Get excited over exotic animals and have fun feeding farmyard creatures - here is Junior's guide to the best zoos around the globe
Some zoos may have once had a slightly murky past, but the best zoos around today have a strong focus on conservation and go to great lengths to ensure the living space of their star attractions closely resembles that of their native habitats. Britain boasts a multitude of marvellous zoos. Among the most famous is London Zoo, which boasts the super Animal Adventure area where children can meet coatis in the treetops and pop up (in see-through bubbles) right next to the meerkats.
Then there’s Longleat Safari Park, presided over by the eccentric Marquess of Bath, where visitors can drive through the parklands of the Longleat Manor house, spotting everything from lions and tigers to camels and kangaroos. Howletts & Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Kent, meanwhile, is dedicated to breeding rare and endangered animals for return to the wild – Przewalski’s horses, black rhinos and Cape buffalos are some of the animals that have been returned to their homelands. In East Sussex, Drusillas Park is home to a menagerie of small and medium-sized exotic animals, including meerkats, penguins and gibbons. There’s also a Thomas the Tank Engine train ride and an adventure playground. Make a weekend of it and book a family suite at The Grand Hotel in Eastbourne at £270 per night. Or try the neighbouring The Big Sleep, one of a chain part-owned by actor John Malkovich, which prides itself on delivering affordable accommodation without compromising on style. Prices from around £89 per night for a family of four.
Flamingo Land in North Yorkshire combines zoo and theme park and boasts over 50 rides and roller coasters of all sizes. Stay nearby at The Beansheaf luxury hotel in Pickering on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, where towels are made into origami animals. Prices start at £74 per night for a family of four.
Further afield, in the US, the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Washington DC, has the elephantine draw of being free. Brightening up the murky depths of winter is the fantastic ZooLights spectacular, an environmentally-friendly lights display featuring many of the most popular animals.
Berlin Zoo boasts beautiful buildings and sculptures, including a deer house that looks like a Saxony cottage. Toronto Zoo, meanwhile, is one of the largest in the world, set across 700 acres and housing 5,000 animals.
Children will also find mucking in at the farm lots of fun, so book for a stay with Feather Down Farm Days. Hunker down for the night in a canvas-tent-cum-country-farmhouse with rustic wooden tables and oil lanterns. Children collect eggs, feed the farmyard creatures and ride ponies. Locations include Cumbria, Dorset, Lincolnshire and Wiltshire. Prices are from £195 for three nights.
Another option is a stay on a working farm in a cottage or converted farm building. Farm and Cottage have some lovely properties in the southwest. Thelbridge Farm in Great Torrington, North Devon, is a charming 16th-century property, which you can explore by arrangement with the farmer. Prices are from £595 for seven nights. Another option is the Rescassa Farm in Mevagissey, South Cornwall, where you can hire out a self-contained wing of the farm. Prices are from £310 for seven nights.