Point Defiance Park is to Tacoma what Central Park is to New York City. This sprawling 760-acre urban park offers Tacoma residents a welcome respite from city living. There’s plenty to do here from relaxing walks to boating on Puget Sound. Here are some of the highlights you won’t want to miss on a visit to Point Defiance Park.
Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium
For a family outing, the Zoo and Aquarium is a must. You’ll see many animals and marine life indigenous to the Pacific Rim and many more. The Asian Sanctuary Forest is delightful with a bamboo forest, waterfalls, and streams. Here you’ll spot tigers, clouded leopards, otters, Asian elephants, and tapirs. Kids will also love the camel rides and the entertaining Wild Wonders Outdoor Theater show. The zoo is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. June through September. Tickets at the gate cost $17.95 for adults, $13.95 for kids 5-12, and $9.95 for kids 3-4. Kids under two get free entry.
Fort Nisqually Living History Museum
History buffs will enjoy learning about life in the Washington Territory during the thriving 1850s fur trade. Fort Nisqually is a restoration of the Hudson’s Bay Company outpost on Puget Sound, complete with the granary and the old Factor’s House. This is a living history museum where guides in period dress interact with visitors and demonstrate 19th-century crafts. General admission only costs $8 for adults and $5 for kids aged 4-17. Families can book a family ticket for $22 that allows two adults and up to six youth.
Owen Beach is a popular summertime site with a waterfront promenade, large grass area, and wooded trails. Stroll along this lovely stretch of pebble beach strewn with driftwood. It’s a great spot for family outings, chilling with friends, a romantic rendezvous, or group picnics. There’s a food concession stand during the summer, and kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals are available. You can lazily watch ferryboats out on the water. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll even spot a seal.
Five Mile Drive and Trails
Point Defiance Park’s 5-mile drive is very enjoyable with lots of viewpoints and picnic areas along the route. If you’re up for a run or walk, the park also has five trails including Rhododendron Garden Loop and the Promenade trail from Owen Beach to the Marina. All trails are for walking and running only; cycling is not allowed. You’re likely to spot wildlife like deer, raccoons, and various bird species. Note that feeding of wildlife is prohibited.
The park has an abundance of fauna and flora featured in its eight beautiful gardens. If your time is limited and you can’t visit all of them, you can wander through the peaceful Japanese Garden with its Oriental footbridge, waterfall, Japanese lanterns, and small teahouse. The Rose Garden is the park’s focal point and impresses visitors with more than an acre of flowers. From June through September, more than 1,500 rose bushes are in bloom.
If you enjoy escaping to nature, you’ll find Point Defiance Park an oasis in Tacoma city. Locals and visitors alike frequent the park to enjoy the serenity and recreational activities. The park opens daily 30 minutes before sunrise and closes 30 minutes after sunset.