Whipsnade Zoo Review

I honestly don’t know why I haven’t done a review of Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire sooner! We used to be members and over the years we have been here many, many times. It’s our closest zoo, and the sister site to London Zoo (you can read that review here). It is one of the more expensive zoos to visit, but they’re got a good range of animals. Apparently they’re actually the largest zoo in the UK and with plenty of things to do inside and out you’ll easily spend the entire day here.

Should you take your car into Whipsnade Zoo or go on foot?

It is quite a large site, and it can take its toll on little legs. Even though we never use the pushchair anymore, I did take it with us as I didn’t fancy carrying Smallest Child around when she inevitably got tired. It’s also on the top of a hill and it gets windy up there. Basically, whatever the weather is where you are, take at least a couple of degrees off and that’s what you should expect up there. On our most recent visit to Whipsnade Zoo to do this review the weather was supposed to be OK. WRONG!! It was a mizzl-y and actually quite cold. At one point, when the hangries were setting in the kids were pretty miserable. We saw a couple of people driving past in their lovely warm cars and I was a bit jealous.

Free Time with the Kids | Treat family days out in Bedfordshire

Another thing to bear in mind is that the car park is a fair walk, even from the entrance of the zoo. If you don’t want to be carrying your lunch around all day then it might be worth paying the extra to drive in. There’s actually only a very small bit that you can’t really see without a car, so you’re not missing out on much if you do decide to walk it all. It’s also worth knowing that you can actually see all of the areas that are only accessible by car if you go on the train.

It costs £12 per car if you would like to drive in (Price correct Dec 2020, I believe it’s more at peak times). You cannot pre-book car entry for some reason, you just pay on the day. There is also a free shuttle bus within the park that stops at various points around the zoo.

The animals

They have quite literally got thousands of animals at Whipsnade Zoo. There’s tigers, lions, hippos, penguins, lemur, giraffe, rhinos, chimps, zebra, flamingos, elephants, red pandas and many, many more. When we were there we didn’t get to see the lions but, just as we were leaving, a few of them started roaring. It was the most amazing, and spine chilling thing. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it in real life before and it was EPIC!

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo Review, Dunstable, Bedfordshire | Review by Free Time with the Kids | Treat family days out

As I’ve mentioned, on our last visit the weather turned out to be pretty pants that did mean that quite a few of the animals were hiding. I absolutely don’t blame them but it is a bit frustrating plodding all the way over to a particular enclosure to not see anything at all. That said, it’s the nature of zoos and they’re not performing monkeys (sorry monkeys). If they want to stay in the warm and dry then they bloomin’ well will!!!! We did still get to see lots of the animals though which is always awesome.

Overall I’d say there’s a good range of animals and they all look like they’ve got tons of space to enjoy. That was the one concern I had about London Zoo when we visited, it just wasn’t very big. Maybe I’d been spoilt by Whipsnade??

The flamingoes made me laugh. When we were walking past it was clearly feeding time. They were so noisy, all of them worried they might not get a look in. I was strangely reminded of back home!!!!

The butterfly house and the aquarium

These have always been my favourites bits of the zoo. Well, the aquarium is relatively new(ish) so it’s a new favourite. It’s not massive, but there’s a good range of aquatic animals to see. Make sure you look out for the spotted ray in one of the big tanks. It’s quite well camouflaged at the back, but looks amazing.

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo Review, Dunstable, Bedfordshire | Review by Free Time with the Kids | Treat family days out

I’m always fascinated by butterfly houses, like the one at Blenheim Palace. At the same time I’m also always terrified if one flies anywhere near me, convinced it’s going to fly right in my face.

The crowds

If you fancy avoiding all of the crowds then I recommend visiting during a pandemic, in the rain, during the school term for many and on what turned out to be the day before they were forced to close. It was pretty much deserted. We had the entire leopard area to ourselves for ages. Ditto the elephants, sea lions and hippos. It meant we got the chance to really hang around and appreciate what they were all up to. The tigers were properly showing off on their platforms right behind us whilst we were having our lunch. I couldn’t decide if they thought maybe we were their lunch or just having a bit of fun??

