Photo courtesy Children's Museum of Tacoma
3. Children’s Museum of Tacoma
Why go? At 10,000 square feet, Children’s Museum of Tacoma isn’t huge, but it has a huge draw. Since it opened 10 years ago, it has offered pay-as-you-will admission and has no plans to change that anytime soon. This means that you can stop off for an hour, without worrying about whether you’ve gotten your money’s worth. The museum is built around four playscapes (Woods, Water, Invention and Voyager) and favorite activities include the wood-cabin tunnel, water table, marine vessel with tower, air pipes, Lego table and art studio — called Becka’s Studio.
Fun fact: In 2021, a new outpost of this museum opened on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Children’s Museum at JBLM. It’s the first kids’ museum in the U.S. to open on a military base and it’s dedicated to serving base families with kids. Like its sister museum, admission here is pay-as-you-will. Note that you need base access to visit the museum.
Fees and deals: Admission is pay-as-you-will; make a donation of any size as you enter. Membership starts at $120 and members receive perks such as entry on member-only Mondays. In keeping with its equitable admission policy, the museum’s wider organization, GreenTrike, offers other special programs, including free child-adult outreach program called Play to Learn at locations across Pierce County.
Nearby fun: The rest of Tacoma’s Museum District is a short walk away, including the Washington State History Museum (awesome model train layout); Tacoma Art Museum (free art studio in the lobby); and the Museum of Glass, with its Chihuly Bridge of Glass and Hot Shop.