What could be better than the amazingly gorgeous weather that the local weather channels have been promising for the next week? How about adding a new exhibit at the zoo to the mix? Yes, please, with cute little otters on top!

Opening Saturday, May 4, 2013 (Grand Opening details online!), the first phase of Woodland Park Zoo’s Bamboo Forest Reserve exhibit is going to be the hottest place to hang out this spring and summer in Seattle… at least for the my-mom-had-to-drive-me-here crowd.


Find it at the Zoo
The quickest way to get to the new Bamboo Forest Reserve exhibit is to park in the lot nearest the west entrance, AKA, by the penguins. Once you’re inside, go straight ahead, past the penguins (okay, stop and say hi, if you must!). Continue walking down the paved path, with the big grassy field on your left, and you’ll run right into the new play area and the exhibit — both will be on your right.


Play Area 411
Your kids are going to spot the new play area immediately and you’ll need to kick it into high-gear to catch up with them! The play area isn’t huge — don’t expect a full-size playground — but, just like the other little play spots that are tucked discretely around Woodland Park Zoo, they are a fun place to stop and get some wiggles out before moving on to the next round of animals. This play area is certainly going to be a favorite for every visit you make to the zoo from now on — from the bamboo forest to weave in and out of to the wobbly drawstring-style bridges to the zip line (awesome!), it will be hard to pull your little ones away!


A couple of tips: Leave your stroller outside of the play area — there’s a great spot to park it across from the play area entrance (don’t forget your phone/purse/wallet/car keys!). Also, expect for it to be packed with little bamboo explorers — tots are going to need a helping hand to get across the bridges and nearly all kids will need a boost to get a good grip on the zip line handles. There seemed to be a line, of sorts, through the play structure that ends with kids queuing up to whiz down the zip line, but you might want to encourage them to keep moving in that direction. When you see it in action, you’ll get what we mean!


Hello There, Little Otters
Just around the corner from the play area, you’ll find Woodland Park Zoo’s newest residents — the Asian Small-Clawed Otters, or, as most kids will call them, because of their small size, the “baby otters!” Your kiddos are going to adore the walls of glass where they can catch these little guys in action — tumbling around together in the water and chasing each other up and down the hill — and you’re going to marvel at how much they remind you of, well, your kids.


Needless to say, the otters are very popular and catching a glimpse of them playing will take some patience to get to the front of the exhibit. Prep your kids in advance for the wait and be ready to put those well-practiced “excuse mes” and “pardon mes” to use as you slowly inch your way to the glass for the best view!

More to Come
Lucky for us, this is only Phase 1 in the Bamboo Forest Reserve exhibit plan. Construction is already underway on new homes for the sloth bears (and their beloved cubs!), the tigers and more. With a combined goal of creating environments for these animals that are as much like home as possible, as well as allowing visitors to see them up close and personal, practically feeling as if they are in the tigers’ den, so to speak, themselves, there’s a reason why Woodland Park Zoo is so beloved and these new exhibits will continue to prove that. Keep an eye on the Woodland Park Zoo website for details about when Phase 2 will open to the public.


Don’t forget…

  • To bring cash to trade for carousel tokens
  • To stop at the Zoomazium to play before going home… or if you get caught in the rain!
  • To keep an eye on the Daily Activities section of the Woodland Park Zoo website for the latest happenings
  • The zoo is now open from 9:30 am until 6:00 pm — and going first thing in the morning or at the end of the day is a great time to beat the crowds!
  • Check the Rainy Day Discount before you arrive, which offers half-off admission tickets on those less-than-perfect weather days

Did you check out the Member Preview of the exhibit, or have you already visited? What did your kiddos think?

–Katie Kavulla, story and photos