Creature Encounters for All Ages at the Woodland Park 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- $5.75 per day in 5 lots around the zoo
- Ample free street parking
- Food Pick: Red Mill 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.