Sometimes, I think we don’t do enough with the kids. Not enough trips, not enough classes, not enough extracurriculars…
I was having one of those days recently as I was learning about all the classes and camps that are going on in our area during the summer. A lot of kids are going to a different camp all summer long and I was beginning to feel like maybe the boys were missing out.
And, then I started working on this post…I realized how many field trips and outings we have been on in the last several years. After compiling these two lists, I’m confident they will survive from their lack of weekly summer camps. 🤪
We recently published our favorite educational field trips (and day trips) in Oregon. This week, we are moving on to our favs in Washington.
Wolf Haven International
Wolf Haven is a sanctuary for displaced pet wolves and those who cannot thrive in their natural environment. Located in Tenino, just 7 miles off I-5, it is an excellent educational field trip for kids to be introduced to wolves. Also, they will learn how sanctuaries, like Wolf Haven, provide safe, long-term homes for animals who cannot live in the wild. While you are there, you will typically see several species of wolves. Tours are offered with a guide so you can have a chance to see and learn more about them while maintaining the integrity of the wolves’ home.
After you arrive, you go in as a group, walk and speak softly, and need to make sure that you’ve turned off all ring tones, etc. Because this is the wolves’ home, it is important that you act as a guest in their space and are respectful not to make them nervous or scared. You’ll take your time stopping at the enclosures, where your guide will share information about the wolves you encounter.
Even though we visited a few years ago and our kids were pretty young, hearing the individual stories of the wolves kept the boys’ attention. Younger kids (under 5 or 6), may find the pace too slow and/or have difficulty keeping their voices down. We went with a large group, and, overall, the kids did well and ranged in age from about 2-12. However, those from Kindergarten age and older seemed to enjoy it much more.
For further information on the wolves and Wolf Haven, we highly recommend the book Wolf Haven.
Note: You can find the most up to date information on opening hours and guidelines here.
Northwest Trek is a Wildlife Park that was donated to Metro Parks Tacoma by the Hellyer family. It opened to the public in 1975 and is now one of our favorite places to head for a field trip. You have opportunities to see a variety of animals in the park. However, one of the best features of the park is the tram ride, which is included with your admission. During the tram rides, we have seen bison, elk, moose, mountain goats, sheep and more. The boys love being able to help spot the animals! One time, a caribou was so close to the tram, we could have touched it! Recently, they have also added a play area for kids that also includes a stream. It is PERFECT on a hot day!
Note: You can find more information on current guidelines here.
Puyallup Fish Hatchery
The Puyallup Fish Hatchery grounds are open to visitors during daylight hours. You can observe the fish ponds and walk the trails all over the property. In addition, the Educational Center is staffed on Saturdays from 10am-2pm by volunteers from the Puyallup Historical Society. In the past, we were also able to arrange a homeschool group tour of the Educational Center on a weekday.
Hand’s On Children’s Museum
When we first moved to the PNW, this was most definitely one of the boys’ favorite activities. We lived closer than we do now and had an Annual Pass. Located in Olympia, the Hand’s On Children’s Museum has so much to keep kids busy! They have everything from a play grocery store to a water exhibit. In addition, there is also an art studio, fire truck, and builder boards to create their own house!
Note: Current health guidelines for the museum can be found here.
When it’s a rainy day in the PNW and you need something to do out of the house, Tinkertopia, in Tacoma, is an excellent option! I think of it as kind of what would happen if your attic, garage and craft room pooled all their misplaced, broken, extra, and unique parts. Then, you get to use them to design whatever your heart desires.
It is such a great way to reuse things in a creative way. We have been a few times with the boys and it’s always fun to see how their imaginations take over when they arrive. They always come up with something super unique and fun!
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Museum of Glass
Located on the traditional homelands of the Puyallup Tribe and the Coast Salish Peoples in Tacoma, you’ll find the Museum of Glass. When we first heard about it, we decided there was NO WAY we were taking the boys. I mean, breakable items and two wild kids?! No thanks.
However, then I heard about a particular hands-on exhibit and I decided to give it a try, even if we only did that exhibit and left.
