THEY SAY: Encounter the exotic. South Yorkshire’s top wildlife attraction.
WE SAY: All you need for a reasonably priced day out, whatever the weather.
It’s always difficult finding somewhere to take the kids when the weather is cold and unpredictable. But if you are anything like me, you will only be able to stand so many indoor play centres – even if they do guarantee to keep you dry.
The ideal venue during the wet weather is an outdoor place where the kids and run around and let off steam, but one that also offers indoor activities – just in case.
After a little internet search, I stumbled across Tropical Butterfly House, Wildlife and Falconry Centre, which is near Sheffield, and promised indoor and outdoor activities. There#s plenty to do – see the centre map here. Its currently ranked number 1 on Trip Advisor for ‘things to do’ in Sheffield.
We had never been before, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, nor do I know anyone who has been. But, with the promise of seeing everything from butterflies and monkeys to meerkats and lemurs, we were on our way.
On arrival we were handed a map and list of daily animal encounters that were available at no extra charge and there seemed to be plenty going on, despite it being winter.
First on our list to visit was the indoor Tropical Butterfly House which is like stepping into a rainforest where you can wander among free-flying tropical butterflies, exotic birds and Egyptian fruit bats.
The children were mesmerised watching the butterflies flying through the air in front of our noses and were also able to feed worms to the colourful rainbow lorikeets as they swooped to their feeding station.
It was also inside Butterfly House we met Darwin and Pedro, the impressive spectacled caimans, as they basked behind the glass in their private pool. My son Oliver’s favourite was the dark world of mini-beasts and creepy-crawlies, where he was able to watch the snakes and glow-in-the-dark scorpions.
TIP: There’s indoor and outdoor picnic areas available around the centre.
We then took a wander to the outdoor Meerkat Mansion, where we were in time for a talk by the specialist keeper and were also able to see them being fed. The meerkat family began with just Mr and Mrs Meerkat but, over the years, the population has expanded to a family of 14. If you are a fan of meerkats you can also pay extra to have them to yourself in a Meerkat Mayhem experience.
One of my favourite parts of the day was when we took a break from the animals and had fun in the play park. For better weather, there is a huge outdoor sandpit, full of toys, and a massive outdoor adventure playground, complete with towers, slides and more. Our favourite were the motorised cars (£1 a go) and the cycle track, where you can choose to ride different types of bikes, trikes and tractors.
TIP: The centre is fully accessible to wheelchair users except for a small corner of the Butterfly House which can be viewed from an alternate platform.
If it happens to chuck it down while you are there, head for the indoor activity centre where you will be able to keep the children entertained with games including air hockey, puzzles and activities. It’s not massive, and isn’t an indoor play area with soft play but it does have tables with activities.
There is also a craft centre inside, which is open at weekends and during school holidays and offers something for everyone; whether you want to make your own crown, paint or do some colouring-in. Most of the crafts and activities are free to participate in and there are some which carry a small charge, including face painting and other activities where you get to keep what you’ve made at the end.
Glitter tattoos and face-painting are also available to purchase and there is also a disco room, which can be used for parties.
After lunch in Butterfly Café, where we enjoyed a good-value meal, including delicious home-made scones, we headed to Lemur Heights. We were able to get up close in a guided walk through the Lemur enclosure, which is said to be the leading lemur exhibit in Britain.
It’s home to ten charismatic ring-tailed lemurs and three red-ruffed lemurs, which are in the top 25 most endangered animals in the world.
We also saw a parrot display, where the birds rode skateboards and played basketball.
The indoor Farm Barn, home to goats, chickens, ducks, geese, a Shetland pony and giant continental rabbits, is also worth a visit.
TIP: Buy the animal food for the farm animals at the admissions kiosk or at the Jungle Gift Shop on the way in so you don’t have to go back later on.
We spent the best part of a full day at Tropical Butterfly House and the weather wasn’t even warm. We will definitely be going back to explore more in summer.
- Last reviewed February 2014
Location, times, prices, facilities and contact details
LOCATION: Just five minutes from the M1 junction 31. Woodsetts Road, North Anston, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S25 4EQ
OPEN: All year round. Monday to Friday:10am to 4.30pm. Weekends, school and bank holidays: 10am to 5.30pm.
PRICES: Adult: £9.75. Child: £8.50. Under-twos admitted free.
Call: 01909 569416.