Seven animal attractions in Yorkshire for children who love wildlife - from aquariums to farms

Hamish the polar bear at Yorkshire Wildlife Park. (Pic credit: Danny Lawson / PA)Hamish the polar bear at Yorkshire Wildlife Park. (Pic credit: Danny Lawson / PA)
Hamish the polar bear at Yorkshire Wildlife Park. (Pic credit: Danny Lawson / PA)
Does your child love to observe wildlife or visit and pet animals? Here are six of Yorkshire’s popular animal attractions perfect for a family day out.

Yorkshire prides itself on its love for animals and as a result, the region is peppered with attractions such as farms, aquariums or wildlife parks.

Below are some of the popular animal sights you can take your children for a guaranteed enjoyable - yet educational - day.

Yorkshire Wildlife Park, Doncaster

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YWP has roughly 475 animals with more than 60 different species and offers a spectacular scenic view where you can take a breath-taking walk through the wildlife park.

It was built on a former riding school and small farm and was first opened in April 2009. Since then the park has been a centre for conservation and welfare.

Most of the animals at the park are endangered or threatened in the wild. In February 2010, the park rescued 13 lions from a dilapidated Romanian zoo, where they were living in poor conditions.

A year later, the park rescued tigers and opened the Land of the Tigers with pools and a waterfall. Leopards were rescued in 2012 and stayed in one of the largest leopard reserves in the world.

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Four Brown Bears were rescued from a Japanese museum in 2018, where they were staying in small cages.

Tropical World, Leeds

With seven sections, this venue is populated with a variety of exotic animals.

On the rainforest floor you can find butterfly pupae, insects of all kinds and various species of plants.

At the aquarium you go on a journey below the surface of the water where you will find beautiful sea creatures.

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The desert is filled with meerkats, turtles and other wildlife and plants that soak up the heat.

The creature corner has snakes, lizards and invertebrates for those reptile-loving families and there is a butterfly sanctuary where you can observe the flying insects in all their multi-coloured glory.

Ponderosa Zoo, Heckmondwike

The zoo was originally named Ponderosa Rural Therapeutic Centre and was created by Maureen Cook in 1991.

The initial purpose of the centre was to bring together disabled and able-bodied people using the care of animals as a form of therapy.

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Ponderosa Zoo previously housed domestic animals such as pigs, goats and cattle, however, it now looks after more than 140 different animal species including lemurs, reindeers, tortoises and wallabies.

The centre is passionate about encouraging and promoting animal welfare, as well as educating the public on conservation and the threats many species face in the wild.

Cannon Hall Farm, Barnsley

The farm was first opened to visitors in 1989 and is owned and run by the Nicholson family, who have owned the land since 1650.

In 2011, the farm was voted Best Tourist Experience at the Welcome to Yorkshire White Rose Awards.

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The farm owns more than 750 lambs, 400 ewes and 800 piglets. It has an adventure playground for children to play in, a large tube maze, a farm shop and a restaurant.

In 2018, Cannon Hall Farm was featured on the TV show Springtime on the Farm, which aired on Channel 5.

The farm received the Commonwealth Points of Light Award, which is awarded by the Queen, the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, British Government and the Commonwealth nations for their daily live broadcast on social media during coronavirus and lockdown.

Thornton Hall Country Park, Skipton

The park offers hands-on experiences with a variety of animals with the opportunity for children to learn and handle the animals.

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Take a Safari Ride or a trip up to Deer Park to enjoy wildlife up close. If you want to take a break from observing wildlife, head up to the diner to indulge in some delicious food.

There is also a Play Barn where you can enjoy a fun-filled and informative family day out no matter what the weather is like.

RSPB Dearne Valley - Old Moor, Barnsley

In 1889, Emily Williamson founded the Society for the Protection of Birds, which started with one main mission - to protest against the use of feathers and exotic plumes for fashion which were threatening species of birds including egrets, great crested grebes and birds of paradise.

The motivation came from the lack of action taken by the male-only British Ornithologists Union who did nothing to solve the problem.

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The charity is now the largest nature conservation in the country and reaches more than one million people. It was a place of solace during the pandemic in 2020 when people turned to nature and felt uplifted by wildlife.

Nidderdale Llamas

This family-run trekking centre originally housed sheep, goats, ponies and hens in 2003 and then llamas were introduced.

There are now more than 90 llamas and alpacas and the centre provides families with the opportunity to go on hikes with the animals.

Animal welfare is the centre’s top priority and the owners don’t let the animals be over-petted, over-stressed or over-worked.