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Day Trips from Gent to Animal Parks

Pairi Daiza Giraffe

Are you looking to get out of the city center and spend a day with some animals? Here’s an inspiring list of great zoos and animal parks in Belgium, including some right here in Gent, to get you outside and in touch with the animal kingdom!

Pairi Daiza

Domaine de Cambron, B-7940 Brugelette, WebsiteFacebook Page

Pairi Daiza

General Information: This 65-hectare, award-winning zoo and park sits on the former domain of the Cistercian Abbey of Cambron. Preserving the heritage of the site is an important value of the park, so historic trees and buildings have been well maintained and add to the beautiful, unique setting. The park is divided into 8 “worlds” which are home to more than 4,000 animals and other features. There are playgrounds and dining facilities located throughout the park. Picnicking is allowed in certain spaces but not inside the dining facilities. Pets are not allowed.

Highlights: Baby animals! Pairi Daiza is involved with the preservation of endangered species through various reproductive programs, which means that there are often baby animals to see. In 2016, the birth of Tian Bao, a male giant panda, in Pairi Daiza received international attention. (Read his “diary” here).

Open: Seasonally (from 31 March to 4 November in 2018). Daily hours from 10:00 to 18:00, 21:00, or 23:00 depending on the day. It is best to check the calendar on their website for the most up-to-date information.

Getting There:

By car, approximately 65 km from Gent. Note there is an extra parking cost.

By train, to the Cambron-Casteau train station then a 10-minute walk (900 m). B-Dagtrip tickets are available through NMBS which include a round-trip train ticket and park entrance.

Tickets: Free for children under 3 years old. Other prices vary by age and type from € 22 to € 34. Season passes are also available. Save money by pre-purchasing tickets online or by using a B-Dagtrip package.

Tips: Study your dining options in advance. Some are more expensive and fancier than others! Pick up a park map when you enter so you can plan your route around any feedings or demonstrations you want to see. The printed maps list the daily feeding times and other daily demonstrations, like the popular “birds of prey” show.

Planckendael

Leuvensesteenweg 582, 2812 Mechelen, WebsiteFacebook Page

 

General Information: This 42-hectare zoo is managed by the KMDA (Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp). It is divided into 5 “continents,” each with its own playground area. There are multiple dining options. Picnicking is allowed, though some rules apply and vary by season. You can find more information on Planckendael’s website FAQs. Pets are not allowed.

Highlights: At the beginning of each “continent” there is a brilliant and helpful sign that describes the continent’s walking route, animals, daily program, and estimated number of steps (big and small) and length of time it will take to see the whole continent. With a playground in each continent, there is always a place nearby for a break. The animal feedings and demonstrations are up close and personal. The video above was taken during the penguin feeding.

Open: 365 days a year. Daily hours from 10:00 each day (annual membership pass holders can enter at 9:00). Daily closing times are seasonal. It is best to check the calendar on their website for the most up-to-date information.

Getting There:

By car, approximately 80 km from Gent. Note there is an extra parking cost.

By train, to the Mechelen station and then a ride by De Lijn bus (at cost) or the Planckendael Express (seasonal, extra cost), OR to the Muizen station and then walk to the zoo. B-Dagtrip tickets are available for all three of these options through NMBS which include all necessary tickets for the trip.

Tickets: Free for children under 3 years old. Other prices vary by age and type from € 20 to € 26.50. Annual membership passes are available which also grant entrance to other KMDA sites like the Antwerp Zoo and the Serpentarium (both also described in this article). Memberships also grant discounts in the park restaurants and shops, and with other zoo partners. Save money by pre-purchasing tickets online or by using a B-Dagtrip package.

Tips: Planckendael offers pushchair and wagon rentals to make it easier to move small children through the park. You can reserve these when you purchase your tickets. Get the park map and daily schedule of feedings and demonstrations when you enter the park, or online before you go, so you can plan your route around any feedings or demonstrations you want to see.

