From world-class to neighborhood petting zoos, we've gathered up the places you can go to see and interact with critters of all sizes.

Petting zoos

Some of these facilities are open year-round, others just for the summer season. Contact each location for current hours of operation and admission prices (where not marked as “free.”) Don’t forget to wash up after your trip to the barn to avoid the transmission of E. coli.

  • Marysville: The Rotary Ranch Petting Zoo located in Jennings Memorial Park, generally runs from the end of May through August. It’s free. 6915 Armar Road, Marsyville. 360-363-8400.

  • Redmond: The Farrel-McWhirter Park has farm animals -- including babies in the spring -- that are on view daily, year-round at this popular location. Free. 19545 Redmond Road, Redmond. 425-556-2300.

  • Bellevue: View animals, such as ponies, chicks or pigs, daily, year round at Kelsey Creek Park. You can ride the ponies on selected (and eagerly anticipated) days. Free. 410 130th Place S.E., Bellevue. 425-452-7688.

  • Everett: Ducks, chickens, calves and other farm animals are on view from June-August at the Forest Park Animal Farm. Free. 802 Mukilteo Blvd., Everett. 425-257-8300.

  • Seattle: The Woodland Park Zoo's Family Farm area allows children to interact (carefully) with bunnies, goats and other farm animals in a fenced yard. Free with admission, open daily during the summer. North 50th Street and Fremont Avenue North, Seattle. 206-684-4892.

  • Carnation: At Remlinger Farms, kids can view, feed and sometimes touch many farm animals (babies in the spring) in the 4-H Animal Barnyard, located in the Country Fair Family Fun Park. Free with admission, open May-October. 32610 N.E. 32nd St., Carnation. 425-333-4135.

Zoos and aquariums

Woodland Park Zoo. The zoo's naturalistic animal enclosures are beautifully designed, and its trails are lined with lush plantings that echo each area's geographic theme. You can watch bears and otters at play in the Northern Trail exhibit -- where thick glass walls reveal the animal's movements under water -- or view orangutans from a boardwalk that overlooks their enclosure. On the minus side: summer days get crowded and the naturalistic enclosures offer (and rightfully so, we think) hiding spots where animals can't always be viewed. Three new-ish zoo additions are worth checking out. Zoomazium, which opened in May 2006, is an indoor playspace with large climbing structures and quiet discovery areas tied together with a nature theme. The bird-feeding exhibit Willawong Station offers visitors a chance to observe (and feed) flocks of free-flying Australian parrots. A vintage carousel is open for rides at the north end of the North Meadow. Best bets for a successful zoo trip are to visit during the off-season (look on the zoo's Web site for a rainy day map) and earlier in the morning, when the animals are most likely to be active. Look online or ask at the admission booth about daily zoo talks, feeding programs and other demonstrations.

  • Website: Woodland Park Zoo
  • Open daily, 365 days per year: 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Oct. 1-April 30; 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m., May 1-Sept. 30
  • Admission: Oct. 1-April 30 $7.50-$10.50, May 1-Sept. 30 $10-$15. Toddlers (0-2) free
  • Contact: 750 N. 50th St., Seattle. 206-684-4800

Seattle Aquarium. A fine hangout rain or shine, the aquarium offers cozy indoor spots for viewing fish and seabirds and outdoor spaces where you can catch glimpses of Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains. Kids can touch marine creatures, goggle at the colorful fish in the tropical coral reef tank, and create track rubbings in a small upstairs play space. The spacious Life of a Drifter exhibit displays several little-seen native inhabitants of Puget Sound, including a giant pacific octopus and silvery moon jellies. Next to the exhibit, kids can look closely at Washington intertidal creatures buffeted by a simulated advancing tide. In the Underwater Dome, graceful skates and huge sturgeon swim in a  tank that arches over and wraps around visitors. New exhibits include the Puget Sound Orcas Family Activity Center, where kids can put their hands on an orca skeleton and watch a video of these 30-foot-long mammals as they swim. Windows on Washington Water, which opened in June 2007, gives visitors another glimpse of a part of the state they may never see: the lush bull kelp beds that support many different species of fish. Look online for a schedule of daily feedings, SCUBA divers in the Underwater Dome and naturalist talks.

  • Website: Seattle Aquarium
  • Open daily, 365 days per year, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Admission: $10-$15, ages 3 and under free
  • Contact: 1483 Alaskan Way, Seattle. 206-386-4300

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. The smaller zoo to the south of Seattle does have the advantage of featuring an aquarium (complete with a beluga and walrus) on site, so you can have two types of animal encounters in one day. On the aquarium side of things, watch seven species of shark swim around their tank in the South Pacific Aquarium and view four species of fantastical-looking seahorses. In the Wild Wonders Outdoor Theater, open since 2005, visitors can attend frequently scheduled shows that feature a variety of zoo animals, from an Abyssinian ground hornbill to a two-toed sloth. In the serene, five-acre Asian Forest Sanctuary, learn about the Malayan tapir, Sumatran tiger and Asian elephant. The Kid Zone, which opened in 2005, is a bright, well-designed space where kids can interact with farm animals, participate in hands-on activities and play in a lilypad fountain (through Oct. 1 -- and don't forget a change of shoes). For a list of daily talks, shows and other activities, visit the zoo's Web site.

  • Website: Point Defiance Zoo & Aquariuam
  • Open daily, 365 days per year, 9:30 a.m. Closing time varies by season
  • Admission: $4-$10, Pierce County residents $3-$9, under 3 free
  • Contact: 5400 N. Pearl St., Tacoma. 360-591-5337

Northwest Trek. The big draw at the trek is the 55-minute tram tour that takes visitors out to the 435-acre free-roaming area -- a pretty mix of grasslands, woods and wetlands -- in search of "hoofstock," or bison, moose, caribou, Roosevelt elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep and native black-tailed deer. The tours take place daily, and you'll be assigned a tour time when you arrive. That leaves you time to explore the rest of the grounds, which consist of paved paths that meander through lush second-growth forest to naturalistic animal enclosures. You'll see bobcat, lynx, black bear and gray wolves, and don't miss the wetlands area. You'll see a beaver lodge with an underwater viewing area, and glassed-in fisher, badger, wolverine and skunk dens that allow close-up viewing. Don't miss the Cheney Discovery Center, especially if you visit with gradeschoolers or younger children. It's packed with well-kept animal pelts, bones and antlers to handle; coloring activities; a working honeybee hive; puppets and other hands-on fun that introduces kids to the diversity of Washington's flora and fauna. 

  • Website: Northwest Trek
  • Open daily (Friday-Sunday only, Oct. 30-Dec. 24), 9:30 a.m. Closing time varies by season
  • Admission: $6-$13, Pierce County residents $5-$11.50, under 3 free
  • Contact: 11610 Trek Drive E., Eatonville. 360-832-6117

Originally published in the May, 2007 print edition of ParentMap.

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