Explore: Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park


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Looking for a way to spend a day out with the family this fall?  Point Defiance Park in Tacoma has tons of family-friendly attractions, from wild animals to pointed stockades to scenic overlooks of Puget Sound and Commencement Bay.

The main draw for families is the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. The new Red Wolf Woods exhibit shows off the zoo’s work in bringing these elusive canines back from the brink of extinction. See polar bears, tiger cubs, elephants, camels, walruses and more across the easy-to-navigate zoo grounds, or check out the aquarium building, with sharks and other sea life from around the Pacific Northwest. There’s also an antique carousel, camel rides in the summer, and no shortage of talks with keepers and special programs, including an  Arctic Animal Play Day on November 11, and  Zoolights from November 26 – January 2. Check the website for winter hours.

After the zoo, check out Fort Nisqually, the living history museum of a Hudson’s Bay Company outpost. The original Fort Nisqually, located near the Nisqually River delta, was the first European settlement on Puget Sound. Two of the fort’s original structures have been relocated to Point Defiance and additional buildings have been reconstructed around them, including stockades, bastions, a blacksmith shop and a laborers’ house. Volunteers dress in period costume and answer questions about the outpost and what it was like to live there.

After all that, take a spin around Five Mile Drive to relish in the fall colors and changing views as the road loops around the park. If you still have energy to burn, drive down to  Owen Beach and play in the sand. Other stopping points include the Camp 6 Logging Museum, – check out their Santa Train schedule – and extensive   gardens, including a Japanese Garden, a Native Plant Garden  and more.

Hungry? There is an Anthony’s seafood restaurant just below the zoo, a café inside the zoo grounds, several restaurants along Pearl Street to the south of the park, and an endless supply of picnic areas. All this, just an hour south of Seattle. Take the drive, it’s worth it.

—Karen McHegg

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