Getting out with kids: a trip to the Cougar Mountain Zoo

[Article by contributing writer and Snoqualmie resident Amanda Rich]

One of my anxieties as a working mother is that my daughter does not get to engage in enough fun with me outside of our home. I feel like I say “no” or “we can’t” pretty often because of my adult responsibilities. Recently, she asked to go to the library after I picked up her up from pre-preschool. It was 5:45 p.m. and I felt my stomach starting to grumble for dinner, which of course, I had to cook. I worry she will associate mama outings only with grocery shopping, Target and the occasional cake pop from Starbucks. For 2019, one of my goals is getting out for more fun activities with my little one! 

On a recent Sunday, I suggested we do something outside of the normal routine. We headed west to Issaquah and the Cougar Mountain Zoo. Our family has visited before, but it is not a regular activity. We arrived in time to say hello to the zoo’s Siberian Reindeer (the largest herd in the U.S.) and toss them a few treats before the 1:00 p.m. tiger feeding and lecture. During the short talk by a zoo employee, we learned that the Bengal Tigers at the Cougar Mountain Zoo were born in captivity (tigers aren’t captured from the wild to reside in zoos), how tigers communicate with each other and international tiger conservation. One benefit of this small zoo is that visitors, especially kids, can ask questions of the staff during these presentations. After the giant cats, we met a macaw out for a stroll (with a handler) who said “hello” and played peek-a-boo. 

A few tips for your visit:

  • If the weather is on the cooler side, be prepared for some of the animals to stay inside. It was too cold for all of the macaws to go outside and the lemurs peered at us from behind glass – too chilly for them, as well! 
  • Bring quarters to buy feed for some of the mammals – there are small vending machines stationed throughout. The alpacas, Mule deer and reindeer expect to be fed. The zoo also sells small cups of apples at the gate. 
  • The zoo has some hand sanitizing stations, but pack some wipes or a small bottle to clean up after the alpacas nuzzle your hands for apples.
  • Unlike other zoos, the gift shop is low key so you can most likely leave without having to bring home toys and other stuffed animals.
  • Wear comfortable shoes – the Cougar Mountain Zoo is situated on a hillside and is not all flat. 
  • The zoo is stroller-friendly, but getting around on wheels does require specific routes to reach some exhibits. If your kids are walkers and unlikely to need the stroller, consider leaving it in the car. 

The zoo isn’t for everyone and every budget. They do offer memberships that include admission for those wanting to save on frequent visits and not feel like you wasted money if your kids only want to stay for an hour. 

Next up for us is more exploring in the Valley! The Cedar River Watershed Education Center in North Bend is featuring Free Winter Fun through March. There are story times and crafts, walks, hikes and hands-on activities. More information and links for registration are on the Cedar River Watershed website. 

Looking for inside fun? Big Star Studios is offering free story hour on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Our local libraries offer story times for kids, including Family Pajama Story Time in Snoqualmie on Thursday evenings from 7:00 p.m. – 7:45 p.m. 

Tiger enclosure
Wolf habitat
Alpaca habitat

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