woodland park zoo

Discover the Best of Nature at Woodland Park Zoo: A Family-Friendly Adventure

Visiting Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle? This guide offers a snapshot of its immersive habitats, outreach in wildlife conservation, and what you need to know for a memorable zoo experience. Discover the awe-inspiring range of species, learn about the zoo’s conservation projects, and find out how to best plan your visit.

See Our Overview and Review of the Woodland Park Zoo

Key Takeaways

  • Woodland Park Zoo boasts a long history of wildlife preservation and education, evolving from a modest collection into a renowned conservation institution, and delivering innovative approaches to animal care such as the first immersion gorilla exhibit.
  • The zoo features extensive signature exhibits like the trailblazing gorilla habitat, the Assam Rhino Reserve, and the Northern Trail, catering to a rich and immersive visitor experience with bioclimatic zones, breeding programs, and special animal encounters.
  • In addition to viewing animals, Woodland Park Zoo emphasizes educational initiatives and community engagement in conservation through programs like Wild Meet and Greet, educational workshops, and hands-on activities for all ages, aimed at fostering a conservation-minded community.

Exploring the Rich History of Woodland Park Zoo

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The Woodland Park Zoo is steeped in a rich history that dates back to 1899, originating from Guy Phinney’s estate and a modest collection of animals owned by the Lake Washington Cable Railway.

Over many years, the zoo has evolved into a prominent institution known for its commitment to wildlife preservation and education.

The Dawn of Woodland Park

The initial seeds of the park were sown by Guy Phinney, who established an English-style park featuring formal gardens and a private trolley line. Upon his death, the City of Seattle bought the estate, and the renowned Olmsted Brothers were commissioned to design the public park.

This set the stage for the creation of Woodland Park Zoo, which has since evolved into a leading institution for wildlife preservation.

Innovations in Animal Care

In the late 1970s, the zoo took a pioneering step towards an ecological approach to exhibit design, with the development of the world’s first immersion gorilla exhibit. The zoo places the highest priority on the welfare and ethical treatment of animals. This commitment is demonstrated through:

  • Comprehensive welfare assessments
  • Community engagement in conservation
  • Accreditations by prestigious institutions like the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and American Humane Conservation.

A Legacy of Conservation

Woodland Park Zoo’s legacy of conservation is a testament to its commitment to the preservation of wildlife. Woodland Park Zoo goes beyond being a place to see animals – it’s a hub for worldwide conservation initiatives. Its active participation in initiatives such as the restoration of grizzly bears and the recovery of the greater one-horned rhinoceros reflects this commitment. To date, the zoo’s efforts in wildlife conservation have been recognized with over 65 awards, underlining its global impact in the field.

Signature Exhibits and Animal Encounters

Illustration of the gorilla habitat with a family of Western lowland gorillas

From the trailblazing gorilla habitat to the Assam Rhino Reserve and the Northern Trail with brown bear cubs, the zoo offers a tantalizing array of exhibits and animal encounters. The zoo’s bioclimatic zones replicate different natural habitats, enhancing visitors’ immersive experiences.

Visitors may also participate in the exclusive Wild Meet and Greet sessions, which provide close encounters with ambassador animals in a communal environment, ensuring they don’t miss out on this unique experience.

The Trailblazing Gorilla Habitat

The gorilla habitat at Woodland Park Zoo features:

  • Two Western lowland gorilla family groups, each led by its own silverback
  • Thriving family dynamics
  • Training sessions that foster trust and enable keepers to closely monitor their health without stress

This habitat is a testament to the zoo’s innovative approach to animal care and conservation.

The birth of baby gorilla Yola in December 2015 stands as a testament to the successful breeding program within the gorillas’ habitat.

The Assam Rhino Reserve

Assam Rhino Reserve with diverse wildlife in a conservation-focused habitat

The Assam Rhino Reserve is a dedicated space that focuses on the conservation of vulnerable rhinoceros species. In addition to the rhinoceros, the reserve also houses Asian brown tortoises and demoiselle cranes, creating a dynamic and interactive habitat. It’s a tangible example of the zoo’s commitment to conservation and its efforts to preserve endangered species.

The Northern Trail & Brown Bear Cubs

Meet Juniper and Fern, the adorable brown bear cubs at the Northern Trail exhibit. Rescued from Alaska and Montana respectively, these cubs have adapted well to their new home at the zoo.

The arrival of Juniper has positively influenced Fern’s ability to adjust to the new environment, making their story one of resilience and survival.

Engaging With Wildlife: Programs and Education

Children engaging in educational activities at the Zoomazium

Beyond being a place to view animals, the zoo serves as a learning center about wildlife and the significance of conservation. The zoo’s Learning & Innovation department aims to:

  • Inspire a community of conservation stewards through fostering empathy for nature
  • Build conservation knowledge and skills
  • Encourage actions that benefit wildlife and habitats.

Behind-the-Scenes Experiences

Those curious about daily operations and care practices at the zoo can take advantage of unique behind-the-scenes experiences on offer. One of these special offerings is the ‘Wild Meet and Greet’ program, where visitors have the opportunity to meet one of the zoo’s ambassador animals in a small, intimate group setting.

These initiatives offer enlightening perspectives on the zoo’s commitment to animal care, enhancing the standard zoo visit.

Learning Through Play

The zoo provides a variety of fun and educational activities specifically designed for children. The Zoomazium, an engaging indoor play space for kids up to 8 years old, offers interactive, nature-themed play areas. Activities support crucial developmental skills, including language, motor skills, problem-solving, and social interactions.