It was totally worth it.
In The Hot Shop, it is fascinating to watch the artists at work as they create unique pieces of art during live demonstrations. Even the kids were enthralled!
Another cool thing they have for kids is a Kids Design Glass program where kids under 12 can submit their own drawings and designs. Once a month, they choose a submission and bring it to life in The Hot Shop. They make two – one for the museum to display and one for the kid to take home – how cool is that?!
Becuase The Museum of Glass is fairly small, it will not take very long to walk through, so it’s perfect for littles with short attention spans. Plus, you won’t feel like you missed out if they have a meltdown 90 minutes in. 😉
However, if you and your kiddos want more, they also have workshops that you could sign up to participate in. But, before you head out, make sure you walk across the Chihuly Bridge of Glass to enjoy a sampling of Dave Chihuly’s work.
ProTip: If you live in Pierce County, check with the library for passes. Or, visit on the Third Thursday of the month between 5pm-8pm for FREE admission!
Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium
We love Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. Mostly, because it’s a zoo. AND an aquarium. But, also because on a clear day, it also has a sweet view of Mt. Rainier – always a favorite!
At PDZA, in Tacoma, you can see everything from meerkats to sharks, tigers to budgies, and everything between. They even have a playground in the kids’ area perfect for running off the last bit of energy before you start the trek home.
Note: You can find ongoing updates on current guidelines here.
Pacific Science Center
Special exhibits at the Pacific Science Center are often changed and updated. Of course, they have some that are permanently on display as well. One of our favorite visits was when they had the Grossology: The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body special exhibit. I mean, what boy isn’t fascinated with farts, boogers, and belching?? Plus, there was a giant game of Operation…yes, please!
If you’d like, you can also catch a show or documentary in the Planetarium or IMAX theater. Often, you’ll find new movies playing in their IMAX theater – things like Star Wars and Toy Story 4. In addition, you could also check out the Laser Dome for Music & Light shows. We haven’t had a chance to do one of those yet, but we’d love to hear about it if you do!
Note: You can find the most current info on hours and requirements here.
Whether you’re a Mac or a PC person, if you visit the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, you will come away with an appreciation for what you have and a desire to do more for the world. There are different displays that delve into the challenges in other countries (and sometimes our own), as well as what they are doing to try to combat the issues. If you have the opportunity, you absolutely should visit.
Note: You can check for current status, updates, and guidelines here.
Museum of Pop Culture
Formerly known as EMP (Experience Music Project), the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle is an excellent place to learn about music and – you guessed it – pop culture. There are rotating exhibits on things like musical artists, gaming, and movies. One of the most interesting exhibits is the sound lab. While you are there, try your hand at mixing, practice your vocals in a soundproof room, or learn about how DJs make their magic happen.
Note: You can find the full list of current guidelines here.
The Museum of Flight
If you, or your kids, love anything to do with space or aircraft, The Museum of Flight is the perfect educational field trip for you. Climb inside aircraft, try out a flight simulator, learn about spacecraft, check out current events or exhibits, or maybe even meet an astronaut!
ProTip: The Museum of Flight participates in the First Thursdays program, sponsored by Wells Fargo, with FREE admission from 5pm-9pm on the First Thursday of every month.
Note: The Museum of Flight is may continue to have additional guidelines in place.
Woodland Park Zoo
Like any great zoo, the Woodland Park Zoo has a variety of animals on exhibit. In particular, we have loved seeing the Wallaroo’s, Tapir, and Rhinoceros as they aren’t always animals you get to see. They even have a Komodo Dragon! G has recently decided the Komodo Dragon is one of his favorite animals, so I’m sure we will be back to visit again in the near future!
Note: You can find additional information and admission guidelines on their website.
Final Thoughts on Field Trips (and Day Trips) in Washington
There you have it! Whatever your interests, we hope you found at least one new idea or tip for your next educational field trip in Washington. As we continue to explore, we will come back periodically and update this post as well as the one where we list all of our favorite cool field trips in Oregon.
Do you have any favorite family day trips in Washington? Let us know in the comments!