Zoos in Winter

Published on: 20/11/21

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.

Zoos do amazing conservation and education work 365 days a year. Hit hard by the pandemic, lots put lockdown time into building even better, more exciting and accessible animal attractions. Just as “a dog isn’t just for Christmas”, read on to see how lemurs, leopards and lions are definitely not just for the summer months!

Open All Hours

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!

Many zoos like London Zoo and Chester Zoo do winter torchlit tours and spooky late-night specials, allowing you to see the dark side of cuddly favourites (there’s nothing like the eerie whooping of lemurs after dark to get the hairs standing up on the back of your neck!). You’ll also come face-to-face with secretive nocturnal inhabitants like wolves, owls, and giant bats.

And long gone are the days when all exhibits are shiveringly outside, with lots of internal viewing areas and exhibition halls. You can keep toasty-warm among swooping butterflies and creeping reptiles in South Cumbria’s Lakeland Wildlife Oasis’s tropical hall, or stay nice and dry watching huge shoals of exotic fish, anemones and upside-down jellyfish in their huge new indoor marine tanks, built in lockdown.

Get Closer to Teeth and Claws

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!

Most zoo animals don’t hibernate, and in fact the shorter, darker days can be a bonus too. Animals which are active in daylight have fewer precious hours to be active, so their instincts drive them to be out and about more. Whereas ones which become active at dusk- like Colchester Zoo’s aardvarks and porcupines- can start waking up and coming out to entertain visitors when the zoo is still open, something that never happens in summer.

Not only is winter a great time to get close up to Edinburgh Zoo’s incredibly popular giant pandas, it could in fact be your last chance. On loan from China since 2011, the ten-year lease is nearly up, and most people aren’t aware they could be gone as soon as the end of this year. So if you want to re-enact the famous KitKat advert- grab your camera and head over!

Holiday Specials

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.

Even Santa visits the zoo, with keepers giving their residents tasty ‘presents’ to unwrap for enrichment, and it can be great fun watching them puzzle out how to get them in (or just rip them open!). But it’s not just for the four-pawed or clawed; after last year’s locked-down Christmas, the Lakeland Wildlife Oasis is hosting Santa Spectacular December weekends. Families can book not just a visit with Father Christmas, but take tea with him and the elves as well, and pass on wish-lists, before a tour of the zoo (you don’t even have to have been good, either!)

So ditch the sofa and take a walk on the wild side this winter!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

We have also put together a list of frequently asked questions at the link below, which include some Top Tips and Did you know information, which you can use to show off with your friends and family

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We hope that you have enjoyed reading our article called Zoos in Winter and that you have found the information above include our FAQ page helpful in deciding on which venue you to choose for your Activities and Days Out

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