Skip to main content

New Aquarium Makes a Splash at Tacoma’s Zoo

Mark your calendars for this new and improved aquarium

Maegen Blue

Published on: June 18, 2018

walrus and child at PDZA
Credit: PDZA

Update (6/18/2018): Big news! PDZA has announced the opening date of the Pacific Seas Aquarium: Friday, Sept. 7! We also know a little more about Baja Bay. It'll be 280,000 gallons and "the showpiece" of the new 35,000-square-foot aquarium, PDZA announced in a June 11 press release.

Pacific Seas won't be fully done on Sept. 7, note zoo officials, but "it will be close" and open to the public. "Sea turtles, hammerhead sharks, eagle rays and other sea creatures will be ready to greet guests" as of Sept. 7, according to the press release.

Original story (5/25/2018): Mark your calendars: This summer a new aquarium is coming to Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium (PDZA), and it promises to be an attraction worthy of a day trip with the kids.

The new Pacific Seas Aquarium will replace the old North Pacific Aquarium, which closed at the end of March. Popular exhibits, such as the native fish and “jellies” (jellyfish), will be moving to the new 35,000-square-foot space, which will also feature exciting new habitats and marine life never before seen at PDZA.

In our house, my boys are most excited about Baja Bay, a 250,000-gallon habitat where visitors can walk through a curved glass underwater tunnel and see scalloped hammerhead sharks, green sea turtles and spotted eagle rays.

chilean sea nettle at PDZA
Photo: Chilean Sea Nettle | Credit: PDZA

Other features of note: the Coastal Kelp Forest exhibit; Northwest Waters, which will feature species native to the Pacific Northwest; and the Tidal Touch Zone, where kids can interact and even touch living sea creatures and enjoy educational activities.

The new aquarium will be between the existing Wild Wonders Outdoor Theater and the Rocky Shores habitat, and never fear, the South Pacific Aquarium remains open. (You know, the place where you can spot sharks and gently touch stingrays.) Entry to the aquariums is included with regular zoo admission. And here’s a PDZA pro tip: Be sure to visit the theater and on-site playground for even more wild fun.

turtle at pdza
Photo: Sea turtle | Credit: PDZA

Be a PDZA pro

  • Go as early in the day as you can. The animals will be more active, and you can beat the crowds. Alternatively, a visit later in the day can also be fun as the animals are inclined to perk up near dinner time, and the crowds tend to thin out.
  • While there is plenty of food available for purchase, I recommend bringing your own for a picnic or trying one of the new options on the Ruston Way Waterfront.
  • Get the list of daily presentations when you enter PDZA. Catching an aquarium feeding or a talk by an elephant keeper makes for an even more memorable trip.
  • General daytime admission to the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium is $17.95 at the front gate for ages 13–64, $16.95 for seniors 65 and older, $13.95 for youth ages 5–12, $9.95 for ages 3–4 and free for children 2 and younger. Pierce County residents and online purchasers save $2.
  • If you were to go even a few times this year, an annual pass would be a smart investment.
  • The zoo is open daily from 9:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. until June 29, when hours change to 9 a.m.–6 p.m., June 30–Sept. 3.
  • Parking is free.
  • The zoo is small enough to be walkable for most children, but strollers are available for rent, as are wheelchairs and lockers.

Get the best of ParentMap delivered right to your inbox.

Share this resource with your friends!