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Big adventures for little humans

A plethora of fun for the kids can be found right here in the South Sound ... go explore!

Witness your little one explore pockets of Point Defiance. Photo credit: Jackie Fender

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Though the sun still shines bright, summer days are coming to a close. Whether your little ones are excited to reconnect with classmates and make new friends or dreading homework instead, one thing is clear: There will be a lot less time to moan and groan about being bored. That said, there are a plethora of activities for you and the kids to enjoy aside from the conventional park play. Below we've provided a list of hands-on and insightful activities in the area for kids of all ages.

If you're into wildlife, there are two go-to options in the South Sound. The Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium boasts acres of fun where you can spy on animal species from all walks of life. Tour the grounds from the Asian Forest Sanctuary with tigers, elephants and monkeys to the Rocky Shores and connect with sea otters and walruses. The aquarium features a variety of colorful fish plus a hands-on stingray tank and neat nurse shark exhibit.

Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, aquarium open daily, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., 5400 N. Pearl, Tacoma,

Northwest Trek provides wildlife fun of a different variety. Though, there is a walking tour loaded with hands-on activities and learning centers, Northwest Trek is best enjoyed on the tram. Hop aboard and learn all about the animals as free-roaming beasts like bighorn sheep, bison, deer and elk get up close and personal.

Northwest Trek, open daily, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., 11610 Trek Dr. E., Eatonville, 360.832.6117,

History hounds can dive deep into the rich roots of the PNW with a visit to several locales. The Job Carr Museum is a petite little cabin that serves as a replica of the first permanent residence of the city of Tacoma. As you walk past the threshold, you're taken back in time and can enjoy activities from story time to a walking tour of Old Town.

Job Carr Museum, 1-4 p.m., Wednesday-Saturday; closed Sunday-Tuesday, 2350 N. 30th, Tacoma, 253.627.5405,

Fort Nisqually is a living history museum in Point Defiance Park taking you back to a fur trading and farming post once located in DuPont. This landmark locale boasts two of the original buildings plus a trade store, working blacksmith shop, laborer home and kitchen with volunteers onsite skillfully reenacting what it was like to reside in the days of yore. Activities for the kids include hands-on 19th century crafts, candlelight tours, campfire stories and Victorian games.

Fort Nisqually, open daily, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., 5400 N. Pearl, Tacoma,

Lakewold Gardens boasts a majestic landscape teeming with rare and native flora. More than 900 rhododendrons, 30 Japanese maples and more surround Lakewold's historic Georgian-styled mansion. Youth tours are provided for those interested in learning more about the gorgeous grounds from the 100-year-old roots of the space to the magnificent gardens on site.

Lakewold Gardens, hours subject to change due to season, 12317 Gravelly Lake Dr. SW, Lakewood, 253.584.4106,

If those long school days have the kids abuzz with extra energy, there's nothing like some time outdoors to work it off.

The Tacoma Nature Center has 71 acres of wooded, winding trails surrounding Snake Lake. With a visitor center onsite, it offers a variety of educational opportunities for young and old alike. It's best to check online or in office for scheduling details.

Tacoma Nature Center, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday-Saturday; closed Sunday, 1919 S. Tyler, 253.591.6439,

Surround yourself with the local ecosystem at the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge just north of Lacey. This locale is best for the leisurely viewing of all the area has to offer; no jogging, ball play or pets are allowed, but five miles of hiking trails are open from sunrise to sunset. There's a plethora of educational opportunities and recreational fun from bird watching to fishing. Little legs will tire while parents can soak in some nature-ly zen.

Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday-Sunday; closed Monday and Tuesday, 100 Brown Farm Rd. NE, Olympia, 360.753.9467,

Looking for some hands-on fun that will engage your wee one's fine and gross motor skills? Tacoma and Olympia both have exquisite children's museums available for just that. The Children's Museum of Tacoma believes in the power of play and offers five playscapes from the Woods, Water, Voyager, Invention and Becka's Studio. Each teems with a variety of color, textures and activities for your little one to explore. Bonus, the site is a pay as you will, meaning a donation of any denomination is accepted to partake in the shenanigans.

Children's Museum of Tacoma, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday-Sunday; 10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m., Tuesday; closed Monday, 1501 Pacific Ave., 253.627.6031,

There are two floors with more than 150 activities at the Hand's On Children's Museum in Olympia. Heavily influenced by the PNW, your tyke can dive into the fun from playing farmers market to exploring the world of community heroes like police officers and firefighters to treehouse play in the Fabulous Forest. There's even a Tides to Trees Climber where kids can climb to the second level then come swirling down the stream slide. Both locales also offer loads of regular special events and activities to engage your tyke further.

Hands On Children's Museum, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday and Monday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday, 414 Jefferson St. NE, Olympia, 360.956.0818,

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