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Local Mom’s Guide to Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo

Local Mom’s Guide to Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo

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Are you looking for a kid-friendly Seattle activity? As a local Seattle mom, I’ll share my personal tips for visiting the Woodland Park Zoo with kids!
This guide to visiting the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle with kids was written by Seattle family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

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.)

I’ve been coming here since I was a kid and I’ve brought my own kids dozens of times. We even had a zoo membership when they were really little.

Woodland Park Zoo just launched its new temporary exhibit A Bug’s Eye View which runs from May 1 through Labor Day. I’ve got all the details below!

Don’t have time to read a bunch of Seattle blog posts and reviews? Here are some of our top picks for visiting Seattle with kids.

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What to See at 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.

Map of Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle
Make sure to grab a map as you enter Woodland Park Zoo! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

We’ve done all these areas during the past few years and have narrowed it down to our current must-see areas.

African Savanna

Something that sets apart the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle from other area zoos is its African Village. It’s a faithful reproduction of a modern rural village in East Africa. I’m impressed with it each time we visit.

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. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

It also has an open-air 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.

Komodo Dragon

Do your kids love lizards? Komodo dragons are the largest lizards in the world. But your kids will probably be more impressed that they are called “dragons.” Their names are Nakal and Berani.

Image of a boy in front of a komodo dragon at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle
It’s pretty cool to see the komodo dragons! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

While the komodo dragon area has always been interesting for kids, the exhibit was renovated and re-opened in 2021 cooler than ever.

My kids like seeing the replica eggs and claws. And it’s always neat to get up close to the window and see what they are up to.

Assam Rhino Reserve

This area is home to two greater one-horned rhinoceroses, Taj and Glenn. The exhibit is designed to mimic the rhinos’ natural habitat in the Assam region of India.

I was SUPER excited when this exhibit area opened a couple of years ago because not many zoos have rhinos.

The exhibit features a large enclosure with plenty of space for the rhinos to roam, as well as a variety of enrichment features, such as mud wallows, pools, and climbing structures.

There are also several educational displays about the rhinos and their conservation.

Sloth Bear

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.

Sloth Bear at Woodland Park Zoo
Sloth bears are something I don’t see at other zoos. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

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 also includes the tiger area, but the sloth bear rarely has a large crowd.

Molbak’s Butterfly Garden

This is a smaller butterfly garden than the one at Pacific Science Center. It’s also seasonal and usually opens near Memorial Day.

Molbak's Butterfly Garden at Woodland Park Zoo
Molbak’s Butterfly Garden opened a few years ago. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

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. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

One interesting thing 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

Another one of our favorite parts of the Woodland Park Zoo is its petting zoo and animal farm. The Family Farm is presented by Smith Brothers, who deliver fresh local milk, eggs, and sour cream every week to our home.

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. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

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.


This indoor play area is perfect for kids ages 8 years old and younger. The play area features a variety of climbing structures, slides, and other activities.

There are usually staff members there who help kids do cool animal-related activities.

It’s great for getting out of the rain or sun or if your kids need a break from walking around outside.

A Bug’s Eye View: Temporary Exhibit from May 1 through Labor Day

One of the newest exhibits at Woodland Park Zoo is A Bug’s Eye View located where the temporary dinosaur exhibit used to be.

Image of a boy in front of a fake giant tarantula at the Woodland Park Zoo
This giant tarantula is basically the showstopper at A Bug’s Eye View. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

I took my 6-year-old there and he LOVED it! There are a bunch of oversized animatronic bugs that slowly move. They do NOT make loud noises or do anything scary (except that one bug does spray water).

It’s in a quiet, shady area of the zoo (which is great for summertime) and you’ll walk along a path where you can see tons of these bug attractions. There are NO actual bugs on display in this area.

Image of a boy reading a sign in front of a giant moth
My son loved learning about each bug. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

There are little signs set up along the way that talk about each bug’s “superpower”, what they eat, and even show the actual sizes of each bug.

It’s an extra $5 per ticket and kids ages 0-2 are free. We think it’s totally worth the extra money because it’s such a cool way to learn more about these bugs. And my 6-year-old thought it was way cooler than the dinosaur exhibit (but I think both are super awesome).

Best Photo Ops at Woodland Park Zoo

Since I’m a blogger, I’m always looking for cute photo ops wherever we go. Here are the ones I like best at the 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. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung
  • Hippo sculpture near the hippo exhibit
  • African Village
  • Monkey statues
  • Boat near the penguin exhibit
  • Komodo dragon statue
  • Historic Carousel

Woodland Park Zoo Parking Lot

There are actually several parking lots at the Woodland Park Zoo. Parking is $6 for the first 2 hours, then $2/hour for a maximum of $12/day.

Access to the West Entrance (aka the main entrance) is available through the Otter and Penguin parking lots. The Otter parking lot can be accessed through the Penguin lot on Phinney Ave N., or the Bear parking lot on N. 59th Street.

The South Entrance is located on N. 50th Street and can be accessed by the Hippo parking lot.

There’s also street parking available in the nearby neighborhoods. Just make sure you don’t block anyone’s driveway.

5 Tips for Visiting Woodland Park Zoo

Zoo Parking

Arrive early and get the coveted street parking to avoid paying for the lot. Otherwise, we like to park near the West Entrance because it feels more centrally located than the South Entrance in case kids are melting down and need to go home.


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.

They do sell lunch items in several locations, however, the lines can get really long.

Rainy Day Fun

The Zoomazium is an awesome place to stay dry while the kids learn about animals and play. There are also several covered exhibit areas like the komodo dragons, gorillas, meerkats, Savannah animals, and sloths.

