Credit: Devon Hammer
There are some opportunities just too groovy for families to pass up, and spending an afternoon with a crew of loveable goats is one of them. With their big personalities and silly, square-pupil stares, goats have always been a barnyard favorite in our household.
To our delight, we discovered that Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium offers a private, behind-the-scenes, animal encounter called Groovy Goats. Of course we had to go check it out.
Private family field trips are one product of the pandemic that my family has been happy to embrace. We look for fun, engaging and COVID-safe experiences that teach us something new and inspire continuing conversations. Groovy Goats checked all of those boxes.
Kids' Zone goat exhibit
Among its resident animals, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium (PDZA) houses 13 Nigerian dwarf goats in an area called the Kids' Zone. The goats hang around in a pen that's partially covered by a dome — this is the area where regular zoo visitors can view the goats from the other side of the fence. There's also a smaller training pen and a barn-type indoor area just for the goats and keepers.
The normal goat exhibit at the zoo has been modified due to COVID restrictions. Currently, zoo visitors can view the goats but are not allowed to pet or feed them as they have been in the past. (The Kids' Zone playground is also closed.) So we can thank the pandemic (heh) for giving rise to the private Groovy Goats experience that gets families up-close and personal with these fun bovids.
Wonderland of goats
At our appointed time, we met PDZA staffer Cathleen at the zoo's entrance. As our guide for the day, she led us straight to the wonderland of goats. We got to enter the area normally reserved for staff.
Cathleen explained a bit about the goats, introduced each one by name and then we got right to it. We all grabbed a brush and joined the herd in their pen for some grooming. The goats knew what was up immediately and jumped up onto platforms, ready for their much-desired primping.
My two kids, ages 6 and 4, found the goats hilarious and I was just smitten by their sweetness and very apparent individual personalities. There was shy and timid Celeste, confident Bentley who repeatedly butted heads with L.S., and Spice who loved to be brushed the most, to name just a few.
After our grooming session, next came my daughter’s favorite part: feeding the goats their tasty goat pellets! The goats went crazy for nibbles of the stuff so we stayed on the other side of the fence for this particular activity. Both kids giggled every time the goats came over and licked the treats right out of their hands.
The kids then created an enrichment activity for the goats. They loaded up balls with hay and treats that the goats had to push around in order to get to the goods. My son was giddy with the idea that goats love to play ball just like he does!
The bottom line
Our encounter with the PDZA's groovy goats left our whole family feeling happy and with a deeper appreciation for these comical creatures. We often talk about shy Celeste and brazen Bentley as if they were old friends.
Like many private family experiences, Groovy Goats is a splurge, especially for a smaller-sized family. The maximum group size is 5 people and they must be from the same household. (Contact the zoo if your family has more than 5 members).
I recommend this experience to families in search of a hands-on learning opportunity or to celebrate a special occasion, such as a birthday. Booking the Groovy Goats experience includes regular admission to PDZA, which is open with COVID procedures in place, though indoor aquarium exhibits remain closed. Masks are required.
If you go...
Find it: Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium is located inside Point Defiance Park at 5400 North Pearl Street in Tacoma.
Hours: You need to book your Groovy Goats animal experience in advance. Available times are 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily. The program is 30 minutes long. When booking Groovy Goats, you will receive your tickets by email and you'll meet your guide at the group entrance area at your appointed time.
Cost: $150 per group ($100 for PDZA members), with up to 5 single-household participants per group. Price includes zoo admission for all participants, which is a $64 value for an average family of four (two adults and two children ages 3–12).
Group requirements: Maximum group size is 5 people from the same household; minimum one adult and all participants must be age 5 or older.
Safety protocols: Masks are required for the duration of the program and 6-feet social distancing is enforced.
Parking: The zoo has a very large, free parking lot.
Restrooms: The restrooms at the zoo are open and available.
What to bring: Dress for the weather and potentially dusty/muddy (and goat-poopy!) conditions.
More fun in and around PDZA:
More private family experiences: