20 SUPER FUN THINGS TO DO IN TACOMA, WASHINGTON

Tacoma, Washington has been recognized as the “City of Destiny” since it served as the last stop on the Northern Pacific Railroad. Today, it is an eclectic city known for its world-renowned glass art.

Tacoma’s animated urban vibe is breathing with history and rich culture. Discover creativity and city refinement when you dine, shop and roam Tacoma’s downtown.

Tacoma is ideally positioned along the saltwater banks of Puget Sound. Showing off dramatic natural surroundings, you will enjoy the mesmerizing outdoors. Explore the parks, playgrounds, and wildlife that render Tacoma a nature wonderland.

Nature in Tacoma goes beyond just land. Enjoy the shores of the water’s edge and sample the open waters on a boat or kayak. There is no shortage of things to do, indoors and outside, no matter the season. Enjoy your Pacific Northwest vacation with our list of the best things to do in Tacoma.

MUSEUM OF GLASS

20 SUPER FUN THINGS TO DO IN TACOMA, WASHINGTON
Courtesy of The Museum of Glass

The Museum of Glass is an art museum in Tacoma sitting on 75,000-square-feet. It is devoted to glass as art. The museum is home to some of the best glassworks from all over the world. The silver cone will be hard to miss.

At the MOG Hot Shop, you will watch emerging artists and world-renowned experts create new glass art right in front of you. No design is too complicated for these glass blowers.

Besides glass blowing shows, MOG also exhibits new pieces from rotating exhibitions and their famous permanent collection. Kids are given crayons and invited to sketch anything, then it is then turned into a piece of glass art. The winning piece is proudly displayed as part of the gallery every month at the museum.

Just outside the Tacoma Glass Museum are many places to explore, like the Bridge of Glass (see below) and more. Coffee, beer, pizza, and wine can easily be found at nearby eateries.

CHIHULY BRIDGE OF GLASS

20 SUPER FUN THINGS TO DO IN TACOMA, WASHINGTON
Courtesy of Chihuly Bridge of Glass

The Chihuly Bridge of Glass is found just outside the Museum of Glass. It is a 500-foot pedestrian bridge looming over the brisk Interstate 705.

The Chihuly Bridge has glass walls and a glass ceiling showcasing glass masterpieces credited to Dale Chihuly. When you look up at the Seaform Pavilion, you will be amazed by 2,364 glass sculptures in the glass ceiling from the Chihuly collection.

Walking through The Seaform Pavilion feels like walking in an underwater garden.

WASHINGTON STATE HISTORY MUSEUM

20 SUPER FUN THINGS TO DO IN TACOMA, WASHINGTON
Courtesy of Washington State History Museum

The Washington State History Museum tells a story of how natural and cultural events shaped the current state of Washington. It’s found opposite the Museum of Glass and connected by the famous glass bridge of Chihuly.

In the Great Hall History, you will take in an inspiring exhibit spanning the pre-dinosaurs era to World War II and the Great Depression and beyond. Learn about Indigenous cultures and the prosperous railroad business of times gone by. History buffs will enjoy the step back in the time provided here.

The museum holds the biggest collection of pioneer, Alaskan and Indian artifacts on the Pacific Coast. It also includes a History Lab and Learning Center for kids, where you will find the state’s longest model railroad.

POINT DEFIANCE PARK

20 SUPER FUN THINGS TO DO IN TACOMA, WASHINGTON

Point Defiance Park is only an hour’s drive south of Seattle in lovely Tacoma. The park sits on a stunning peninsula in Puget Sound.

Port Defiance Park offers luxuriant jungles of fir, cedar, and maple for your exploration. Go on a walk on any hiking trails that face the snow-capped Olympics and Mount Rainier. The dramatic views will leave you gasping for breath.

Stop and breathe in the flowers…literally. Point Defiance has incredible gardens full of rhododendrons, roses, dahlias, native plants, fuchsias, herbs, and a remarkable traditional Japanese garden. This gives you picture-perfect moments for your memory bank.

Don’t stop there! Make your way to Owen Beach at Point Defiance Park. You will enjoy fantastic views of Mount Rainier and Vashon Island. Put the picnic tables available into good use by bringing your food or getting some refreshments from the nearby stalls.

Five Mile Drive and Trails are also found in Point Defiance Park. Go on a drive through the park’s inner loop, or walk or bike your way through the outer loop. The trails cut across old-growth forests, beautiful beaches, cliffs for the more adventurous, and a wonderful garden of rhododendrons to run in.

With some bit of luck, you will cross paths with animals in the park. Sightings have been made of deers, red foxes, bald eagles, squirrels, and raccoons. Bring your camera, as hikers have often spotted migratory humpback whales.

POINT DEFIANCE ZOO & AQUARIUM

Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium is located within Point Defiance Park. It is the only zoo and aquarium combination in the entire Pacific Northwest and sits on 29 acres.