The zoo also offers camps, early childhood programs, and teen initiatives that are accessible to all.

Conservation Talks and Workshops

To deepen visitors’ understanding of wildlife conservation, the zoo offers the following programs:

  • Conservation talks and workshops
  • The UpClose program, which brings Ambassador Animals to various indoor locations for educational and close encounters with wildlife
  • Community science programs, which engage volunteers in conservation work
  • The ECO-CELL program, which enables visitors to recycle old electronics at the zoo, supporting efforts to reduce mining in gorilla habitats.

Events and Fundraisers: Join the Fun

Besides its educational programs and exhibits, the zoo organizes a range of events and fundraisers annually. These events offer entertainment and also play a significant role in engaging the community to support the zoo’s conservation efforts and educational programs.

ZooTunes: Music with a Mission

The BECU ZooTunes, presented by Carter Subaru, is a celebrated summer concert series reaching its 40th anniversary at the zoo. This event serves the dual purpose of entertaining guests with live music and operating as a significant fundraising initiative to support the zoo’s mission.

Over its history, the ZooTunes concert series has featured performances by a diverse array of artists, enhancing the fundraising experience.

WildLights: A Winter Wonderland

Enchanting lantern display at the WildLights holiday festival

The WildLights at the Woodland Park Zoo is an annual holiday lights festival that provides a festive evening experience to visitors. The festival features themed lantern zones throughout the zoo and includes interactive experiences and activities suitable for all ages, aimed at celebrating the holiday season.

From Lions to Penguins: A World of Animals

Woodland Park Zoo is home to more than 800 animals from over 250 species, showcasing a diverse array of wildlife. From the majestic lions to the playful penguins, the zoo hosts a myriad of animals that contribute to the holistic ecosystem that the Woodland Park Zoo represents.

Majestic Mammals

The zoo’s exhibits include various natural habitats that host a wide array of mammals from around the world. The zoo has celebrated the birth of a baby giraffe named Lulu and a male snow leopard cub named Aibeck, symbolizing the zoo’s successful breeding programs and its commitment to the care and preservation of these majestic mammals.

Feathered Friends

The zoo features a variety of bird species that are integral to the guest experience. The Raptor Center serves as a sanctuary for rehabilitative birds of prey, while the vibrant toucans and majestic eagles offer a colorful and captivating display for visitors.

Reptiles and Amphibians

The zoo is also home to a fascinating collection of reptiles and amphibians, offering visitors a glimpse into the scaly and amphibious side of wildlife. The exhibit area presents a range of species, each adapted to unique environments, from dry deserts to humid rainforests.

Their distinct behaviors and adaptations are highlighted to provide an educational and engaging experience.

Planning Your Visit: Essential Visitor Information

Organizing your visit to the Woodland Park Zoo is simplified with a range of ticket options, park amenities, and accessibility provisions. The zoo is open every day except Christmas, with varying summer and winter hours. Tickets can be purchased online, with discounts available for seniors, children, and groups.

For an even better experience, membership options offer free admission, discounts at zoo shops and on educational programs, and reciprocal benefits at other zoos.

Tickets and Membership

Memberships offer unlimited yearly admission, and the zoo offers options such as the Basic Annual Pass and the Family Passport, each including extra guest allowances. Discounts on memberships are provided for college students currently enrolled and for adults with disabilities who require a one-to-one aide.

The membership office is open daily for assisting inquiries, and there are designated desks at each entrance to help with account-related questions.

Park Amenities

A variety of dining options are available for guests to eat at the zoo. Transactions for food and beverages are cashless, with multiple electronic payment methods accepted. Guests can convert cash into a prepaid debit card using the Cash to Card Kiosk or take advantage of mobile ordering through QR codes for added convenience.

Visitors can also purchase a variety of souvenirs from the ZooStore, which includes plush toys, apparel, and items supporting conservation.

Accessibility and Accommodations

All guests are guaranteed a comfortable and accessible visit at the zoo. Here are some of the accessibility features available:

  • Wheelchairs and electric scooters are available to rent.
  • The Zoomazium provides sensory support tools for children and individuals with sensory sensitivities.
  • Visitors who are blind or have low vision can request trained sighted guides.
  • There is an Accessibility Guide with a map to ease navigation throughout the zoo.

Service animals are welcomed, aides receive complimentary admission, and accessible restrooms are available to accommodate a wide range of accessibility needs.


In conclusion, the Woodland Park Zoo is more than just a zoo; it’s a sanctuary for wildlife, a hub for conservation efforts, an educational center, and a venue for community engagement. Whether you’re looking to spend a relaxing day in the company of diverse wildlife, learn about conservation efforts, or simply enjoy a concert under the stars, the zoo offers a unique experience that leaves a lasting impression.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why did Woodland Park Zoo get rid of the elephants?

Woodland Park Zoo decided to close its elephant exhibit after the death of a third elephant, and they chose to relocate the remaining elephants to Oklahoma City due to its active breeding programs for elephants.

What are the zoo’s opening hours?

The Woodland Park Zoo is open every day except Christmas, with varying summer and winter hours. Be sure to check the current schedule before planning your visit.

How can I participate in the zoo’s conservation efforts?

You can participate in the zoo’s conservation efforts by joining community science programs or recycling old electronics through the ECO-CELL program. Get involved and make a positive impact today!

What are some of the special events that the zoo hosts?

The zoo hosts special events such as the BECU ZooTunes concert series and the WildLights holiday festival, offering a range of experiences for visitors to enjoy.

What types of animals can I see at the zoo?

You can see a variety of animals at the zoo, including mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Enjoy your visit!

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