Tacoma used to be a place I passed on I-5 while going to Seattle, but then my brother Jim moved there. Over time I have come to like this rough diamond of a city and think of it as a place with several 5 Compass attractions in and around it as are many smaller lures some of which are in the “guilty pleasure” category and fun to repeat. There are also five attractive-sounding attractions I’ve yet to see. Five years ago I wouldn’t have said about Tacoma “I plan to go back” but I do now.
The #1 thing that makes Tacoma terrific is its closeness to Mount Rainier National Park. The highest peak in the Cascades at 14,410 feet, Mount Rainier is seen from many vantage points in this city. I can be on it in a little over an hour when I’m in Tacoma since its only about 40 miles away. By the way, I’ve blogged about all of these Top Tacoma enticements except for TAM and Vashon Island over the years.
#2 for me would have to be Point Defiance. In my experience, the only urban park that compares to it is Stanley in Vancouver, BC. Stanley is a bit more that 1,000 acres; Defiance is 760. Both have roads through old growth Northwest forests, stunning water views, public beaches, big bridge views, and aquariums. But Point Defiance has a stellar historical museum, Fort Nisqually, where the past comes alive. I can hop on a ferry to Vashon Island from Point Defiance Park too.
LeMay, America’s Car Museum, is 5-years-old in 2017. There are regularly 300 cars on view here. Many were owned by a man who once had the largest vehicle collection in the world, more than 3,000 of them according to Guinness. Next to the Tacoma Dome, which can be seen from I-5, LeMay is one of those attractions that scream “once is not enough!”
As Carmel is to Monterey, Gig Harbor, an affluent, picturesque fishing village, is to Tacoma. The latter is, by comparison, a far more working class, blue collar kind of town.
TAM, Tacoma Art Museum, is the kind of attraction that you would usually find in a much larger city. It was recently given the Benaroya collection and is building a more-than 7,000-square-feet facility to show it. Dale Chihuly, America’s premier glass creator, was born in Tacoma and his works are all over this town.
Ruston Way used to be an environmental nightmare (ever heard of ASARCO’S copper smelter?) but it’s now this city’s new and burgeoning evening entertainment magnet.
More about the Tacoma Narrows Bridge later (ever heard of “Galloping Gertie?).
Most state museums are in capital cities, but Washington’s is in Tacoma, not Olympia. And it’s especially fine.
An outstanding Bonsai collection is just up the road from Tacoma near the town of Federal Way as is wonderful, expensive, traffic-choked Seattle. Tacoma is hilly like San Francisco and alive with theaters like LA but, for now it’s still far easier to get around in because it’s only home to about 211,000 people.
One of the places I want to return to see is a high school called Stadium. A French chateau that was originally meant to be a hotel, Stadium has been a movie set (10 Things I Hate About You). About 20 movies have been filmed in Tacoma.