Dad dates deconstructed: #2 The Zoo
What is it?
If you’re an animal rights campaigner, it’s a place where animals are cruelly imprisoned for the benefit of the baying public. If you’re not, it’s a great opportunity to see a selection of the world’s wildest animals without having to trek through a jungle or splash out on a safari.
How much does it cost?
If you’re organised enough to book in advance, you can purchase discounted London Zoo tickets on timeout.co.uk or the Zoo’s official site. I’m not, so I stumped up just over £21 quid on the door (note: this is going up to £27 in Feb 2017). It’s a feisty entrance fee, but in the zoo’s defence where else are you going to see monkeys? Or lions? Or tigers? Or giraffes? Mercifully, kids under three are free.
What’s good about it?
The look on your little one’s face when they see a gorilla, penguin or camel for the first time is priceless. The terrain’s pram-friendly, so if your bubba falls asleep you can meander around chatting about football/beer/how brilliant life was before kids without a care in the world.
What’s bad about it?
The canteen is expensive, heaving and not really set up for babies (it took me ages to get some hot water to warm up the bottle and even longer to get a high chair). If your baby doesn’t fall sleep, he or she pretty much won’t see anything but walls and fences from their pram. Thus, if you want to avoid an extremely public meltdown, your only option is to carry them around all the different worlds and enclosures. This is fine if you’re super-fit and remembered your Baby Bjorn or sling. I’m not and I didn’t. My arms hurt soooo bad. Finally, it’s too big to complete in one visit, which doesn’t sound like a bad thing until you remember how much it costs to get in.
How’s the hygiene?
At times, it’s disgusting. I mean, some of those pigs actually seem to enjoy wallowing in their own po… …wait, you’re asking about the cleanliness on the safe side of the fence, aren’t you? In that case, I wouldn’t be too quick to let your baby chew something he or she has peeled off the screen beside the lion’s enclosure (note to my wife: this definitely did not happen), but aside from this it’s excellent. The changing facilities are well-signed, clean and very spacious.
Is it worth a second date?
You can’t get what the zoo offers anywhere else, so a return visit is inevitable. But given the cost of entry it’s probably best to think about it like a Michelin-starred restaurant. You couldn’t afford to book a table for two every Saturday night, but now and again it’s amazing.