Cougar Mountain Zoo hosts 23rd annual Issaquah Reindeer Festival

November 29, 2011

By Tom Corrigan

One of Santa’s sled-propulsion units walks about for exercise before Christmas Eve last year in the front yard of Santa’s House at Cougar Mountain Zoo. By Greg Farrar

First held in 1988, the annual Issaquah Reindeer Festival runs Dec. 1-23 at the Cougar Mountain Zoo.

Zoo General Curator Robyn Barfoot said the event regularly attracts up to 10,000 visitors. Some travel relatively long distances to make it to the festival, even coming from well east of the Cascades.

“It’s a family tradition for many people,” Barfoot said.

Although the zoo is technically closed for the season, 10 of Santa’s reindeer team will be ready and awaiting visitors daily.

At the Magic Forest, visitors can hand feed the South American reindeer. And among numerous other activities, kids and parents also can visit Santa in his house and get a picture with the jolly old elf.

Visitors can also listen to stories read by an elf, see Santa’s sleigh, shop and pick up hot drinks and snacks. The younger set also can write a letter to Santa and then place it in his personal mailbox.

The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. Santa will take a lunch break roughly from 1-1:30 p.m. daily. Pictures with Santa are $15 for the first shot and $10 for additional shots. You can take your own pictures for a fee.

While Santa will be on vacation Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, a festival extension runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 26-30.

If you go

2011 Issaquah Reindeer Festival

  • 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 26-30
  • Cougar Mountain Zoo
  • 19525 S.E. 54th St.
  • Tickets are available at the door — general admission, $12.50; seniors, $11.50; children under 12, $10.50.

The zoo also is in the process of raising funds for what is advertised as a one-of-a-kind World of Macaws Center.

The zoo receives no federal, state or city funding. The new macaw building is being built entirely with contributions.

Barfoot noted there are roughly 10,000 zoo members who could raise $60,000 if each donated $6. Donations from nonmembers are welcome as well. Donations can be made online.10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Dec. 1-23.

Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

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