In normal times it can be quite busy here, just as you’d expect. That can make it a bit more difficult to see some of the more popular animals that have to be viewed through windows. Also, everyone does tend to crowd around the best viewing spots if an animal is visible so you just have to wait your turn. We’re British – we’re good at waiting our turn.

The playground areas

When this review of Whipsnade Zoo was written there were various social distancing measures in place because of covid-19. In fact, the day after our visit they went into Tier 3 so it was our last trip outside of Bucks for quite a long time. This meant that their indoor soft play area was open, but with significantly reduced numbers. Also, it was closing the next day. Because it is so popular you have to book your slot on arrival BUT during social distancing you might have to pre-book it in advance via the website. Please double check when you’re booking your tickets what the current system is.

Hullabazoo is a relatively small soft play area. It says that it’s suitable for up to 10 years but I’d say, in reality, it’s a lot younger than that. It is several years since we last went inside Hullabazoo but I remember the kids enjoying it, and us welcoming the break.

Whipsnade Zoo are currently upgrading their outdoor play area so it was closed when this review was written. I couldn’t find any plans of the new playground area, so we’ll just have to wait and see what it looks like.

Covid 19 social distancing measures at Whipsnade Zoo

At the time of writing this review of Whipsnade Zoo covid 19 is still very much in our lives. The day after our visit Beds and Bucks both went into Tier 3, and then tier 4 within days. In short, social distancing isn’t going anywhere!! Whipsnade Zoo have various measures in place to keep you safe. There’s a limit to numbers, everyone has to pre-book (including members), face masks have to be worn in indoor areas. Unfortunately certain services have temporarily been withdrawn such as the train, shuttle bus and animal experiences. Depending on the regulations when you visit, all indoor areas may be closed.

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo Review, Dunstable, Bedfordshire | Review by Free Time with the Kids | Treat family days out

Yes, we visited on a very quiet day but we felt very safe. There is plenty of space for everyone, but they have measures in place for pinch points like the lion enclosure. There’s also sanitiser in various places and limits to the number of people allowed in each animal house.

Our Whipsnade Zoo review

Whipsnade is not the cheapest zoo that you’ll visit, but it is a lovely zoo. When they’re running again the shows and keeper talks are brilliant. I know that not everyone agrees with zoos in general, but I really liked how much space the animals have. I also like that there’s so much to do both inside and out. If the weather does get a bit pants you can just nip inside to get out of the rain. You’ll also be able to spend the whole day here, with no problem at all. Overall I’d say you get your money’s worth.

Admission Cost

This varies according to the season. Admission is £50 – £97 for a family of four (plus 10% voluntary giftaid donation). You can check availability and book your tickets here (affiliate link). During normal times Blue Peter badge holders get in for free, but the scheme is suspended temporarily.

Gift memberships are also available. Until the 4th January 2021 you can save 20% on gift memberships using this affiliate link. It means you only need to visit twice in a year to have saved money!!

Parking / How to get there

Address – Whipsnade, Dunstable LU6 2LF

Parking – free, on-site. You can also pay to take the car into the zoo if you wish.


There are toilets, including baby change, all over the site. You’re never more than a few minutes walk from a loo.


There are various covered places where you can have a picnic. There’s also various places you can buy food on-site.

What’s nearby?

Within just a few minutes drive there are loads of things that you can do with the kids. There’s Dunstable Downs, Whipsnade Tree cathedral (and the walk between them) and Ivinghoe Beacon.

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo Review, Dunstable, Bedfordshire | Review by Free Time with the Kids | Treat family days out

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Hi, I’m Vicky. My husband and I live in Aylesbury with our three children; a 10 year old son, an 8 year old son and a 3 year old daughter. I (mostly) love spending time together as a family. We visit all kinds of places and we’re quite happy to drive a fair distance for a decent day out. A few years ago I decided to set up Free Time with the Kids as a way to share our experiences of these family days out. You know, the essential information you need to know before your visit that can be surprisingly hard to find out. Where do I park? How much will it cost me to get in? Are there any discounts available? Are there loos? Can I take a picnic or get food? My aim is to be your go-to guide for all your free and cheap family days out across Bucks, Beds, Oxon, Herts & slightly beyond. I really hope you find the reviews helpful. If there’s anywhere that you’d recommend please get in touch contact@freetimewiththekids.com or get in touch via Facebook

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