One of Seattle’s most beloved summer events for kids is ZooTunes at Woodland Park Zoo – a concert series featuring grown-up, but family-friendly bands and singers (think Indigo Girls, The Go-Go’s or Brandi Carlile, just to name a few!) set on the Woodland Park Lawn, amongst the penguins and zebras!
Whether you’re a ZooTunes veteran or going for your first time this year, use this Insiders Guide to navigating one of Seattle’s best family summer events.
Insider tips about tickets — The ZooTunes line up is released every April on their website at www.zoo.org/zootunes with tickets going on sale a couple of weeks later. There are always one or two of the concerts that are favorites and are sure to sell out quickly – you can buy tickets directly on the ZooTunes website (there is a $3 fee per ticket) or at any Woodland Park zoo gate between 9:30 am and 6:00 pm. If you have your eye on a hot ZooTunes ticket, we suggest jumping online to buy as soon they are released. Remember–each ticket you buy is good for one adult admission AND one child admission (12 and under).
Insider tips about being a zoo member – Members of Woodland Park pay attention! You get to buy tickets online a day before the general public and when you get to the concert, you go to the head of the entrance line!
Insider tips about how early you need to arrive – The more popular the concert, the earlier you should arrive. The line seems to start forming around 4:00 pm, so if you’re a zoo member, put one parent in line with the gear and have the other parent explore the zoo with the kids (zoo admission is not included in your ZooTunes ticket, for non-members). At 5:00 pm, the members are let into the lawn to get seating, followed by general admission. If you don’t want to visit the zoo first, arriving around 5:00 pm is a safe bet.
Insider tips about parking – The lawn where ZooTunes is held is on the Northwest side of the zoo. Our favorite little parking secret is the lot that’s just on the north side of the north entrance. They are the closest you’ll get to the entrance and perfect for a quick escape after the concert! Don’t forget that you’ll have to pay for parking before entering the zoo – pay stations are located in each lot and accept cash or credit card.
Insider tips about where to set up camp – Normally at a concert, front and center is the best seat in the house, right? Well, at an outdoor concert with your kids, you might want to reconsider. Our best suggestion is to get a spot on the edge of the lawn. There will be a natural walkway that develops down each side, so people can get up and down the lawn – just on the other side of that walkway is the perfect area to lay out your blanket. You won’t have anyone sitting behind you, so the kids can wiggle and dance all they please, plus you can make your way through the crowd easily to go visit the penguins!
Insider tips about what to bring – There are some rules about what you cannot bring to ZooTunes (see their FAQ section for more details). What you do want to bring – a blanket to sit on (or two if you have more than four people in your family), hats and sunglasses for when the sun starts to go down, water bottles to avoid paying a premium from the vendors, stuff for the kids to do while you wait for the concert (coloring book and crayons or some of those spill-less bubble containers), an extra layer like a sweatshirt or light coat for when it gets cool, cash for food, drinks and treats (there are ATMs inside the zoo as well). Definitely leave the stroller at home – if you need a way to carry little ones, use a pack.
Insider tips about the food situation – Choose your own adventure when it comes to food at ZooTunes. You are more than welcome to bring your own food into the concert – we suggest something pre-made, pre-assembled and simple such as sandwiches – the less messy the better – leave the little applesauce containers at home and save cupcakes with an inch of frosting for another time. Trash cans are few and far between, so bring a garbage bag from home for your waste – you can dump it on your way back to the car. There aren’t a ton of dining options at ZooTunes – the one food vendor, located at the back of the lawn, is pretty tasty, and there are usually some spots to get an ice cream treat as well. Another great option is to pre-order your concert meal from Zoo neighbor, Picnic – call or email in advance to place your order and then just swing in and pick it up to-go for eating at the concert (kids love their mac n’ cheese!). You can read more about Picnic here.
Insider tips about bringing the kids – Even though this is a concert series at the zoo, it’s not a 100% kid-fest — don’t expect the same scene as going to a kiddie concert. The truth is that your kids probably won’t be into the concert the entire time. We highly suggest going to ZooTunes with other families with similar aged kids and implementing a tag-team situation – some people can hang out and enjoy the music while some others take the kids on a stroll to see the animals that are close-by or check out a craft (there is usually something set up near the back of the lawn) – then switch! This is also a great method for parents getting to sneak away to the beer garden, held in the Butterfly Garden, for a quick pint or glass of wine! Also important about bringing kids to ZooTunes – keep them close. It’s so easy to loose each other in the sea of people when walking to and from your blanket – hold hands tight and stay together.
Are you a ZooTunes expert? Share your insider tips with us below!