Last Updated on April 25, 2023
Tacoma’s name comes from Mount Rainer, previously called Tacoma or Tahoma. It is also called “The City of Destiny” because the area was the western end of the Northern Pacific Railroad.
If you are planning to visit Tacoma for a relaxed holiday, you are in luck! The city has a small population, plenty of outdoor activities and abundant wildlife.
You can go for a hike through its beautiful forests early in the day. Later in the afternoon, you can choose between a lot of cultural offers the city has, like the museums or the old train station. At night, you can dine in one of the many places the city has to offer.
People from all over the world visit Tacoma to check the beautiful glass work done there. In 2006, Tacoma was named the “most walkable” city in the U.S.
If you find yourself planning a trip to Tacoma and are wondering where to go when you arrive, wonder no more! Here is a list of the best choices the city of Tacoma has to offer for an unforgettable experience.
- Mount Rainier National Park
- Tacoma Nature Center
- Owen Beach
- Wright Park
- Fuzhou Ting
- Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium
- Children’s Museum of Tacoma
- Destiny Harbor Tours
- Fort Nisqually Living History Museum
- Job Carr House Museum
- LeMay Family Collection
- Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum
- Tacoma Art Museum
- Museum of Glass
- Asado Cucina Argentina
- Pacific Grill
- Pick Quick Drive-In
- Bob’s Java Jive
Mount Rainier National Park
Founded in 1899, Mount Rainier National Park covers an immense 236,000-acres and is home to Mt. Rainer, 17th tallest peak in the United States at 14,417-feet.
The park is a wonderland for anyone how loves outdoor activities and nature featuring everything from forests, glaciers, waterfalls and wildflower meadows.
You can hike, camp, climb, and more; overnight camping requires a permit.
Tacoma Nature Center
If you do not want to go as far as the Mount Rainier National Park, but still want a taste of Tacoma’s wildlife, do not worry! Tacoma Nature Center is right at the heart of the city and has a big space to explore. 71-acres worth of land filled with ducks, raccoons, foxes, deer among many other wild animals for you to spot.
If you have kids, you can let them explore Discovery Pond. A children’s play area with fun for kids’ activities like a treehouse or a waterfall where they can play around.
Naturalists work there and are at your disposal to answer questions you might have about the wildlife.
If instead of forests and mountains you are looking for more of a beach experience, do not fear! Tacoma has the beautiful Owen Beach for you to visit. You can bring your dog, your kids and some food for a beautiful picnic.
You can rent kayaks or canoes and paddle through the waters – you might catch sea lions sunbathing at the shore regularly.
Be advised, State regulations demand that people give the wild animals 100 yards of space and dogs are not allowed near the wild animals.
If you want to have a picnic, but you don’t want to have it at the beach or travel to the national park, you can still have your chance to do so at Wright Park. It is an amicable place for kids. They can enjoy the playgrounds, basketball courts or fountains available for play in the summer.
Plant lovers will enjoy the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory, a gorgeous glass building filled with extravagant plants and exotic flora.
Anyone looking for something more culturally diverse, Tacoma honors its sister city, Fuzhou, with a Chinese garden imitating those found in Fuzhou.
Located in Jack Hyde Park, Fuzhou Ting was constructed following Chinese ways of architecture and botany. You can also find Chinese stone sculptures, the only ones in the city.
Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium
The zoo was opened in 1905 and the aquarium was added in 1935. Only at 29 acres, don’t let the small size fool you, it’s home to more than 360 species and more than 9,000 individual animals.
It not only has wildlife endemic to the local area, but also endangered species from far away lands like the Malayan tiger. They also have an artic exhibit with polar bears.
If you are feeling bold, the Aquarium offers the unique opportunity of scuba diving in a shark tank!
Children’s Museum of Tacoma
An ingenious idea, the museum realizes that children learn the most when they play, not when they work. And that’s how kids learn in the Children’s Museum of Tacoma: playing!
The Children’s Museum of Tacoma has different wings such as the woods, water, and a ship. Each scenario has different elements and teaches different lessons.
