Woodland Park Zoo

For those who are planning a trip to Seattle with kids, the Woodland Park Zoo is a wonderful stop. It’s a mid-size zoo that is easy to do in one day (or a fabulous morning adventure if you focus on just a few areas.) It’s located in Phinney Ridge neighborhood.

When I was working in the nonprofit sector, I remember a donor telling me that she grew up in the Olympic Hotel and she considered the Woodland Park Zoo her back yard. I ponder this every time I visit because it’s such a fun way to think about this Zoo: as a back yard. It’s a lovely area to take a walk, see some animals, eat a picnic lunch and play. I have vivid memories of coming here on my birthday when I was really little, so it’s very nostalgic and special to be able to bring my own kids.

What to See at Woodland Park Zoo

Map of Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle
Make sure to grab a map as you enter Woodland Park Zoo!

Woodland Park Zoo features animals from around the world. The main exhibits include: African Savanna, Australasia, Historic Carousel, Humboldt Penguins, Northern Trail, Temperate Forest, Tropical Rain Forest and Tropical Asia. We’ve done all these areas during the past few years and have narrowed it down to our current must-see areas.

Lulu the Baby Giraffe

Baby Giraffe at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle
The baby giraffe made brief appearances the day we visited and we were so lucky to see her!

One of the main reasons we went to the Woodland Park Zoo this time was to catch a peek at the baby giraffe. Giraffes are personally one of my favorite animals and we always make a point to see them. The newest addition is Lulu and her name is Swahili for “Pearl.” We overheard someone say that Lulu was only out about an hour a day, so I was careful to say that we would try to see the baby giraffe. Low and behold, she was playing around outside! It was very interesting to see the adult giraffes circle Lulu as they all bonded together.

Local Mom tip: Stop at the benches at the Giraffe Barn from 9:30am-11:30am for snack time and watch Lulu show off.

African Savanna

African Village at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle
This is one of several buildings in the African Village near their award-winning African Savanna exhibit area.

Something that sets apart the Woodland Park Zoo on Seattle from other area zoos is their African Village. It’s a faithful reproduction of a modern rural village of East Africa. I’m impressed with it each time we visit. It also has a viewing area of the African Savanna that will make you feel like you are in The Lion King, as you watch giraffes and zebra roaming together.

Playground at Habitat Discovery Loop

Playground at Woodland Park Zoo
When the weather is nice, this is such a fun place to burn off energy!

I like to think of this as the secret playground. It’s easy to miss on your way to the Family Farm or African Village. It’s in a wooded area and there are tons of benches. I actually nursed my baby while I watched my preschooler crawl through turtle shells and climb up the slides. It’s an ideal spot for toddlers to get out of strollers and move around a bit.

Sloth Bear

Sloth Bear at Woodland Park Zoo
Sloth bears are something I don’t see at other zoos.

We LOVE seeing the sloth bear because it’s an animal that always comes close to the glass and we can all get a great view. I’m not sure how many other zoos have a sloth bear, but it seems like a great opportunity to learn about a less popular animal This exhibit launched in May 2017, so it still feels new to us. It also includes the tiger area, but the sloth bear rarely has a large crowd.

Yola the Baby Gorilla

Baby Gorilla at Woodland Park Zoo
The baby gorilla kept swinging around carefree!

Gorillas are another one of my favorite animals, so we were stoked to discover that Yola was out and about! We ended up searching for the gorillas for an embarrassingly long time because I couldn’t remember exactly where they were located. Thankfully, my son had his trusty Zoo map and together we navigated ourselves to the right spot. The adult gorillas were munching on celery when we arrived. My son was excited to spot baby Yola swinging around on the vines. I kept telling him she was a baby and he was so worried she’d get hurt!

Molbak’s Butterfly Garden

Molbak's Butterfly Garden at Woodland Park Zoo
Molbak’s Butterfly Garden opened last year and this was our first chance to explore it.

This is a smaller butterfly garden than the one at Pacific Science Center. It’s also seasonal. What I appreciated about the Molbak’s Butterfly Garden is that it has fresh air. We didn’t have to peel off layers of clothes to explore it. Like many butterfly gardens, we were asked to leave our stroller and diaper bag outside.

Microsoft Pollinator Patio
These bee houses are part of the new Microsoft Pollinator Patio.

New this year is the Microsoft Pollinator Patio, which is open all year round. It features a Silverspot Butterfly Lab where volunteers and zookeepers hatch and raise endangered Oregon silverspot butterflies. They will later be released into protected wild habitats.

Family Farm

Tractor at Woodland Park Zoo
My son loves any chance to ride on a tractor, so this is always a stop at the Woodland Park Zoo.

Another one of our favorite parts of the Woodland Park Zoo is their petting zoo and animal farm. The Family Farm is presented by Smith Brothers, who deliver us fresh local milk, eggs and sour cream every week at home. My son isn’t big on actually petting the animals, so we usually just go close to them and then move on. They have chickens, goats, pigs, sheep and cows. They also feature a little worm play area for little kids and a farmers market area.

