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Kids learn while having fun at Fort Nisqually

What was life like in the Puget Sound area's first European settlement, circa 1840? Here's your chance to find out.

The general store ("Fred Meyer of 1855") captures kids' attention as they recognize some items and not others.

Julie Hanson

My tweet read, "Wow. A bus full of fourth-graders is really LOUD." They were energetic. They were excited. They weren't even sure where they were going. (My own daughter thought the destination was Fort Vancouver. That bus ride surely would have put me over the top.)


But we were headed to Fort Nisqually, a living-history museum inside Point Defiance Park in Tacoma. It was the perfect outlet for their energy and curiosity. They learned about "the Fred Meyer of 1855," they got to grind corn and water the crops, they tried to hoist a blacksmith's hammer and they found out what folks did for entertainment in an era that lacked (gasp!) X-boxes and TVs. And the expression "sleep tight"? Explained.


The original Fort Nisqually was built in 1833 by Hudson's Bay Company and was the first European settlement on Puget Sound, south of its current location near what is now DuPont. It became a major international trading center and also had a large agricultural operation. It closed in 1869. A major preservation effort, launched in 1933, eventually resulted in the two surviving buildings being moved to the current site and others being recreated.


Today, guides in period costumes make the place come alive for visitors of all ages, teaching about history and daily life and involving people with hands-on experiences.


The facility is generally open 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, but through Sept. 30 is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. There are numerous special events, seasonal activities and holiday celebrations. Check their website.


Regular admission is $8 for adults, $5 for kids 4-17; free for 3 and under, $7 for military and seniors. The best deal is getting a whole family in for $22 (two adults and up to six kids.)


(Side note for adults: Fort Nisqually also offers something called Homespun Happy Hour. It's 21+. The next one is Friday, Aug. 24. I'm intrigued. I feel like this could be my reward for that fourth-grade field trip back in May.) There also are escape-room-type activities, some for adults only, others open to anyone 14 and up. This could be a great, creepy place to do that!


Make a day of it

There's so much to do nearby. A few ideas:


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