Note – photo gallery at the bottom of this post.
K and I usually like to celebrate a special occasion with a nice meal. However, two things stood in the way of our celebrating Valentine’s Day in Dublin with a fancy meal: 1) We’d been eating out every day on our holiday and only a Michelin-starred restaurant was going to feel ‘special’ (what a first-world problem) ; 2) The exchange rate made bookings at nicer restaurants out of our budgeted price range; 3) Valentine’s Day was booked out months in advance anyway, so we had no chance even if we had the money.
So we broadened our horizons and looked for another ‘special occasion’ Valentine’s Day treat, and found ourselves at Dublin Zoo for their special ‘Date Morning’ event in celebration of V-Day. Tickets for two people cost a total of 65 Euro which included entry to the zoo (normally 17 Euro per person), and a few treats along the way. I have to thank my wonderful husband for finding and booking this treat for us in celebration of V-Day!
We arrived bright and early at 8am, an hour and a half before the official opening time for the zoo. The Date Morning not only gets you into the zoo earlier than everyone else, but also gives you access to a guided tour of some of the zoo’s animal exhibits. The zookeepers even time the tour so that you can see some of the animals being fed – we saw the lions, sea lions, and elephants being fed, as well as visiting other enclosures with talks from the zookeepers.
In addition to the small guided tours (about twenty people in each group), you also get breakfast and a morning treat! When you book your tickets, you pre-order two bagels for breakfast at the zoo – we chose a smoked salmon and a ham and cheese (not pictured). In addition to those bagels though, the zoo prepares a little takeaway bag for you, with two bottles of water, and two bottles of pink lemonade. You can also help yourself to a table of sweet treats – these colourful macarons for example.
Or perhaps a red velvet cupcake is more to your liking? All the catering was provided by the Brambles Cafe and Catering Service, a local Irish family-run food business serving customers in Dublin for the past twenty years.
We took away a cupcake each, and I also grabbed a chocolate-covered strawberry for good measure – what could be more romantic?
While the takeaway bags included both bottles of water and (local, Irish-made, all-natural) pink lemonade, we also grabbed some complimentary hot drinks to go – a green tea for me, and a black coffee for K.
Imagine my surprise when we got some additional Valentine’s Day treats as well – an elegant single red rose, and a pair of cute stuffed animals from Dublin Zoo’s gift shop.
Date Morning was a fantastically well-run event at Dublin Zoo in honour of Valentine’s Day 2016. Not only do you get to get up close and personal with some of their animals around feeding time (see photos below), you also get to engage with the zookeepers and ask them questions one-on-one, things you wouldn’t normally get to do on a standard visit to the zoo. It’s fantastic value as well, and I need to break it down to demonstrate:
- Two standard Adult tickets to the zoo: 34 Euro
- Two bagels and two cupcakes at a cafe: 15 Euro (approx)
- Two bottles of water and two bottles of lemonade at a cafe: 7 Euro (approx)
- Takeaway tea and coffee: 4 Euro (approx)
- Two small stuffed toys: 20 Euro (approx)
- TOTAL: 80 Euro approximate value
Yet, you only pay 65 Euro for a Date Morning for two people. Unlike other establishments, it doesn’t seem as though Dublin Zoo mark up their special occasion events that much, so the ticket price is well worth it…especially considering as I haven’t included the priceless value of a zookeeper-guided tour!
We stayed at the zoo for a few more hours after Date Morning officially ended, and walked around the rest of the zoo ourselves, visiting other exhibits. It was a fantastic way to kick off the 2016 Valentine’s Day weekend, and a fantastic treat for me as an animal-lover. My husband definitely knows me well…I guess this is true love? :)