30 examples of two kinds of days out with an animal theme. Choose from creatures in captivity, at zoos and petting farms, and those living in the wild, but observable at nature reserves. No prizes for guessing that we favour the latter, and, if your family shares our appetite for discovering wildlife for itself, head for the websites of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, RSPB, county wildlife trusts, or Scottish Natural Heritage. Meanwhile, this wide selection of animal days, ranges from lambs to cuddle andcaged captives, to rare birds in the wild.
1. Amazon World, Arreton, Isle of Wight
Two hundred species of exotic animals, from parrots to giant African land snails. Daily falconry talks and displays. Open: daily, 10am. £6.50; child, £5; senior, £5.50; family (two plus two), £22. (01983 867122).
2. Ash End House Children's Farm, Tamworth, Staffordshire
Admission price includes food for the animals and a farm badge. Children can bottle-feed the lambs and hold a newly-hatched chick.
Open: daily, 10am. £3.90; child, £4.90. (0121-329 3240).
3. Beale Park, Reading, Berkshire
Extensive wildlife collection, including owls, plus national collection of model boats. River cruises available.
Open: daily, 10am. £6.50; child aged two to 15, £4.50. (0870 7777 160).
4. The Big Sheep, nr Bideford, Devon
Not one for the animal purists, this features sheep-racing (with little woollen jockeys), sheep dogs, lambs to bottle-feed, and, bizarrely, horse-whispering, plus play areas.
Open: daily, 10am. £7.50; child, £6.50; family (two plus four), £29.50. (01237 472366).
5. Blackbrook Zoological Park, Leek, Staffordshire
Special focus on birds, from swans to kookaburras.
Open: daily, 10.30am. £6.95; child, £4.25; concessions, £5.75; family (two plus two), £18.75. (01538 308293).
6. Blair Drummond Safari and Adventure Park, Stirling
Sea-lion shows, five-seater pedal boats and a boat safari to the chimpanzee island. There are also antelopes, big cats, apes and rhinos.
Open: daily, 10am. £9.50; child, £5.50; senior and concessions, £5.50. (01786 841456).
7. Caerlaverock, Dumfries and Galloway
A 1,400-acre nature reserve with hides and observation towers linked by a network of screened approaches and nature trails. Huge variety of birds. Open: daily, 10am. £4.40; child, £2.70; seniors, £3.60; family, £11.50. (01387 770200).
8. Cwm Clydach, Craig Cefn Parc, Swansea
Flycatchers and buzzards are among birds in this mixed broadleaved woodland. (01792 842927.)
9. Deen City Farm, London
Runs young farmer days where children can help out around the farm and stables. Riding school also attached.
Open: Tues-Sun, 10am. Free. (020-8543 5300).
10. Dungeness, nr Lydd, Kent
One of England's most important breeding colonies of gulls and terns. Five hides and a visitor centre.
Open: daily, 10am. £3; child, £1; family (two plus two), £6. (01797 320588).
11. Exe Estuary, nr Exeter, Devon
A great place for watching seabirds. Ferry links reserves across the Exe. (01392 824614).
12. Folly Farm, Kilgetty, Pembrokeshire
Children can milk cows and goats, and there is a zoo with zebra and other exotic animals. Plus funfair, go karts, theatre shows and pet handling.
Open: daily, 10am. £6.25; child 3-15, £5.25. (01834 812731).
13. Fowlmere, Cambridgeshire
Natural chalk springs feed the reedbeds and pools, leading to a rich variety of wildlife including kingfishers. Donation requested from non-members of RSPB. (01763 208978).
14. Freiston Shore, Boston, Lincolnshire
At high tide it is possible to get very close views of roosting birds. Skylarks and owls can also be sighted here. (01205 724678).
15. Garston Wood, Dorset
Ancient wood with turtle doves, badgers, deer and dormice. (01392 432691).
16. Glenborrodale, the Highlands
Ancient oakwood has wood warblers and other birds, with otters and seals common along the shore. (01463 715000).