Stroller vs. Carrier

I personally liked to bring both with me when my kids were babies and toddlers. We tended to last a bit longer when I could push my 3-year-old and carry my baby from the Zoo to our car.


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 $3 for a ride (standing adults are free) and is undercover.

Image of a boy wearing blue butterfly wings at the Woodland Park Zoo
There are tons of great walking paths at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Woodland Park Zoo in the Pacific Northwest FAQs

How long does it take to walk through Woodland Park Zoo?

It really depends on your family and how much stamina they have for walking and their interest in animals. We typically spend 2-3 hours, but we focus on just a few areas of the zoo. You could definitely spend 4-5 hours if you wanted to see everything and take some time to eat lunch.

What are the new Woodland Park Zoo hours?

Beginning May 1, 2023 the Woodland Park Zoo is open daily from 9:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

What are the top attractions at Woodland Park Zoo?

A few popular zoo attractions include the African Savanna, Zoomazium, Tropical Rain Forest, Northern Trail, Penguin Exhibits, Willawong Station, and the Gorillas.

Are there any playgrounds at Woodland Park Zoo?

One of the most popular playgrounds is the Zoomazium, which is an indoor nature-themed play space designed for children ages 8 and under. It includes climbing structures, a treehouse, a water play area, and other interactive exhibits. There are a few smaller climbing areas for kids throughout the zoo. There’s also a large playground just outside the West Entrance.

Why did Woodland Park Zoo get rid of the elephants?

Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington got rid of its elephants in 2015 after a long and controversial debate. The zoo had been criticized for its elephant care practices, and some animal rights groups had called for the elephants to be sent to a sanctuary. In the end, the zoo decided to close its elephant exhibit and send the two remaining elephants to another zoo with a larger and more naturalistic habitat.

Can you take food to Woodland Park Zoo?

Yes, you can definitely bring food and drinks into the zoo.

Is a Woodland Park Zoo membership worth it?

If you’ll be visiting more than once in a year, it can definitely be worth it, especially if you have a baby or toddler (since kids ages 0-2 are free). Individual adult memberships are $70 and family memberships are $250.

What animals are at the Woodland Park Zoo?

Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington is home to over 1,000 animals from all over the world. Some of the most popular animals at the zoo include lions, giraffes, zebras, rhinos, hippos, orangutans, kangaroos, and gorillas.

How much does it cost to visit the Woodland Park Zoo?

Adult tickets (ages 13-64) are $29, children ages 3-12 are $18, seniors ages 65+ are $27, and children ages 0-2 are free.

Is the Woodland Park Zoo open year-round?

Yes, it’s open every day except for Christmas Day.

What is the best time to visit the Woodland Park Zoo?

If you want to avoid the crowds, go on a mid-week morning when the weather is overcast. The zoo is most crowded on sunny days (especially during the weekend or school breaks). Early morning is best for seeing the animals moving around. Families with young children tend to head home after lunch, so that can be a lull in the crowds.

Are there any discounts available for admission to the Woodland Park Zoo?

Yes, you can purchase tickets online for a 10% discount (as long as it’s at least 4 days in advance). People with disabilities can get $2 off regular admission, and their aides get complimentary admission. There are also military discounts and discounts for people receiving EBT/Washington Quest, P-EBT, or WIC assistance.

Are strollers and wheelchairs available for rent at the Woodland Park Zoo?

Yes, you can rent items at the Guest Services locations inside the West Entrance and near the ZooStore at the South Entrance.

  • Wagon $11.00
  • Single stroller $8.00
  • Double stroller $10.00
  • Wheelchair (non-electric)  $10.00
  • Electric mobility scooter or ECV  $25.00

Is there a gift shop at the Woodland Park Zoo?

Yes, there’s the main gift shop near the entrances as well as a pop up gift shop by the Bug’s Eye View temporary exhibit. The zoo has a variety of souvenirs available for purchase, including t-shirts, hats, stuffed animals, and more.

Are there any special events or activities at the Woodland Park Zoo?

Yes, the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle offers a variety of special events and activities throughout the year including ZooTunes, WildLights, Jungle Party, Whiskey & WildBites, Brew at the Zoo, and Animal Feedings and Encounters.

Visiting the Seattle Zoo Wrap Up

A visit to the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle is a great experience for visitors of all ages. With a variety of indoor and outdoor attractions, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

For first-time visitors, we recommend starting with the African Savanna, Northern Trail, and Tropical Rain Forest exhibits, which showcase a variety of animals from around the world.

Whether you’re interested in animal encounters, special events, or just enjoying a day out with family and friends, the Woodland Park Zoo has something for everyone.

Looking for more things to do at Seattle Center? Check out the Space Needle, ride the Seattle Center Monorail, explore the Museum of Pop Culture, and see our 3-day Seattle itinerary for families!

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Krystel | Disney on a Budget

Saturday 2nd of September 2017

I love going to the zoo! It has been at least a year since I've been to one. This one looks fantastic.


Thursday 24th of August 2017

This zoo looks like it is spectacular. My kids are so in love with seeing animals and would love this.


Thursday 24th of August 2017

It's really well done! In fact, I just completed a survey they sent me and it looks like they are thinking about the next phase of the Zoo.


Thursday 24th of August 2017

This looks like a lovely day out for the family. That baby giraffe is so cute! Thanks for sharing helpful tips too.


Thursday 24th of August 2017

Oh how I love trips to the zoo! These photos are gorgeous and Woodland Park Zoo looks just incredible, would love to visit!


Thursday 24th of August 2017

This is such a great post! Looks like such a great activity and I'm always for hanging out with giraffes. I haven't been to a zoo in forever but perhaps I should give them more chances. They can be really amazing when done right!


Thursday 24th of August 2017

Yes, the key is they have to be done right. I love what Woodland Park Zoo has done.

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