ZooWatch: Celebrate Christmas at Whipsnade Zoo

Christmas at Whipsnade Zoo will still be magical this year.

Christmas at Whipsnade Zoo will still be magical this year. - Credit: Archant

Santa Claus has had something of a rum deal this Christmas. His traditional grottos, where he gets to meet eager boys and girls ahead of the big day, have largely been cancelled due to the pandemic.

With no opportunity to sit on the big man’s knee this year, it seemed as though virtual chats were the only option.

Enter Whipsnade Zoo, with an innovative means of bringing the magic of Christmas to life in a Covid-safe environment, and offering exed youngsters the chance to actually see Saint Nick in person this year.

Not only can families help track down the lost food for Santa’s reindeer as part of a self-guided trail through the zoo’s wild winter wonderland, but they can catch the man in red on parade throughout the day when his festive float journeys around the zoo.

Despite biting wind and driving rain proving something of a challenge to Sunday’s visit, I brought the family to Whipsnade to ensure they at least had something magical to enjoy in the run up to Christmas.

The sight of Santa brought smiles to the faces of our youngsters as his arrival was heralded by the jingle of sleigh bells.

Accompanied by a team of elves, Father Christmas took the time to stop and chat to eight-year-old Anwen and Mollie (five), while baby Connie, who celebrates her first birthday just before Christmas, watched with curiosity at the sight of this sprightly procession.

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The zoo has also been celebrating an early Christmas present in the form of female giraffe calf Margaret, who was born on December 8.

She is named after 90-year-old Margaret Keenan, who became the first person in the UK to receive the COVID-19 vaccine that same day.

The 600-acre zoo will remain open regardless of which tier the county is in, meaning visitors can book in confidence for a guaranteed festive family day out.

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s chief operating officer, Owen Craft, said: “Christmas at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo is always magical, with our huge winter wonderland to explore. But this year we all need a little extra magic, and we’re so excited to be able to still bring Father Christmas to our visitors!

“We cannot wait to open our doors again and bring some cheer to all of our visitors. It’s been a difficult year for us all and paying us a visit is one of the best ways you can show us your support – I can’t think of a better place to be this Christmas!”