Creature Encounters for All Ages at the Woodland Park Zoo

 In Washington

There is nothing like some cute little penguins to welcome you to the zoo

I had a rather disturbing experience on my last trip to the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, WA. We were in the reptile house when I noticed a couple pointing at one of the terrariums. I wandered over. What I saw still creeps me out a little. A snake, no thicker than my pinky finger, had darted into the water and snagged a goldfish. The snake worked its way up a branch to the top of his enclosure and just held the fish in his mouth. I’m guessing he was suffocating it to death. I grabbed Dek and our friends to check it out. The kids could have cared less. Here was the circle of life in action and the under 4 set could not be bothered. It just goes to show the zoo is not just for kids, but for adults to appreciate the wonders of the animal kingdom as well.

A pinky sized snake takes a mouthful of fish to his perch

The zoo was our very first “kid” activity with Dek. He was 4 months old. It was a cold and gray day in Seattle, nothing unusual there. Mike and I were determined to get outside. We had a kid after all. We needed to be doing all of these fun kid things. Plus, you know, we wanted to go to see the snow leopards. Mike loves snow leopards.

Little did Dek know what fun was in store at the zoo or what goofy parents he had.

We got a zoo membership on that first visit, but only managed to get there a handful of times. As soon as I left my job our zoo visits tripled. If I’m not sure how to entertain Dek on any given morning we go to the zoo. Rain or shine, cold or hot, we are there. We usually follow the same route, checking out our favorite animals. The tigers are always on the tour as well as the orangutans, elephants, hippos, giraffes, penguins and recently, the reptile house.

Whenever family comes to visit we head to the zoo. It is small enough to catch a lot of the animals in a morning or afternoon visit, but still large enough to necessitate a return trip to see everything. My parents loved exploring all of the special features and just seeing the look of wonder on their grandson’s face as we explored the animals in the Tropical Rain Forest, Australasia Willawong station and African Savannah.

Lions, Patas, Meerkats and tigers are just a few highlights on our tour of the zoo

Dek and his grandpa do a little drumming in the African Village

The zoo is in the process of expanding its tiger and bear exhibit. This is a very welcome renovation, as the current animal habitats seem much too small for such large animals. The new enclosures will give the animals more room to roam and be a bit closer to their natural environment. You can bet we will be there on opening day or at least soon after.

My stomach is still churning just a little when I think back on that poor fish being eaten by the snake. I’m not sure why it bothers me. I’ve seen pythons go after much bigger prey. Maybe it is the size of the snake. Something that small should not be able to swallow a fish that big, and yet I saw the snake’s buddy with a very fully belly of fish going for seconds only moments later.

I’m waiting for the day when Dek will notice this all happening and ask “what are they doing mommy?” Well, there are much worse things I will have to explain on a trip to the zoo that’s for sure. The circle of life doesn’t just involve food as you know. I can’t wait for the blush and stories that day will bring.

The elephant enclosure is one of the largest I have seen in a zoo of this size

Pet a goat, say hi to some chickens or check out some pigs in the Family Farm

Know Before You Go

  • Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle, Washington
    • South Entrance address: 750 N. 50th Street
    • West Entrance address: 5500 Phinney Ave.
  • Hours and cost
    • October through April 9:30am-4pm / $11.75 adults, $8.50 kids 3-12, under 3 are free
    • May through September 9:30am-6pm / $17.75 adults, $11.50 kids 3-12, under 3 are free
  • Admission discounts
    • Seniors receive $2 off admissions
    • Active and retired military receive $5 off admission
    • If you take the bus to the zoo you receive $2 off admission
    • If you live locally a membership is worth it. If only one parent will be taking the kids most of the time, just get a one adult membership + any kids. If the other adult is able to join you once in a while, you can use your half off admission discount.
  • Parking
    • $5.75 per day in 5 lots around the zoo
    • Ample free street parking
  • Food Pick: Redmill Burger (312 N. 67th Street, just down the street from the zoo) is hands down our favorite spot to grab a bite after a morning visit to the zoo. I crave their Bacon Deluxe with Cheese almost every day. It is closed on Mondays, so plan accordingly. Also bring cash. No credit cards are accepted.

