Is Ponderosa Zoo For You??

As you may know I’ve recently become part time so I get the chance to have one day a week off with N. It’s fantastic and I absolutely love it. The opportunity to have this dedicated day with just him is amazing. Recently we went to somewhere called Ponderosa Zoo and Rural Therapeutic Centre and I thought I should tell you all about it so you can see if it’s for you.

What Is Ponderosa Zoo?

Ponderosa Zoo
Ponderosa Zoo is a bit different…

The approach to Ponderosa is rather unassuming. It’s hidden away through small roads in Heckmondwike, you drive along a bumpy road thinking you’re in an industrial estate and then you see a gate for Ponderosa. As you drive along here it almost feels like you’re going backwards from the industrial revolution. Moving away from what feels to be heavy industry and back to a rural setting. Quite fitting scenery the closer you get.

Well, on the face of it based on the name you’d simply think of it as a zoo, and to an extent, from a pure visitor perspective you’d be right. However, from what I’ve read about it there’s much more to it than meets the eye.

The key to the ‘added benefit’ if you like is the ‘Rural Therapeutic Centre’ part of the title. In essence, according to their site they wanted to bridge the gap between able bodied people and disabled people. My interpretation is that they encourage able bodied people and people with disabilities to work there together. This can be in the greenhouses or caring for the animals. I think this is a fantastic idea and, quite simply, lovely. Isn’t it a great idea, and they state that these workers grow in confidence and skills by working there. Fantastic! I absolutely give them a virtual high five for that!

As I say though, from a visitors perspective it’s essentially a zoo to walk around with areas for kids to play and places to eat. Compared to places like Yorkshire Wildlife Park it’s small, but they certainly do well with the area they have.

Lakeside Restaurant

Ponderosa Zoo
Here’s the Lakeside menu

I went on a random Friday in January and the visitor numbers were low to say the least. I had to ring a bell to get someone to take my money to enter the number of visitors was that low. In fact, I think after I got out the restaurant I didn’t see anyone other than staff. Nobody. This did mean I had plenty of room for our buggy though!

Anyway, I’m supposed to be telling you about the restaurant in this bit, but the previous paragraph plays a part as the cafe was shut as it’s winter and there were not many visitors. As such we went to the Lakeside Restaurant.

It was nice actually. There was plenty of room here, a bar and some more comfy bar seating. We sat at a table to eat our dinner. The menu was pretty good to be honest. The menu isn’t massive but sometimes that’s actually nice as you struggle to know what to have if there’s too many options! The various options were all the same price too. There was something quite nice about a relatively simple menu to pick from with a standard price.

The food itself was actually really nice. I went for the chilli. It was funny though as I had to hide it from N as there were chips on the plate and I know he was not going to eat his dinner if he saw chips! The changing bag came in handy for this.

So the restaurant was good in my opinion. You can see the menu in the picture. The food was nice, reasonably priced and there was quite a bit of room.

The Zoo

Ponderosa Zoo
These Otters kept running away from us!

There are quite a few animals here to look at which is nice. They range from meerkats (fairly standard now in most places with animals, even my local farm!), wallabies and a fox through to a variety of birds (who were being very noisy when we were there!) and reptiles.

It’s fair to say that they don’t have the range of animals somewhere like Yorkshire Wildlife Park has as it’s a lot smaller but it is a lot less to get in. For me to get in cost £5.50 and N was free as he was under two. Any child over that age is £5. There are also discounts for those with a disability and their carer. All in all not a bad price!

Ponderosa Zoo
Here’s the soft play area…it’s great!

Within the zoo there are also a few areas to play for the little ones, including a sandy beach and climbing frame. There was also an indoor soft play area which looked great, better than many I’ve seen. I was very impressed with these area to be fair, N would love them when he’s older.


The whole area is very wheelchair and pushchair friendly. There are some routes where the tarmac is a little too narrow if you’ve a wide pushchair but for most it’s ok.

There isn’t a great deal of parking to be honest. Perhaps they don’t expect huge visitor numbers I don’t know, or based on their experience it’s enough, but it doesn’t look huge. Having said that, when I’ve been before I’ve not struggled to park.

I think they could do with some more baby changing facilities. The only place I could see one as I went around was in the Lakeside restaurant but maybe I missed them (though when I really needed one in the soft play area I really couldn’t find one!).

I believe you can hire out some rooms just outside the main area for parties which could be pretty cool for birthday parties.

In Summary

I have to say I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending this place for a visit. As per most zoos it’s best when the weather is good so the kids can play on the equipment. However, there are still things to see in the winter. It’s a good price to get in which is great, decent food and lots of animals to see. The soft play looks great too.

Have you ever been? What did you think?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.