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Camp Essentials

Zoo Camp Information

Everything you need to know.

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

What to bring

  • A completed Camp Participant Form with the signed waiver (page two of the form) for each camper must be handed to camp staff on the first day of camp. 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 filling it out 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!
  • 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.

What NOT to bring

  • Gum
  • Games or toys
  • Sandals/open-toed shoes

Drive-Thru Check-in/Check-out

  • Follow signs to Zoo Camp check-in/check-out. Please note, Zoo Camp check-in/check-out area is not at the front gate entrance.
  • There will be a line of vehicles with other campers. We appreciate you doing your best to arrive during the requested time frame. Thank you for understanding!
  • Please stay in your vehicle (if getting to the Zoo by car) during check-in/check-out unless directed by staff.
  • 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 is required every day!
  • If you wish for your teenager (age 13+) to check themselves in/out from camp each day, please complete this Teen Self-Check-out Form and send it with your camper on their first day of camp, along with a completed Participant Form and Waiver signed by their legally responsible adult/guardian.
  • Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium is a No-Idle Zone. During drive-thru check-in/check-out, please be a Polar Bear Pal and turn off your engine if you are waiting for more than 30 seconds, except if needed for child safety. Learn more about our other conservation initiatives.


Age/Grade Graduated
Tiny Explorers4 & 5 year olds9:15 - 9:25am3:00 - 3:10pm
Little ExplorersKindergarten Graduates9:15 - 9:25am3:00 - 3:10pm
Junior Explorers1st-2nd Grade Graduates8:55 - 9:05am3:15 - 3:25pm
Wild Explorers3rd-4th Grade Graduates8:40 - 8:50am3:30 - 3:40pm
Science Explorers5th-7th Grade Graduates8:25 - 8:35am3:45 - 3:55pm
Eco Explorers8th-11th Grade Graduates8:25 - 8:35am3:45 - 3:55pm

If you are running late for check-in or check-out, please contact camp staff at (253) 888-2746. This phone is only checked during camp operating hours (8:30 am-4:00 pm). Please be sure to leave a voicemail. You can also send a text to this number.

Directions to the Zoo

Pearl Street northbound to Mildred Street Entrance:

  • 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.

Schuster Parkway 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-thruZoo Camp check-in/check-out.

Pearl Street Entrance:

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

Taking Pierce Transit Bus to the Zoo:

  • Take Route 10 or 11 PT DEFIANCE via PEARL ST.
  • Get off at Pearl St & Park Wy Stop ID: 2151.
  • From the bus stop, walk towards the traffic circle and turn left.
  • Use caution – walking route from this stop to Zoo Camp check-in/check-out area travels along trafficked route without sidewalks.
  • Follow the road uphill past Northwest Native Garden (on the left), then turn right to follow signs to Zoo Camp check-in/check-out.


Metro Parks Tacoma provides reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities. If your child may need an accommodation to participate in a Metro Parks’ program, please complete and submit the Accommodation Request Form. Requests should be made at least two (2) weeks prior to the date the program begins. Accommodations will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Health Guidelines

To Protect Everyone’s Safety:

  • If anyone in your family feels ill, please keep your child(ren) at home.
  • Campers will be encouraged to wash their hands as often as possible. When hand washing is not available, hand sanitizer will be supplied.
  • Each camper will be provided with their own set of supplies to use for the duration of camp.
  • If someone in your child’s camp tests positive for Covid-19, you will be contacted directly by the Metro Parks Tacoma Covid-19 Emergency and Safety Officer.
  • We reserve the right to isolate and require an adult to come pick up a camper that has shown symptoms of a contagious illness.

Changes, Cancellations & Contact Information

General Information:


  • 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 Allow at least 1 business day for a response.

If you are running late for check-in or check-out or if your camper will be absent that day:

  • Please call or text camp staff at (253) 888-2746. This phone is only checked during camp operating hours (8:30 am – 4:30 pm). Please be sure to leave a voicemail. You can also send a text to this number.

You will receive more details and any updates in an email at least one week before your camp session.

Camp Program Cancellation Policies:

  • Please notify us as soon as possible if your child is no longer able to attend so that we can offer the spot to another child.
  • No refunds for cancellations 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.
  • Camp date changes (if available) will be charged a 20% rescheduling fee.
  • PDZA reserves the right to cancel any program. If it is necessary for PDZA to cancel a program, all program fees will be refunded.
  • Contact us at for cancellation or change requests.

Developing Behavior Using Restorative Practices

We are committed to providing an inclusive, safe, fun, and educational experience for all our campers while ensuring the health and safety of our staff, volunteers, and animals. Our camp staff are trained to utilize Restorative Practices. This means that:

  • We will use community building tools and techniques to help create and foster a safe and inclusive camp culture.
  • Community behavioral agreements will be discussed at the beginning of each camp day.
  • Steps will be taken to seek mutually beneficial and camper centered resolutions when actions negatively affect one’s own or others’ experiences.
  • If a resolution cannot be achieved and a camper’s actions continue to pose risks to the safety and/or wellbeing of other campers or staff or is interfering with camp operations, we reserve the right to:
    • Require an adult to come pick up a camper whose behavior is posing risks to the safety and/or wellbeing of other campers or staff or is interfering with camp operations.
    • At the discretion of a PDZA representative, ask that a camper not return to camp the next or any following days based on the impact to camp operations.
    • Turn away a camper at check-in at the discretion of a PDZA representative.