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Best thing about Tacoma: Metro Parks

Writer's pick: Best of Tacoma 2017

Charlie Cleveland confronts an obstacle at the Northwest Trek Zip Line Adventure. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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What's not to love about Metro Parks Tacoma? The expansive system offers amenities you usually see only in larger cities, including zoos, an aquarium, a nature center, a fort, beaches, hiking, a cabin and a conservatory. It also has a system of parks throughout the city with nice playgrounds and picnic tables.

Point Defiance Park is the crown jewel of the park system. More than 3.1 million people visit each year, and it is easy to see why.  The 760-acre park contains an old growth forest, rocky beaches and the spectacular Five Mile Drive, which offers numerous stops for hiking and catching incredible views of the Puget Sound and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

Owen Beach is a good stopping point to relax on a sunny day or rent a kayak to explore by water. Don't miss the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, which provides the best of both worlds for one price. Many a child has taken a field trip to the Fort Nisqually Living History Museum, but it has plenty to offer adults. When the sun finally comes out, the gardens at Point Defiance literally blossom with everything from a rhododendron garden to a Japanese garden.  At the marina, you can rent a boat or fish from the pier.  Enjoy a meal and watch the ferries.

Another highlight of Metro Parks Tacoma is Northwest Trek.  How many park systems can boast of a wildlife park? Northwest Trek is the place to go to learn about Northwest wildlife. It's set up like a walk in the woods. Animals are in a more natural environment, and a tram ride takes you through 435 acres of the park. Each time you go it is a different experience, so you never know what you will see.  Look for elk, bison, North American moose, black-tailed deer, mountain goats and big horn sheep, among others.

Take time to view the Metro Parks Tacoma website to learn about the many area options to explore.  Many of the parks and sites are free or very low cost. The park system also has many events throughout the year, which are worth checking out. Summer shines, with some of the most creative summer camps I have ever seen.

Metro Tacoma Parks, open daily, hours vary by location,

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