Location: Niagara Falls, Ontario
Highlights: Large Aviary, Bats, Parakeets
Children Friendly (8): The fact that kids can get so close to the animals without barriers means great views and great interactions with the kids. Aviaries mean kids can see birds in flight as well, not just sitting in a cage. Aviaries can also be a little too much for some children (or parents). Having a museum in the building as well means there is more to look at. An indoor zoo means a quick visit as well – not very much walking and attention spans are not exhausted.
Animal Diversity (3): Mainly a bird zoo as the name suggests, the do have quite a bit of variety in that field. They also have a number of reptiles, amphibians, and other assorted animals.
Animal Viewing (8): Since the majority of the zoo is free flight areas you get great views of the animals for the most part. With the large aviary especially being so big there are some places for the birds to hide or be trickier to spot. Not very patient guests could feel a little disappointed towards the end if they haven’t taken their time to look a little harder. Areas with barriers tend to be very close to pathways which still allows for good viewing.
Animals Happiness (9): Since the majority of the exhibits are free flight the birds can choose their environment a lot easier. Plenty of interaction with their exhibits – water, food, and plenty of vegetation. Multiple stories also allows for plenty of room to fly. I did not notice any signs of over-grooming during the visit which is a good sign. Some exhibits that were not free flight seemed somewhat small.
Photography (9): Lack of barriers between the birds and guests provided great photo opportunities. Natural light through the windows in the aviaries also lent to great photos throughout the visit. I did deduct one point as the size of the aviary can mean quite a bit of distance between the photographer and subject, those without zoom lenses could have some trouble coming home with the shots they want.
Layout/Map (4): No map was given when entering. Layout was generally one way but there were a number of instances where the pathway to follow was not quite clear. Being in a building which was not built to be a zoo is mostly to blame but signage could be improved.
Hours (8): The hours in general are quite good. They are consistent and open throughout the year which is a huge plus. My only issue is that it does close at 5pm every day, which I do understand in the winter as the sun goes down earlier. In the summer it would be nice to be open later in the evenings for people after work or tourists.
Price (7): Prices are ok, discounts for children and seniors. Comparing to other much larger zoos it does seem the price is quite high but I feel that is due to the location more than anything. Membership options are available as well but I’m slightly disappointed there are not family or couple options as it can add up quickly.
Food (7): There are food options available both before you enter and one area inside. Although there are not a lot of options when it comes to the menu, the prices are very reasonable (especially considering the huge tourism industry of the area). Children will be happy with the familiar options and parents might be happy with the alcoholic beverage options!
Website (9): Website is pretty good. It’s bright, clear, and not cluttered. I like that the animals section has pictures of each and separated by area. Gives a menu online (with prices), events, and promotions. I took away one point as some things were difficult to find in that you had to click through once or twice further than necessary.
Gift Shop (10): Great gift shop! Geared towards birds both tropical and local which is great. There was some obvious touristy things but being in Niagara Falls I think it’s fitting. Also lots of things for the garden to help bring birds to your home as well! Great jungle atmosphere as well.
Quiet Areas (10): Being indoors, quiet areas to yourself could be difficult but I feel Bird Kingdom does a good job making areas. Benches are placed throughout that don’t feel like they’re right in the middle of a pathway. Being in a large building with multiple levels also allows for some alcoves or places to step to the side to get yourself (or your family) together before moving on.
Safety/Cleanliness (7): In terms of cleanliness it was quite clean. Being a free flight aviary there were few droppings on the walkways and railings which was impressive. Free flight does permit more contact with potential animal debris however such as on railings, ground, doors, etc. Contact with birds themselves either in the parakeet encounter area as well as overzealous guests and animals could be a safety issue.
Extras (5): Bird Kingdom does have some programming with groups and schools both in house as well as through an outreach program. Birthday parties and wedding options are also available. I consider these the minimal additional options as pretty much all zoos do this type of programming. While at the zoo there are some small extras like the parakeet interaction area which is great for photo opportunities. Also, since the building used to be a corset factory and Niagara Falls museum there are still aspects of this to see as well.
Overall (7.4): All in all I feel Bird Kingdom is a great tourist destination for those heading to Niagara Falls. Anyone who is into birds and want to see some stunning species up close this is the place for you! If a big zoo is too much walking or too big of a day an afternoon at a smaller zoo like this one could do the trick.