Zoos and wildlife parks are officially open, and what better way to celebrate than by actually visiting one? The North West is home to thousands of threatened and endangered animals – providing a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see some extra special exotic species. Stretch your legs and take a walk around some of the best zoos and wildlife parks near Manchester – whether you have kids in tow or not.
1. Chester Zoo
Located in Cheshire, Chester Zoo is one of the UK’s largest zoos and is home to over 35,000 animals. We know. That’s a whole lot of animals to see. The park cares for a large number of endangered species, with the zoo working on various conservation and breeding projects to help prevent their extinction. Walk around the huge site and see animals such as monkeys, otters, lemurs, jaguars and thousands of other threatened exotic species. Check out their outdoor food vendors and the Street Kitchen while you’re there, or take part in one of the many activities that the zoo hosts throughout the year (including a photography course!). Chester Zoo, Chester, CH2 1EU.
2. Gauntlet Birds of Prey, Eagle & Vulture Park
A little bit different from the usual zoos, Gauntlet Birds of Prey, Eagle & Vulture Park is home to over 120 birds and is actually one of only five bird of prey centres in the UK. Impressive. Get up close and personal with some majestic species, including owls, eagles, hawks and more. Guests can enjoy bird of prey shows during their visit and ‘meet and greet’ with the fascinating flying creatures. Gauntlet Birds of Prey, Eagle & Vulture Park, Manchester Road, Knutsford, WA16 0SX.
3. Peak Wildlife Park
Less than a 1.5 hour drive from Manchester city centre, Peak Wildlife Park can be found at the edge of the Peak District in Leek. Walkthrough the park and come “face to face” with some of the world’s most exotic animals – from zebras and meerkat, to sheep and penguins. There’s a lot of beautiful animals to uncover during your stroll, with an open space where the lemurs can connect with the visitors, and even paths where the penguins roam free. Peak Wildlife Park, Winkhill, Leek, ST13 7QR.
4. Trentham Monkey Forest
Trentham Monkey Forest is a true gem, where guests can walk among around 140 free-roaming monkeys who all live within the forest. See them hanging from trees, taking care of their babies, and getting up to general monkey business. The Barbary macaques are an endangered species, and live freely in the forest where they’re, of course, cared for by a team of experts. Guests cannot feed or touch the monkeys, for obvious reasons, however, it’s an amazing experience being in the same space as them and discovering them in their habitat as you walk on through. Trentham Estate, Stone Rd, Tittensor, Stoke-on-Trent, ST12 9HR.
5. Blackpool Zoo
Conveniently located by the seaside, Blackpool Zoo is home to over 1500 rare and exotic animals, including tigers, gorillas and even elephants. Walk around and see what the animals get up to during their day, and check out a variety of shows where you can learn about the different species. When operating as normal, the zoo hosts regular activities, with Sea Lion trainer experiences, ‘Keeper for the Day’ and even a ‘Meet The Giraffes’ activity. It’s one of the best zoos to get up close with the animals and learn more about what the keepers do in their jobs. Blackpool Zoo, E Park Dr, Blackpool, FY3 8PP.
6. Ponderosa Zoo
Not far from Manchester in West Yorkshire, Ponderosa Zoo can be found in Heckmondwike and is a great spot to take the kids for the day. There are cows, exotic animals, birds, mammals and so much more, as well as a huge outdoor adventure play area and beach with a pirate ship for the kids. Give the rabbits a cuddle in the special handling area, or feed the cheeky lemurs in their habitat. Ponderosa Zoo, Off Smithies Lane Liversedge, Heckmondwike, WF16 0PN.
7. Knowsley Safari Park
A unique experience in Prescot, Merseyside, Knowsley Safari Park is a five-mile safari drive – self-described as a ‘truly wild encounter’. They got that right. It’s kind of like a mini visit to South Africa, where you can slowly drive through and spot exotic animals such as lions, giraffe and even sea life. Some of the safari can be explored on foot where it’s safer (for example, where the giraffes live), with regular displays showcasing animals such as birds of prey and sea lions. There are over 750 animals to see, and it’s a brilliant place to visit if you want to get some cool shots of the big cats. Knowsley Safari Park, Prescot, L34 4AN.
8. The Garden House, Stockport
A brilliant spot to keep children entertained, The Garden House in Marple, Stockport is super close to Manchester and is both a registered charity and community farm – which started as a community project five years ago. The farm is home to animals such as goats, alpacas, ponies and pigs, and guests can walk through to check out the farm animals that live there. Take a picnic to enjoy out in the sun, or check out their on-site cafe for a relaxed brew after visiting the pigs. On-site you’ll also find a kids play area, a gorgeous walking route by the River Goyt and even an ice cream parlour – armed with both dairy and vegan flavours to enjoy while it’s hot. The Garden House, Lakes Road, Stockport, SK6 7DH.
[Featured image: Peak Wildlife Park]