The top 10 reasons why we (and our kids) are wild for the Singapore Zoo!
Aah, the zoo, the zoo. Shall we compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate… Ok you get it, we love visiting the Singapore Zoo!
In a city jam-packed with fab family excursions, the Singapore Zoo still tops our must-do list, especially with kids. Well-planned walking trails, beautifully kept gardens, free-roaming animals (oppressive bars and small cages are kept to a minimum), and lots of clean kid-sized toilets, changing facilities and nursing rooms — what could be better?
There’s more than enough to see to keep your little ones entertained weekend after weekend; in fact, hot tip #1 would be to spring for a Friends of the Zoo or Friends of Wildlife pass instead of buying zoo tickets (more on this below).
We (and our kiddos) desperately missed the Zoo while it was closed during the Circuit Breaker, but were delighted to see the announcement that it will be opening back up to the public on 6 July 2020 (along with other popular attractions like S.E.A. Aquarium, ArtScience Museum, Universal Studios Singapore and others)! Do note that until further notice the Zoo will be limited to 25% capacity at any one time — on the plus side, no crowds! But it also means you’ll have to plan your trip a bit more carefully, mama. This means that you are required to reserve a designated arrival time prior to your visit, and must enter the park within 45 minutes of that time. Masks are required, and groups are limited to no more than five people. Click here for the full advisory, and note that certain attractions and shows at the Zoo, River Safari, Night Safari and Jurong Bird Park will be closed through 31 July; click here for further details.
Read on to see our Top 10 tips for visiting the Singapore Zoo with kids. And because it’s so vast we thought you might like to know some of the Sassy Mama team’s personal faves, so we’ve thrown those in as a bonus! Do note that some of the items mentioned below may be affected by social distancing measures, though we hope everything can get back to normal soon!
Let’s kick off with a few fast facts:
1. Kids under 3 enter for free. Hey, that rhymes!
It doesn’t get much kid-friendlier than the Singapore Zoo; in addition to free entry for littles under 3 (kids ages 3-12 cost $21.25-$25, depending on the date and their residency status), the zoo is filled with clean restrooms (including lots of kid-sized toilets!) and convenient changing facilities, plus three nursing rooms (at the main entrance, KidzWorld and the Reptile House).
2. You can rent small wagons and strollers and push kids around the zoo.
No need to schlep stuff in a taxi or on the bus! In the wagons kids can sit facing each other, which is fun until they start arguing, and then you turn them in opposite directions. Strollers (max weight 15kg) rent for $15, wagons (max weight 35kg for two kids) rent for $18, and both come with a 20% discount for zoo members (we told you it was worth it!). Other mobility devices like wheelchairs and electric scooters are also available for rental; click here for all the deets.
3. You actually have a place to leave your car seat!
We’re all for leaving the stroller at home, but car safety always comes first, of course! At the zoo you can actually store your car seat for free! And if you’ve got other heavy baggage that you don’t want to lug around, the zoo offers both storage lockers of varying sizes and an oversized luggage counter. Both rent for $10 for the first three hours, and $2 for each additional hour.
4. Rock star free-roaming orangutans and lots of other animal encounters
The orangutans aren’t always out but when they are, it’s good fun. These guys know how to mingle with the crowd and party with their non-stop clapping and cheering. And even if you miss them, there are still plenty of ops to meet the residents, including “feed the animals” sessions with elephants, giraffes, goats and white rhinos.
5. Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream has several outlets.
Isn’t it obvious why this is an important fact? Just be sure to eat fast! If kiddos have to earn their dessert, your Singapore zoo food options include multiple KFCs, Inuka Cafe (local coffee shop), and two Ah Meng’s (serving up local dishes like nasi lemak and chicken rice, along with fish & chips and other Western fried faves). Just don’t exhaust yourself looking for a salad.
6. Beat the heat by getting there early…or cool off at Kidzworld Splash Pad
If you get to the zoo early not only will you ensure you actually get in quicker, but you’ll also be finishing up your visit by the time the worst of the midday heat hits. Of course when it does hit, we’ve never heard a kid complain about Kidzworld, sort of a mini-theme park located at the very back near Sungei Buaya (Mandrills and Chimps) and nearby to the Tortoise Shell-ter and Sea Lion Splash Show. Here you’ll find a huge, fabulous water play with an animal-themed slide and spray shack and a truly massive water bucket ready to rain down at regular intervals. Be sure to bring a swim suit to avoid disappointment; there are showers on site, too. Other popular Kidzworld attractions include the Buddy Barn (where kids can meet bunny rabbits, guinea pigs, and even occasionally ferrets and goats), along with a carousel, pony rides and the new Houbii Rope Course (which all cost extra — Friends of the Zoo get a a 20% discount off the ropes course, though!).
7. If you really can’t take the heat…just go into the aircon
Truth: the Singapore Zoo is quite spread out, which means you’re either gonna be covering a lot of ground on foot, or possibly forking out cash ($3-$5) for a tram ticket (unless you’re a Friend of the Zoo and there on a weekday, in which case it’s free!). If you need to cool off (or escape a torrential downpour — this is Singapore, after all), a number of cool sheltered buildings are strategically placed around the zoo. In addition to restaurants like Ah Meng’s and Ben and Jerry’s, there’s also Reptopia (don’t worry, the snakes are in an enclosure!), the Forest Lodge, the Penguin House, the Frozen Tundra and the Kangaroo House. NB: One of the things we like most about the nearby River Safari is that it’s almost all either indoors or under a covered walkway — it’s a good back-up option if the weather’s not cooperating.
