One of our favourite zoos is the Vienna Zoo (“Tiergarten Schoenbrunn”, as it’s really called). It’s the world’s oldest zoo, established in 1752, and was voted the Best European Zoo in 2010. The architecture and layout are stunning, and combined with a modern, animal- and child-friendly approach to zoo architecture, really make the whole zoo experience one to remember for the whole family. We always have a wonderful day there, and they have the most fantastic playground! We go every spring, and have always found something new to see and do.
I must admit, I really never appreciated zoos until I had children. But now I see that they have so much to offer!
In addition to all the usual suspects, over 600 species in all, including many highly endangered species, the Vienna Zoo boasts Giant Pandas and Koalas amongst its inhabitants. That was (and still is) quite thrilling for me, as I had never seen either of those myself until we first went to the Vienna Zoo.
The learning opportunities…
Aside from the obvious animal-related learning to be had at the zoo (we once saw the Giant Pandas mating – an extremely rare event and a super learning experience for Princess Pea, who had just recently learned she was soon to become a big sister!), the Vienna Zoo also features a set of mini-cranes for kids to operate, fine-tuning their hand-eye coordination, excellent guide maps for working on map skills, a ‘salamander’ rock wall for gross motor skills and balance, pony rides for developing balance and confidence, and the whole zoo is set inside the historic World Heritage Site, Schoenbrunn Park, right beside the castle, enabling a bit of a history lesson on the side.
The family time….
Vienna is about a 2 hour drive away from our house, so when we go, we make a day of it (or even an overnight trip so we can get an early start on the zoo). We visit the zoo, the playground, walk around Schoenbrunn park, sometimes drop in to the Palm House next to the zoo, and enjoy some good coffee/dinner and bad service at a local Viennese cafe.
And the playtime!
As I mentioned, the Vienna Zoo features the most fantastic playground inside the zoo (as well as various play activities dotted around the zoo, such as the rock wall and tunnels)! We usually spend about half the day looking at the animals, and the other half at the playground.
For the nitty-gritty details such as opening hours, ticket prices, food and drink options, etc., visit the Vienna Zoo’s official website (in English). For an overview of the history of the Vienna Zoo, I recommend this Wikipedia entry.
What’s your favourite zoo?