The city of Tacoma in Washington is something of a dark horse, and is most well known for its gorgeous glass works that are much sought by glass connoisseurs the world over. In part thanks to it traditions of glass blowing, Tacoma has a strong dedication to the arts and you will find that galleries and artists’ studios abound in this vibrant city. As well as a wealth of creative spaces, Tacoma is also known for its history and you can expect to find museums and other historical gems dotted all over the city.
Nature has also been kind to Tacoma, and the city is nestled in the banks of Puget Sound, which means that you can expect gorgeous vistas and an abundance of wonderful flora and fauna set against stunning backdrops. If you venture outside, then you can enjoy hiking, kayaking on the river, or simply strolling through idyllic local parks. Whatever you are looking for, Tacoma has a whole host of diverse activities that are well worth checking out.
Lets explore the best things to do in Tacoma:
1. Foss Waterway Seaport
Tacoma is a city on the water, and with that in mind it would be a shame to come here and not experience this firsthand.
The Foss Waterway Seaport is the home of maritime pursuits in Tacoma, and here you can find out all about the history of seafaring in this part of the United States.
The building that houses the seaport is actually a wooden wheat warehouse that has stood here for over a hundred years, and you can study Tacoma’s maritime heritage as you explore this historic area.
2. Wright Park
Wright Park is the perfect place to come if you are looking for a relaxing day out in the city, and is ideal if you are travelling with a family.
The park is known for its playgrounds as well as its ‘spraygrounds’, and youngsters can play in the fountains that are dotted around here in the summer months.
The park stretches for 27 acres and is covered in walking trails, so if you want to get outdoors and get some exercise then there is plenty to do and see here.
There is also an arboretum in the park that has a collection of over 600 trees as well as quaint features such as grassy picnic areas dotted all over the park.
There are also bowling greens, basketball courts, and delightful fountains and ponds.
3. Museum of Glass
The museum of glass in Tacoma is dedicated to showcasing the best glass works from the 20th and 21st centuries.
There are both static and rotating galleries here that show themed exhibitions from around the region and you can either explore the museum at your leisure or you can enjoy a guided tour led by a friendly docent.
Guided tours will fill you in on the historical and culture importance of glass making as well as explain the significance behind some of the pieces on display here.
One of the signature features at the museum is also the live glass making workshops that are available where you can see artists working on pieces in front of your eyes.
4. Fuzhou Ting
For something a little different in Tacoma, head to Fuzhou Ting, a garden planted and designed in the Chinese style to mirror that of Tacoma’s sister city, Fuzhou.
The garden is located on Ruston Way Waterfront and you can take in some gorgeous vistas here that include the neighboring Puget Sound.
At Fuzhou Ting you can expect beautiful gardens as well as an intricately decorated pavilion, stone sculptures of traditional Chinese motifs, and even bridges over ornate streams.
5. Washington State History Museum
For those who want to find out more about the story of the history of Washington, a trip to the Washington State History Museum is not to be missed.
The museum will take you back in time and you will get to learn about topics such as women’s suffrage, to the First and Second World Wars, to the mysterious tale of D.B Cooper.
The museum is known for its comprehensive galleries that are covered in period memorabilia and you can expect photographs, historical documents, and antiques as part of the experience.
There are also interactive sections of the museum that children will love such as a History Lab, as well as other fun additions like a Model Railroad.
6. LeMay Family Collection at Marymount
The LeMay Family Collection at Marymount has the claim to fame of being the largest privately owned automobile collection in the entire world, and is even listed as such in the Guinness Book of World Records.
To that end, if you love cars then this is the place to get your automobile fix, and you can expect vintage vehicles of all kinds here, from cars, to trucks, to fire engines, and even motorcycles.
You can either tour the collection yourself, or if you want more information on the amazing displays here then you can opt for a guided tour with a docent who can answer any questions that you may have.
7. Children’s Museum of Tacoma
The Children’s Museum of Tacoma was founded in the 1980s and is dedicated with providing children with a fun and exciting space in which to play and learn about the world.
To that end, the museum offers a range of themed areas for children, each with a different learning point, and there are also rotating exhibits displayed throughout the year.
