Although Seattle has its own fantastic zoo, making the trip south to Tacoma is well-worth the drive to visit the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. From Seattle, it will only take you about 40 minutes to get to Point Defiance, leaving you plenty of time to spend with the animals!
The other Seattle-area zoo
Don’t worry, Seattle-ites, the Woodland Park Zoo won’t find out that you made the trip to Tacoma to spend the day at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium! We won’t bother comparing these two Seattle-area zoos because they are both fantastic in their own way. That being said, we love Point Defiance — not only do you get an extremely up-close view of the animals, but the zoo is a nice size for exploring with young kids.
What you shouldn’t miss
You won’t want to miss anything at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, but there are certainly a few things that should be at the top of your must-see list!
The Arctic Tundra is always a favorite for zoo visitors — it is home to two polar bears, Blizzard and Glacier, who have made this award-winning exhibit their home for almost ten years. You can even watch them swim from an underground viewing cave!
Like the name says, Point Defiance is not just a zoo, but it is also an aquarium and in actuality, there is more than one aquarium for your family to discover sea life. Visit the South Pacific Aquarium exhibit that is so full of gorgeous tropical fish that you’ll swear you’ve been transported to Hawaii. Then head to the North Pacific Aquarium to view and learn about all of the species that are native to our own Northwest waters. Beware to stroller-drivers — you have to leave them outside of the exhibit — so bring your wallet and cell phone with you.
Not that your kids will let you walk by the Kids’ Zone without stopping to play, but just in case they miss it, be sure to make it a priority. We suggest saving the Kids’ Zone until the end of your visit to Point Defiance so that the kids can get all that leftover energy out before heading to the car! The Kids’ Zone is one of the newest features at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium and it shows — it’s colorful, bright and engaging with tons of fun structures for kids of all ages to climb around on. There is even a water feature (open summers only) for cooling off on hot days at the zoo!
Nitty gritty details
Here are the details you’ll need to know for a trip to Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium.
During different times of the year, the zoo is open only on specific days at specific times. Be sure to check the annual schedule on their website to make sure they’ll be open on the day you’re planning to visit.
If you’re visiting the zoo on a summer weekend day, go online to purchase tickets to avoid standing in line. They also have ticket kiosks at the entrance where you can purchase tickets quickly — keep your eye out for them.
Point Defiance is host to one of the Seattle area’s best holiday lights displays every year, Zoolights. It is certainly worth bundling up and heading back to Tacoma this December!
Also in the area
Looking for something else to do on your way home from Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium? Try exploring Point Defiance Park itself — you can explore the beach, go fishing at the marina or visit the gorgeous rose garden. If you need somewhere to grab lunch after a long day at the zoo, head back towards I-5 to the stretch of great, family-friendly restaurants on the waterfront at Ruston Way. There is also a popular paved trail that goes along the water at Ruston Way — perfect for riding scooters or pushing a stroller in the sunshine!