Antwerp Zoo

Koningin Astridplein 20-26, 2018 Antwerp, WebsiteFacebook Page

General Information: This 175-year-old zoo is managed by the KMDA (Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp). In Antwerp, they also manage their Centre for Research and Conservation and the ‘Elisabeth Center Antwerp’ conference and concert center which includes the “Koningin Elisabethzaal”. There are multiple restaurants on site, including some recently renovated and brand new spaces. Picnicking is allowed in certain spaces but not inside the dining facilities. Pets are not allowed.

Highlights: The zoo includes a large playground and beautiful aquarium. Throughout the zoo there are indoor and outdoor exhibits. The indoor spaces are especially nice for trips during rainy Belgian days! Daily programs are offered including animal keeper talks, sea lion shows, and scuba diving shows.

Open: 365 days a year. Daily hours from 10:00 each day (annual membership pass holders can enter at 9:00). Daily closing times vary. It is best to check the calendar on their website for the most up-to-date information.

Getting There:

By car, approximately 65 km from Gent. Note that it is in Antwerp’s low emission zone, so you need to check your vehicle and purchase any necessary permits. The zoo itself does not have parking, but zoo visitors can get a discount on parking costs at two car parks within walking distance to the zoo, Parking Station ZOO and Parking Breidel, by getting their parking ticket validated before leaving the zoo. The zoo’s website also lists other car parks in the area, as well as the Park & Ride option (parking outside the city and riding a De Lijn bus or tram to the zoo).

By train, to the Antwerp Central Station. Given roadworks, the low-emission zone, and parking challenges, going by train is the recommended option. The zoo is directly adjacent to the station. B-Dagtrip tickets are available through NMBS which include round-trip train ticket and park entrance.

Tickets: Free for children under 3 years old. Other prices vary by age and type from € 20 to € 25. For groups, tickets for zoo tours are available. Annual membership passes are available which also grant entrance to other KMDA sites like Planckendael and the Serpentarium (both also described in this article). Memberships also grant discounts in the park restaurants and shops, and with other zoo partners. Save money by pre-purchasing tickets online or by using a B-Dagtrip package.

Tips: Get the park map and daily program when you enter the park, or online before you go, so you can plan your route around any shows or talks you want to see. Pushchair rentals are available at the zoo entrance.

Serpentarium

Zeedijk 146, 8370 Blankenberge, WebsiteFacebook Page

Lizards

General Information: Like the Antwerp Zoo and Planckendael, the Serpentarium is managed by the KMDA (Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp). Described as a reptile zoo at the sea, the Serpentarium is home to snakes, lizards, spiders, frogs, and other reptiles and amphibians.

Highlights: During weekends and holidays, there are set times (listed on the website here) when visitors can touch and handle certain snakes and lizards. While it is listed for schools, anyone can download a 15-question treasure hunt from the Serpentarium’s website (here, in Dutch only) to help visitors learn more about the animals.

Open: Seasonally with limited winter hours. It is best to check the calendar on their website for the most up-to-date information.

Getting There:

By car, approximately 60 km from Gent. Parking available on the streets around the Serpentarium, or at the market or train station in Blankenberge, usual parking rates apply.

By train, to the Blankenberge train station then a short walk (700 m). B-Dagtrip tickets are available through NMBS which include round-trip train ticket and Serpentarium entrance.

Also accessible by the Coastal Tram (Stationsplein stop in Blankenberge, then a short walk) which runs on the coast from 31 March to 30 September.

Tickets: Free for children under 3 years old. Other prices vary by age and type from € 8 to € 12. Annual membership passes are available which also grant entrance to other KMDA sites like the Antwerp Zoo and Planckendael (both also described in this article). Save money by using a B-Dagtrip package. Combi-tickets are available with another Blankenberge attraction, Sea Life (also described in this article).

