Intending to spend a long weekend in London, I was looking for an evening activity which was a little bit different.
I’d heard on the grapevine that London Zoo sometimes did special openings at night and tried my luck on their website. Conveniently they had two summer nights and one happened to be the Friday we were in London!
The website provided lots of information about what would be included, such as maps of the park, details of exhibits, talks and shows. Providing so much detail enabled me to plan out what I’d do in the evening and get me excited about the event.
What sealed the deal was the messages informing me that there were limited spaces and it would soon sell out – as a gullible consumer I of course was susceptible to this tactic and purchased the tickets before even waiting to ask my partner Michael if he wanted to go – luckily he did!
The tickets were emailed and I could use mobile tickets which made things convenient, although it did amuse me when the girl in front of me tried to scan her ticket with a very cracked phone screen but they let her through anyway.
The zoo was easy to find, and it was a secret delight to be walking past all the parents with kids who had obviously finished their day at the zoo, knowing we were heading for an exclusive kid-free evening!
The entrance to the zoo was slightly marred by animal rights protesters who had written in chalk along the pavement and were protesting with signs outside the zoo. It was particularly awkward when they were chanting ”walk of shame, walk of shame” as you entered the zoo but the staff handled it well and tried there best to ignore the fact it was rather awkward.
By far the best thing about the London Zoo at night experience was the atmosphere.The zoo really played on this idea of an exclusive surreal experience. By selling a small number of tickets, the crowds were limited and you really felt you were going ‘backstage’.
The combination of weird and wonderful performers and exhibits, chilled music, food stalls and bars jarred with usual expectations of the zoo, which helped create this feeling you were seeing the zoo that no one else gets to see.
Amongst the zoo exhibits were chill areas with fairy lights, relaxing music, bean bags and deck chairs on the grass. The ability to just sit and chill with a beer for 20 minutes before going to see the penguins made it feel very different from the mad rush and crowds of the zoo in day time.
Despite the vibe feeling very chilled there was so much to see and do. Of course the animals were a highlight, and given the weather had been so hot in the day, they were actually much more active during the evening. There were also specific talks, show and tell, or you could wonder around freely at your own pace.
Amongst all of this were bars, food stalls, face painting stalls, rides, live music, acrobats and street performers. Dotted around the park were several interactive displays, such as a giant whale filled with plastic bottles in which you could roll around in for a few minutes to really immerse yourself in the environmental impact plastic is having on our oceans. A neat way to get the message across! ZSL had also collaborated with Magnum who were handing out free ice cream to people – a nice touch especially as it was so hot!
Food and Beverage
I was apprehensive about the food and beverage offering, expecting it to be the normal food sold from the standard stalls that usually cater the zoo. I was very wrong, A huge collection of street food vendors were dispersed around the park offering a good quality, affordable and diverse array of food, from pulled pork burgers to Jamaican curry, to brownies and Danish waffles. Not only was there a lot to choose but given the control on the number of tickets sold you hardly had to queue – a big bonus! They had a small range of alcoholic drinks, with a few local beers and carafes of wine which helped create a relaxed but special vibe.
ZSL London Zoo’s mission is to create an immersive and international experience, and with that, the Zoo nights hit the nail on the head.
The carnival type atmosphere created a completely immersive world – you totally forgot you were in the middle of London!
The international vibe really resonated, from the diverse food trucks, music, and the mini-countries they created around the exhibits that completely immersed you with their themed signage, decor and facilities.
Finally, the integration of the animal exhibits and the additional activities was key in creating this immersive and connected experience as you moved seamlessly between the bar and the wild savannah!