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Camp Essentials

Camper Information

Everything you need to know.

Coming to Zoo Camp? Here’s everything you need to know in one easy place.

Like to print it out? Download this page.

What to bring

  • A completed Camp Participant Form and signed Waiver (on the back of the form) for each camper must be handed to camp staff on the first day of camp (please do NOT email us your form in advance). Without the form and waiver, we cannot admit a child to Zoo Camp.
    • If you do not have access to a printer: we can provide a blank printed copy of the Camp Participant Form when you arrive at camp – please plan to spend a few extra minutes completing this form when you get here.
  • Backpack containing at least:
    • Lunch and 1-2 snack items. Lunch and snack are NOT provided. We encourage the use of reusable lunch bags and containers. We work hard to keep single-use plastic out of the Zoo. Camp participants will not have the opportunity to purchase food from the Plaza Café or any food carts at any time during camp programs.
    • A refillable water bottle. There are water bottle filling stations throughout the Zoo grounds and in each learning space.
    • Clothing appropriate for weather and outdoor activities, including comfortable, water-resistant, closed-toed footwear. We recommend bringing layers to stay comfortable in our unpredictable weather!
    • Masks will not be required for campers. However, we will support any camper who chooses to wear one. If you wish for your camper to wear a mask during camp, please pack 1-2 clean face masks to change throughout the day as needed. Let your camper’s instructors know your preferences for reminding your camper to wear their mask.
    • Each camper will have a cubby or designated area to store their backpack and any other belongings.
  • Cameras are welcome. Phones will be allowed for taking pictures and communication with family members/guardians only.
  • Prescription Medication. If children require prescription medication during camp hours, you must provide written instructions on the Camp Participant Form for medication time(s) and amount(s). Staff will not physically administer the medication; we will provide the opportunity for the child to take the medication.
    • If your child has an EpiPen, please bring it in a clear bag labeled with your child’s name.
  • Hand sanitizer if desired. Instructors will keep some on hand and there will be some in each learning space. However, campers are welcome to bring their own small supply.

What NOT to bring

Please leave these at home.
  • Gum
  • Games or toys
  • Sandals/open-toed shoes

Drive-Thru Check-in/Check-out

When, where, who.
  • Follow signs to ZOO CAMP CHECK-IN/CHECK-OUT area. Please note, Zoo Camp Check-In/Check-out area is not at the front gate entrance.
  • Please stay in your vehicle (if getting to the Zoo by car) during check-in/check-out unless directed by staff.
  • Designated staff members will monitor all check-in/check-out procedures daily, including conducting camper symptoms surveys.
  • Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium is a No-Idle Zone. During drive thru check-in/check-out, please turn off your engine if you are waiting for more than 30 seconds, except in traffic or as needed for child safety
  • Only authorized adults or teens listed on the Camp Participant Form will be allowed to sign-out a child, after providing photo identification. This is done for your child’s safety, and photo identification check is required every day of camp!


Junior Explorers: K-2nd Graders

Check-in: 9:15-9:25 am
Check-out: 3:00-3:10 pm

Wild Explorers: 3rd – 5th Graders

Check-in: 9:00-9:10 am
Check-out: 3:15-3:25 pm


After a 10-minute grace period at the end of the check-out window, a late pickup fee of $1.00 per minute per child will apply. For example, if your checkout window ends at 3:10 pm and your child is picked up at 3:33 pm, a $13.00 late fee would be charged. This fee is applicable each program day.

Zoo Directions

How to get to the Zoo.

For the most straightforward way to reach the Zoo Camp Check-In/Check-Out area by car, we recommend one of the first two routes.


Mildred Street Entrance from Pearl Street Northbound

  • Follow Pearl Street northbound.
  • Turn left on North 51st Street and drive to Mildred Street.
  • Go around the right-hand curve, down and up the hill and turn right into the park.
  • Make another right turn at the stop sign.
  • Follow signs to drive-thru ZOO camp check-in/check-out.

Alternative Waterfront Route to Mildred Street Entrance

  • From I-5, take exit 133 for I-705 and follow signs to Schuster Parkway, then Ruston Way.
  • Follow Ruston Way for 2.8 miles along the waterfront, and at the second traffic circle take the second exit onto North 51st Street.
  • Continue straight at the traffic light.
  • Continue straight at the stop sign.
  • Go around the right-hand curve, down and up the hill and turn right into the park.
  • Make another right turn at the stop sign.
  • Follow signs to drive-thru ZOO camp check-in/check-out.

Pearl Street Entrance

  • Not recommended for easily locating the camp check-in/check-out area.

Taking PierceTransit Bus to the Zoo

  • Take Route 10 PT DEFIANCE via PEARL ST.
  • Get off at Pearl St & Park Wy Stop ID: 2151.
  • Use caution – the walking route from this stop to ZOO CAMP CHECK-IN/CHECK-OUT area travels along a trafficked route without pedestrian-specific features.
  • Head North of N Pearl St toward N Park Way.
  • At traffic circle, take the first exit onto Five Mile Dr.
  • Follow road uphill past Northwest Native Garden, then turn right to follow signs to ZOO CAMP CHECK-IN/CHECK-OUT.

Covid-19 guidelines

Keeping everyone safe.


  • If anyone in your family feels ill or has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, please keep your child(ren) at home.
  • Camp operations will follow the guidance outlined in this document: DOH School Flow Chart Symptoms. Zoo staff may adjust camp policies and procedures as new guidance becomes available.
  • All camp staff are vaccinated against COVID-19, but are not required to wear a mask.
  • Masks will not be required for campers. However, we will support any camper who chooses to wear one.
  • We do not require campers to be vaccinated or show proof of vaccination status.
  • Campers will be encouraged to wash their hands as often as possible. When hand washing is not available, we will supply hand sanitizer.
  • Each camper will be provided with their own set of supplies to use for the duration of camp.
  • Zoo staff will regularly clean bathrooms and high-touch areas used by campers.


  • You will be contacted directly by the Metro Parks Tacoma Covid-19 Emergency and Safety Officer.


All you need to know.


For general camp questions or an emergency:

  • Call the Zoo’s main line at (253) 404-3800. Press 0 (zero) to bypass the menu or leave a message.  Administrative office hours are 8:00 am-4:30 pm Monday–Friday.
  • Email Please allow 1 business day for a response.

For a late arrival or early/late pick-up of a participant, please contact camp staff at (253) 888-2746. This phone is checked only during camp operating hours (8:30 am-4:00 pm) and does not receive text messages.

You will receive more details and any updates in a camp email the week before your camp session.


  • Please notify us as soon as possible if your child is no longer able to attend so we can offer the spot to another child.
  • No refunds for cancellations will be made less than 14 days prior to the program start date.
  • For cancellations requested more than 14 days prior to the program start date, an 80% refund will be given.
  • Program/camp date changes (if available) will be charged a 20% rescheduling fee.
  • We reserve the right to cancel any program. If we must cancel a program, all program fees will be refunded.
  • Contact us at for cancellation or change requests.