Tips: The Serpentarium is not a very big place. An average visit is 1 hour and 30 minutes. Consider combining your visit with other attractions like the beach or a trip to nearby Sea Life to make a whole day of it. There is not a café or restaurant on site, so meals can be had at nearby restaurants or picnicking can be done at the beach.

Sea Life Blankenberge

Koning Albert-I-Laan 116, 8370 Blankenberge, WebsiteFacebook Page

General Information: As the name suggests, Sea Life is a park with sea animals including otters, penguins, seals, sea lions, turtles, fish, seahorses, sea stars, rays, and more. Sea Life is home to the Seal Rescue Center and clinic which rescues and rehabilitates sick and injured seals, mostly babies, from the Belgian coast. Through this program and the Sea Life Trust, the park promotes protection, rescue, and breeding programs for sea creatures and protection of the sea and sea life. The park has a cafeteria, outdoor playground, and large climbing adventure course. Exhibits are inside and outside, so it can still be enjoyed on colder, rainy days. Pets are not allowed.

Highlights: Sea Life offers an activity book and stamp activity for children to learn facts while navigating through the different exhibits. If children complete it, they receive a prize. Educational presentations are offered throughout the day, as are public feeding times. Presentations can be given in Dutch, French, and English. Sea Life also offers “caretaker for a day” and “photo with a sea lion” programs at an additional cost.

Open: 364 days a year, closed on Christmas Day. Daily hours vary by season. Check the website for current hours.

Getting There:

By car, approximately 65 km from Gent. Parking is available at Sea Life and is free on weekdays but is an extra cost on weekends and holidays.

By train, to the Blankenberge Station and then a 1.2 km walk or tram ride from the station to SEA LIFE – Floreal tram stop. B-Dagtrip tickets are available through NMBS which include round-trip train ticket and Sea Life entrance.

Tickets: Free for children under 3 years old. Standard tickets are € 15. Family group tickets are available, as are annual passes that include discounts in the gift shop and café, and with other retail partners. Sea Life often has promotional tickets available online that include pancakes or French Fries. You can save money by purchasing tickets online or by using a B-Dagtrip package. Combi-tickets are available with another Blankenberge attraction, the Serpentarium (also described in this article).

Tips: Don’t miss a chance to see the adorable baby seals in the Seal Rescue Center clinic, or the tiny baby seahorses in the seahorse education section. Check the schedule of educational presentations and feeding times online or at the ticket desk when you enter so that you can make the most of your visit. Sea Life is not as big as the other zoos listed here, so an average visit does not take a whole day. Consider combining your visit with other attractions like the beach or a trip to nearby Serpentarium to make a whole day of it.

Schoolhoeve De Campagne

Gijzelstraat 14, 9031 Drongen (Gent), WebsiteFacebook Page

General Information: Right here in Gent, this is an educational farm and petting zoo where you can spend time with the animals and learn about farming. The farm is home to goats, chickens, rabbits, pigs, cows, ponies, and more. In addition to petting areas, the farm has a playground.

Highlights: The farm features many opportunities to pet the animals and learn about farming and animal care. A children’s map to guide them through the farm is available for purchase at reception for € 2 per child.

Open: From April to October, Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 16:30 (and Wednesday to 17:00). Every second Sunday of the month from 14:00 to 17:00. From November to March, Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 16:00.

Getting There:

By car, approximately 9 km from Gent city center. Street parking is available.

By bus, take De Lijn’s number 18 bus “P+R Oostakker – Drongen Luchteren – (Merendree)” to “Drongen Catriestraat” stop and then walk 450 m.

Tickets: Free entrance.

Tips: The farm offers events and educational activities throughout the year. Follow their Facebook page for updates. The farm is small, so an average visit may not take a whole day, but there are areas to picnic.

