Our Life in the Pacific Northwest

Woodland Park Zoo

Woodland Park Zoo
Seattle Wa.
March 2008

Our family has been going to Woodland Park Zoo ever since our kids were very young and I am still in awe every time as I walk through the park admiring the lushness that is so typical of our beloved Pacific Northwest. Don’t get me wrong, I love the animals too (especially when I have my camera in hand) but when I am there I also think of it as a nice little hike. The thought of a flourishing park sitting right in the middle of an urban setting is a brilliant one. City dwellers can take a break from the traffic and get lost amongst the trees (and animals).


The Woodland Park Zoo has been in Seattle for over 100 years and is located on what used to be Guy Phinney’s saw mill. Sometime after his death in 1889 the city bought the land for $100,000. It was slow going at first and took about 30 years for it to take on the appearance of a real zoo. Now Woodland Park covers 92 acres, has approximately 1,100 specimens representing nearly 300 species including invertebrates. In 2007 the zoo welcomed about 1.07 million visitors. Guy Phinney would be proud.

(I love this display. It is located near the African Savannah exhibit. Makes you think, if only for a second, as you walk by.)

Woodland Park also takes a great interest in education and wildlife conservation. They are partnered with 34 conservation projects in over 30 countries, and are deeply involved in numerous conservation initiatives all over the world. Through schools and public programs, the zoo educates over 250,000 visitors and 65,000 students a year. One of their more important philosophies’ they convey is one about people and their impact on the planet.

“Our actions, from what we eat to what we wear, buy and drive have impacts on the environment and plants and animals. By learning how we can minimize our “footprint” on the planet and encouraging others to do the same, we all — whether scientist or student — can help push back the tide of extinction.” (zoo.org)”

When we visit Woodland Park Zoo we bring good shoes, a backpack containing a lunch, a water bottle and a snack for later. Since we are so prone to rain here, umbrellas are brought and kept in the car just in case. On one such day the weather turned ugly and rain showers poured the entire time. We were without any umbrellas and had to be resourceful, as we Washingtonians are so used to. The zoo has taken the climate into consideration and has supplied many covered areas and inside exhibits. They also offer a rainy day map so you can enjoy the zoo any time of year.


 The outdoor eating areas are perfect for a family picnic/lunch while taking a break from the animals. There is also the Rain Forest Food Pavilion which offers inside eating with everything from burgers to salads.   We like to picnic under the tall trees and enjoy a well earned rest if the weather permits.

My favorite exhibit has always been the Gorillas. I have been watching this family for years and I always look for my favorite one, “Nina”. Her story is a sweet one. She actually adopted one of the baby gorillas (Akenji) and became its surrogate mother after its own mother (Jumoke) refused to raise the baby. You can recognize Nina as the matriarch looking one who usually has her pink tongue slightly protruding from her mouth.

 “Cheese”. (He smiled just for me, maybe)

 Tthe last time we were there the hippos were giving us quite a show. They both walked into the water in a dramatic manner and one swam right to us, opening his mouth to show us his pearly whites.  I had never seen the inside of a hippo’s mouth before and it was quite the sight.

 Another favorite exhibit of mine is “The Northern Trail.”  Here the zoo has a great representation of the animals indiginous to the North America. The bears, otters, herons, and mountain goats (and all the others) have a wonderful home here complete with a pool filled with trout for the bears which the guests can see in the Taiga Viewing Shelter. This large room has two sides of glass walls which enable you to see the land part of the exhibit in the back and the water part up close. You can see the fish swimming by, the otters at play, and once in a while one of the bears will come into the water and you can see his lower body emersed in the water as he walks by. I could stay in there forever.

 Of course you can’t leave the zoo without experiencing the African Savannah exhibit. The giraffes, zebras, ostriches (and all the rest of the African animals and birds), roam around their habitat carelessly amongst each other.

This exhibit was built with a large viewing shelter where you can sit or stand and watch the animals move about. They have also created a “African village” for the kids to learn with hands on materials of village life in Africa. We usually have to drag the kids away from this.

I haven’t yet mentioned the Elephant exhibit. We received sad news last summer about “Hansa” the little elephant born in 2000. She died from a fatal virus and news of this saddened people everywhere. We recently recalled as we passed the elephant barn the amazingly long lines we stood in to get a glimpse of Hansa when she was first born. I think my children had always felt a bond with little Hansa since we had watched her grow up. Seeing her missing from the barn was pretty sad for us all.

However, the orangutan habitat always cheers us up. (See photo at the top of page) I am not sure which Orangutan it is but there is one very sweet one who loves to come close to the glass and stare into the eyes of the kids or adults who are sitting in front of her. It is the cutest thing I’ve seen yet. Last visit my youngest, who is 9, sat with her face really close to the glass and held her hand flat against it causing the orangutan to do the same. It melted my heart. I took a photo which didn’t turn out well because of the glare, but I added it so you can have an idea of what I mean.


 I have only mentioned a few of my favorite exhibits but there are so many more to enjoy during a day at the zoo. The Zoomazium is a real treat for the younger children, and the Family Farm which offers a petting zoo which is fun for everyone. The Butterflies and Blooms exhibit is an amazing experience but doesn’t open until late May. Bbe sure to check this out.  Unfortunately the penguins are not at the zoo until summer 2009. They are designing a brand new interactive exhibit for them, and I can’t wait to see it. I love the penguins!

How could I write about the zoo and not mention the Jaguars. I leave you with a photo I took of one jaguar  which to me captures the personality and strength of this amazing animal.

 Have fun at the zoo!!!!

**Please enjoy my photos but don’t use them without notification or my permission. If there is an image that you would like to use or would like as print, please contact me.


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