool’s not wild enough for you, head to the town’s multi-award-winning zoo. Set in 32 acres of mature parkland, complete with lakes, waterfalls and traditional woodland, it’s compact, but so cleverly designed that all the animals have lots of leg-room to go along with the natural beauty of their enclosures. While the main crowd-pleasers are well-represented (think big cats, elephants, giraffes and gorillas) there are plenty of critters further down the food chain to entertain you too, such as a Colin the Madagascan hissing cockroach - the star of Creepy Crawly Corner. With talks, displays and the chance to interact with some of the animals yourself, the only worry is you might miss something. Luckily, our insider’s guide to Blackpool Zoo is on hand to make sure that doesn’t happen.
It can take quite a bit of queuing to get into the Zoo when it’s busy, but buying tickets online in advance gives you access to the fast-track queue.
The Zoo is so packed with things to do that it’s possible to spend the whole day here and not see everything. So what’s not to be missed? We’ve listed our top five highlights.
Be a keeper for the day. The perfect gift for the animal lover in your life, the full-day keeper experience costs around £200, but how else could you work one-to-one with zoo keepers to hand-feed penguins, scrub an elephant or look after lemurs? Cheaper half day and group packages are also available.
Get mugged by a monkey. With its natural jungle look and feel, Amazonia is a walk-through attraction - and one of the Zoo’s most popular destinations. Exotic birds fly overhead amid the tropical foliage, but the real stars of the show here are the cheeky troupe of squirrel monkeys that roam free - and will pick your pocket given half a chance.
Be entertained by sea lions. The sea lion pool at Blackpool Zoo is the largest in the UK and the twice-daily displays of their natural behaviours consistently win rave reviews from visitors. There’s a beach-side seating arena for 400, but you’ll still need to get there early to be in with a chance of seeing their amazing skills and intelligence.
Walk with a wallaby. You don’t need to go Down Under to get close to a kangaroo, because Wallaby Walkabout gets you closer to these amazing creatures than ever before. Stroll through the enclosure with the ‘roos and their smaller wallaby friends and play ‘spot the joey’ - as they get bigger, the cute babies love popping in and out of their mums’ pouches.
Snuggle a bunny. The Children’s Farm is right on the south-west edge of the Zoo, but it’s worth the trip. And if you wanted to save your legs, you could always jump on the miniature railway. There are just so many hands-on activities you can get involved with, from milking a realistic plastic cow, to handling all the cute rabbits, guinea pigs, sheep and goats.
Just two miles inland from the Blackpool Golden Mile, you’ll find the Zoo in Stanley Park - a stunning place that’s worth a visit in its own right.
It’s easy to get to the Zoo from the town centre - just follow the brown elephant signs. If you’re coming from further afield, take the M6 to junction 32 then join the M55, coming off at junction 4 - it’s well-signposted. The postcode for your sat nav is FY3 8PP.
Jump on the 15 or 16 - they run every 30 minutes from the town centre, the Pleasure Beach and Marton Mere Holiday Park. During the summer season you can get the number 20 Zoo Bus, which runs from Blackpool Tower, directly to the zoo every 30 minutes.
The easiest way to get to the Zoo by train is to get off at Blackpool North Station. It’s a five-minute walk into the town centre, where you can get on a bus that’ll take you to the door. Blackpool South is about three miles from the Zoo, but it would mean getting a taxi.
What are the Zoo opening hours - and how much will it cost you to get in? We’ve got all the info you need to make your visit animal magic here.
You’ll find the Zoo in Stanley Park, at East Park Drive, FY3 8PP and its telephone number is 01253 830830. It’s open every day except Christmas Day. Summer opening hours are from 10am until 5.45pm, but opening hours are considerably shorter in winter, when the Zoo can close as early as 3.45pm as the nights draw in. Don’t worry if you do go when the weather’s bad because they’ve thought of everything - you can hire umbrellas at a very low cost with a refundable deposit and they even sell plastic ponchos.
There’s no point looking on discount sites because the best prices can only be found by booking online in advance at the Zoo’s own website. Adult tickets cost around £14 (£18 at the gate) while children between 3 and 15 will be charged £11 in advance and £13.50 on the gate. Printed tickets aren’t essential as you can just show your phone. Alternatively, you could download the Zoo’s app for free and load your tickets onto that. The app will also be able to show you information on the animals and will prompt you with reminders about feeding and talk times as you walk around, too.
You can buy a guide book with a map at the entrance gate, but there’s really no need - Blackpool Zoo is very easy to navigate. It’s mostly flat too, making it accessible to all. As soon as you enter, you’ll walk through the Dinosaur Safari, but its colourful plastic replicas may only be of interest to the youngest of visitors. Race through that bit to see the main event - the animals! While some can be seen from walkways and viewing enclosures, there are many walk-through attractions that put you right into the centre of the action, such as Lemur Wood and Wallaby Walkabout.
There are discounted tickets available for disabled visitors and their carers, although some proof of your disability will be asked for on purchase - such as a letter from the DLA or a blue or orange badge. Although parking for disabled visitors isn’t free, there are dedicated car parking spaces for blue badge holders in the pay and display car park. Once inside, you’ll find plenty of disabled toilet facilities. Assistance dogs are not allowed into the Zoo for animal health reasons, but office staff will be happy to look after the waggy-tailed one while you visit.
You could always take lunch with you because you’ll find plenty of picnic benches, both indoors and out. Don’t worry about your heavy thermos weighing you down, either, as you’re allowed to go back to your car as many times as you like. But if your own soup and sarnies don’t appeal, here’s our pick of the tastiest Zoo options.
Besides the kiosks which serve ice cream and coffee, there’s the canteen-style Lake View cafe which has hot food, salads and snacks, along with a fast food counter serving pizza, chips and burgers in the summer. But to really give your tastebuds a treat, the Nawala Street Market near the Dinosaur Safari is something special. The latest food offering to be opened by the Zoo, it offers sizzling stir-fries and zingy curries which you can enjoy perched in a beautiful outdoor seating area.
While the Zoo is to the east of Stanley Park, take a short stroll through the lush greenery to the west side, where you’ll find the Parks Art Deco Cafe (01253 395191) occupying a lovely spot overlooking the Italian Gardens. Soak up the sunshine at an al fresco table, or head indoors to enjoy the elegant 1930s interiors. Serving great breakfasts and high teas, it’s also licensed so you can wash down your posh cheese on toast with a bottled beer or wine. Just be quick - the cafe shuts at 4.30pm each day.
You can’t leave Blackpool without taking a stroll along the Promenade or having a trip up the Tower. So why not use your Zoo visit as an excuse for a longer break by staying at the Premier Inn near Blackpool Zoo? It’s just a donkey ride away from all the town’s nostalgic attractions.