Social distanced visit to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

A big thank you to PDZA for having us out for a social distanced visit to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. All opinions are 100% ours.

social distanced visit to Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium

This year has been so hard on my kids. Not only are they missing family and friends we used to see weekly, this shutdown has been so hard for little adventurers like my kiddos. Before everything shut down we would end up at the zoo sometimes multiple times in the same week, saying hello to our favorite animals and enjoying a nice nature walk. When the zoo closed, it was yet another blow to some extremely resilient kiddos.

Our visit to Northwest Trek back in June helped fill their need for seeing animals up close and in person, but we were still missing the joys of wandering a zoo and seeing the zookeepers to ask a million questions.

So, when we heard that Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium was back open and welcoming guests while social distancing, we were thrilled. We couldn’t wait to walk a zoo and see animals up close… almost like we used to do.

When we pulled up to the Tacoma zoo and started sunscreening up for our day, we were positively giddy with excitement. The zoo is one of our happy places, and it was finally safe to go distanced visit to Point Defiance Zoo and Aqaurium

The zoo & aquarium, social distance style

For social distancing purposes, the zoo is doing a timed entry where you buy tickets for a specific gate time. Because of this, we had a few minutes to kill before we could do our touch-free ticket scanning at the gate, so we slowly walked to the entrance and took pictures along the way.

Timed entrance to the zoo & aquarium

Once it was time to enter, we put on our face masks. Note: masks are required throughout your entire visit, indoors and out, and must be worn correctly. There are employees at every indoor location checking masks as well as monitoring occupancy numbers. The one exception is children under 5, but we had our little one mask up because we knew she could handle it.Point Defiance Elephant

Once we were masked, hands were sanitized, and we had entered at our specific time, it was time to start exploring. To accommodate for social distancing, PDZA has adapted by creating a counter-clockwise path around the zoo and aquarium that you must follow.

This might sound counter-intuitive to many as going the same direction on the same path as others seems like it would lead to clusters of people, but I didn’t find that was the case in the outdoor areas and it made it so there didn’t have to be two way traffic on the paths. One thing I particularly loved was that PDZA has multiple viewing locations for most animals, so going to the second area made it fairly easy to avoid other families in the outdoor areas.

Indoor Aquarium at Point Defiance

The indoor facilities were obviously a little different, but that’s to be expected since numbers indoor were kept at strict limits at all times. If you decided you didn’t want to wait in the social distanced line to go to the indoor areas, I loved that there were alternate paths you could take to bypass the indoor areas and stay outdoors in the zoo portions.Point Defiance Zoo and aquarium

We decided we wanted to wait for the indoor areas, and I’m really glad we did. Although the lines were a bit long on the day we went, they moved fairly quickly. As cool as the indoor areas are, I also loved that going inside was also another place for employees to enforce the social distancing guidelines and ensure masks were on and worn correctly, which it turns out a lot of people need help with. Go figure.Point Defiance aquarium 2

Highlights of our social distanced visit to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Red wolves at Point Defiance

While we enjoyed seeing all the animals and learning about them as a family, we especially fell in love with the red wolves. The red wolves were all sunning themselves when we first arrived at their enclosure, but after a bit they began to run around their area, obviously excited. I hadn’t seen the zookeeper come up behind us, so I just assumed the wolves were playing.Point Defiance Red Wolves

Rich, the zookeeper, told us he was going to feed them meatballs, and it was obvious that all the wolves recognized him as he came in and were excited to have dinner. We ended up staying in the red wolf area for over 45 minutes, learning all we could about the red wolf family. Aren’t they beautiful?Point Defiance red wolves enclosure

Tigers at Point Defiance

We rarely get a chance to see tigers so up close, so it was a treat that they were both out enjoying the sun when we were there. They were so beautiful up close and the kids couldn’t stop talking about them during our visit.Point Defiance Zoo Tiger

National Ice Cream Day at Point Defiance

My kids found out it was ice cream day as we were leaving for the zoo in the morning, and somehow talked us into mammoth ice cream cones over by the polar bear exhibit. I was so excited the food stands were open {credit cards only, they are not accepting cash right now}, and had a good selection of ice cream for the kids. We all needed to sit in the shade for a bit to cool off since it was scorchingly hot on the day we went, and ice cream definitely helped.Point Defiance ice cream

Aquarium at Point Defiance

The kids were especially excited about the aquarium portions of PDZA. I was realizing it had been a while since our last aquarium visit, so this was nice to be able to escape the sun for a bit and enjoy all the exotic sea creatures as a family.Point Defiance aquarium pics

I especially love the overhead viewing area that makes you feel like you are part of the action. I was nervous that the little one would be scared with sharks swimming overhead, but she was so excited to see turtles that it didn’t even matter there were also sharks.Point Defiance aquarium

Plan ahead for your social distanced visit to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

  • Enter the Zoo from either the Mildred St or Pearl St entrance. See
  • Arrive ahead of your entrance time by a recommended 15 minutes. 5 minutes before your timed tickets you can head down to the gate area
  • Bring your electronic ticket, either printed or on your phone. Members, please bring ID and go to the open window
  • Bring your mask! They are 100% required during your visit unless you are under the age of 5Point Defiance family
  • Remember your water bottle to refill {there are no drinking fountains available}
  • There are no rentals available, so bring your own stroller/wheelchair if you need it 
  • Don’t bring cash because credit/debit cards are required for in-Zoo purchases Point Defiance stroller at zoo

Social distanced changes to your visit at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

  • Keeping 6 ft from other families is enforced at the zoo. Most areas you will encounter other families will have 6 ft markings on the ground to make it easy to visualize for young kids.
  • You will follow a one-way path {marked with white arrows} around the Zoo, and no paper maps are available at this time.
  • All high-touch and interactive areas are closed for now. You will find glass enclosures and children’s areas roped off, but there’s still plenty to see and do. See for up-to-date info on closures and animals.POint Defiance Kids area
  • Zookeeper visits and animal chats happen at unscheduled times to avoid congestion at the exhibits. Hopefully you will get lucky during your visit and catch a zookeeper in an exhibit like we did.Point Defiance social distanced

Zoos need our help now so they can continue their conservation efforts and provide animals with the best care. If you loved your visit to PDZA, you can upgrade your ticket to a membership and save. Just bring your electronic or printed tickets to a front gate window and they can help you get a membership starting at $90.

You can find out more about Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, WA at or you can call 253.404.3800

2 thoughts on “Social distanced visit to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium”

  1. Gone are the days one can pay cash, not make an appointment and visit when you wish. Gone are the days to visit your zoo. You just lost a customer. To bad, for supporting the zoo. Hope your zoo will manage decreased patron

    • It doesn’t have nearly this strict of restrictions anymore – this was from the first few months of COVID. Check out their current restrictions before visiting, but they aren’t as difficult to get spots and see the animals.


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