As you make plans for the summer, make space in your diary for one final visit to Bristol Zoo Gardens.

After more than 185 years, the iconic attraction will be closing on September 3 ahead of the creation of a new Bristol Zoo at its Wild Place Project site. Before the gates close for one final time, the team at Bristol Zoo Gardens are marking the final opening weeks with a send-off to remember.

From July 21, the BIG Summer Send-Off gets underway, inviting visitors to take a walk down memory lane, make new unforgettable memories, and look to the future.

Parents holding children
Credit: Bristol Zoo Gardens

Meet Wilder

The centrepiece of Bristol Zoo Gardens’ summer celebrations is a huge moving gorilla made of wood. The specially-commissioned sculpture, which is taller than the largest giraffe ever recorded, and as wide as three king size beds, will sit tall on the main lawn.

Clad in sustainable wood, the installation will captivate visitors with surprise movements throughout the day, as the female gorilla, named ‘Wilder’, ‘eats’ lettuce. 

She will also reveal details that will delight unsuspecting guests – her baby ‘Monty Alan’, a name inspired by the national park in Equatorial Guinea where the Bristol Zoological Society works to protect western lowland gorillas in the wild. 

Weighing more than four tonnes, the sculpture has been made from 180 square metres of local yew, cedar, pine and oak, generously donated by Westonbirt Arboretum.

person painting large gorilla sculpture
Credit: Bristol Zoo Gardens

Immersive fun

As the gorilla presides majestically over proceedings, families will also have the chance to immerse themselves in a fun interactive theatrical experience, ‘Into The Wild’’, especially written for the final summer. A theatre ticket can be purchased for the show and visitors are encouraged to book early to avoid disappointment. 

Donning animal-eared headphones, families will be taken on a shared adventure, as a cast of performers help them explore and learn about animals, and the positive action we can all take to save wildlife together.

Children jumping
Credit: Bristol Zoo Gardens

Part silent disco, part storytelling adventure, the show has been inspired by the next chapter of Bristol Zoo’s story and encourages children to get wild themselves with dancing, games and lots of fun for the whole family. 

The BIG Summer Send-Off will also feature a Past, Present and Future outdoor exhibition on Bristol Zoo Gardens’ historic top terrace. Running along the main parade, the exhibition will include poems, pictures and heartfelt words to create a history of the Zoo made by its visitors. 

The team behind the impressive installation is Bakehouse Factory – a multi-award-winning theatrical events company in Bristol, which is also organising and managing the Zoo’s Big Summer Send-Off programme.

Children dancing with headphones
Credit: Bristol Zoo Gardens

Join the celebrations

The BIG Summer Send-Off runs from July 21 to Bristol Zoo Gardens’ last day of opening on September 3. Visitors can join in the celebrations by purchasing standard entry tickets. The family theatre show, ‘Into The Wild’, will require an additional ticket purchase of just £5 each to cover the hire of a headset.

Other activities which form part of the final celebrations are The Zoo and You Poetry and Story Competition, The Wall of Memories and Live Legacy Art.

And of course the main attractions are the 300 species of animals, including the troop of western lowland gorillas, the red pandas, sloths and penguins, the Aquarium and Bug World.

Red panda
Credit: Bristol Zoo Gardens

Tickets for the BIG Summer Send-Off and the theatre show ‘Into The Wild’ are now available to purchase on Bristol Zoo Gardens' website

Bristol Zoo Gardens will be open to the public until it closes on 3 September 2022, before the new Bristol Zoo is created at the charity’s Wild Place Project site. Throughout that period, Wild Place Project will continue to welcome visitors as usual.

For the latest news and updates from Bristol Zoo Gardens visit bristolzoo.org.uk or follow on Instagram, on Twitter or on Facebook.

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