7 Family Days Out That Are Better Than the Zoo

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One of the most important things you can do as a parent is teach your children to respect animals. Most children are naturally fascinated by animals and will leap at the opportunity to learn more about them. But sadly, some attractions aren’t good for animals and teach children all the wrong lessons.

For example, zoos teach children that distressed animal behaviour, such as constant pacing, is “normal”, and circuses that use wild animals conceal the ugly truth about how animals are trained behind the scenes so that children learn to associate the experience with joy.

But it’s not all bad news: the UK offers many nature-oriented activities that don’t come at the cost of animal suffering. Here are some animal-friendly activities for this summer:

  1. Visit a nature reserve to witness British wildlife in a natural habitat. Grab some binoculars and perhaps a picnic lunch and head off to explore meadows, wetlands or forests, keeping your eyes open for interesting animals along the way. There’s nothing more satisfying than having your patience rewarded with a glimpse of a rare butterfly, a majestic bird of prey or a dazzling kingfisher.Nature Picnic Hike Mountains
  2. Visit a circus that doesn’t use animals. You don’t need to write off circuses altogether. If your children particularly enjoy clumsy clowns and the skilful acts that some circuses offer, just seek out an animal-free circus, such as the ones listed here.Gymnast Circus
  3. See rescued farmed animals in a sanctuary. Sanctuaries such as Hillside and Hopefield often have open days when youngsters can make friends with pigs, cows and sheep. They’ll learn just how sensitive and inquisitive these animals are.Pig
  4. Cuddle up with homeless cats and dogs at your local animal shelter. Some shelters welcome visitors to help socialise the friendly animals in their care. Phone ahead first to check visiting hours. (Note: this activity is not suitable for very young children.)Dog Animal Shelter
  5. Take to the water for a whale-, dolphin- or seal-watching trip. The actions of these majestic sea creatures as they dip, dive and play in their natural habitat epitomise true grace and beauty. These invigorating trips are absolutely captivating, all the while teaching your little ones about animals in their natural environment.Whale watching
  6. See stunning wildlife in 3-D at your local IMAX cinema. Sometimes sitting down in front of a big screen for a few hours is exactly what you need after a day of sightseeing. The astonishing immersive technology at IMAX cinemas will enthral the whole family, leaving you feeling like you’ve spent the last week trekking through the Amazon.Cinema
  7. Explore a natural history museum. Museums can be a favourite for all generations and offer plenty to see in the summer. Whether you fancy browsing a wildlife photography exhibition, taking a school trip to a fossil collection or getting lost in an interactive virtual reality experience, museums offer more than enough for the whole family.Natural History Museum

But these ideas are just scratching the surface. Get creative this summer, and let us know your family’s favourite animal-friendly activity by leaving a comment below.


  • Lydia commented on August 17, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    What about Safari parks?

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