In the woods they have a fort, in the water section they can play in the waterfall and the ship, called the Voyager, where kids can let their imagination let loose between the ropes to climb, wheels to turn and more.
Destiny Harbor Tours
If you are interested in adventure at sea, you can find one at Destiny Harbor Tours. Founded in 2007, tours take place aborad U.S. Navy Boats.
The Gig Harbor Tour is more nature oriented. It will take you around Mount Rainer and the Olympic Mountains.
If you are more interested in the city and its surroundings, the Puget Sound Tour is the right choice for you. This tour will take you through the Old Town and will let you enjoy a gorgeous view of the city.
Fort Nisqually Living History Museum
If you are not interested in sailing through the season restored ships, maybe a time-traveling trip will interest you more. Step into Fort Nisqually Living History Museum and you will also have stepped into the nineteenth century.
You will not only find information about the time and the way of life in yesteryear but also will get to witness how they live thanks to the actors working there who will reenact with amazing accuracy the everyday happenings of that time.
The fort has seven areas, all decorated accordingly to the century were you just traveled to. They also have a visitor store for you to pick up and take a little piece of history with you.
Job Carr House Museum
After the tour at the Fort Nisqually Living History Museum, you can stay in the 1800s for a little longer. You should visit Job Carr’s cabin, or rather, the replica of his cabin, located in Tacoma. Even though it isn’t the original house, it is close to identical to it, filled with memorabilia from the epoch.
Why is Mr. Carr important, you might ask?
Job Carr was born and raised in New Jersey and after a stint in the army, he decided to move from home and travel to a new location. He decided to settle in the beautiful city of Tacoma, Washington. And in doing so, he became the first European settler of the city.
LeMay Family Collection
If you are not ready to step back into the twenty-first century after visiting the 1800s, in Tacoma you don’t have to! Started by Harold and Nancy LeMay, the LeMay Family Collection is the biggest car collection in the world!
Cars from the early 1900s to the late 1980s are on view in the cavernous museum along with buses, bikes and any kind of motorized vehicle you can think of!
Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum
Another huge collection of things found in Tacoma is David and Marsha Karpeles collection of books and literature related memorabilia. They have eleven museums to display their literature collection, the largest in the world, and one of the eleven is in Tacoma.
You will not only find rare manuscripts, like a Bill of Rights, but many other culturally rare objects like Norman Rockwell’s early drawings.
Tacoma Art Museum
If you are still interested in more of what Tacoma’s rich cultural tradition has to offer, you can step into the Tacoma Art Museum. Founded in 1935 and moved in 2003 to its new location, the Tacoma Art Museum houses both timeless and contemporary art.
Tacoma is known for its glass art and the Tacoma Art Museum is no exception. The most important pieces are related to glasswork and jewelry.
Museum of Glass
If you were amazed by the glass art exhibits in the Tacoma Art Museum, you can expand your knowledge of it in the Museum of Glass. Filled with glass art from the 19th and 20th century, the Museum of Glass is one of the finest of its kind in the world.
If you loved the glass art and wonder how they can create such beautiful pieces, wonder no more! If you go to the Museum of Glass you might be able to catch a glass blowing exhibition.
Asado Cucina Argentina
Few places in the U.S. offer this South American take on BBQ among other delicacies like pasta, empanadas, chorizos and many more things that will make you want to come back or at least, get some takeout before you go.
You can watch everything that they cook before it lands on your plate in their display kitchen where the expert cooks work hard near the fire to get your steak cooked just the way you like it.
Regularly voted as the best restaurant in the city, Pacific Grill offers seafood, but is mainly focused on beef.
After the main course, enjoy one of their many desserts baked by their very own pastry chef.
Pick Quick Drive-In
If you have no time to wait for a meal you can quickly get in your car and drive off to Pick Quick Drive-In. As their name indicates, they are fast food restaurants that will serve you and you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your car seat. You can get it to go or you can eat there in the parking lot.
Bob’s Java Jive
For a different experience, you can go to a giant teapot and have tea. Bob’s Java Jive is a bar-shaped like a teapot with a lot of history,. It was founded in 1927 and it may be the most unique building you will ever see.