10 Best Zoos & Aquariums in Washington

Updated On October 7, 2023

The state of Washington has a lot of coasts, so it seems natural there would be a lot of aquariums and wildlife.

There are a few large aquariums and zoos.

One of the largest is the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, which is one of the few places where you can find two big ones in the same place.

The Seattle aquarium is large and impressive, often ranking among the best in the west.

There are also a lot of smaller operations around the state where you can see and interact with wildlife.

Most zoos and aquariums in Washington are heavily involved in wildlife conservation and have a lot of educational programs.

Best Zoos & Aquariums in Washington

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

You can have the best of both worlds at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma.

It covers 29 acres in Point Defiance park.

The Zoo was created in 1905 and the aquarium was added in 1935 and officially combined with the zoo in 1963.

The zoo is lit up with 800,000 lights from November through January.

The zoo has ecosystems of the Pacific rim, the Pacific Northwest, southeast Asia, and aquatic environments.

The Asian sanctuary has  Sumatran tigers, gibbons, elephants, and more.

There are two aquariums, the South Pacific aquarium, and the Pacific Seas aquarium.

There is also a Puget sound aquarium that features local sea life.

There is a children’s area and a botanical garden.

Seattle Aquarium

The Seattle Aquarium was developed in the 1970s, replacing private aquariums.

It was part of a significant renovation project in the city and has developed over the years.

Another major project is expected to open in 2024.

The displays start with a 120,000 tank called Window on Washington Waters, which features wildlife from the Pacific coast. 

There are nine other major exhibits, most of which focus on the pacific northwest region.

There are three areas for birds of the sea, and another area for mammals like seals, otters, and whales. 

There are exhibits and special programs throughout the year for children and for adults.

You may explore on your own, and there are daily activities you may explore.

Woodlands Park Zoo

The Woodlands Park Zoo in Seattle is on a 92-acre area that houses 900 animals.

The zoo provides care for endangered wildlife, as well as animals from the northwest.

Rare tropical plants, native trees, and a large rose garden are also features of this zoo.

Woodlands Park was started in 1899 and it has about 1 million visitors per year.

The zoo helped bring back Washington turtles from the brink of extinction, and it is conservation efforts like that are at the heart of this organization.

In addition to endangered animals, there is a bug world exhibit and a butterfly garden, which closes in winter.

There are several other exhibits and programs that entertain and teach about animals and conservation.

Port Townsend Marine Science Center

This science center is in Port Townsend and is a nonprofit organization that inspires the conservation of the Salish Sea.

There are hands-on learning experiences available for all ages.

There is a museum and a large aquarium with creatures from waters off the coast of Washington.

The museum is open on weekends. The aquarium closes for the winter in January.  

The aquarium is off the pier in downtown Port Townsend.

It features local fish and species.

There are several educational programs led by biologists on staff. 

On Fridays, there are special programs to explore sea plants with microscopes.

Another display is an underwater forest that is used to educate people about what goes on under the sea, and why it needs protection.

Westport Aquarium

The Westport Aquarium is in the fishing town of Westport, about 60 miles southeast of Seattle in the town’s marina district.

It was built in 1957 and is the official Washington State Historical Aquarium.

It is a small aquarium and is closed at times in the winter.

They are working with the community to develop underwater remote-operated vehicles for photography.

Art and science classes are offered to the public year around. It is the state’s oldest public aquarium.

The tanks contain fish from local waters, both saltwater and freshwater.

There are touch tanks, interpretive exhibits, and classes.

There are also crafts you can do, and they are free.

They get a lot of their specimens from local fishing operations, so the local fishing industry is on display as well.

Blue Zoo

The Blue Zoo is an aquarium in Spokane that offers a fun hands-on educational opportunity for people of all ages.

There are tanks of jellyfish, seahorses, clownfish, octopus, sharks, and more.

There is a pirate ship for kids to enjoy.

You may touch the creatures in the touch tanks as well.

There is a bird feeding room and a lizard feeding room.

Sharks inhabit the predator tank.

There are mermaids and pirates for kids to meet.

The blue zoo also hosts special events like birthday parties or corporate events.

They encourage schools to do field trips to their facility.

Separate tanks hold fresh water and saltwater creatures.

Most of what you will see are creatures from the Washington area.

Debbie Dolittle’s Petting Zoo

Debbie petting zoo is a small zoo for young children in Tacoma.

There are a lot of goats, and there are a good number of other animals as well.

Ponies, rabbits, cows, and more are in a dry, safe environment where young children can interact with them. 

There are also exotic animals like zebra, kangaroos, llamas, and some birds.

While it is primarily designed for children, adults can enjoy the animals too.

They keep a lot of babies and miniature animals as well.

The facility is open every day.

The facility has an arcade with games.

There is also an area where you can hold birthday parties or other special events.

Puget Sound Estuarium

The Puget Sound Estuarium is in Olympia and is a marine life discovery center.