17. Horton Park, Epsom, Surrey
Aimed at two- to eight-year-olds, this large farm has llamas, alpacas, ponies and pigs, plus an adventure playground.
Open: daily, 10am. Child £5.45; one adult free per paying child; additional adult, £5.30; senior, £4.45. (01372 743984).
18. Jedforest Deer and Farm Park, Jedburgh, Scottish Borders
Several herds of deer, farm animals, llamas and wallabies, in 800 acres. Good walks. Children may feed the animals.
Open: daily, 10am. £4; child, £2.50; family (two plus two), £12. (01835 840364).
19. Knowsley Safari Park, Liverpool
Five-mile safari drive with elephant paddocks, lions, tigers, plus reptile house and otter pool.
Open: daily, 10am. £9.50; child, £6.50; senior, £6.50; family (two plus two), £28. (0151-430 9009).
20. Langstone Harbour, Havant, Hampshire
Shingle islands and saltmarsh provide habitat for gulls and terns and the area is particularly popular with migrating geese. (01273 775333).
21. London Wetland Centre, Barnes
Ducks, lapwings, great-crested grebes and sand martins in 40 hectares of wetland. Miles of tracks to explore. In our view, the best day out in London.
Open: daily, 9:30am. £6.75; child, £4; family (two plus two), £17.50. (020-8409 4400).
22. National Wetlands Centre Wales, Llwynhendy, Llanelli
Hides, a maze, "water vole city". A superb place to watch dragonflies.
Open: daily, 9:30am. £5.50; child, £3.50, seniors, £4.50; family (two plus two), £14.50. (01554 741087).
23. New Forest Reptile Centre, nr Lyndhurst, Hampshire
Includes all the snake and lizard species found in Britain, including, in outdoor pens, the rare sand lizard, smooth snake and adder.
Open: daily, 10am. (02380 283141).
24. Paradise Wildlife Park, Broxbourne, Hertfordshire
Pan for gold, play safari miniature golf, and brave the new reptile house. Book and pay extra to feed the lemurs, hold meerkats and spiders or to shadow one of the keepers.
Open: daily, 9.30am. £10; concessions, £7; family of four, £32. (01992 470490).
25. Pulborough Brooks, West Sussex
Restored wet grassy meadows give refuge to thousands of ducks, geese, swans and wading birds. Nightingales are frequent visitors, and there are many species of butterfly.
Open: daily, 10am. Admission: £3.50; child, £1; student, £1.50; family (two plus two), £7. (01798 875851).
26. Rye Meads, Stanstead Abbots, Hertfordshire
This reserve is next to the river Lee and is home to kingfishers, which breed in artificial sandbanks and a colony of common terns, which nest on specially-made rafts. Tufted ducks, shovelers and green sandpipers also drop in.
Open: 10am. Free. (01992 708383).
27. Sandwell Valley, Great Barr, West Midlands
Ducks and songbirds breed here, nesting in the marshes, lakes and grasslands. Excellent visitor centre.
Open: Tue-Fri 9am, Sat-Sun 10am. Free. (0121-3577 395).
28. South Stack Cliffs, Holyhead, Anglesey
More than 4,000 seabirds breed on the cliffs at South Stack, including puffins, razorbills, ravens and guillemots.
Open: daily, 10am. Free. (01407 764973).
29. Stratford Butterfly Farm, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warks
Exotic and rare butterflies, and some of the world's strangest creepy-crawlies including scorpions and beetles.
Open: daily, 10am. £4.75; child aged three to 16, £3.75; family (two plus two), £13.95; additional child,£1.50. (01789 299288).
30. Welsh Mountain Zoo, Colwyn Bay, Clwyd
Tigers, camels, bears, the elusive red panda and lovely gardens. Open: daily, 9.30am. £7.50; child over three, £5.35; senior, £6.40; family (two plus two), £22.65. (01492 532938).Reuse content