Updated: Sep 16
I always remember visiting Colchester Zoo as a child myself and to be able to share that same excitement I had with Roman has been amazing, he absolutely loves animals and Colchester zoo has so much to offer all ages (including adults).
We are lucky to live very close to Colchester zoo (around 25 minutes) so for Christmas 2019 we decided to buy a gold members pass for myself; Roman being under 3 still is free entry anyway. This pass allows us unlimited entry to the zoo along with many other benefits such as discounts in the zoo stores and discount on extra tickets purchased. I think it works out that if you visit 3 times you have basically paid off your membership... we went every week for the start so that was very easily done.
Covid Ticket Policy
Whereas before you were able to just walk in as a passholder or grab a ticket on the door for day visitors, all visitors are required to pre book online in advance of their visit. Tickets are put into 30-minute time slots this is to help avoid a rush in the morning and stop overcrowding in the entrance. I think this is a great idea and it really helps you feel safe. You can show your email ticket on your phone, I would recommend downloading to your phone as the signal is not always great.
Tickets are released in blocks online and you have to be quick as the prime morning slots get snapped up quickly (obviously) but if you are happy to go late morning/early afternoon you can normally always get the day you want and it is much quieter on arrival and for walking around.
They have a great parking situation at the zoo, on arrival you will be asked for your time slot (sometimes they do sometimes they don't I have had both) you are then guided to the parking and can just pull up in an empty space. spaces aren't marked out which is great as most people leave a bit of extra room between doors for getting the kids in and out.
Animals and Experiences
They have so much to see at Colchester zoo, I have been multiple times and still get surprised every time I go by something I've not seen before. Now restrictions have eased they have opened up a lot more such as the train ride around the zoo, feeding the birds and the majority of their indoor enclosures (all with a 1+ meter social distancing rule)
Elephant and Giraffe Feeding Experience
One of the highlights of visiting Colchester zoo was the feeding encounters with the Giraffes and Elephants. It was a free experience (and probably will be again in the future) But it was so popular and was super busy so you had to arrive really early and queue for a while. They have now brought this back but as a new private experience (other booked groups will be there) You will need to pre book but it is a £20 donations which I think is a steal as this is for a group of up to 5 people.
Food and Drink
They have loads of choice when it comes to food and drink at the zoo from ice cream shops, coffee stops to a full sit down restaurant and canteen style lunches. You can also bring your own food and they have ample amounts of areas for your own picnics and more recently they have just started doing pre-order picnics from penguinis with a skip the queue style pick up which is such a great idea!
Something to note is the Zoo is absolutely massive! If you have any difficulties with walking I recommend that you take your aids. Colchester Zoo has a lot of steep hills which are very tiring for little legs, I normally make Roman walk without a pushchair but he does sometimes ask to be carried to if this isn't a great option for you I would bring a pram along, there is plenty of space and pram parking for indoor experiences.
Extra Safety Measures
Colchester Zoo has set out a one way system round the zoo to avoid overcrowding which does really work, there are cut through's to the bigger attractions; elephants etc. They also have hand sanitising stations everywhere for your use and red lines infront of every enclosure that you are to stay behind to avoid touching the glass; although trying to tell a 1 year old that whilst he presses his face on the glass of every enclosure is quite difficult but we tried!