While a trip to the zoo remains the gold standard for animal encounters, sometimes you or your kids might be more in the mood for a smaller taste of our animal friends.
Oops, maybe “taste” isn’t the right word there…
But if you’re short on time or just not up for committing to a full zoo adventure, there are several other places where kids can safely get close and personal with furry, fuzzy, slimy and/or four-legged creatures.
Here are a few “non-zoo” experiences – all the animal love, just in a bite-sized package. (Ok, I'll stop the eating metaphors now.)
3 free petting zoos near Seattle's Eastside
The center of Bellevue is likely not where you’d expect to find 150 acres of forest, meadows and wetlands – but that’s exactly what you’ll find at Kelsey Creek Farm. Two historic barns, once home to the Twin Valley Dairy, now house rotating animals often including cows, goats, hogs, ponies, and sheep. There is free and easy parking in the main parking lot and animals are usually out in the pastures or yards from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. If your kiddos still need to satisfy their animal fix, check out the farm’s family activity schedule, which includes a free weekly story time (with a special animal guest!)410 130th Place SE, Bellevue
9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
2. Flower World
The largest nursery in the Pacific Northwest offers much more than pretty plants and flowers (although there are plenty of those to choose from). Wander the 15 acres of display areas and greet the animals who make their home behind the market. From sheep, lambs and goats to feathered friends like peacocks and chickens, your little animal lovers will delight in seeing how many creatures they can find. Buy some fresh veggies or fruit on your way out for a healthy car snack.9322 196th St SE, Snohomish (in Maltby, 7 miles NE of Woodinville)
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Other than including swings, this City of Redmond park is not your average playground. As you enter the park, you can’t miss the large red barn. And unlike a petting zoo, this working farm helps introduce kids to the importance of farming life. Say hello to the barn’s pig, cow and goat before checking out the nearby horse arena where you can often view ponies or horses. Make an afternoon of your visit and explore the park’s nature trail, hang from the tire swing, or bring a lunch to enjoy in the covered picnic shelter. The park also offers classes through their Nature Vision Preschool.19545 NE Redmond Rd, Redmond
8 am-4:30 pm
The only consequence of all these mini-animal encounters? The kids are guaranteed to start begging for a trip to the actual zoo next. When you're ready for the real thing, learn more about the Woodland Park Zoo and Cougar Mountain Zoo.
Heather Hansen works in marketing and communications. She lives with her husband and 3-year-old son in Bothell.
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