When it comes to zoos, yours truly grew up spoiled rotten. The world-famous San Diego Zoo will do that to you. Especially when you’re a native San Diegan and grew up with this fabulous world-class zoo in your own backyard. But every once in awhile I find a zoo that can hold its own. Like the Woodland Park Zoo in north Seattle.
Nestled in a serene, green park-like setting in north Seattle, the zoo’s 92 acres are divided into bioclimatic zones. Each zone features natural habitats from humid tropical rainforests and coastal deserts to temperate rain forests. Also Australasia, the African Savanna, and the Assam Rhino Reserve. The gorilla exhibit was closed for maintenance during our May visit, and the Butterfly House was slated to open in a few weeks. Bummer. But there’s still plenty else to see and do!
We were there just five days after the brand new baby giraffe was born! A male, the unnamed baby giraffe and his mom, Olivia, were out of view in the giraffe barn to allow what the zoo calls “a cozy, quiet environment for maternal bonding and nursing.” But the proud papa was strutting his stuff outside.
Besides the giraffes and the African Savanna exhibit – we even got to see the male lion snoozing out in the open! – Snuggle Bunny especially enjoyed the aviaries. There are a couple aviaries, with rainbow-hued birds flitting through the enclosure. So cool.
Check out Benny’s story: Rhino Lookout: Meet Benny, a Certified Good Boy.
Other nice things about the Woodland park Zoo:
- Khaki-clad staff roam around assisting clueless lost tourists in getting unlost (don’t ask how I know that.)
- The signage is excellent. Just keep an eye out for the Malayan tiger, meerkat and Komodo dragon exhibits. They’re easy to miss. Don’t.
- The carousel!
- The penguin exhibit is one of the first you see if you enter at the West Entrance. (I didn’t know penguin vocalizations sound like a braying burro. But they do!)
- It’s $6.00 to park according to the zoo web site. What they don’t tell you is that that price doesn’t include “local and state taxes.” Plan on coughing up about $7.76 at the parking kiosk as of this writing. You’ll need a debit or credit card, as the machines don’t take cash.
- Peak season is April 1 – September 30. Admission is $22.95 per adult.
There are also lots of places for parents with small children to rest and re-create, like the Habitat Forest. For the tired of foot, benches are plentiful. Also, water refilling stations are scattered throughout the grounds. Sometimes it’s good to know that. Like on the 90—degree day we visited. I’d bring a water bottle ‘fize you.
Tip: If you can swing it, plan on arriving in mid-afternoon on a week day, post- school field trips. The park closes at 6:00 p.m. It clears out like a hot knife through butter around three o’clock. So you can cover a lot of ground fast, unimpeded by crowds or waits. It also starts to cool off and some animals are a little more active at this time of day. Like the lion. We never did see my tiger, except on the way out. On the stall door of the ladies room (below). Go figure.
This zoo doesn’t have some of my favorites: cheetah, elephants, or leopards. But it does have an excellent collection and a wide variety of exhibits and displays within a beautiful, carefully tended and well-maintained setting. It’s also thoughtfully laid out. Only a really, really stupid person could get lost. (And it took me about 20 minutes to find my way back to the rhino enclosure.)
Additionally, you wouldn’t even know you’re in Seattle if you can block out the traffic noise. (The zoo is also heavily P.C. But that’s par for the course in Seattle.)
For prices, hours and directions, click here.
True, the Woodland Park Zoo isn’t the San Diego Zoo. But what is? Woodland Park is still a top-flight zoo that’s definitely worth your while – and maybe even a little “spoiling.”