• This City Mum

Review: Friday Twilights at Bristol Zoo Gardens

Updated: Jan 24, 2019

Spending your evening with the animals at Bristol Zoo might not immediately top your list of things to do this summer, but Friday Twilights provides plenty of good reasons why you should consider visiting after hours.

I was lucky enough to attend the first Friday Twilights event of the summer last week. It was a scorching July evening and there were already plenty of families queuing to enter when we arrived (tip: go early if you want to park in the zoo car park as it fills up quickly and well before the official opening time of 6.30pm).

I have visited the zoo countless times with my young family over the past decade, but this was a unique chance to explore it in the evening (and this time we didn't take the kids!) Our first stop was The Hide Cafe Restaurant which has now been open for just over a year. It's a really bright, spacious, and welcoming space (as well as being very Instagrammable too).

We sampled several dishes, including a tasty beetroot and goats cheese salad, and a delicious vegan pizza.

There really is something for everyone on the imaginative menu, and it's definitely a change from the usual food you find at a family attraction (although there are plenty of old favourites like fish goujons and chips available too).

And as it is a table service restaurant, it gives parents a chance to sit down and be waited on for a change!

There is plenty of space for buggies, as well as a fun wall mural where little ones can interact with their favourite animals.

If you don't want to have a sit down meal in the restaurant, then you can bring your own picnic and eat it on the lawn, or fill up from the Fire Pit barbeque, which seemed to be very popular during our visit.

And of course, there is the obligatory ice-cream van serving delicious Marshfield ice cream too!

And what about the animals? When we visited, the Gorilla house and Twilight World were both closed, and there was a security barrier next to the lions, ensuring that they were given some space away from the crowds.

However, the other animal houses were open and we got to meet some of the critically endangered Spider monkeys, as well as Lion-tailed macaques, Ring-tailed lemurs and a group of cheeky Crowned lemurs. We spoke to Lynsey Bugg, Curator of Mammals, who told us about how Bristol Zoo is part of the breeding programme which is helping to conserve these endangered species.

The gardens at the zoo are always fantastic, whatever the season, and they looked particularly spectacular in the early evening sunlight. Make sure you don't miss the stunning displays - it's definitely worth taking a stroll around the grounds to appreciate the work that goes into maintaining these colourful gardens year after year.

I noticed lots of visitors walking around with maps in their hands, suggesting that this was their first visit to the zoo, and that they were taking advantage of the fantastic value for money entrance price of just £5.00. It was lovely to see a real mix of people enjoying the evening, from families with small children, to couples both young and old.

The atmosphere was very chilled throughout, with plenty of families enjoying the chance to sit and enjoy a drink, whilst playing with the giant lawn games which the zoo provided.

And adding to the sense of fun were roaming performers from Circus Uncertainty. We enjoyed watching the stilt walkers, jugglers, and acrobats as they interacted with the crowds.

Everyone seemed to really enjoy the live music on the lawn too, with a particularly entertaining performance from Baraka, a band with Reggae, Soul and Calypso influences.

For those worried about excessive noise affecting the animals, Bristol Zoo confirmed that they monitor noise levels every ten minutes throughout the evening, and if any animal was to show any sign of distress, they would take action immediately. I have to say that the music suited the atmosphere (no heavy bass for example) and was not excessively loud, as it couldn't be heard away from the main lawn area.

As the sun went down and the evening drew to a close, we made our way to the exit, having thoroughly enjoyed our visit. Whether you're looking for somewhere to take the kids on a sunny summer's evening, a date night with a difference, or simply a relaxed night with friends, I'd highly recommend booking a ticket for Friday Twilights.

There are six more events throughout the summer and you can purchase tickets here (make sure you book in advance as the evenings do tend to sell out quickly).

Have you been to Friday Twilights? I'd love to know what you think - leave me a comment below.

Disclaimer: I was offered complimentary entry and food & drink by Bristol Zoo in return for an honest review. All thoughts and photos are my own.

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