Guided Tour: Granby Zoo

Granby Zoo Address: 1050 David Bouchard Blvd. north, Granby. (View map)
OPENING DAY: May 20, 2017
Hours: Early Season open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Regular Season open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Daily Tickets (summer rates): Adults (age 13 to 64), $39.95; age 3 to 12, $26.95; toddlers (2 years) $12.95; under 2, free (prices subject to change)
Season Passes: Starting at $60 (see details)
Website: www.zoodegranby.com
Telephone: 1-450-372-9113 or 1-877-472-6299

After one visit to Granby Zoo, we felt like getting a hotel room in Granby so we could do it all over again the next day.

This zoo/water park/amusement park is a premium destination that REALLY makes families welcome. About one hour away from downtown Montreal, it's an easy drive and well worth a trip for those with children who are at least two to three years old (read below for age range information).

It's not a cheap outing – admission totalled almost $100 for two adults, a four-year-old and a two-year-old – so plan to spend the whole day. Walk on the wild side, skip afternoon naps, and hope that kids will either fall asleep in the stroller when they get tired, or just conk out on the ride home.

The beautiful grounds of Granby Zoo sprawl over about 100 acres, so a stroller (either your own or a rental) is a must (see tips below) for small children. You'll most likely start by visiting the African animals area (elephants, giraffes, lions, rhinoceroses, hippos, giant tortoises, gorillas, lemurs, etc.), which is great because they're large, impressive and easily visible for most kids.

If it's time for lunch at this point, the main restaurant is close by. Another absolute must during your visit is a ride on the elevated train – it circles the other section of the zoo that small kids will probably not have the interest or energy to see by foot. On the train, everyone can sit back, relax and get a beautiful aerial view of the grounds and more animals (the mini farm, tigers, birds, monkeys, etc.). Although you have to pay extra to do the train ride, it is well worth it.

Another highlight for small children will be the mini farm, which is not like the petting zoos you see in malls. Children can actually walk into very large enclosures to pet friendly baby goats, sheep, and rabbits (there are handwashing stations right there). There are also rides on unbelievably cute miniature horses (extra cost).

After the mini-farm, you may want to hit Amazoo, the water park, which is at the back of the property. There is a lazy river (you sit on inner tubes and float), two wave pools, a lagoon area for small children, plus a play pool that's got slides, fountains, sprinklers, etc. The water is heated, so kids can splash right in. You could spend an entire day here. Having had a full morning of over-the-top activities, plus fast food and ice cream, our kids lasted only about an hour, but were certainly impressed.

We did not get to the on-site amusement park area, which has grownup-size roller coasters and a swinging ship, as well as basic rides for small children.

What else we loved about Granby Zoo:

  • Despite being busy, no long lineups: Although the parking lot itself was a zoo when we arrived, we waited no more than five minutes to get in, and didn't wait in any other lineups (paying for lunch, a train ride, seeing animals, going to the bathroom) during our visit.
  • Bathrooms are EVERYWHERE: They're also clean, have changing tables, and some have breastfeeding rooms (the one in the main restaurant area has one).
  • Variety of food: There's an indoor "market-style" food court, which sells healthy sandwiches and fruit, along with fast food options.
  • Lots of shade: There are many shaded areas to stop, rest and have a drink.
  • Children rule: Lots of details make it special for kids. Like the fact that they get a "passport" at admission, which they can stamp with pictures of each animal that they see along the way. For many kids, getting all their passport stamps seemed to eclipse actually seeing the animals. There are also tons of play features along the way (like a small airplane and truck to sit in, a beautiful playground structure).
  • But parents are happy, too: There's so much to do and the variety of animals is really world class, so a trip to Granby is a treat for parents. Plus, they sell Belgian-chocolate-dipped ice cream. Hello!

Tips:

  • Age range: If you have one child who's under age three, consider the pricing before making the trip. It costs $36.95 per adult, so it would cost just about $75 for two parents to take a 2-year-old (it's free for kids under age 2), who may be interested in animals for about half an hour (or less!). There are certainly other things to do, like the petting zoo, the train ride and the water park, but given that a toddler probably can't manage a whole-day trip (including a long drive to and from) to explore the park, it may be worth waiting till they're around 3.
  • Bring your own stroller: Although the zoo rents strollers, wagons and double chariot-style strollers, it's a great idea to bring your own. The kids may be more likely to relax and sleep in their own stroller when they get tired. Also, it will help transport the gear you'll need (sunscreen, hats, bathing suits, towels, bottles of water, snacks, etc.)
  • There is an IGA across the street: If you forget any basic supplies, there's a grocery store to stop at just before entering the zoo.
  • If you are interested in spending the night in the area, there's hotel information on the Granby Zoo website.

This article was published in May, 2013 and updated in May, 2017