It’s time for the zoo!
In flashes of childhood memory I have one that stands out for each parent that I think influenced my interests. For my Dad, it was a day we ventured out in search of Buttermilk Falls, a trip he may not remember (I don’t know if we ever found them, actually), but I do remember reaching a river with a cool waterfall nonetheless. For my Mom, it was being woken up early and asked if I wanted to join her on a class trip to Boston to go to the New England Aquarium; I couldn’t eat my Rice Crispies fast enough.
Dad has, I feel, always shared my enjoyment of the outdoors, and Mom my love of zoos and aquariums. So I knew she would enjoy our trip to the Woodland Park Zoo, a Seattle gem so well hidden that I often forget that it’s there, and I live 6 blocks away from it, literally. Occupying an entire block, the Woodland Park Zoo is truly impressive; home to a wide collection of animals including snow leopards (and cubs), grizzlies, lions, tigers, red pandas, penguins, hippos, and elephants to name a few, the zoo itself resides behind a muted green fence and is marked only by its animal-shaped parking signs.
We were a bit later in waking up since it had been such a late night, so the sun was up and warm when we walked through the gates and I bought a yearly membership (support the zoo!), grabbed a map, and made a plan of attack with the parents. Slowly by surely we began to tackle the park–which can easily take up the full day. Divided up by region, there are several loops connected by lightly marked trails that can have an Alice in Wonderland effect on visitors. We made our way past hippos and tigers, on to wolves and elephants, and eventually made our way to the raptor center where we took our seats for the 30-minute raptor show, an educational lecture that explained the birds of the region and demonstrated some of their hunting skills through live flight demonstrations. The audience also experienced some up-close encounters as some perches had been mounted behind the bleachers, allowing for the raptors to fly so close overhead that we were warned to keep our hands down.
After the raptor show we got our hands stamped and I went to get the car while Dad took Mom back to the Parakeet House for a second time before I would pick them up at the North Entrance. On the road I took them to my favorite felafel restaurant, Mr. Gyros, for lunch. After my first visit there (and there were many after) I couldn’t wait to take Mom. I thought Dad would like it, but knew Mom would love it. With wonderful food, traditional music, and an incredibly friendly staff, there was almost no time between Mom finishing her food and Mom talking to everyone. She learned more about the owner in 10 minutes that I had in 4 months of going there.
Back at the zoo we continued seeing the animals, made our way past the flamingos and the penguins, and of course, made another stop at the parakeet house. At the rainforest house we were lucky enough to catch the feeding of the poison dart frogs, which was probably eclipsed by Mom’s fascination with the collection of Toucans, which were admitted cool and boisterous that day. In the rainforest aviary we sat and listened to the exotic bird calls and caught the occasional glimpse of colored feathers zooming through the dark foliage. Mom was later given are review on cell phone etiquette after making a phone call to Kevin while we were observing the birds. I suppose it’s a testament to how much the zoo makes their exhibits feel like the outdoors.