8. Have your breakfast with the orangutans.
Where else in the world can you enjoy your tea and toast with these furry friends? Each day from 9am to 10:30am at Ah Meng Restaurant, families can chow down and then look forward to a photo op with a whole family of friendly orangutans (they make their appearance from 9:30-10am) in this totally unique-to-Singapore dining experience. Reservations are required and tickets cost $35 for adults and $25 for children ages 6-12. Once again, Friends of the Zoo members get a 20% discount!
NB: This is temporarily closed from 6-31 July 2020 due to safe distancing measures.
9. Become a friend of the zoo.
It doesn’t take long to enjoy value for money with this pass. For roughly the cost of three visits (prices start from $205 for two adults + 1 child over 3), with a Friends of the Zoo pass your family gets unlimited visits throughout the year (excluding just three public holidays, when it’ll be so crowded you won’t want to go anyway!), plus free weekday tram rides (so key with little legs and a lot of ground to cover!), majorly discounted parking, and all sorts of discounts off food, souvenirs, and other fun experiences. You even get to waltz on by the long entrance queues when you’re a friend of the zoo. We’d definitely suggest going for the full “Friends of Wildlife” pass while you’re at it, since for less than $100 extra it also includes the Night Safari, Jurong Bird Park, and The River Safari (who doesn’t love pandas?!). And real talk, mamas: the Zoo is SO big that we prefer hitting it up in chunks, rather than making a full day of it (to see everything). This set-up works way better with cranky toddlers, too. When you buy a membership the pressure’s off to cram everything into one day, and yet there will always be something on to catch your fancy (and kiddos are sure to have their favourites…see below for some of ours!).
10. Let’s not forget the Night Safari…and the Zoo Safari
The Night Safari might be a bit further up the road but is a super fun way to finish off a day at the Zoo, particularly if you have out of town guests who want to avoid the heat, or older kids who can stay up a bit later. With different, nocturnal animals, cool shows and the magical Rainforest Lumina (“a multimedia night walk on the wild side”), it’s absolutely worth a visit unto itself. As aforementioned, the River Safari right next door rates with us because most of it is either indoors or under cover. Here you’ll also find cool activities like Sleep with the Manatees and the theme park-esque Amazon River Quest ride ($3-$5 extra), and of course its also home to Singapore’s famous giant pandas, Jia Jia and Kai Kai.
And there you have it, mamas! A few final tips:
- Don’t forget to pack sunscreen and insect repellant
- An umbrella could come in handy, too (though naturally you can find plenty – along with ponchos in both child and adult sizes – in the gift shops).
- The multi-storey carpark is closed through 31 December 2019 (with limited spaces still available in the surface lot).
- The zoo is open every day of the year, from 8:30am to 6:30pm. Weekends and school holiday periods are naturally the busiest.
- Stay tuned for the gradual opening of the massive Mandai Project, starting with the new Jurong Bird Park in 2021 and culminating in a sure-to-be-incredible eco-resort in 2023.
Ready to plan your day at the Singapore Zoo? Click here to see a zoo map!
Team Sassy Mama’s Top Singapore Zoo Picks
Despite having grown up in Singapore, my son identifies very strongly as Australian! He loves looking at the Australian animal section, and feeling a bit of a connection to the homeland. The kangaroos and wallabies feel very ordinary to my husband and me, but the kids think they’re amazing (and we ALL love the pygmy hippos!). The kids are also huge fans of the red wagons – it certainly makes kid-wrangling a lot simpler, and there’s way less whining. A win for everyone! – Jessica
My daughter has ALWAYS loved the giraffes and the zebras, and now my son has joined her as well (until visiting the Singapore Zoo, I don’t think he thought zebras were an actual real live thing). Maggie also adores the carousel (which drives my husband crazy because it’s naturally on the opposite end of the zoo from the giraffes and zebras in Wild Africa!). – Kate
My kids ask weekly to go and see Pedro the Sea Lion in the Splash Safari Show at the Singapore Zoo. We really enjoy seeing the Sea Lions up close and in action, plus we respect how they discuss environmental issues such as plastic waste in the ocean and advocate using reusable shopping bags + water bottles! On days when we aren’t racing in for the splash show, we really enjoy the Houbii Rope Course, (although it’s pricey); it keeps our kids challenged and busy for at least an hour! – Abi
“Unfortunately our eldest son’s favorite part of the zoo happens to be the snake and reptile house. Here you will find a combination of expats (Mexican rattle snake and an Anaconda) as well as local snakes, some venomous some not. As a total ophidiophobic (yes, I had to google that one too..) the snake house poses a mental challenge each time we go. Especially with the main attraction being the too-big–for-comfort King Cobra that goes by the name of Elvis- questions anyone..? This 4.3 meters long dude was found in a drain off Thomson Road a few years back and we are relieved that he now has a proper home, faaar away from our parks.” – Sofia
“My absolute favourite part of the zoo is the Fragile Forest, an amazing area that is usually nearly deserted in the early mornings, where mousedeer roam freely (is there anything more magical than one of these little creatures running across your feet?!), butterflies swoop, fruitbats hang out, and there’s even a two-toed sloth doing… well, not very much as you’d expect.“ – Hester
Hands down, one of our favourite parts of the zoo is the amazing water park at Kidzworld. The kids can cool off and have a splashdown and it is just so much fun for littlies. If you forget to pack the bathers you can pick up disposable swim diapers and swimmers at the souvenir shop. You’ll also need the sunscreen and a towel to dry off…if you can even drag the kiddos away! – Sarah
Singapore Zoo, 80 Mandai Lake Road, Singapore 729826, www.wrs.com.sg/en/singapore-zoo
All images via Wildlife Reserves Singapore