Originally opened as a private zoo in 1887, Woodland Park Zoo began life as a menagerie created by a wealthy Seattle resident who generously shared his collection with the public. Guy C. Phinney, real estate developer and owner of a lumber mill, collected the animals in his menagerie as part of a 342-acre estate that also included a promenade, a mansion and a hunting lodge. The menagerie, which would eventually become the Woodland Park Zoo, was home to black bears and deer, as well as more exotic animals like African ostriches.
After Phinney's death, the city of Seattle purchased Woodland Park for $100,000 over the objections of the Mayor and some members of the city council. Over the next 30 years, Woodland Park Zoo began to take shape. By 1930, the Woodland Park Zoo housed elephants, lions and tigers and bears, and many other animals. It also featured its own trolley run and a carousel and Ferris wheel. Visitors to the zoo could enjoy camel rides, visit apes and chimpanzees in the Primate House and stroll through a formal Rose Garden, which is still in existence and widely regarded as one of the finest in the nation.
Today, 110 years after Phinny opened his menagerie to the public, the Woodland Park Zoo exhibits 1090 animals from 300 different species. Each animal is housed in a bioclimatic zones, ecologically sound habitats that replicate the natural environment of that animal. The zoo's mission is "to save animals and their habitats through conservation leadership and engaging experience''. The staff takes great pride in being home to 35 endangered and five threatened animal species. Over 1 million visitors annually visit the zoo's exhibits, including six major award-winning displays.
Along with the Rose Garden, there are seven different areas where guests can see different plants and areas - the Northern Trail, Australasia, Tropical Asia - the Trail of Vines, the Tropical Rain Forest, Tropical Asia - the Elephant Forest, the Temperate Forest, and the African Savanna. Some of the most popular animals at the zoo include lions, gorillas, jaguars, flamingos, zebras, giraffes, tigers, pythons, elephants, river otters, bald eagles, snow leopards, and hippos. There's also a building called Bug World, the Smith Brothers Family Farm, replica African and Thai villages, multiple aviaries, and a Raptor Center. The carousel is also still in operation, and connecting to the zoo, guests can spend time in the War Garden Public Park.
Throughout the zoo, guests can find places to eat. There's a good pavilion for those who want to sit down with their food, along with a number of smaller, themed food stands. Near the entrance, guests can find a store filled with zoo souvenirs, and there are also areas specifically for shows and other events.
Woodland Park Zoo is open 364 days a year, closing only for Christmas Day. Winter Hours are 9:30 AM to 4:00 PM. Summer hours are 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM. Admissions vary with the season and events. Discounts are available for children, senior citizens and groups. For more information about the Woodland Park Zoo, call 206-548-2500.