London Zoo opened in 1828, but aside from its listed buildings, there’s nothing old-fashioned about this much-loved animal kingdom. Well-designed enclosures and interactive, immersive experiences allow visitors to get a better understanding of some of the world’s most inspiring creatures – and have lots of fun while they’re at it.
The most recent addition is Penguin Beach, England’s biggest penguin pool. Here you can watch colonies of Macaroni and Humboldt penguins as they waddle and dive, with viewing panels giving a fascinating look at their underwater agility. There’s a seating area, with designated wheelchair spaces, for optimum appreciation of the ever-popular penguin feeding time. Other highlights include Gorilla Kingdom, perennial favourites the giraffes and the majestic Sumatran tigers. Several new walk-through enclosures provide exciting opportunities for close-up encounters with various animals, such as Bolivian squirrel monkeys in Meet the Monkeys; tropical birds in the Blackburn Pavilion; and numerous inquisitive tamarins in Rainforest Life.
There are six disabled parking bays in a small car park opposite the zoo entrance: from here, you’ll have to negotiate a kerb and cross a busy road. Alternatively, there’s one disabled bay right outside the entrance of the zoo, and Blue Badge holders may also park for free in the zoo car park (500 metres away). Inside, the zoo has done a great job making itself accessible, considering how many listed buildings are on the site – ramps and slopes allow wheelchair users access to most areas, though some slopes are rather steep. In some enclosures the hanging strips of heavy plastic and chains designed to prevent animals escaping can be a bit awkward to get through, and assistance may be required. In Tiger Territory there’s a lift that gives access to the higher viewing platform. Six manual and two electric wheelchairs are available to borrow (book ahead on 020 7449 6576), and there are several accessible toilets dotted around the site.
Regent’s Park is probably best-known for it’s Open Air Theatre that puts on productions from May to September. But other attractions include a community Wildlife Garden, several playgrounds, a boating lake, tennis courts and The Hub sports centre, as well as beautiful planting and plenty of cafés. All of which make it a very pleasant place to spend a few hours. There are no steep inclines around the park and access is generally good for wheelchair users. There are Blue Badge parking bays at various points around the perimeter road and accessible toilets within each toilet block.
Food & drink: The on-site, fully accessible Terrace Restaurant at London Zoo offers a range of sandwiches and family food in a spacious environment. Alternatively, find a nice spot for a picnic on one of the lawns outside.