I’m not sure why I didn’t know about this place until last year, but the Woodland Park Zoo [zoo.org] is a must visit in Seattle. While it isn’t really the biggest and the best at any one thing, it is really really good overall. It’s clean, modern, educational and sensitive to the fact that animals are kept there.
Clearly, a place that managed to get zoo.org as their domain name must be special. Woodland Park has been open since 1899 [zoo.org] and has won seven major exhibit awards from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums! They were the first zoo to have an immersive exhibit, designed to make the guests feel as though they are in the animal habitat by hiding buildings and barriers.
As you can see from their black bear habitat, they don’t put their large animals in small cages. There is actually a stream that runs through where the bears live that is stocked with trout to allow the bears to catch fish more or less as they would in nature!
While these humane exhibits are relatively recent developments, the zoo does not hide the fact that the animals were not treated with the same amount of respect in the past. In one part of the zoo they have some of the old cages that are open for people to walk into so that they can get a feeling for what the animals had to live in. In another part of the zoo they have a sign up that talks about the fact that they used to keep bears in small cages and allowed people to throw peanuts at them.
In addition to bears and other mammals, they also have exhibits for birds, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, and plants. While we were there they also had a dinosaur exhibit featuring a number of robotic dinosaurs that the kids all loved. My youngest was very disappointed when we had to break the news to him that they weren’t real.
When we got home I raved about this place to my friends and it turns out that I was the last person in this part of the world to find out how great this zoo is. From what I’m told the line-up to get in can be very long on summer weekends so you need to plan accordingly. We were there mid-week in August and found the park was just busy enough to have some atmosphere and didn’t have to wait to get in. The zoo is nicely laid out with lots of open spaces including a large field for kids to run around in.
They also have some great looking educational programs [zoo.org] including some overnight offerings. I’m pretty sure we’ll be trying those out in the near future – once the weather warms up a bit.
This post was submitted to Travel Photo Thursday, a weekly collection of travel photos hosted by Budget Traveler’s Sandbox [budgetravelerssandbox.com]. Please check it out!