Wilhelma Zoo: Awesome Any Time, but Best in the Rain
CONTRIBUTED BY LUCY B.
One of my absolute favorite foul weather destinations is the Wilhelma Zoo in Stuttgart. I know that the zoo in inclement weather sounds like a real bummer, but it’s actually the best way to see it. No crowds, no overwhelming heat, and loads of indoor exhibits make this our ultimate rainy (or snowy) day destination. When school is in session and it’s cloudy and cool outside, it’s so quiet there that it’s like having our own private zoo. It’s an historical property, and the architecture and garden designs are striking. If you bring a thermos of coffee or cocoa and some snacks or sandwiches, this trip doesn’t have to be too pricey, either. The entrance fee is cheaper in the winter, and kids under 6 are free with an adult admission. We go for the yearly pass since it’s our go-to destination for rainy days.
The Wilhelma is a botanical garden as well as a zoo, and you don’t have to get wet to see quite a lot of it. If you start at the main entrance, you can work your way through the indoor botanical gardens, beginning at desert climate and then in through a more tropical area, all enclosed in greenhouses warm enough to take off your jacket, even in the dead of winter. There is usually a rather large display of orchids, and in the center, a large courtyard with a koi pond. Just off to the side is a small hallway of enclosures with birds and some rodents (mice, chinchillas and other small mammals) and a few monkeys. The cages are low enough for shorter visitors, but you may have to lift very small children up a little so they can see inside. The paths are generally wide enough for stroller access, but there are a few heavy, old doors you’ll have to negotiate. One of the best parts is that small children can follow the path along and are unlikely to get lost. Just remind them not to tear up the plants. The center courtyard has seasonal displays of botanicals (poinsettias at Christmas time, for example), so there’s always something new to see.
Just a short distance from the greenhouses, you’ll find the entrance to the aquarium. The huge display tanks are ideal for small kids, and there are a few benches where you can rest and have a snack, too. This building is a much less stinky option than the ape or elephant house if you’re looking to enjoy a sandwich indoors. Again, it’s one long path, so it’s hard for little ones to get lost, although some sections are rather dark (so you can see the jellyfish better). I’ve parked the stroller and just chased the kids around inside and then collected it later when we were tired. I wouldn’t recommend leaving anything valuable behind, but we’ve never had a problem. Since our stroller is as nice as a bicycle, we sometimes lock it with a cable lock. In the center of the building, there is a terrarium with lots of slithery and slippery animals as well as a crocodile enclosure, which is one of our favorites. There are large snakes in display settings that are at children’s eye level, so you don’t have to constantly pick them up to look into the cages. Then, more fish! Some days, this is as far as we would get. If you buy a year pass, you don’t have to worry about getting your money’s worth out of every visit, so you can take a much more relaxed approach. If you’re just there for the day, press on! There’s more to see. Just down the path there is an insectarium and another large greenhouse to explore.
If you’re willing to stand in the rain for a few minutes, there’s a sea lion feeding almost every day at 11am and at 3pm. They make a little show of it, with sea lions jumping out of the water and dashing around to catch their meal from the handler. When it’s cloudy or raining, you can choose where you stand and usually get a great view of the action.
From there, it’s just a quick hop over to the next house. Floor-to-ceiling windows make it easy to see the little spider monkeys, the turtles, and the coati. There’s also a display with hatching eggs and chicks at various stages of life. This is one of my son’s absolute favorite things to watch since there’s almost always one egg starting to twitch and crack and a little beak poking out.
Moving up the hill, you’ll find big cats. When it’s raining or snowing outside, the big cats are usually inside the building, and you can get a very close look at their giant paws and sharp teeth. When the weather is nice, they’re outdoors, and the enclosure is so large, that sometimes they’re hard to see.
The new elephant exhibit is large, and provides a very clear view. When they’re indoors, it’s not the best of smells, but you can get very close to them and get a good look. Sometimes you’ll also find a rhino in there. My son and I once spent about 30 minutes watching the rhino take a shower under a hose. The giraffe house is also indoors, but again, not the best place for a picnic (stinky)! There’s also the long-awaited and widely-publicized new Affenhaus (ApeHouse), which is partially indoors and partially out.
If you’ve made it this far up the hill, congratulations!
This guide is meant to show the best parts of the zoo when it’s raining, so I’ve highlighted indoor displays and features that require the least amount of walking outside. When it’s sunny out, there are plenty of other things to see, like bears, farm animals, birds, penguins, and other exciting displays. If you’re looking for more action, there are playgrounds and picnic spots dotted around the park. Some of them are even animal themed and can be a great opportunity to take pictures.
Tips for Your Trip:
Neckartalstraße 9, 70376 Stuttgart, Germany
The hours change monthly, so it’s best to check the Wilhelma Zoo Website.
They are open on Sundays and most holidays!
Day tickets (March – October)
Family I (One parent and children): 21.00€
Family II (Two parents with children): 35.00€
Winter (November – February) and Evening (After 1600) tickets:
Family I (One parent and children): 15.00€
Family II (Two parents with children): 25.00€
Partner (married to an annual ticket holder): 40.00€
Family I (One parent and children): 70.00€
Family II (Two parents with children): 110.00€
Parking facilities are available, for a fee, at Wilhelma multi-storey car park on Neckartalstrasse road, at weekends and on holidays at Mahle Parkhaus/car park (near Pragstrasse road), at the car park at Cannstatter Wasen (15 minutes away on foot) and at further parking sites in Bad Cannstatt.
You can read up on the Wilhelma’s opening hours, prices, special exhibits and history on their website: www.wilhelma.de. There’s also a link to a map for disability and stroller access (“Wilhelma without stairs”).