Local Mom tip: Bring paper and crayons to do a fun imprint activity at a statue near the cows.

Best Photo Ops at Woodland Park Zoo

Hippo statue at Woodland Park Zoo
This is always a fun spot to take photos in the African Savannah area of the Woodland Park Zoo.
  • Hippo sculpture near the hippo exhibit
  • African Village
  • Monkey statues
  • Boat near the penguin exhibit
  • Historic Carousel

5 Tips for Visiting Woodland Park Zoo

  1. Parking: Arrive early and get the coveted street parking to avoid paying for the lot.
  2. Food. Bring your own lunch and splurge on a fun treat like kettle corn or cotton candy. Coffee drinks are available and should be your first stop if you don’t bring your own.
  3. Rainy Day Fun: The Zoomazium is an awesome place to stay dry while the kids learn about animals and play.
  4. Stroller vs. Carrier: I personally like to bring both with me. We tend to last a bit longer when I can push my 3-year-old and carry my baby from the Zoo to our car.
  5. Carousel: This is located in a corner of the Zoo so it’s easy to avoid if you don’t want your kids to see it. It’s $2 for a ride (standing adults are free) and is undercover.

A Local Mom's Guide to Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle

Woodland Park Zoo provided me with complimentary tickets. All opinions are my own.

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20 Comments

  1. I think Lulu is such a lovely name for that baby giraffe. I also have never heard about sloth bears. Where are their natural habitats?

    • marciecheung Reply

      It’s such a cute name for a lovely little giraffe! I hadn’t heard of sloth bears, either. They move much more quickly than sloths and I believe they are from India.

  2. It’s great that kids can get educated about wildlife and conservation through good zoos like this. I like that there is room for them to play as well. Looks like everyone had a good time:)

    • marciecheung Reply

      We’re big fans of learning through play and I love that Woodland Park Zoo offers many opportunities for my kids to learn about animals!

  3. What fun! Seattle is a place I really want to visit with the kids. Getting to see a baby giraffe must have been a real highlight. She is just so cute!! I like to give mine the map so they can practice using those map skills with no real consequence for making mistakes!

    • marciecheung Reply

      It’s so fun to let kids feel like they are in charge and can lead the way!

  4. I love it when places like this have little areas where the kids can run around and play. I was actually just at a zoo last night for a company party and was amazed at how many families didn’t take advantage of the little “secret” playgrounds! Better believe that my friends and I played in them!

    • marciecheung Reply

      What a small world that you were just at a zoo, too! YES! Why don’t more families utilize the playgrounds!?!

  5. Woodland Zoo is really a nice outdoor picnic for children. There are all those animals which are rarely seen like Giraffe, Gorilla, and also a look alike of African Savannah. Loved the picture of your son enjoying on farm tractor and rhino sculpture.

    • marciecheung Reply

      It’s the perfect spot for picnics! We love watching the animals eat, too!

  6. That hippo sculpture is so cool. This place is the perfect way to spend a day with family. Such parks can brighten up any day. I could spend hours watching lulu and the sloth bear. Cheers!!

    • marciecheung Reply

      It’s a really fun family outing! And yes, I could also spend hours watching them!

  7. A day at Woodland Zoo looks so much fun! It’s so nice that this place has a place ground so kids can play as well. I would like to bring my little brother to here. I think he will love this!

    • marciecheung Reply

      Yes, the playground is fantastic! There’s also a large playground just outside the Zoo that many families do before/after they visit.

  8. Not very fond of zoos but I guess it is good for kids as a starting point. Later in life, I am sure it will inspire them to get closer to nature and be more compassionate towards other animals. I liked the fact that there is a family farm clubbed with the zoo. That too should teach a lot of things to the kids.

    • marciecheung Reply

      I know where you are coming from and I’ve definitely had experiences elsewhere that left me with a bad feeling. I think the Woodland Park Zoo staff does a good job of being advocates for their animals. There’s lots of docents available to educate families about each animal and answer repeated questions from little kids!

  9. I love giraffes too! They’re also my favourite animal! You are so fortunate to have been able to see the baby Lulu! I also love the fact there’s a butterfly section – I do believe these are such educational insects that can teach kids lots about the cycle of life. Sounds like a great family trip – my nieces and nephews love going to the zoo.

    • marciecheung Reply

      Aren’t giraffes the best? The butterfly garden is a great opportunity to see butterflies up close. We don’t see them that often in nature here in the Seattle-area, so it’s a special treat!

  10. We just love Woodland Park Zoo – this post reminds me that it’s been a few years since we’ve been there, though! It sounds like there are some new exhibits now, too, like the Butterfly Garden! So fun!

    • marciecheung Reply

      Go back! They have a few new things you might not have experienced, yet! Plus, I think they might have changed food vendors.

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