Recently we took a trip to the Granby Zoo, and LOVED it. I'm pretty sure I can speak for my whole family and say we can't wait to go back again. On a scale of 1-10, this place is an ELEVEN.
Granby is about a 3 hour drive from Ottawa, just past Montreal. We thought about doing the trip in one day, to avoid a potentially sleepless night trying to get the kids to sleep in a hotel room without waking each other up. In the end we decided to just go for it and spend the night. I'm glad we did.
The drive down went well, except for the major grid lock we got stuck in waiting to cross the Champlain bridge off the island. We were stuck for about 45 mins, and the kids were just starting to get fed up by the time we made it through. Luckily we were traveling with friends who were a bit ahead of us and warned us of the upcoming traffic.
We stayed at the Hotel Granbyen, which had a zoo package deal. We paid $210 for a one night stay, 3 zoo passes (kids 2 and under are free) and breakfast the next morning. I don't think I'd stay at the Granbyen again, but there are several hotels in Granby and most of them have zoo packages, so shop around. We got to the zoo around 11:30, and ate a quick lunch in the parking lot. I packed sandwiches, drinks, fruit, hummus & pita and some cookies.
Zoo Tip #1 - Bring a picnic lunch, or even a cooler! The zoo encourages you to bring your own food, and you can even rent a wagon, double stroller or single stroller while you are there. We saw a lot of people towing wagons with coolers on top. We rented a double stroller for $10 for the whole day and it was well worth the money! The kids all took turns having a ride when they got tired from all the walking.
Zoo Tip #2 - Pick up a map and a passport at the front gates. There are stamps throughout the zoo that you can collect, similar to the Children's Museum at the Museum of Civilization. Sadly we missed the passports on our way in.
Our first stop was Africa where we saw giraffes, zebras, flamingos and hippos. I really enjoyed the hippo river, which you can go behind to get a close-up view of the hippos under water. Along our way there were many installations like the Madagascar style plane, or a desert jeep, for the kids to climb on.
Zoo tip #3 The ice cream in the amusement park is REALLY good and not very expensive!
The kids were excited about taking the Orient Express elevated train, so we all hoped on for an aerial view of Asia. There was an extra charge for this ride, but it was fun. You can park your stroller at the train gate.
After this train ride, we popped into the petting zoo! This was lots of fun for the kids, since they were allowed to climb right in this large gated pen to get right up close with the pigs and goats! The animals ate hay right out of our hands.
Next it was time for dinner. We decided to eat in Le Marche, which I thought was a restaurant. It turned out to be a food court, and the selection was not great, and not very healthy. Next time I think I'll pack extra food so we can have a picnic for dinner as well.
It was getting close to 6:00pm and the kids started to get cranky, but I really wanted to check out the water park. So we sent the husbands back to the car to get our swimsuits, and started walking toward the water park. I am SO happy we decided to go, that was the best part of our visit!
Zoo tip #4 You can go back and forth between the zoo and the water park as often as you want!
We could have spent the entire day at the water park, it was like being at a resort! With older kids, I would even recommend buying a 2 day pass to the zoo and going back the next day to spend the whole day playing in the water. Joel loved the wave pool, and had a blast jumping in the waves. We didn't even have a chance to check out the splash pad, or the lazy river.
All in all I can't say enough good things about this place. The price, the cleanliness, the quality of care for the animals, the installations. It was definitely the highlight of our summer!
The zoo is open all winter, and they also have a special Halloween themed events on the last three weekends of October. For information about hotels and camp sites, you can call the Tourist Information Center at 1-866-472-6292 or visit the Granby Bromont Tourist website. I would recommend checking out the map on the he Granby Zoo's website before you go!