This unique combination gives you a front-row seat to nature’s curiosities. In the two aquariums, you will meet sea otters and even sharks! Green sea turtles, sea otters, hammerhead sharks, polar bears, and more are waiting for you.

At the zoo, you’ll find tigers, elephants, lemurs, meerkats, red wolves, birds, and so much more.

The younger crowd also has access to a petting zoo where they get up close and personal with the resident goats.

TACOMA NARROWS BRIDGE

20 SUPER FUN THINGS TO DO IN TACOMA, WASHINGTON

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge was inaugurated in the year 1940, and at that time, it was the third-longest suspension bridge in the whole world. Four months after it was opened, the bridge collapsed! Luckily, no casualties were reported.

Today, the original Narrows Bridge remains are in the same place they fell. The wreckage created an artificial reef and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Catch amazing views of the Narrows Bridge from the Hidden Beach right by Tacoma’s Titlow Park. The view is extra special when the bridge gives an incredible background to a picture-perfect sunset at the end of the day.

WW SEYMOUR BOTANICAL CONSERVATORY

20 SUPER FUN THINGS TO DO IN TACOMA, WASHINGTON
Courtesy of WW Seymour Botanical Conservatory

W. W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory is found within the picturesque Wright Park. This brilliant botanical hub will leave you gasping at the spectacular displays of blossoming flowers all year round. The conservatory has been standing tall for more than 100 years.

The W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory is also well known for its iconic 3000 panels of glass building, which is topped with a large dome that has twelve unusual sides.

With over 250 different species of orchids and some 500 signature foliage like rhododendrons, cacti, and azaleas, all your senses will enjoy and appreciate the impressions made.

THE TACOMA ART MUSEUM

20 SUPER FUN THINGS TO DO IN TACOMA, WASHINGTON
Tacoma, WA USA – circa August 2021: Street view of the Tacoma Art Museum on a sunny, cloudless day.

The Tacoma Art Museum was established in 1935 and holds impressive works for the discerning eye. It is home to over 4500 museum pieces, including the largest jewelry collection by Northwestern artists. The sheer number of glass art by Dale Chihuly is another area of interest for visitors.

Other notable European artists with exhibitions here include Renoir, Pissarro, and Degas. The Tacoma Art Museum also pays homage to Japanese ancestors and has numerous woodblock prints from the Japanese.

All the exhibitions are interactive, and you will leave with a deeper understanding of Northwestern culture and history.

TACOMA CHINESE RECONCILIATION PARK

20 SUPER FUN THINGS TO DO IN TACOMA, WASHINGTON
Courtesy of Tacoma Chinese Reconciliation Park

The Tacoma Chinese Reconciliation Park has a beautiful Chinese garden background that soothes the senses and inspires deep thought. The park is meant to be a place of healing and peaceful harmony.

The Tacoma Chinese Reconciliation Park gives visitors a chance to celebrate cultural differences and our shared humanity. Take a slow walk as you appreciate the natural beauty around you. It is a place to find yourself, reflect on your past, think of the present, and dream of a beautiful future.

THE FOSS WATERWAY SEAPORT

20 SUPER FUN THINGS TO DO IN TACOMA, WASHINGTON

The Thea Foss Waterway Seaport is a museum that proudly applauds Tacoma’s marine heritage and gives all visitors an intriguing peek into boat and shipbuilding. Boat and shipbuilding are an integral part of Tacoma’s rich history.

The museum is found in a wheat warehouse that is about a hundred years old. Devoted to heritage and education, the Foss Waterway Seaport has intriguing exhibits that will thrill history buffs and boat lovers of all ages.

You will see models of wooden vessels made by natives of Tacoma; canoes, early scuba gear, vintage fishing baits, sculptures of marine debris, and classic sporting boats.

The museum also has a children’s craft space and friendly docents who will be happy to attend to you and answer all your questions.

UNION STATION

20 SUPER FUN THINGS TO DO IN TACOMA, WASHINGTON

Tacoma’s Union Station carries a long history in Tacoma and is a source of pride for the locals. It has stood firm through the highs and lows of Tacoma’s financial history and has a story to tell if you listen.

It is impossible to miss the building’s focal point, a ninety-foot-high central dome. This dome stands out and has long served as Tacoma’s emblem. Stand in the dome’s rotunda and lookup—beautiful skylight streams past stunning Chihuly glass. You will also find a breathtaking 20-foot chandelier with over 2700 balloon-like glass in all colors.

KARPELES MANUSCRIPT LIBRARY MUSEUM

20 SUPER FUN THINGS TO DO IN TACOMA, WASHINGTON
Courtesy of Karpeles Manuscript Library

The Karpeles Manuscript Library has the most extensive private collection of original manuscripts known to man. All these originals are accessible free of charge to anyone interested and curious to learn.

