Paradise Wildlife Park in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire is just an hours drive from our house - we've seen various leaflets and had a few recommendations from friends that it's a brilliant family day out, and we had been meaning to go with our animal mad little boy for ages, but had never gotten round to it!
On Tuesday we managed to rectify the situation as it was Bert's 4th birthday - and what better way to celebrate than to finally take him to Paradise?
You know when you've been talking to your kids about a day out for weeks, and then the day arrives and you suddenly panic that it's going to be rubbish and they will be disappointed? This was me on Tuesday morning! I have an irrational fear of the unknown, and having never been to PWP before I was suddenly gripped with panic that our expectations were too high and we might be left wanting.
It turns out I needn't have worried as it was the best family day out we could have asked for - Paradise impressed us immensely. We were there from 12pm -6pm and could easily have squashed in a few more hours of fun - so next time (and there will be a next time) we'll get there for 10am instead.
I have to start with the obvious, right? The animals. I've visited many zoos, farms, wildlife parks etc over the years (being a teacher for 7 years meant many school trips!) and I can honestly say that never before have I been so impressed with the variety of animals for you to encounter. Paradise provides such an eclectic mix of creatures - from your classic farm animals: pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, guinea pigs, chinchillas to amazing Wild Cats, reptiles, African animals, monkeys, birds of paradise and so much more.
Not only is there a diverse selection of animals to see, but you can also get so close to them - their enclosures still feel plenty big for them, but they're designed in a way that means the public can get great views and vantage points - especially on the Big Cat Treetops Walk. It blew my mind how close I could get, yet still feel safe.
The pictures should speak for themselves...
The other thing I noted about not only the animal enclosures but also the recreational areas too - was how clean it all was. Nothing looked tired or unloved - and the enclosures were lush with greenery and there was plenty to keep the animals occupied within their enclosures.
You know those rare family days out where the kids behave impeccably, all time scales go according to plan, and you happen to time everything just perfectly all day? This was us on Tuesday! The birthday gods were smiling on us that's for sure!
We left on time (this NEVER happens), had a smooth journey with zero traffic, enjoyed an hours mooch around the Animal Park before heading to buy some lunch in the diner, we arrived there at 1pm (peak lunch time) and only had to queue for 5 minutes to get our fresh (hot) food, and we were in and out of the diner in 40 minutes - giving us 4 more hours to enjoy the park! The weather was perfect all day - warm but cloudy, no rain at all - BOOM!
Not only did we time lunch right, we also arrived at The Big Cats section just in time to watch someone doing the 'Feed The White Lions' experience. We couldn't believe our luck! We watched through the fence as the man got to feed one of the stunning white lions - they were literally 2 meters away from us, and I snapped these amazing photos of the impressive beast! Bert couldn't believe what he was seeing, and Liam and I were THRILLED to have seen such an amazing sight.
I took so many more photos of the animals throughout the day - but I don't want to spoil all the surprises for you, so I won't share them all. Just trust me when I tell you that there's so much to see.
LUNCH TIME/THE FOOD
As I said earlier, we headed to Sam's Safari Diner for lunch - and only had to queue for 5 mins to get our fresh hot and cold foods. Bert opted for a children's lunch box which included sandwich, drink, packet of crisps, piece of fruit and chocolate bar, I went for a double egg and cress sandwich which was delicious - very fresh and bursting full of filling. Liam went all out (he's in full on 'holiday mode' this week) and had the buttermilk chicken burger with cheese, bacon and chips - and said it was piping hot and delicious. Both Liam and I had soft drinks, and Bert's box came with a juice. The whole lot cost us £22, which is pretty good value for the quality of what we ate. Connie ate little tastes of all of our foods, and had her own little baby snacks with her to enjoy too - we don't call her 'Dustbin Baby' for nothing - she's forever finishing all the food we leave, little piglet.
If you don't want to spend extra money on food when you visit Paradise there are an abundance of lovely picnic areas so you can enjoy a homemade lunch.
There's also an incredible cafe hidden in the big cats treetop walk called Tiger Treetops which looks straight into the Tiger enclosure, it's absolutely amazing - so I urge you to head there for a cup of tea and afternoon slice of cake if you need refuelling during the day - you won't regret it!
Aside from the animals, Paradise is absolutely packed full of amazing play equipment - honestly, you could spend all day there just working your way around the many adventure playgrounds, slides etc.
From bumpy slides to enclosed snake slide, pirate ship adventure playground to real Fire Engine play vehicle there's something for all ages at Paradise. Play equipment also includes: steam train slide, mini climbing wall, go-karts, digger/construction sight, sand pit, on-safari golf, train ride, trim trail and all your usual swings, climbing frames etc - you're children won't know what to dive into first! Bert was in playground heaven - and nothing was pitched too much above what he could manage physically, so I wasn't beside myself with worry watching him on equipment where I though he was likely to hurt himself at any second (I'm SUCH a worry wart!).
Paradise is divided into two clear sections, making it easy to navigate and plan your day with a semblance of order - in a nutshell, the left side of the main drive houses the animals and the right side the food and play equipment.
LEFT SIDE = Animal Park where the majority of the animals are housed, the ARC (Animal Resource Centre), Safari Golf, Discovery Centre, Birds at Paradise and Gift Shop.
