Before entering the Woodland Park Zoo, I downloaded the Zoo app to see how far away it was, what the weather was like and if any special events were going on. It also provided language settings, interactive GPS maps, an events calendar and exhibit details with a Youtube video for each animal. If you scroll down to tours, you can mix things up with a GPS guided tour where you can learn what animals are most affected by climate change, to a tour of hidden fun secrets around the Zoo. The first tour that comes up is fitting for fall in Seattle: rainy day tour, guiding you through the Zoo using overhead canopies and covered areas to give the driest paths possible.  One great feature if you have a large group is by using pin codes you can track and locate friends in the Zoo if they are using the app as well.

Once you enter the Zoo, the terrain is relatively flat with a hill going down to the Northern trail. A few things to help enhance your experience are: look for animal tracks in the cement in front of exhibits, they tell a story. If you notice the primate statues, they are from artist Georgia Gerber, whom brought us Rachel the pig at Pike Place Market. When you get to the Malayan Tiger exhibit there are two tigers, can you tell them apart? A little hint is to study their facial stripes patterns.Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle photo of tiger

The horticulture at the Zoo is amazing and well thought out. Not only do the plants enhance the environment of its surrounding exhibit, but the Zoo uses plants able to survive the climate and precipitation of Seattle. I saw bamboo nestled next to tea plants bordering the Asian otters, how cool and natural looking is that?

Other great amenities are conveniently located restrooms with beverage vending machines.

Food options are primarily located in the Rainforest Food Pavilion, with a diverse menu ranging from hot dogs, nachos or some yummy tacos. For parents that have small children, Zoomazium is an indoor high interaction play area. I was too big for this ride but I understand if you can guess the secret animal, you get to meet and pet it. I love this idea for rainy days or for little ones that are getting overstimulated. Parking is six dollars for the day and mobility scooters are available upon request.

Visit Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo

Woodland Park Zoo has made itself a very conservation friendly, easy to navigate learning experience with a ton of overlooked amenities. After hours catering is also available for office or birthday parties with optional food menus providing breakfast, dinner buffets, cocktail bars and picnic lunches. There are a ton of amenities to add to a party like having it in front of the Jaguar cove with face painting, caricature drawings and yes, you can set up unlimited carousel rides for guests with a Raptor flyby on your 40th birthday if it’s in your budget.             

To summarize my tips on how to make the most out of your zoo experience: download the app, look at the times for keeper talks at exhibits that interest you, keep your eyes out for hidden Zoo secrets and if you see a Zoo volunteer ask them anything Zoo related and it may come with a good story of the animal your requesting information on.   

Woodland Park Zoo Seattle

I have two sons, two years apart. Both are autistic and have special needs; and those needs definitely differ from each other. My youngest loves animals, and even calls the zoo, “Jungle." He ALWAYS wants to go to the jungle. My eldest, on the other hand, would rather play in the park all day, every day, or play video games if he can. So, bringing both to the zoo can be quite a challenge in order to satisfy and tend to both of their needs.

Our trips to the “jungle” are usually short, lasting no more than two hours (we can spend all day there if we really wanted to experience everything). What’s nice is that Woodland Park Zoo is one of the best attractions in the area for travelers with disabilities. has attractions and areas to accommodate both my sons’ needs. Below is a short and sweet summary of the top 5 things they love to do (so far). We haven’t been able to visit the entire zoo yet, but I’m sure once we do, they will find more favorites in their visits as there is so much to do and see at Woodland Park Zoo!

Woodland Park Zoo

 

1) AFRICAN SAVANNA

While my youngest loved ALL of the Savanna animals – especially the zebras, lions, and hippo., my oldest was all about the African Village! In the village, you can play on instruments. His favorite was the drum. You can climb in and out of houses/huts, and you can even lay in the beds!

*The African Savanna is located on the south side of the zoo. The closest parking lot is Hippo.

2) TROPICAL RAINFOREST: GORILLAS

Not only do you get to see the gorilla family up close and personal, you can even take photos with their statues next door! It’s a great place for kids photo ops, and my eldest loved it!

*The Tropical Rain Forest is located south of the west entrance and northwest of the South Entrance. The nearest parking lots are Penguin (to the west) and Hippo (to the south). The gorillas are on the north side of the Rain Forest Loop.

3) NORTHERN TRAIL: BROWN BEARS

Yes, you read correctly! BearS (as in more than one)! As many times as we have visited Woodland Park Zoo, we have never seen, or even knew there were TWO brown bears! We lucked out with the weather, and that’s when we found them relaxing in their cave, near the water. You can see salmon and otters swimming around, too! My youngest didn’t want to leave!

Brown Bears

 

*The Northern Trail is located on the north side of the zoo. The nearest entrance is the West, and the closest parking lots are Penguin and Bear.  The brown bears are right around the corner from the grey wolves and snowy owl.

 

4) AUSTRALASIA: BIRD FEEDING

Bird Feeding

This was our very first time trying this with our boys, and our youngest loved it! We ended up buying 2 sticks to feed the birds, and he ended up using both (and of course, he wanted to buy more). It was definitely a sight to see when the bird flew right on his stick to eat the seeds! I highly recommend trying this if you haven’t already!

*Australasia is located east of the West Entrance, and the nearest parking lot I Penguin. Bird Feeding is right next to the Willawong Station (where the kangaroos and kookabara birds are located).

