On Christmas Eve we had a lovely day out visiting Longleat Safari Park for the first time – well, I’d been before about 35 years ago but not sure that counts!
The main thing we wanted to see was the Festival of Light which starts at around 4:30 pm and is obviously best-seen in the dark. We didn’t want to get there too early as we were worried we’d be hanging around in the cold waiting for the lights, so we arrived at around 12 pm.
Safari Drive through
The safari drive through opens at 10 am and on Christmas Eve it took us 3.5 hours to get through! For most of the safari it doesn’t feel like that long as we were constantly moving and there was a lot to look at.
When you enter you are given an audio cd, it’s worth listening to as it will tell you facts about the animals as you go round. Also good to keep the kids engaged if the drive is a bit slow moving.
The first part is the African Village where you can get out and go for a wander. You can see the giraffes, zebras and also go on the ‘Wallaby Walk’ – unfortunately, it was much too cold for the walk on Christmas Eve. We had a quick walk through the lemur enclosure but it was too cold for them too and they were all cuddled up! The African Village is also the only place you’ll find a toilet and cafe for a while so it’s worth a stop.
Our favourite bit was the monkey drive through – somehow our car got through in one piece! Little H loved seeing the monkeys climbing all over the car and we even spotted some very cute baby monkeys. Unless you are very protective of your car I wouldn’t recommend missing this bit as it’s the highlight of the safari.
Seeing the lions and tigers up close was also amazing. The husband and I went on a real safari in Kenya for our honeymoon and we weren’t that close to lions! Little H even spotted a lioness who had climbed up a tree which isn’t something you see every day.
There are lots of other animals to see, and signs with facts dotted around. You can feed the deer and even get a bus tour round if you don’t want to drive. Unfortunately, we didn’t see Anne the elephant and the Rhino was hiding but it was very cold so can’t blame them!
If you go on the safari drive through make sure you take food with you! If you’re stuck in a car for over 3 hours with a child you can bet there will be moaning at some point about how hungry they are. The cafe in the African village had next to nothing left, but it was Christmas Eve afternoon so we gave them the benefit of the doubt. Though at £1.90 for a jam donut it isn’t a place I’d particularly recommend!
After the safari, we headed to the main park to get something to eat, by this time it was getting on for 4 pm. Unfortunately, the food options at Longleat are not great. The pizza restaurant, Pizza Piazza, looked ok but had a 30-minute queue which we didn’t want to wait for as it was getting late and very cold. The Tropical Storm cafe was packed, the tables were covered in dirty plates and the food on offer didn’t look very appetising. We ended up getting burgers and hotdogs at the kiosks which I can only liken to a greasy burger van on the side of the road. The food was the only bad point of our trip and we would definitely take a picnic in future, even if it means eating it in the car.
After a horrible burger, we had planned to visit Longleat House but ran out of time so headed straight to see the lanterns.
Festival of Light
The lanterns were fantastic, they cover a really big area and are very impressive. I haven’t seen anything quite like it before – they definitely wouldn’t look out of place at Disneyland!
The theme is fairy tales, and the lanterns include Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Hansel and Gretal, Sleeping Beauty and The Snow Queen among others.
The Festival of Light is open until 7th Jan so you may still have time to go. If you’ve missed out though keep an eye out for Christmas 2018 as this is something they do each winter.
Even without the lanterns, we’d definitely recommend a visit to Longleat. The safari was brilliant, and there’s so much more that we didn’t have time to see. As well as the house there’s also a jungle cruise, penguin island, gorilla colony, a maze, play area, and lots more.
We used our Tesco Clubcard vouchers to pay for the visit, something I’d definitely recommend as it can be quite pricey for a family otherwise.
We had an excellent day out, and are looking forward to visiting again in the summer when we can spend more time outside seeing everything Longleat has to offer.