At Chessington World of Adventures in the winter the rides are shut down and the park goes quiet. From November – March the park and hotels are closed. Apart from a few select weekends from January to March that open up as Zoo Days as part of their Chessington World of Adventures Zootastic Weekends.
Zootastic Weekends at Chessington
You can explore the park and see all the animals, you can visit the SEA LIFE Centre and listen to animal talks. You can also book the VIP animal encounters. All without the roar of the roller coasters above your head. If you’re looking for a quieter visit to Chessington than usual, the winter Zootastic weekends will be perfect for you.
Chessington World of Adventures Resort
From 10am – 3pm on select weekends from January – March. Note they are not running these events every weekend so do check the website for dates.
Pre-book online for the cheapest tickets. Currently £12 per person 3 years + (£15 on the door price)
Disabled guests are entitled to a free carer ticket.
Car Parking is £4
The animals all looked well cared for at Chessington Zoo. I do worry about animals that shouldn’t be cooped up and wonder if they’re really happy in these environments. Those we saw looked content and their habitats seemed to provide a lot of stimulation for them. We never managed to see the tigers which was a shame for us but good I suppose for the tigers as they clearly have plenty of hiding places. I do wonder how they feel about living surrounded by rollercoasters though? We missed the tiger talk so I didn’t get the opportunity to ask.
Our favourite animals were the Sea Lions. The talk given about them was absolutely incredible. They understand so much of what the trainer is asking of them. It’s amazing to watch and a lot of fun. The kids absolutely loved it so definitely check the app on arrival to see the talk times.
The YooHoo Children’s zoo is a small walk through area with more common British animals such as sheep, donkeys, pigs and rabbits. There are goats wandering freely among the guests so you can have a stroke.
Other animals you can see at Chessington World of Adventures Zootastic Weekends are:
- Squirrel Monkeys
- Giraffes and many more
- Chessington World of Adventures claims to have a 1000 animals for you see. We didn’t find that many but we saw plenty.
The SEA LIFE Centre at Chessington
The SEA LIFE Centre is a small aquarium to visit inside the park. You’ll find Nemo and Dory along with lots of anemones and get the chance to touch a starfish (under strict supervision). This was Max’s favourite area. I think the lighting in aquariums is always excellent for capturing the attention of babies. It’s not a big SEA LIFE Centre though. If you want to see bigger creatures from under the sea I recommend visiting one of the larger centres such as Brighton or London.
Eating at Chessington World of Adventures Zootastic Weekends
The main restaurants were open when we visited but many of the little snack and drinks huts around the park were closed. Head to Adventure Point to find the most options for food and drinks. Before lunch we popped to the Doughnut Hut for a coffee and some snacks for the kids, it took them a good 20 minutes to actually make my coffee. I’m not sure why it was so slow in there. I wonder if they didn’t have their usual staff?
We had lunch at the Smokehouse BBQ which was very speedy. You take your seat and then head on up to the counter to choose your food. It’s served immediately for you to bring to your table so if the kids are starving they won’t be kept waiting long.
VIP Animal Experiences:
We did the Giraffe Feeding Encounter and we thought it was great fun. We met our guide in the Safari Hotel 15 minutes before our encounter started. She walked us through the park to the giraffe enclosure and we were taken behind the scenes inside the giraffes indoor enclosure. Up the stairs we went so we could be at giraffe head height and we spent 30 minutes chatting with the guide while feeding the giraffes parsnips.
Giraffe tongues are a little bit intimidating! But it was incredible to see these animals up close.
Our encounter was booked for 2:45pm which meant the park had closed by the time we finished. It was really special to walk through all the animals to leave the park afterwards. It was so quiet and it felt like we had the entire place to ourselves.
The giraffe encounter is suitable for children age 5 and up and children must be accompanied by a paying adult. Babes in arms are not allowed in due to the nature of the enclosure. There are a number of obstacles to avoid and stairs to climb.
This encounter cost us £40 each.
Other experiences include:
- Penguin Feeding (My girls would rather have done this but it required 1-1 adult to child ratio, 2 adults and 3 children made that impossible)
- White Rhino Encounter
- Junior Zoo Keeper – this is a 3 hour experience and sounds epic!
- African Animal Safari
- Skunk Walks
- Tiger Encounter
- Capybara Feeding
Be sure to check the individual details of each experience before booking as they are very strict on ages, group sizes and adults being present to keep an eye on younger children. Some of the encounters are only for children aged 10+ so double check what’s actually do-able for your family before getting your younger kids excited about the idea of hanging out with tigers.
Covid: Does it feel safe?
Most of the park is outside which I always feel is a much safer place to be. Being a zoo, hand washing is naturally encouraged multiple times throughout your visit anyway with sinks available in the YooHoo Children’s Zoo and other places. Hand sanitiser was available across the park.
I did start to feel slightly uncomfortable in the SEA LIFE Centre as it’s a small space and there were bottle necks where people tended to pile in! And while all the adults were wearing masks I moved the family out of there fairly speedily when it got busy.
The restaurants are large and were not crowded when we went.
On the whole, the park was very quiet which you would expect on a winters day when most of the attractions are closed.
Top tips for Chessington Zootastic Weekends
- There are baby change facilities but it’s worth noting the ones we found were only in the Ladies loos and not the Gents.
- The paths are good for buggies. There were one or two slightly muddy, bumpy paths but I think most buggy wheels would be absolutely fine on them.
- Be sure to access the safari animals via the hotel side of the park. If you follow the park signs to Wanyama you will be taken to paths that have been closed.
- Check the app for the times of the animal talks. They are excellent, especially the Sea Lion Talk.
- The Information Centre is near Adventure Point and they’re very helpful in there. They directed me to where I could get coffee (very important!) and helped me finalise my VIP Animal Encounter booking.