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Summer Camp FAQs

Can you accommodate a child with special needs?

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 an 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.

What if I need to cancel or change my camp registration?

  • Please notify us immediately should you need to cancel or change your camp registration. We want to be able offer open spots to those on the waiting list.
  • Contact us at or 253-404-3800 (M-F 8:00 am-4:30 pm) to request cancellation or change.
    • 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.
    • Requests to have your child moved to a different camp date (if available) will be charged a 20% rescheduling fee.

Where and when do I drop off and pick up my camper?

Visit the Camp Essentials page for detailed directions to the Zoo and to locate the check-in/check-out time frame for your child’s camp session.

When you arrive at the Zoo, follow the signs for Zoo Camp check-in/check-out. This is NOT at the front gate entrance to the Zoo.

There are two (2) check-in/check-out stations:

  • Station B: Junior Explorers: Budding Biologists
  • Station A: All other camps including – Tiny Explorers, Little Explorers, Junior Explorers: Happenin’ Habitats, Wild Explorers, Science Explorers, and Eco Explorers

Please avoid dropping off campers early/late or picking them up early/late.

  • Children visit a variety of locations within the Zoo and surrounding park during their camp day. It can be very difficult to coordinate alternate pick-up and drop-off times.

If you are running late for your check-in/check-out time, please call or text 253-888-2746 to let camp staff know when they can expect you.

What if I am bringing more than one child to camp?

We require a separate Participant Form and signed Waiver for each child attending camp. Please do not put information for more than one child on a Participant Form.

Due to limited staff and space, and to ensure child safety, we can only check-in or check-out one age group at a time. Visit the Camp Essentials page to see the table of check-in/check-out time frames.

If your campers have different check-in/check-out times, please find a spot to park and wait in your vehicle (if getting to the Zoo by car) between time frames.

We cannot provide care for your child outside the operating hours of their camp session.

What if my child is attending multiple weeks of camp?

  • All camp activities are the same each week. Please do not register your child for more than two weeks of camp. We have found that even children who love Zoo Camp get bored after more than two weeks.
  • Junior Explorers Camps – Budding Biologists and Happenin’ Habitats will have different activities.
  • A completed Participant Form is only required to be turned in on the first day of the first week of camp your child is attending.

Does my child need to be potty trained to attend camp?

Yes. Camp staff are not trained or authorized to change diapers or assist with toileting for a child of any age.

Can a teenager check themselves in and out?

Yes. 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.

Where will Zoo camp activities be taking place?

  • Each group will have a designated indoor learning space in the Zoo’s Education Center or the Environmental Learning Center (SAMi High School) on Zoo grounds.
  • Each camper will have their own cubby or designated bin for storing backpacks and other belongings.
  • Camps will visit various indoor and outdoor areas of the Zoo including the aquarium galleries.
  • Camps may also visit various outdoor areas outside of the Zoo including the forest in Point Defiance Park, the Northwest Native Plant Garden, and the Docks at Point Defiance Marina.
  • Not every camp group will get to visit every part of the Zoo or other outdoor areas.

How many children are in each camp?

  • Tiny Explorers: 16
  • Little Explorers: 16
  • Junior Explorers: 15
  • Wild Explorers: 15
  • Science Explorers: 14
  • Eco Explorers: 14

My camper's instructor was amazing! Can I tip them/give them a gift?

As government employees, our staff are not authorized to accept any form of tip or gift.

However, if you would like to donate to the Zoo’s efforts, you can learn more about the Dr. Holly Reed Fund.

Will there be behind the scenes activities?

To protect our animals who are vulnerable to Covid and other viruses that can be transmitted from humans, there will be limited or no behind the scenes access for camp participants.

Will I receive a camp reminder?

You will receive an email 1-2 weeks before your camp session with any updated information.

Are there any forms to complete?

A completed Camp Participant Form and signed Waiver (on the back of the form) for each camper must be handed in 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 filling it out when you get here.

The Camp Participant Form includes the following:

  • Parent/Legal Guardian and Emergency Contact Information
  • List of adults with authorization to pick-up your child
  • Any medical information that will help our Zoo Camp staff understand and support the needs of your child
  • Any behavioral concerns that will help our Zoo Camp staff understand and support the needs of your child.
  • Waiver for camp participation

If you think your child may benefit from any additional support, please submit an online Accommodation Request through Metro Parks Tacoma at least two (2) weeks in advance of your child’s camp program.