Calling all critter-loving kiddos! If animal meet-and-greets are what you’re after, these just-for-families experiences should do the trick. Kids will learn lots as they watch crocodiles eat dinner, train landmine sensing rats and frolic with otters in the great outdoors. Here’s where to take your wild bunch.

Friday Night Feedings

If your kids have ever wondered how a snake eats without any hands, they’ll get their questions answered on this educational experience. It’s feeding time at the Reptile Zoo, and families are invited to book a front row seat to see slithering snakes, leaping lizards and cool crocodiles eat their dinner. Along with watching these reptiles chow down on dead rats, mice and fish, you’ll learn about the animals and have a chance to ask questions too. Plan on spending 90 minutes making the rounds. Call 425-971-0435 to reserve your spot.

Dates & Times: Fri., 6:30-8 p.m.
Ages: All
Cost: $25/person

Reptile Zoo
22715 U.S. 2
Monroe, WA

Heroes of Unusual Size

Katie Cotterill

You know about Now meet the HeroRATs (a.k.a African giant pouched rats) of Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium at this hands-on experience that tests your training skills. These rats are known for their detective skills—they’re used to find buried landmines and sniff out tuberculosis. Now, you’ll have a chance to help them hone their skills as you walk them through a training exercise during a private 30-minute session. You hide. They seek. And hopefully earn a reward.

Good to know: Not super keen on rats? Try booking a private goat grooming session instead.

Dates & Times: Sun., 1-3 p.m.
Ages: All
Cost: $150/household; $100/member household

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium
5400 N. Pearl St.
Tacoma, WA

Wild Meet and Greet

Woodland Park Zoo

Meet an amazing animal ambassador from Woodland Park Zoo when you and the kids book this private animal experience for up to five people. Your group will have 20 minutes to get to know hawks, owls or pot bellied pigs at the Wildlife Theater. Or choose to spend time with an armadillo, kookaburra or porcupine (to name a few) at the Broadleaf Theater. (Reptile visits are an option too, but it’s got to be at least 65 degrees.) Which animal is on your can’t-wait-to-meet list?

Date & Time: Daily, except Weds., 1-3 p.m.
Ages: All
Cost: $300

Woodland Park Zoo
5500 Phinney Ave. N.
Seattle, WA

Otter Encounter

Jason C. via yelp

Ready for an otter-ly adorable meet and greet? Spend one-on-one-time with the playful otters at Debbie Dolittle’s petting zoo. It’s a year’s worth of cuteness packed into 30 minutes. Kids will have the chance to watch and play with the otters before moving on to the rest of the outdoor petting zoo, where they’ll find capybaras, kangaroos, sheep and other friendly animals. We suggest adding the $5 feeding cup when you book so you definitely get to interact with the animals when you visit.

Good to know: This experience runs through February 28, so grab your spot before it’s too late.

Dates & Times: Thurs.-Sun., 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Ages: 5 & up
Cost: from $100

Debbie Dolittle Indoor Petting Zoo
120 138th St. S.
Tacoma, WA

Eye-to-Eye Shark Dive

Ingrid Barrentine

You won’t need a bigger boat for this jaw-dropping experience. But you will need nerves of steel to cage dive with sand tiger sharks, black tip reef sharks and other creatures from the deep during this unbelievable underwater adventure. It’s a chance to see some of the ocean’s most elusive creatures up close. When you’re done, you’ll learn about sharks, the dangers they face and how to support their survival in the wild. Everything you need—from a dry suit all the way through to the keepsake video—is provided as part of the experience.

Ages: 8 & up
Cost: $255/non-member household (up to 4 people); $210/member household

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium
5400 N. Pearl St.
Tacoma, WA

Sanctuary Visit

Liz S. via yelp

If your kiddos have a soft spot for rescue animals, barnyard dance your way to Second Chance Ranch. Here, kids can pet and snuggle with friendly goats and adorable bunnies, or wander over to meet Amelia, the darling blind calf in her bright red barn. With four acres to roam and dozens of animals to interact with (meet the menagerie here), you and the kids will have lots to do during your two-hour visit. Don’t forget to bring cut carrots, sliced apples and lettuce snacks for your new farm friends!

Good to know: The Sammamish Animal Sanctuary is completely volunteer driven, and 100% of its donations are used to care for and feed the animals.

Dates & Times: Weds. & Tues., Fri.-Sun., times vary
Ages: All
Cost: Free, donations appreciated

Sammamish Animal Sanctuary
20727 S.E. 24th St.
Sammamish, WA

Keeper Tour

courtesy Northwest Trek

Ready to take a Jeep safari journey Pacific Northwest style? Book a personal Keeper Tour with Northwest Trek. It’s a chance for families to drive the rarely used paths and go off-road around the 435-acre nature preserve in search of bison, moose, elk and other woodland dwellers. Along the way, your guide will dish out fun facts and figures about the animals you encounter, delivered directly to you through the wireless speaker in the back of the Jeep. It’s the 90-minute joy ride you’ve been looking for!

Good to know: Northwest Trek still offers their Wild Drive tours through the park.

Dates & Times: Fri.-Sun., 10:30 a.m. & 1 p.m.
Ages: 5 & up
Cost: $400/household (up to 5 people)

Northwest Trek
11610 Trek Dr. E.
Eatonville, WA

—Allison Sutcliffe


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