There are several aquariums and interpretative exhibits about marine life in the area.

Staff members are often outside at local docks and beaches educating people about the estuarian ecosystem.

The facility also provides education programs and field trips for schools in the area.

Volunteer programs give people the opportunity to explore and learn more about protecting natural resources.

There are several exhibits that rotate through this and other facilities.

The Orca Odyssey is a series of photographs of orcas, along with information about them and some history.

Speakers give lectures at times on local ecology and conservation methods.

Admission is free for most of the programs.

Monroe Reptile Zoo

The Monroe Reptile Zoo is in Monroe and is the largest collection of reptiles in the Pacific Northwest.

There are nearly 100 reptiles on display from around the world.

Here you will see an albino alligator, a two-headed turtle,  and a lot of different kinds of lizards and snakes.

There are also turtles and Tautaras, a type of lizard.

The zoo is privately run and opened in 1996.

You may interact with some of the animals, but there are venomous snakes that are kept out of reach of humans.

There is a Friday night feeding that is open to the public.

Private parties, such as birthday parties, can also be reserved at this facility.

The owner, Scott Peterson, also does public demonstrations on reptiles.

Cougar Mountain Zoo

The Cougar Mountain Zoo is near Issaquah, east of Seattle. 

It is near the entrance to Cougar Mountain Regional Wildlife Park.

It is a small zoo of 11 acres, focusing on endangered animals.

The zoo also has a wooded area with sculptures that you can enjoy in addition to the animals.

There are big cats like Bengal tigers, wolves, reindeer, wallabies, cougars, and many more.

There are 32 exhibits of animal habitats.

The zoo was started in 1972, and it was donated to the state zoological society in 2009.

There is a glass-walled tunnel that allows people to see the tigers up close.

There is a wildlife tracks library to help identify animals by tracks.

There is also a small wildlife museum and a nature gallery.

Lectures, presentations, and demonstrations are held regularly.

10 Best Zoos & Aquariums in Washington – Summary Table

Zoos & AquariumsAddress
Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium5400 N Pearl St, Tacoma, WA 98407, USA
Seattle Aquarium1483 Alaskan Way Pier 59, Seattle, WA 98101, USA
Woodlands Park Zoo5500 Phinney Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103, USA
Port Townsend Marine Science Center532 Battery Way, Port Townsend, WA 98368, USA
Westport Aquarium321 E Harbor St, Westport, WA 98595, USA
Blue Zoo4750 N Division St Suite 1242, Spokane, WA 99207, USA
Debbie Dolittle's Petting Zoo120 138th St S Ste. B, Tacoma, WA 98444, USA
Puget Sound Estuarium309 State Ave NE, Olympia, WA 98501, USA
Monroe Reptile Zoo22715 U.S. Rte 2 B, Monroe, WA 98272, USA
Cougar Mountain Zoo19525 SE 54th St, Issaquah, WA 98027, USA

Washington Safety Overview

READ THE FULL REPORT: Washington Safety Review

Safety Index:

Frequently Asked Questions

How do zoos help with endangered wildlife?

Zoos can keep endangered animals in a safe place.

It can also breed them and help increase the population.

Some zoos have had a significant role in keeping endangered species alive and well, and helping to increase their numbers.

Sometimes, zoos release animals into the wild when numbers increase enough.

What is special about the Seattle Aquarium?

The museum recreates the coastal waters of the area to about 60 feet deep.

There is a lot of native wildlife on display in the tanks.

Dive shows happen daily, and there are many educational demonstrations at the aquarium.

It is the ninth-largest aquarium in the United States.

When is the best time to see the animals?

If you are out in the wild, the best time is early morning or late afternoon just before the sun sets.

Animals like to sleep during the day and look for food at night.

This is not the case as much in zoos, but even there, animals tend to be more active in the morning and evening.

Zoos try to make animals as visible as possible, but there are limitations.

Of course, fish are a different matter entirely, and you may see them well in an aquarium at any time.

Where is the best place to view wildlife in a natural setting?

There are a lot of wilderness areas in the state, and national parks, where there is plenty of wildlife.

Mount Ranier is one of the best.

It has a variety of habitats and you can see different kinds of animals in each one.

There are 65 known mammal species, five species of reptiles, 182 species of birds, and 15 species of fish.

The Sunrise trail, not open in winter, is one of the best places anywhere to spot animals in the wild.

What is the biggest zoo in Washington?

The Woodlands Park Zoo is the oldest and largest zoo in the state.

It started in 1899.

It is a classic zoo in many ways with all the typical animals.

They are heavily involved in making it accessible to all people, and they have a lot of community programs to help people learn about the creatures and conservation.

1 Comment on 10 Best Zoos & Aquariums in Washington

  1. The Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma offers a unique experience with its combination of both zoo and aquarium exhibits.

Leave a Comment

Facebook Pinterest Comment Comment