Familiepark Harry Malter

Bosheidestraat 15, 9070 Destelbergen (Heusden), WebsiteFacebook Page

Raccoon

General Information: Another one near Gent, this park with animals and rides was established in its current location in 1992. It is run by a family with a long history of circus management. It is designed with pre-primary aged children in mind. There is a small petting zoo area, other animals (capibara, deer, birds, monkeys, camels, skunks, porcupines, raccoons, mice, meerkats, and more) on display in their habitats, rides, and a play area. The park has a restaurant with a terrace. Picnicking is not allowed in the restaurant area, but there are benches throughout the park.

Highlights: In addition to enjoying the animals, the park has a train, a circus show, camel rides, a silly mirror house, swings, and a playground area with bounce houses and small rides. The website has downloadable education packets that you can print for your children before you visit. Children can host birthday parties at the park. It is also available to rent for other private events. Schools and cycling and walking clubs are welcome for group outings.

Open: The park has seasonal hours. It is closed on weekdays in the Fall and Winter. It is best to check their website for current opening days and hours.

Getting There:

By car, approximately 10 to 15 km from Gent, depending on your location. There is a large parking area where you can park for an additional cost of € 1.

By bus, take De Lijn’s number 27 bus “Ghent St Pieters-Wetteren / Dendermonde” to Bosheidestraat stop and then walk 350m.

Tickets: Children and adults € 13.50 each, reduced rates available for seniors, teachers, groups, and season passes.

Tips: This park is ideal for pre-primary aged children but my 8-year-old son still loved seeing all the animals and really enjoyed the swing ride. It isn’t huge, but you can still spend many hours there, maybe even a whole day if you take a lunch break and take the time to do every activity.

Mekkerland – Diervriendelijke Kinderboerderij

Lübeckstraat 1, 9000 Gent, WebsiteFacebook Page

General Information: Mekkerland is a new, animal-friendly petting zoo in Gent, funded by the 2018 Burgerbudget. This means they will be open through August 2019, with the possibility of an extension. The zoo/farm is animal-friendly in that it does not put the animals to work in any way, and carefully controls their interaction with visitors so that the animals are respected and comfortable.

Highlights: Mekkerland strives to educate guests about animal welfare and respect for animals. They also promote respect for people by aiming to be accessible for all guests by accommodating special needs and offering therapeutic programs. They promote respect for the environment by using natural, sustainable, reusable materials throughout the location.

Open: Changes seasonally, so it is best to check their website or Facebook page for current opening hours.

Getting There:

By car, is possible, but Mekkerland has no parking spots of its own, so you must find public parking nearby.

By bus, take De Lijn’s number 6 bus “Gent Watersportbaan – Mariakerke Post” to the Gent Lübeckstraat stop, then walk 70m.

Tickets: Entrance appears to be free, but workshops held on site may require advanced registration and additional costs.

Tips: You tell me! I haven’t had a chance to visit Mekkerland yet, but added it to this list once I heard about it. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have been.

Have you enjoyed a trip to any of these parks, or do you have other recommendations for zoos or animal parks we should visit? Let us know in the comments.

Enjoy your animal adventures!

Rebecca Bramlett
Rebecca Bramlett moved with her family from the United States to Gent in January 2016 thanks to an eagerly accepted international employment assignment for her husband. After spending nearly 15 years working in higher education (primarily university fundraising), she is now spending her time trying out new titles to add to the obvious “stay-at-home-mom” and “accompanying spouse.” Things like: enthusiastic expat, personal blogger (who is dreadfully behind in posts), amateur photographer, traveler, and lover of animals (especially dogs and horses). You can witness her attempts at these efforts – and her overall quest to squeeze every great opportunity out of her time-limited expat experience – by following her blog, Instagram (@rbbramlett), or Twitter.
https://rbabroad.com/

2 thoughts on “Day Trips from Gent to Animal Parks

    1. Hi Mohannad, thank you for reading! I am happy you enjoyed it. I am also happy to hear that it was shared by this PARC app. I will have to check out that app for future activities! Thanks for sharing!

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