 

5) AROUND THE ZOO: PHOTO OPS

Photo Locations (L to R):  Gorilla (Tropical Rain Forest), Wolf Cub (Northern Trail), Komodo Dragon (between the African Savanna and Australasia)    

Every time my kids saw a statue or a figure of an animal, they immediately wanted to climb on it. Having two boys, two years apart, can be quite a handful, so when they stop, I try my best to take advantage and snap photos when I can. I think we were able to take a photo in each “area” of the zoo. Now I need to try and get more photos of them together or even a family photo somewhere in there! 

Accessibility at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo

My kids loved the Woodland Park Zoo and their experience wouldn't have been possible without all the sensory considerations and accessibility features put in place. The Woodland Park Zoo is built to accommodate people with a wide range of disabilities. They even have an accessibility guide to help you plan your next trip to the Zoo.

For more information on all the accessible attractions, ADA-compliant hotels and transportation choices, please visit our Accessibility page.

Last weekend I visited Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, home to 1,100 animal ambassadors from around the world, representing nearly 300 different species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates.

My boyfriend and I spent only 3 hours at the zoo, and we could’ve easily spent the whole day there since it is so big! The park sits on 92 acres of land which covers all the exhibits and plant life, open recreational areas, Zoomazium Playspace, food rucks and even a carousel.

Plan on spending at least 4 – 5 hours there, pack a picnic lunch and bring water since all the walking will make you hungry and thirsty! Food, beverages and ice cream are available to purchase at multiple locations inside the park, however the food can be a little spendy and limited in variety. Plus, packing a lunch allows you to invest in ice cream, which will look a lot more tempting than usual! 

Remember to wear comfortable shoes and dress in layers. Seattle weather can be unpredictable and many exhibits are outdoors. There are strollers, wagons and wheelchairs available for rent. Go to Visit Woodland Park Zoo for more information.

To make sure you don’t miss out on any of the cool exhibits, I recommend arriving at noon, as that seems to be when the animals eat lunch and are the most active. Upon arriving, you will receive a park map and you’ll notice that all the exhibits are organized by habitat: Temperate Forest, African Savanna, Tropical Rainforest, Tropical Asia, Australasia and the Northern Trail. There is also a mobile app you can download for free that is GPS-enabled, features a schedule of the day’s activities, animal fact sheets and pictures.

Popular Exhibits at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo

Jaguar “Triplets”

The jaguar cubs are what inspired me to visit the zoo in the first place. The zoo is now offering a free, daily viewing exhibit from 9:30 – 4pm of their 3 jaguar cubs, 2 female and 1 male, born March of this year. When I visited there was a line for the viewing, so I recommend going early to avoid any lines.

Humboldt Penguins

This was my personal favorite exhibit. Penguins are very social animals and are very entertaining and relaxing to watch waddling around and sailing through the water. We were also lucky enough to stumble upon the exhibit during feeding time. The penguins are relatively polite and wait their turn to be hand-fed as the zookeeper calls them by name and hands them a fish.

Lion cubs

A little bigger in size than expected, we came upon the lion exhibit, featuring four 8-month-old South African lion cubs and their mom, Adia. They are available for viewing everyday, between 9:30am and 6:00pm. Born in November, the cubs are nearly teenagers now, but the mom still watches out for them from afar.

Feed the Elephants

For just $5 kids and adults can feed the elephants every day of the week during lunchtime, between 1:30 and 2:30pm. Located in the Thai Village in Tropical Asia. Offered all summer.

Small-Clawed Otters Exhibit

One of the zoo’s newest exhibits and part of the “Discover the Asian Tropical Forest Initiative” are the smallest otter species in the world, small-clawed otters. The beautiful exhibit mimics the otter’s natural habitat, the forest and its waterways.

Phases 2 and 3 of the Asian Tropical Forest Initiative features the “Bamboo Forest Reserve”; a naturalistic tiger and sloth bear exhibit complex. The $19.6 million initiative will be the most innovative exhibit that the Woodland Park Zoo has ever created, offering interactive and up-close visitor experiences. Fundraising is still underway.

Other information:

Hours: Open 9:30am - 6:00pm daily

Prices:
Adult (13-64 years ) $24.60
Child (3-12 years) $15.00
Toddlers (0-2 years) Free
Seniors (65+) $22.60
People with Disability $2 off regular admission, 1:1 aides are complimentary.

Onsite parking:
$6 for first 2 hours; $2 each additional hour
$12.00 maximum daily rate
(+ taxes and fees)

City Pass accepted. Save 43% off Seattle's six best attractions, plus skip the lines. Includes admission to Woodland Park Zoo, Space Needle, Pacific Science Center, Seattle Aquarium, Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour and EMP Museum. Valid 9 days.

Prices:
Adult $109
Child (4-12 years) $84

Purchase your CityPass here.

Events

ZooTunes Summer Concerts

Every summer for the past 30 years, the zoo raises money for animal conservation purposes by putting on summer concerts held on the grass lawn inside the park. As a family event, ZooTunes encourages kids with free admission of one child per paying adult. NEW this summer, kids can now play inside a kids’ play area while parents enjoy the concert. Provided by Seattle Gymnastics Academy, the area features tumbling mats, crafts, games and activities for kids ages 3-12.