• This City Mum

8 things not to miss at Bristol Zoo's Friday Twilights

When I tell people that Bristol Zoo Gardens opens late on some Friday evenings during the summer, their first reaction is often "wow, I didn't know that", quickly followed by "that sounds really fun - tell me more." So now you know, let me give you a quick rundown of what you can expect when you visit, and eight things not to miss during the evening.

Entrance to Bristol Zoo at night

1. The Animals

Whether you're a regular visitor, or this is your first time at the zoo, this is a great opportunity to see the animals at a special time of day. For instance, do you know when meerkats go to bed? Or where butterflies sleep? Or just how cute a gecko looks as it closes its eyes? You can check on all of your favourite animals to see how they behave in the evening as the animal houses are open until 9pm (except the Gorilla House which closes at 8.30pm). I particularly loved watching the seals enjoy the sun as they chilled out on their rocks, Daddy gorilla sleeping peacefully, and the chance to study butterflies up close.

A Flambeau butterfly at Bristol Zoo

2. Animal Talks

If you want to hear from the zookeepers themselves, then there are various animal talks which take place throughout the evening. I always love listening to the staff at the zoo as you can immediately see that they are very passionate about the animals they look after. They always share some really interesting information so it's worth checking the evening's schedule to see when you can find out more about Meerkats, Penguins, Seals, and Lions.

A seal at Bristol Zoo

3. Face Painting

Don't miss the opportunity to transform into your favourite animal! Face painting takes place at the Activity Centre and the staff there are absolutely lovely. There are plenty of designs to choose from (including some cool festival styles for adults too) and even a feature wall to pose in front of afterwards. A small extra charge applies for this but it's well worth it based on the reaction from my son as he was quickly transformed into a butterfly.

Face painting at the Activity Centre

4. ZooRopia

This is an adventure ropes course suitable for anyone over the age of 5 (and over 1.1 metres tall). It's a fun course with 17 different sections which takes you around a small section of the zoo, and finishes with a zip wire. My husband and son really enjoyed it, but it does get busy so if you want to do it, my top tip would be to head there at the beginning of the evening. It closes at 9pm and there is an additional charge - pay at reception.


5. The Hide

The Hide Restaurant is Bristol Zoo's sit-down restaurant with plenty of features to keep the kids amused, including a colouring trail and some fun interactive wall murals and screens. This light and airy relaxed space has now been open since 2017 and its stylish decor makes it a great spot to capture those Instagram pictures.

The Hide Restaurant

The food is pretty good too and there are plenty of tasty vegetarian and vegan options, including chickpea burgers, salads, pasta and vegan pizza. If you'd rather grab a burger on the go, there is also a BBQ on the lawn, plus the obligatory ice creams are available from nearby kiosks.

Food at The Hide

6. Grab a drink

It's a very rare occasion where you can wander around an attraction such as the zoo with an alcoholic drink in hand, but this is one of those times. You can buy a beer or a cider from the pop-up bar on the lawn or head to The Gin Hive, a mobile gin bar housed in a cute vintage caravan. I should add that this definitely isn't an opportunity to get drunk - the lawn was full of families and couples chilling out and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere.

The Gin Hive

7. The Gardens

The 12 acres of gardens always look stunning throughout the year, but there is something special about seeing them in full bloom on a warm summer's evening. Forget the lavender fields you see on social media and strike a pose amongst some of the approx 100,000 plants right in the heart of the zoo.

The gardens at Bristol Zoo

8. Live Music

Is there anything better in the summer than sitting on the grass with family and friends, drink in hand, as you listen to a live band? Once you've finished exploring, head to the lawn as the sun sets and enjoy some acoustic music. I loved listening to local group The Chicken Teddys as they covered some well known songs. The music was appropriate for the event - not too loud and it only lasted around an hour, so as to minimise disturbance to the animals. You can check which bands are due to perform on which evening on the zoo's website.

Listening to music on the lawn

So there you have it - my 8 things not to miss at Friday Twilights. We certainly had a brilliant time at the first event of the summer. Everyone I spoke to was enjoying the uniqueness of the evening and the chance to look around in a relaxed atmosphere. It certainly felt very special to have the chance to visit this Bristol institution as the sun set over the city.

There are four more Twilights events planned in June and July, and I highly recommend a visit, whether you're looking for something a bit different to do on a Friday night, or if you just want to try visiting somewhere new. All of the money raised from these events goes towards Bristol Zoo's conservation projects which are helping to save wildlife around the world. You can find out more details and book tickets here.

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

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