Every Friday night in June and July, London Zoo opens its gates to allow party animals to venture into the wild. The variety of stalls and entertainment on offer means you'll feel more like you're at a mini festival than the zoo, and arriving as early as possible is a must, not to mention advance booking (last year, Zoo Lates sold out completely).
Nestled among the animals, you'll find the Sub-Aquatic Comedy Club's improv troupes in the aquarium, 'The Incredibly Short Film Festival' in the Twisted Cabaret tent, low-key jazz on the bridge by the lemurs or acoustic acts in the old penguin pool, face painting and kigus at the 'Transformation Station' and a 'Just Dance' gaming area at the silent disco.
Visiting the zoo after hours is not without its downside. Four hours isn't long enough to see everything, especially as most of the enclosures shut at 9pm, but planning a route first will help. We started at the giraffes in 'Africa', followed by 'The Rainforest', where Marilyn the sloth scaled the branches above us, then headed past the lemurs and otters before coming out at the Oasis Café. Here, there are stalls selling everything from burgers to burritos, jerk chicken to churros, and the bars are just as varied, offering Pimms, real ale and Champagne.
Walking towards the main entrance will take you past the Twisted Cabaret tent and silent disco to Gorilla Kingdom and the Reptile House (one of only three enclosures open until 9.30pm; the others are Penguin Beach and Bugs).
The combination of childlike fascination and stag/hen do longing to party must be unique to Zoo Lates. Where else could you sip a cool beer in a head-to-toe penguin costume while eyeing up the meerkats?
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