Woodland Park Zoo

The 92 acres that make up the Woodland Park Zoo are located in the Phinney Ridge neighborhood of Seattle, in the north-central region of the city. Featuring more than 1,000 animals from over 300 species representing every corner of the globe, the sights at WPZ are truly amazing. This award-winning zoological park offers visitors a unique all-day adventure that is the perfect addition to any Seattle trip.

Money Saving Tip! Woodland Park Zoo is included on the Seattle CityPASS. If you are sightseeing in Seattle, then you can save a lot of money with a pass.

Woodland Park Zoo History

The Woodland Park Zoo is located in what is commonly known as “upper” Woodland Park in the Phinney Ridge neighborhood of north central Seattle. The area that is now the zoo began as an estate owned by Guy C. Phinney. Phinney, a lumber mill operator and real estate developer, spent most of his time in the late 19th century attempting to make his estate akin to that of an English Park. This included a rose garden, pump house, an electric trolley, and deer park. After Phinney died in 1893, his widow worked with the City of Seattle to transfer ownership of the land for use as a public park.

The City purchased the Phinney Estate in 1899 for $100,000 and hired the Boston firm, the Olmstead Brothers, to develop it. Similar to Phinney, the Olmsteads had a taste for traditional English gardens and therefore remained true to much of the original landscape, adding pathways, open space, and peripheral animal areas to what was already there.  Animals from Seattle’s first “zoo” located in the downtown Leschi Park were donated to the new public space and thus began the tenure of Woodland Park Zoo.

Over the course of the 20th century, WPZ continued to develop, weathering the addition of a massive 6-lane highway in the 1930s. The road cut straight through the land, forever designating “upper” and “lower” Woodland Park and leaving the latter as open space separate from the zoo itself.

The remainder of the 20th century was one of expansion for the zoo which, in turn, added the Children’s Zoo in 1967, an African Savanna, Primate Islands, Gorilla Exhibit, and the North American Marsh and Swamp exhibits in the 1970s, followed by the Asian Elephant Forest exhibit, Education Center, Tropical Rain Forest exhibit, ZooStore, Northern Trail exhibit, Animal Health Complex, and Trail of Vines in the 80s and 90s.

In 2002, following the lead of zoos around the country, the City of Seattle made moves to privatize the Woodland Park Zoo by turning operations over to a non-profit, the Woodland Park Zoological Society. This move allowed for additional income and fund raising efforts such that a Long-Range Physical Development Plan was created in 2004. This was followed by several new additions to the zoo itself. These include the African Village, African Wild Dog Exhibit, Jaguar Cove, the historical carousel and Zoomazium, and the Humboldt Penguin Exhibit.

Today, the Woodland Park Zoo welcomes more than 1 million visitors each year. The park spans a total of 92 acres, includes well over 1,000 animals, including 35 endangered species, and represents every inhabited continent on Earth. WPZ has also been a leader in the research and conservation field, leading other Association of Zoo and Aquarium (AZA) members in the creation and maintenance of naturalistic exhibits. As such, it is second only to New York’s famed Bronx Zoo in awards from the AZA for Best National Exhibit. They have also been the recipient of the AZA’s top education award as well as awards for conservation and sustainable operations (Green award).

Like many zoological parks, WPZ is heavily involved in conservation and science education efforts. This means that they sponsor several education-based programs throughout the year in addition to hosting tens of thousands of local school children eager to experience the zoo up close and personally. With programs that carry across the lifespan, the public offerings and educational outreach by WPZ has indelibly impacted the City of Seattle and State of Washington in a lasting positive manner.

Woodland Park Zoo: The Main Attraction

The Woodland Park Zoo is open 364 days a year, closing to the public only on Christmas Day. Hours are extended during the busy tourist season of May-September, however. Admissions rates are for Adults (13-64), Children (3-12), and Seniors (65+); toddlers and infants under 3 are free. Admissions discounts are available for military members and veterans, as well as people with disabilities, and groups of 20 or more. Tickets include access to all open exhibits as well as all areas in the 92-acre park; the only extra costs are for carousel rides and animal feedings.

The vast area of the Woodland Park Zoo makes it a challenge to see all in one day. In addition to the many different areas mentioned in the previous section, guests can choose to tour the zoo based on animal and plant “types” or even world regions. All inhabited continents are represented in the zoo’s exhibits, including the Humboldt penguins of South America, elephants and lions from the jungles of Africa, and even animals from the northernmost parts of the globe such as the Alaskan Tundra.

In addition to the basic insect, animal, and bird exhibits, the Woodland Park Zoo also includes an extensive collection of more than 1,000 plant species including the breathtaking flowers from Guy Phinney’s original Rose Garden. There is also a large Rain Forrest Food Pavilion, a nature play space at the Zoomazium, and two zoo stores.

Why the Woodland Park Zoo is a Must-See

The Pacific Northwest’s premier zoological park, the Woodland Park Zoo is an amazing place to spend the day while in Seattle. Offering unparalleled opportunities to learn about and engage with animals from around the globe, award winning exhibits, and extensive educational and recreational opportunities, this is an anchor attraction in Seattle that is not to be missed.