I've passed the Reptile Zoo on my way to and from Leavenworth many times and always wondered what lurked inside. This summer, curiosity finally got the best of me. I packed the kids in the car and took the pleasant drive out to just past Monroe on State Route 2 to gawk at all that slithers and scurries.
Upon entering the building, my 2-year-old daughter immediately began jumping up and down, screeching "Snake! Snake!" with glee. She raced from cage to cage, coming eye-to-eye with the enormous inhabitants. My 6-year-old was instantly enthralled with an enormous iguana puffing out its throat.
The animals in the serpentarium (a more accurate description than zoo) are impressive; the facility is less so. There is a living two-headed turtle, a rare albino alligator, giant tortoises, a legless lizard, and the largest snakes I've seen in my life. They have seven of the world's 10 deadliest snakes. (I was told the other three succumbed to old age.) The sign on the front door assures visitors that all venomous snakes are defanged.
Each enclosure has a sign listing where the animal is from, what habitat it likes, what it eats, and more. My 6-year-old enjoyed learning these facts, and I've been fielding questions about the rainforest, and words like nocturnal and oviparous, ever since.
The animals' enclosures leave much to be desired and remind me of how zoos were before the move to create more naturalistic and spacious environments took hold.
It costs $5 to take a photo with an animal, including snakes, tortoises, and even a baby alligator. My daughter decided to pose with a large albino python. (They assured me it wasn't in the least bit hungry when I asked.)
The facility has a party room with tables and chairs and provides snakes and tortoises for birthday guests to hold or pet. Scott Petersen, "The Reptile Man," who has been in the reptile business for twenty years, will also travel to you with an assortment of his reptiles.
All in all, it was truly amazing to see creatures like a giant anaconda. Both of my children were duly impressed. After an hour of exploring, we got into the car and my 6-year-old exclaimed, "How fun was that?!"
IF YOU GO
Where: 22715 State Route 2, one mile east of the city of Monroe.
When: Open 365 days a year, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Cost: Adults $6, children $5.
Contact: 360-805-5300; www.reptileman.com.
Laura Spruce Wight is a Seattle area freelance writer and mother of two reptile enthusiasts.