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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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 sculpture near the hippo exhibit
Boat near the penguin exhibit
5 Tips for Visiting Woodland Park Zoo
- Parking: Arrive early and get the coveted street parking to avoid paying for the lot.
- 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.
- Rainy Day Fun: The Zoomazium is an awesome place to stay dry while the kids learn about animals and play.
- 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.
- 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.
Woodland Park Zoo provided me with complimentary tickets. All opinions are my own.