Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium {Nature, Education and Conservation}

Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium on the Puget Sound

Our Tacoma adventure began at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. The only combined zoo and aquarium in the Pacific Northwest attracts 700,000 visitors annually, so definitely a popular attraction. Set along Puget Sound and surrounded by views of the Olympia Mountains, the waterfront and (if you are lucky) Mt. Rainier, the zoo's surroundings are particularly inviting and were certainly spectacular on a sunny day!

Jellyfish swimming at the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, Washington
Jammin' with the Jellies 
Being lovers of ocean life, we made a beeline for the aquarium. Upon opening the aquarium door, we found ourselves jammin' with the jellies! Truly an incredible section populated with the jellies of the Pacific Northwest illuminated! Magic and one of the best jellyfish display I have ever seen!

Sharks swimming at Point Defiance Zoo
Swimming with the Sharks!
The South Pacific Aquarium quite literally puts you face-to-face with sharks. My daughter's jaw dropped in amazement as we entered this portion of the aquarium. A stunning way for children to encounter ocean life!

Stingray Cove at Point Defiance Zoo
See the stingrays swim by your feet!
Stingray Cove is another highlight creating a shallow basin where visitors can see stingrays scurrying by. Such an amazing way to bring the ocean right to families!

Sand dollars at Point Defiance Zoo
Sand dollars can be found along Washington's coast.
The aquarium largely focused on sea life found in Washington. We learned a lot about native sea creatures finding ourselves awed by the diversity in the region.

Experiences available in the aquarium:
  • Touch a Stingray
  • Shark Dives (check with aquarium about requirements, registration and costs)
  • Touch tank with other marine life
  • Educational activities
Artic Fox at Point Defiance Zoo
The arctic fox takes a moment to observe.
While we loved the aquarium, we soon learned that the entire zoo presents an enjoyable and educational experience. When visiting zoos, we often have concern about animal welfare. What really stands out about the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium is the dedication to conservation at every turn. The zoo's role in Red Wolf conservation efforts particularly stood out to me. The zoo has long been part of conservation efforts and has helped reintroduce wolves from their breeding program into the wild. The zoo also has an impressive section on the effects of global warming with many facts and hands-on elements.

Global Warming Display at Point Defiance Zoo

The Rocky Shores section of the zoo was one of our favorites and is home to animals that would live on the coastline of Cape Flattery in Washington. We particularly enjoyed watching the puffins!

Puffins relaxing at Point Defiance Zoo
Puffins relaxing!
The Kids Zone maintains engaging exhibits that guide children in investigative skills. Some family favorites live in this area including the meerkats. The meerkats in particular had a sizable exhibit--fun to explore!


Meerkats at Point Defiance Zoo
Meerkats 
Other ways to explore:

  • Animal encounters
  • Animal feedings
  • Groom and feed a goat
  • Ride a camel
 Child feeding goats at Point Defiance Zoo

Engagement in conservation:

Overall, we enjoyed the zoo and found it to be a great way to orient ourselves with the animals that live in Washington. I really appreciate that while the zoo did have resident animals from other regions, the focus truly is on regional animals and cooler climate animals. So, you will not find an entire African savanna replicated. Additionally, the zoo is heavily engaged in conservation---more so than many other zoos I have visited. The zoo lays out the importance of conservation in ways that not only allow us to appreciate the strides the zoo has made but also showed how everyone can help. I love that the zoo not only introduces a variety of wildlife but also empowers families to help!

Vista along Five Mile Drive Tacoma Washington

Nearby experiences:

The Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium is located within Point Defiance Park which provides a variety of natural oases for families. A delightful place to explore while you are in the area.
  • Gardens of Point Defiance Park
  • Stunning Five Mile Drive with amazing vistas, hiking trails and more
  • Owen Beach where there is a potential to see seals
  • Fort Nisqually Living History Museum where you can learn what it was like to live in the 1850's at this Hudson's Bay Trading Post.
**Thank you to Travel Tacoma for hosting our visit! Complimentary admission was provided to bring you this review!
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