Educational fun

Wandering the zoo paths isn’t the only fun that can be had. The zoo has several scheduled feeding times and lectures throughout the day that teach kids even more about the animals they are visiting. Volunteers and handlers can be found near the elephants to show you a real elephant tusk and let you feel it. They give out stickers too. Dek has also been able to check out a wild dog skull and touch orangutan hair on our visits.

Touching a wild dog skull

Checking out the land of the orangutans and their enormous paw prints

Zoomazium on a rainy day

Dek and I don’t head over to the Zoomazium very often, but on rainy days it is a great place to be. This play space is for infants on up to 8 year olds. I love it because the smaller kids have their own section to play. Big kids climbing the giant strangler fig tree won’t trample baby crawlers and walkers. Exploring is encouraged. Daily programs highlight the environment and natural world of the animals.

Bead makingis just one of the many activities available for kids and parents

Maps and Guides

  • The Woodland Park Zoo website has a host of great resources for your trip. There is a free app for your iPhone with a zoo map, schedule of daily events, animal information and more.
  • The site also hosts a Rainy Day Building Hop guide so you can still enjoy the animals, but get a break from the weather as you tour around.
  • There is no shortage of art for parents and kids to explore. Sculptures are scattered throughout the zoo that kids can climb and offer the perfect photo moments.

Say hi to a baby elephant sculpture after seeing the real thing at play

Do Not Miss! There is a rose garden on the south side of the zoo. It is free to enter even if you aren’t visiting the zoo. Seattle has a fantastic climate for growing roses and this garden really shows off its colors in the summer. I love finding new varieties to add to my own garden in this 2.5 acre rose display. We have witnessed a wedding, played hide and seek, and even tried our hand at some gardening (not so sure the gardeners were happy with that though.) Roses continue to bloom late into the autumn around here. Be sure to check it out even if you think most of the blooms are gone. You may be surprised.

A little hide and seek among the roses

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Showing 12 comments
  • wanderingeducators

    gorgeous photos! this is seattle, right?

    i think that photo of the snake getting dinner is a perfect capture. 🙂

  • cravesadventure

    I am an adult and I still giddy when going to a Zoo:) Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Zoo’s are a great way to entertain children and adults! Snakes are not my favorite so I usually try to avoid the building that houses them.

  • Country Skipper

    That picture of the snake eating the fish is unbelievable! Very, very cool!

  • hikebiketravel

    Great post and what a lucky son you have with so many trips to the zoo, Calgary just got a new penguin exhibit and people are raving about that – so must go – even if I have no kids to take with me.

  • InsideJourneys

    When my niece and nephew were younger, I’d take them all the time to the zoo. Haven’t been since they grew up. It’s definitely the perfect place to keep little ones (and goofy big ones) entertained. Great story and photos.

  • Nancie

    I love a good zoo. I would be a little freaked out by that snake too!

  • Michael Figueiredo

    Nice shots! We take my nephews to the zoo all the time. Kids love animals!

  • Lisa

    I love the zoo but won’t go anywhere near a snake exhibit. I can appreciate a great photo though and that is a brilliant shot of the snake holding the goldfish in its mouth.

  • Mary @ The World Is A Book

    One can never go wrong with a visit to the zoo especially with the kids in tow. Great snake shot! I love that Zoomazium area. We’re lucky enough to live in San Diego with the zoo, safari park and Sea World nearby and countless visits have fostered my kids love for animals.

    • I keep hounding my husband that we need to get down to San Diego. Tickets are so cheap to Long Beach we could make a nice weekend out of it. Maybe I’ll just take the boys this fall without him. I haven’t been to Sea World since I was 13 and that was in Florida!

  • Anwar

    Zoos are always some of my favorite places. I’ve been trying to stop at the local ones here when I can. The snow leopard cutout are hilarious!

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