Whilst on holiday in North Berwick we had a day at Edinburgh Zoo. We originally chose to visit as it was a foggy day on the coast but it actually turned out to be a gorgeous hot day. Fortunately, the gift shop sold very reasonably priced kids sun hats. If you are planning to visit Edinburgh zoo with children (especially young ones), read on to find out what we enjoyed and my top tips for getting the most out of your visit.
Getting to Edinburgh Zoo
Edinburgh zoo is in the heart of the city and easy to get to either by car or public transport. It’s close to the city centre and built on a steep hill. There is a car park and currently, the cost is £4 for the day.
We arrived at 10:30 am and there was quite a queue to get in already (and it wasn’t a Scottish school holiday when we visited). Whilst in the queue for tickets we were handed maps and given information on when talks, animal handling and feeding times etc.
Getting around the zoo
Once through the tickets and gift shop, we decide to work our way to the top up the left hand side of the zoo so we could visit the Pandas around lunchtime, as the staff said this was the best time to catch them in view. As I mentioned the zoo is on a steep hill. We had a toddler in a pushchair and it is doable with a pram. It is tiring though and you will get a workout! It’s also not the biggest zoo but we found it plenty big enough for us. We arrived at 10:30 and left around 4 (exhausted).
Edinburgh Zoo giant pandas
We were really keen to see the giant pandas since they are the only giant pandas in the uk. You no longer need to get a time slot to visit them but obviously, you are not guaranteed to see them as they do have an area out of view. We were fortunate to see both pandas in the indoor area. one was asleep and the other moving around a little looking like it was trying to get comfy for a nap. My girls were excited to see them and my toddler kept pointing at them shouting “teddy”.
The other animals
We made our way around the zoo seeing as many animals as we could. There was no rhino on our visit and the lions and tiger were not in view, probably asleep in the sun out of view. You do have to expect that you might not see some of the animals. We were just grateful to see the pandas. We did see many other animals like zebra, flamingos, lots of different monkeys, koala, hippo, wallabies, penguins and many more.
As well as the pandas our other highlight were the penguins. The Penguins have a very large area with viewing areas above and windows below the water. There were lots of penguins and we all enjoyed watching them. My 5 year old was particularly excited by them when they swam right up to the viewing window.
Anyone with children will know that a play area is an essential part of any day out. There is a very good play area for little ones by the penguins as well as a cafe, toilets and an ice cream stand. There are two other play areas, another small one near the tiger and the biggest one if near the chimpanzees. This one has an area for little ones and for bigger kids. We found this one was also the busiest play area in the zoo.
As well as the cafe in the penguin area, there are two other restaurants and plenty of space for picnics too. In peak season there are also various food kiosks around the zoo but these were not open when we visited. There are plenty of toilets and baby changing facilities around the zoo too.
Like most tourist attractions, you exit the zoo for the gift shop. We found the prices reasonable and let each of the girls choose a toy to take home. We left with a cuddly panda and a push along penguin. I told you these two animals made a big impression on my two. My two year old now calls all blackbirds “peng”.
We loved our day at Edinburgh zoo and would definitely go back if we were in the area again. The highlight for us was definitely seeing the UK’s only giant pandas, closely followed by the penguins. It’s a great family day out but worth remembering how steep it is.
Tips for visiting Edinburgh zoo with young children
- Arrive early to try and beat the queues.
- Prepare for all weathers. Take sun cream, hats, waterproofs and layers. It was a really hot day when we visited but the week we were in the area, the weather changed so much even in just a few hours. Being on a steep hillside, I imagine it could be cold and windy at times.
- Keep hold of the map you are given in the entry queue. Better yet download the app. There are no many maps around the zoo but there are lots of signposts.
- Be prepared for the steepness. All the paths are smooth and whilst there are some steps, there is always a step free route for prams and wheelchairs.
- Picnics are welcome but there are no indoor picnic areas if the weather is bad.
- Plan what you really want to see and use the map to plan a route that takes in them all without you having to double back on yourself, especially if you have pushchairs or young walkers. It can get very tiring.
If you are looking for some books about zoo animals to enjoy before or after your trip I wrote a post about 5 children’s books about zoo animals.
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Disclosure: We were given 2 free adult tickets from Visit Scotland. All thoughts, opinions and photos are my own. For up to date information and prices please visit Edinburgh zoo’s website.