Finding petting zoos and farms near Seattle during the summer are a dime a dozen. But come winter, they tend to close up shop. Have no fear, we’ve rounded up unique see and touch animal experiences that are different than your usual barnyard fare, but are sure to delight just the same. Read on to find wild animal experiences this winter.

Woodland Park Zoo

While the official petting area in Woodland Park Zoo doesn’t open until summer, you never know who you might meet during the Creature Feature events held at the Zoomazium building and are included in the regular zoo admission. Short puppet presentations and stories lead up to the big meet and greet at 10:30 a.m. each day. While you’re there, be sure to check out the other animals, habitats and more both inside and outside in Zoomazium’s backyard. The aviary is worth a look too. While you can’t touch the birds, they will come to you!

Hours: 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m., daily
Cost: $15.50/Adults; $10.50/Child ages 3-12; Free for children 2 & under

5500 Phinney Ave. N.
Seattle, WA 98103

Seattle Aquarium

While the sea otters and seals get all of the attention at the Seattle Aquarium, the Puget Sound tide pools found in the Life On the Edge exhibit feature a large section for kids (and their adults) to get their hands wet. Here, you’ll discover for yourself what a sea cucumber feels like (they are not tasty) or just how prickly a sea urchin is. Other discoveries to find include hermit crabs, sea stars and sea anemones.

Good to know: Seattle residents save $5 per ticket.

Hours: 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m., daily
Cost: $34.95/Adult; $24.95/children ages 4-12; Free for children 3 & under; Seniors & military save $2.

1483 Alaskan Way, Pier 59
Seattle, WA 98101

Debbie Dolittle’s Animal Experience

The rain won’t spoil your fun at Debbie Dolittle’s indoor petting zoo. The animals here are clean, dry and don’t smell too bad either! (Perhaps they can teach our kids a thing or two.) While Debbie’s place features many farm animals, she also specializes in baby and miniature pets and exotics. This place prides itself on providing an educational opportunity for all ages. The staff is friendly and patient with little ones, but if you you’re not too careful, you just might learn a few things too. Another great thing about this place is that they are open all year round. Pony rides are offered the second and last weekend of each month ($8/person, under 80 lbs.).

Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m., daily
Admission: $10/person; Free for children 2 & under; Military & seniors get $2 off

120 138th St. S.
Tacoma, WA 98444

Sea Critter Story Time

Presented by the Marine Science and Technology Center, Sea Critter Story Time is not your usual story hour. Offered each month at Woodmont Library, kids ages 3 and older can hear stories, learn about Puget Sound sea stars, snails, hermit crabs and more. Then, they’ll get a chance to roll up their sleeves and touch these guys.

Dates & Times: 10:30-11:30 a.m., Feb. 28, Mar. 27, Apr. 24 & May 22.
Cost: Free

26809 Pacific Highway S.
Des Moines, WA 98198

Animal Encounters

Animal Encounters brings the petting zoo to you! Although a bit pricier than a regular trip to the zoo, these encounters make a great addition to birthday parties (up to 15 people) or maybe even a neighborhood block party. Programs include Austrailian Animals (Sugar Glider, Blue Tongued Skink, Bearded Dragons, Frilled Lizard, Spotted Python and Carpet Python); Cute and Cuddly (Chinchillas, Rabbits, and Guinea Pigs); Reptiles (Ball Python, Savannah Monitor, Bearded Dragons, Corn Snake, Blue Tongued Skink, Kenyan Sand Boa, Frilled Lizard, Spotted Python and Brazilian Rainbow Boa) and Bugs (Chilean Rose-haired Tarantula, Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches, Vinegaroon, Flat Rock Scorpions, Millipedes, Blue Death-feigning Beetles and Tanzanian Tailless Whipscorpions).

Cost: $285/hour, plus .75/mile.


The Reptile Zoo

While not your typical petting zoo, the Reptile Zoo boasts the most extensive collection of reptiles on display in the Pacific Northwest. Here, your dreams of petting a tortoise come to life, you’ll see a turtle with two heads, come face-to-face with an albino alligator and meet a black mamba–the world’s deadliest snake. You’ll also get a chance to converse with turtles, lizards and snakes too.

Good to know: Save between $1.50-$2.50 per person if you visit on Thursday or Sunday.

Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Fri.-Sun., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Cost: $9.95/Adults;  $7.95/Youth ages 5-17; $6.50/Toddler ages 3 & 4; Free for children 2 & under.


22715 State Route 2
Monroe, WA 98272

Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium

You get the best of both worlds at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium and lots of things to touch too. On the zoo half, kids can pet the kids (goats) and feed them from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Fridays through Sundays. On the aquarium side, check out the new enlarged Tidal Touch Zone between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to feel a soft pink sea star, a spiky purple urchin or a hard crab. Then, head on over to Stingray Cove between 10 a.m. and noon or 12:30-3:30 p.m. any time of the week to find out what a stingray actually feels like and maybe even a small shark!

Hours: 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. (Jan. 6-May 8)
Cost: $20/Adult; $16/Youth ages 5-12; $12/toddler ages 3 & 4; free for children 2 & under

5400 N. Pearl St.
Tacoma, WA 98407

—Jeff Totey


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