Many of the galleries here are interactive so that children can get hands on, and entry is on a donation basis to encourage as many visitors and youngsters as possible through the doors.
If you are travelling as a family, then this is a fantastic activity for a rainy day in Tacoma.
8. Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium
Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium is a much loved area of zoo land in Tacoma and spreads across a lush 29 acres.
The zoo has an amazing 9,000 different animals, which covers an impressive 367 different species.
The zoo dates back to 1905 when it first opened its doors and you can also visit the aquarium here which was added in 1935. If you are travelling with younger guests in particular, then this is a great place to come to check out some of the wildlife that abounds in the Washington area.
9. Fort Nisqually Living History Museum
To truly feel as if you have stepped back in time, head to Fort Nisqually where you will find a working museum that will show you a slice of life from the 1850s.
As you wander around the museum you will find staff members in period garb who are happy to reenact scenes from life in the fort in the days of old.
As a result, you can expect to see reconstructions of things such as arts and crafts as well as period professions such as the work of blacksmiths in the 19th century.
There are seven different areas of the fort, all of which are furnished and decorated in the period style and which feature as National Historic Landmarks in the city.
There is also a visitor center and a museum store where you can pick up some vintage souvenirs.
10. Tacoma Dome
For a huge range of events in Tacoma, the Tacoma Dome is the place to come.
The dome and complex lies over 6 acres in the city and regularly hosts a range if festivals and musical concerts.
There are a range of restaurants within the dome, as well as the Shanaman Sports Museum which is dedicated to telling the story of sports heritage in this part of the United States.
As well as sports related events, you will also find standup comedy shows here and holiday related performances, so keep an eye on local listing to see what is coming up when you are in town.
11. W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory
The W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory sits in picturesque Wright Park and is known for its iconic glass conservatory building which is topped with a large dome that has twelve distinct sides.
The dome is listed in the National Historic Register and is made up of an amazing 3,000 panes of glass.
The conservatory itself has a wide variety of plants including over 250 different species, and some of the signature foliage here includes the orchid displays.
As well as over 200 colorful orchids, you will also find up to 500 other plants on display such as azaleas, rhododendrons, chrysanthemums, and even some species of cacti.
12. Chihuly Bridge of Glass
If you like art and want to truly see Tacoma’s glass making heritage at its best, then make sure you don’t miss a trip to Chihuly Bridge of Glass.
The bridge provides a link between the Museum of Glass and the Thea Foss Waterway, and is made up of a pedestrian bridge that stands at 500 feet.
The bridge contains three Chihuly glass installations and is the perfect place to come at sunset, as the light illuminates the sparkling glass to magical effect.
The first installation is named the Seaform Pavilion and is made up of over 2,000 pieces of glass and is meant to represent a stunning coral reef.
There are also crystal towers here that are meant to resemble ice sculptures, as well as glass balls, some of which are known for being the largest ever blown.
13. Job Carr Cabin Museum
Job Carr is famous for being one of the founders of the city of Tacoma and is said to have settled in the area in 1864. The original cabin in which he lived fell into disrepair, and a replica cabin was installed which has now become the Job Carr Cabin Museum.
The museum is a source of great pride in the city and is touted at the place to come for visitors who want to step back in time and get a taste of how settlers to the area would have lived in days gone by.
14. 9th and 10th Horse Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers Museum
The mission of this museum is to share the history of the 9th and 10th Horse Calvary Buffalo Soldiers who have been largely forgotten over the years.
The museum is a relative newcomer to the museum scene in Tacoma having been established in 2005 and aims to educate the public through a range of galleries and exhibits.
The museum is dedicated to sharing knowledge about the sacrifice and service of Buffalo Soldiers, and is a good place to come for a different perspective on American history.
15. Tacoma Glassblowing Studio
If you have been inspired by the amazing glassworks during your trip to Tacoma, then why not have a go at making some of your own as a memento of your trip here? At the Tacoma Glassblowing Studio you will find helpful instructors who will help you to do just that, and you can blow and mold the glass to make your own unique piece of art.
There are a range of classes and workshops that you can join here, and all levels of ability can participate in this fun activity, even if you have never blown glass before.