If you’re not already a fan of the Discovery Pond Playground at the Tacoma Nature Center, you need to go! Like today!
We first wrote about this fun place for Tacoma area kids when it opened years ago. It’s still just as fun, and not typically crowded.
It’s a nature themed playground that also incorporates natural elements like water and rocks as part of the play. One note: There is a scary sign by the water that indicates it’s not fit for human consumption. Basically, this means that it’s not up to drinking water standards, but I promise if your kids accidentally get wet, they won’t turn green or anything.
That water itself is just a crick, so it’s totally possible to play here without getting wet and dirty, but when my boys were small they were always drawn straight to the water pump, so you may want at least a change of socks.
Other highlights include a tree house and a surprisingly quick slide in a, “Tree trunk.” Note that it can get hot in the summer. My boys still love to play here, and it’s a playground that’s a good fit for all ages, which is always a challenge!
The inside of the nature center is small but definitely worth a stop. There are some interesting exhibits and a corner with puppets and costumes. It’s all totally free, although you can leave a donation.
Just behind the nature center you’ll find a system of mostly flat trails that are great for young hikers.
The playground is available for rent for parties, and every once in a while you may run into a school group. On a typical day, we’ve never found it too crowded at all. The party rental allows for exclusive access to the playground for an hour, so if you arrive during one, just go look at the inside exhibits or do a little hike first.
The Tacoma Nature Center IS right down from Foss High School, so you might avoid the times of day when school is letting out. I’ve never had a hard time finding parking here, but the staff does encourage car pooling as it’s a bit tighter than other Metro Parks Tacoma properties.
If you love it, you’ll also want to check out the nature themed playground at Northwest Trek. You do have to pay Trek admission to get in, but our reviewer thought it was worth it-especially when you add in all other Trek fun! There is also a smaller playground with a nature vibe at Tehaleh in Bonney Lake. Those are open to the public and free!