RIGHT SIDE = Food, stage area (for the many shows/activities), woodland railway and Adventure Land (all the play equipment), Jumble Jungle Soft Play, the Paradise Lagoon Paddling Pool and the Marquee and Event area.
We moved between the two areas throughout the day, as necessary, I loved how close everything felt - nothing is a major trek at Paradise, so it's perfect for little toddler legs - Bert didn't ask to go on our shoulders or use the buggy board once, and even Connie walked around on her reins for loads of the day!
We ended our day over in the right side of the park - spending the last hour between Paradise Lagoon Paddling Pool and Jumble Jungle Soft Play - there's nothing like squeezing the last bits of energy out of your kids to ensure a quiet journey home! Ha!
Both Bert and Connie LOVED the paddling pool - I drew the short straw and went in with them (leggings rolled up, a slight for sore eyes!) luckily it was a warm day, so the cold paddle and splashing was a welcome cool-down, and no matter how cold, how couldn't be happy at seeing the sheer delight on their childrens faces? Bert was nervous to go down the slide at the paddling pool at first, knowing him well we knew it best not to force the issue and just let him watch the other children enjoy it, and realise for himself that he would in fact enjoy it, and was absolutely capable. After 15 minutes he plucked up the courage, and then that was it, he spent the rest of the time launching himself down the slide and 'squeeeeee'ing at the top of his voice with delight.
Connie is a massive water baby and we had to endure the mother of all tantrums when we got her out - she was not a happy bunny. In fact, so disgruntled was Connie that her splashy time was over that she proceeded to wee all over me while I got her changed. Thanks Con! Good job it was the end of the day and I was wearing a dark outfit...!
The kids quickly forgot their upset at leaving the paddling pool when they set eyes on the soft play! They teared around here for the last half an hour, doing their best impressions of wild cats, before we bundled them in the car and headed home for a fish and chip shop supper at Bert's request.
What a marvellous day!
There are lovely little touches at Paradise that make it an extra special place such as the Sign with Olli cards placed around the animal enclosures teaching children the signs for the different animals. Bert loved learning them and even knew a few already thanks to his love of Justin Fletcher and Something Special.
THE CUTE PHOTO OPPORTUNITIES (A BLOGGER'S HEAVEN!)
Paradise is bursting with the cutest photo opportunities too - I was in bloggers heaven! These little snaps should give you a small taste of the sorts of cute family shots you can get when you visit...
Which penguin are you as tall as Bert?
CHEESE with a cheetah!
Last, and by no means least - I was really blown away by how beautifully well looked after the grounds at Paradise are - from lush flower beds and hanging baskets, to a stunning woodland; the whole park was clean, tidy and inviting.
Amazing hanging baskets!
Dino surprises on the Woodland Railway!
Dino surprises on the Woodland Railway!
More lush flower displays amongst the play equipment.
HAPPY FAMILY TIMES
Best of all was sharing this happy day with my gang and watching the sheer joy and delight on their faces all day long. These pictures absolutely speak for themselves, you can see that they're oozing with happiness...
Connie woke up from a little nap to see her favourite the "BIRDS" (one of her clear words) - her nursery is decorated with Quentin Blake 'Cockatoos' wallpaper, and she has a big wooden flying parrot mobile hanging from her ceiling, which she says goodnight to each night before bed - 'BIRD' was one of her very early words, and she was delighted when she woke up to see them all.
4 going on 14? Bert wrapped up in fleece and Daddy's hat after half an hour in the paddling pool.
This munchkin enjoyed walking round the park in her reins and new pink shoes (talk about an outfit clash - the downside of having a choice of pink or pink for her first pair of shoes, sort it out Clarks!).
Bert discovered that now he's 4 he is big enough to push the buggy for us (lol)
Happy faces! Daddy and Connie on the Woodland Railway.
PRICES & VALUE FOR MONEY
*You can get 10% off your ticket prices if you book online*
Children under 2 go free!
Online prices (including 10% discount):
£50.49 for 2 adults 1 child
£65.34 for 2 adults 2 children
Being parents to an animal mad little boy - we've visited our fair share of zoos, farms, wildlife parks and aquariums etc - I can honestly say that so far, out of all the places we have visited, that Paradise has provided us with the most value for money. Hands down.
We spent money there on buying lunch in Safari Sam's Diner and an ice cream from the kiosk, but you could easily have taken a picnic and snacks and saved yourself the extra expense.
We also let Bert spend £20 of his birthday money in the gift shop as it was his actual birthday - but there's such a huge variety of small items available in the shop, you could easily get away with just spending a few pounds to bring a little souvenir away with you. I particularly liked the 12 small animal figures for £3.00 deal - what a bargain!
Without the added extras of buying lunch, ice cream and gifts in the gift shop - the only other cost to us was £3 for all of us to go on the train ride, which was adorable, and £1 for Bert to have a go on the squirting water pistol game. I mean, it's not going to break the bank, right?
We could easily have amused ourselves there all day long from when the park opens at 9:30am and stayed until 6pm - without being tempted by the extras that would have cost us a total of £50.49p - 8.5 hours of uninterrupted family fun for £50 - I don't think that's bad at all.
We'll most definitely head back there again soon, this time bringing other members of the extended family, who are now all desperate to visit after hearing us wax lyrical about it.
Have you been to Paradise Wildlife Park yet?
We we're given a family ticket to Paradise Wildlife Park in return for this honest review.