Yes, we know the days are short, dark and often damp, but just because the tortoise has gone into hibernation, there’s no need for you to do it too! In fact, talking of animal encounters, winter can be the best time for visiting somewhere we often think of as a summer destination: our brilliant zoos.

Where some attractions can pull the shutters down over winter, for zoos, there’s no ‘off’ season- you can’t put a giraffe into storage! With fewer visitors, the zoo takes on a more relaxed atmosphere, with keepers having more time to chat and share secrets about their exotic charges. Winter is often a time when zoos build new enclosures and take the opportunity to introduce new animals while it’s quieter, so you could get an exciting sneak preview!

It’s a fact: fewer people visit zoos in winter, but that can be a huge benefit. If you’ve ever been at the back of a crowd of people all vying to get a glimpse of an elusive snow leopard, this is your chance to have a brilliant view virtually to yourselves, with no jostling or feeling you have to move on. Even better for kids- no more whinging or being dangled precariously over Grandad’s shoulders!

Zoos like Doncaster’s Yorkshire Wildlife Park are open 360+ days a year, often only shut Christmas and Boxing Day. So when you’re fed up with traipsing around shopping centres and waiting for spring attractions to open, go exotic to brighten your day! Meeting up in the zoo with family and friends on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Day feels really special, and they have great cafés to chat in over a cuppa and toastie, some incorporated into animal viewing areas.

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