The Netherlands is a top European travel destination with its beautiful canals, famous capital, impressive architecture, and top museums. Luckily for those with kids, The Netherlands is also a great place to travel as a family. Rotterdam, The Netherlands’ hip port city, features numerous family-friendly activities including the Diergaarde Blijdorp, Rotterdam’s zoo. Read on to plan your kid-centered visit.
Entrance and visiting tips
Plan to spend a full day at Diergaarde Blijdorp, because as you’ll learn below, there is really so much to do and see. Rotterdam Zoo is open every day from 9 am until 5 pm, so plan to arrive around opening time. Admission rates cost 22 EUR for adults (those 12 and over; 23 USD) and 17.50 EUR for children (those 3 to 12; 18.30 USD). Admission is free for children under three. As admission prices are relatively high, you’ll be happy to hear that there is a 2 EUR (2.09 USD) discount for each ticket purchased online. Season passes are also available online and if you plan to visit several times (or live in Rotterdam), this ticket option might be worthwhile.
The Rotterdam Zoo is easy to reach on foot from Rotterdam Centraal station and is about a 15 minute walk through a lovely neighborhood.
The zoo is massive and split into two sections, so you may want to pick the top animals or areas that your family want to visit before arriving at Diergaarde Blijdorp. Checking out their map online (see link below), you’ll find that there are two entrances, the Oceananium Entrance and Rivierahal Entrance. Plan to enter through the Rivierahal Entrance if you’d like to see the Savanna House, Okapi Lodge, otters, waterbirds, or the playgrounds (see section below). If you’d like to start your visit off at the Oceanium or Amazonica, enter at the Oceanium side and move on to visit the rest of the zoo by following the tunnel under the train tracks.
Otters are such charismatic creatures and can be seen in the Asian section by entering through the Rivierahal Side Entrance. Spot the otters play together in the water or watch them get fed.
Meerkats are cuddly looking rascals that are certain to captivate any playful kid. See meerkats and other animals in the Savanna House.
Okapi are a really cool species of forest giraffe with half solid and half stripped bodies that have a stunning natural indoor inclosure in the Africa section of the zoo. In the Okapi enclosure, keep your eyes out for native plant species and wild birds.
The Oceanium is a wonderful indoor/outdoor aquarium with seals, turtles, penguins, and all sorts of fish. It is best accessed from the Oceanium Side entrance.
In Amazonica (also on the Oceanium Side), see Europe’s largest butterfly enclosure with flowers, butterflies and piranhas.
If you or your children are sensitive to animal welfare in zoos, you may want to consider not visiting the indoor enclosures for the gorillas, rhinos, hippos, and giraffes. At my time of visit in late October, the outdoor enclosures (which were nice) for these animals were closed and the animals appeared to be living in not very stimulating or natural environments. The indoor enclosures were also very strongly scented.
The overall hit of the day will certainly be the wonderful, animal-themed playgrounds at Diergaarde Blijdorp. For chillier days, I’d suggest visiting the indoor playground called Biotopia, which features a large slide shaped like a humpback whale that you climb inside to slide down. Biotopia also has a large indoor sandbox and climbing structures. In the same indoor complex, there are bathrooms with changing facilities, a cafe, and warm bird houses, featuring toucans and other birds, that you see.
There is also an outdoor playground with sections suitable for older children and teens, and young kids and toddlers. This outdoor playground is composed of a huge climbing structure with numerous bridges and slides coming down from multiple levels. The toddler and young children playground has age-appropriate slides and sandboxes.
Additional tips for a great visit
Don’t forget to bring bottles of water for the whole family and consider bringing lunch or snacks to save a bit of money. There are numerous stalls and cafeterias selling snacks, so if you’ve forgotten something, I’m sure you’ll be able to purchase it inside the zoo. Wear comfortable shoes as you’ll certainly be doing a lot of walking during your visit!
Enjoy a memorable, family-friendly visit to see amazing animals at the Rotterdam Zoo!
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