Dublin Zoo can be found about three miles from the centre of town in Phoenix Park and is, according to its own marketing material, the number one family visitor attraction in the whole of the Emerald Isle.
A visit at the weekend during peak season, when the zoo can get very crowded, would certainly seem to support this claim. However the variety of animals on show in well-sized enclosures certainly makes joining the crowds a worthwhile activity, particularly if you have any children in tow.
Dublin Zoo opened in 1830 making it the third oldest zoo in the world behind London and Paris. The zoo was in fact initially established with animals supplied from London Zoo, at the behest of the Zoological society of Dublin.
As you can probably imagine the zoo has changed fundamentally from this early 19th century incarnation, both physically and in mission. No longer there to purely display exotic animals to an awe-filled public, the zoo is now a thoroughly modern 21st century facility with research, conservation and animal-management as stated aims.
Recent development of the zoo has seen a considerable expansion in size and the modernization of visitor amenities, however some of the 19th century zoo remains including the evocative tearooms.
The modernization has ensured that the zoo is navigable for the disabled and anyone with a child's buggy, which enables the enclosures to be viewed as intended in thematic and geographic groupings.
Different portions of the zoo include the African Plains, World of Cats, World of Primates, Fringes of the Arctic and the City Farm. And this carefully considered layout really helps to give a visit to the zoo an educational and informative edge.
As you may expect in a modern visitor attraction of this size there are certainly ample opportunities to spend money on top of the entrance fee. There are numerous places to eat and drink, worth a look is the Meerkat Restaurant where you can eat under the watchful gaze of a collection of the Kalahari mammals.
The sizable main gift shop makes the slightly strange claim of being the largest carrier of stuffed toys in the entire Republic, so anyone with young children may wish to steer clear rather than risk doubling the cost of the outing. For gifts more suited to older relatives, but with only a very tenuous link to Ireland, there is a store selling African crafts and themed souvenirs.
The massive popularity of the attraction to local Dublin families may make, where possible, a visit during the week preferable to avoid the congestion at weekends, but the ongoing modernization program seems to be better equipping the zoo for large visitor numbers.
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