Historical legends like Charles Dickens, Christopher Columbus, Charles Darwin, Galileo Galilei, Albert Einstein, and others meet here and are waiting to blow your mind.

TACOMA DOME

20 SUPER FUN THINGS TO DO IN TACOMA, WASHINGTON
Courtesy of Tacoma Dome

Spread over 6 acres of land is the famous Tacoma Dome. The dome has played host to many festivals and musical concerts.

Within the dome are popular restaurants that offer your palate culinary adventures. Be sure to pop in at the sports shop for some memorabilia. If you are lucky, you might catch a standup comedy show in progress, and many other local performances meant for education and entertainment.

LEMAY – AMERICA’S CAR MUSEUM

20 SUPER FUN THINGS TO DO IN TACOMA, WASHINGTON

America’s Car Museum is a world-renowned facility that holds hundreds of classic and modern automobiles. Most of the collection comes from Tacoma’s own Harold and Nancy Lemay, hence the name.

All car enthusiasts need to visit ACM. With over 165,000 square feet and hundreds of cars on display, you will be spoilt for choice where to start.

A racing simulator will also get your hands clenching and blood pumping. Kids and the family can rest their feet at the family zone before making their way to the gift shop selling Route 66 heirlooms, model cars, and Ford collectibles.

DORKY’S BAR ARCADE

20 SUPER FUN THINGS TO DO IN TACOMA, WASHINGTON
Courtesy of Dorky’s Bar Arcade

For an afternoon full of old-school fun, make your way to Dorky’s Bar Arcade. Here you will find video games and pinball machines from the good old days.

For 25 cents, school the younger ones while you relive memories of days gone by. Newer pinball machines are also available to play.

After working up your thirst for gaming, grab something from the bar. Food is also available here.

NORTHWEST TREK WILDLIFE PARK

20 SUPER FUN THINGS TO DO IN TACOMA, WASHINGTON
Courtesy of Northwest Trek Wildlife Park

Northwest Trek Wildlife Park is about 45 minutes south of Tacoma and sits on 435 acres of nature. The park gives distinct experiences as it allows you and your family to get as close as you can to animals like American bison, mountain goats, caribou, bighorn sheep, Roosevelt elk, black-tailed deer, and trumpeter swans.

The Wild Drive allows you to sit in your car while driving through the park’s serene meadows, shadowy wetlands, and leafy forests.

The more adventurous get to sign up for a Keeper Adventure Tour. You will go off-road in a Jeep with a warden to spot hidden animals. Wolves, bobcats, bears, and cougars have been spotted. Did I mention that the Jeep is open?

The children can get rid of their wiggles at Kids’ Trek, a nature-inspired yard with ropes, slippery slides, lovely playhouses, and a giant climbing tree! Some persuasion will be needed to get them to leave.

TACOMA BOYS

20 SUPER FUN THINGS TO DO IN TACOMA, WASHINGTON
Courtesy of Tacoma Boys

This 10,000 square foot wood-frame structure is a must-visit for all the foodies and lovers of organic foods. Hundreds of retail display areas will be tempting your taste buds with every conceivable delicacy within the Tacoma Boys superstructure.

From the hanging baskets are fruits and vegetables from local markets. Despite the sheer size of the space, it gives an airy feel and is very well ventilated.

THORNEWOOD CASTLE

20 SUPER FUN THINGS TO DO IN TACOMA, WASHINGTON
Courtesy of Thornewood Castle

Thornewood Castle had its groundbreaking back in 1911, and although it has undergone many changes, many parts of the original still stand today. The castle has a rich history, ranging from haunted stories to more romantic tales.

The castle has more than 30 acres of beautiful, landscaped gardens. If you are a ghost hunter or believer — you may feel something supernatural here. Thornewood Castle featured prominently as a killer soul-sucking house in Stephen King’s horror movie, Rose Red. A little sage in your pocket won’t hurt!

Thornwood Castle is now a historical site and continues to wow all its visitors. The beautiful castle serves as bed and breakfast and can be rented out for weddings and events.

DAY TRIP TO MOUNT RAINIER

20 SUPER FUN THINGS TO DO IN TACOMA, WASHINGTON

Mount Rainier is undoubtedly the state’s largest mountain and features the most prominent peak in the Pacific Northwest at 14,411 feet. It’s home to glaciers and river sources. Mount Rainier National Park is about an hour and a half from Tacoma, making it the perfect place for a day trip.

Warning: It is also an active volcano and is considered one of the most dangerous in the world.

Go on a hike and enjoy lovely meadows, overflowing creeks, and a chance to watch marmots and other wild animals play in the magnificence. Be sure to pack your best pair of hiking boots, insect repellent, and sunblock.

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