From petting zoos to a cheese factory, visit places close to the capital which have plenty of activities for children, while schools remain closed for the summer.
Fundación zoológico Santacruz
Located on a jungly mountainside, you’ll see a decent array of wildlife at Santacruz, which is located an hour (on a good day) west of the city. A single path winds its way around the animal enclosures. The walk around takes a good two hours if you’re keen to see everything. Wheelchair and pushchair pushers be warned: the path is rough and features many steps.
You’ll encounter bears, raccoons, big cats, birds of prey, all manner of reptiles and birds. Keep a close eye on your kids – some of the paths run directly alongside the enclosures, leaving visitors at
risk of being snatched by a vulture or a bear, giving you a little extra thrill for your money. The zoo is a bit rough and ready with little in the way of guides or information and some of the exhibits are a little depressing, with some animals confined to concrete enclosures.
Monday to Sunday, 8 am – 5 pm. Entry $12,000 kids. $15,000 adults.
This very cool restaurant is located just before Tenjo. It’s really popular at the weekends and the carpark is generally rammed. Although the restaurant (serving up breakfast, lunch and early dinners) is enormous, the staff are super efficient, getting meals out in record time and always with a smile. The food is decent (although on the pricey side) but the main draw are the large grounds around the restaurant, featuring playground equipment, docile farm animals, sandpits, mini golf and weird sculptures. There’s also an arena where shows are regularly put on for kids, as well as structured activities. You could spend hours here and not get bored. It’s pretty chaotic so keep an eye on younger kids.
Thursday to Sunday, 9 am – 6 pm.
La Cabaña de Alpina
The Alpina Factory shop in Sopó – Cundinamarca’s very own Switzerland – is located in a really beautiful spot. Backed by mountains and featuring a vast green park, it’s the perfect sunny-day destination. There’s decent playground equipment (some made out of recycled Alpina materials) and lots of kids happily running around with ice creams and footballs.
As you’d expect at a dairy factory shop, there’s wall-to-wall cheese, milk, desserts (try their famous strawberries and whipped cream) as well as cakes and coffee. The toasted panini and sandwiches on offer are pretty average, so take a crusty baguette and fill it with your favourite Alpina cheese while lounging on a picnic blanket.
Monday to Saturday, 9 am – 6 pm, Sundays and holidays, 10 am – 7 pm.
Parque Jaime Duque
Named for the Colombian aviation pioneer who founded the theme park, this eclectic attraction 30-45 minutes north of the city has everything from monkeys to a replica of the Taj Mahal. Older children will love the bumper boats and mildly thrilling rides, while for the really young kids there are gentle rides, a petting zoo and playground equipment. The park’s zoo is well maintained and has a surprising array of animals including big cats, reptiles and birds. There are plenty of places to eat and the grounds are clean and pretty.
Monday to Friday 9 am – 5 pm, weekends and holidays 10.30 am – 6 pm. Tick- ets $23,000 or $30,000, depending on activities.
Enjoy the sights and sounds of the farmyard at Panaca Sabana, where an array of horses, sheep, cattle, pigs and dogs await curious visitors. The entry price is a little on the high side but it’s still a pleasant escape from the city, and not far at about 40 minutes’ drive. There are regular shows involving animals wearing outfits jumping over hurdles, and other displays. Children can ride llamas or small ponies for a small fee. There’s not a lot of cover – bar the restaurants – on a rainy day so pack your umbrella and boots. To see everything will mean a bit of a trek, which might be hard for really young kids.
Friday to Sunday and holidays, 9 am – 6 pm. Entry is $39,000 pesos, and free for children under 80 cm.
While the playground’s on the ramshackle side and the food is fairly standard, there’s an undeniable charm about La Conejera, located on the road to Cota.
It’s very family friendly, with a good children’s menu and fast service. The playground is full of interesting equip- ment like tunnels, a tower and a car that children can ‘drive’ (or clamber over in a dangerous fashion). There are fantastic swings that go so high you can’t help worry about inadvertently whacking the passersby as kids propel themselves ever higher and faster. There are also friendly, plodding ponies available for rides for a small fee, as well as a few other farm animals.
So after touring the green Sabana de Bogotá with kids in the backseat, their bellies full of strawberries, my advice to parents is to take full advantage of the summer and enjoy family moments together in the Colombian countryside. It isn’t Epcot or the Magic Kingdom, and- best of all, you won’t need credit and that trolley check at the gate!