What are the best things to see and do in Tacoma?

Adrienne Kuehl

With Tacoma’s charming combination of outdoor beauty and world-class attractions, you won’t be at a loss for things to do during a visit. Here our Forbes Travel Guide editors have rounded up the five best things to see and do in Tacoma:
 
1. Golf, walk or run Chambers Bay. Perfect your swing at this scenic 18-hole golf course overlooking the Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains. As the home of the 2015 U.S. Open, the course is a unique opportunity to play these world-class holes. Surrounded by miles of paved trails and large public grassy areas, Chambers Bay is a great place to enjoy a leisurely walk, a heart-pumping run, or romantic picnic.
 
2. Experience the Museum of Glass. For its unique architecture, carefully selected exhibitions and spectacular Chihuly Bridge of Glass, this world-renowned museum is second to none. Watch world-class glass artists blow intricate glass pieces in the museum’s hot shop — the largest in the world. Before you leave, be sure to stroll along the Thea Foss Waterway promenade and view the impressive outdoor installations.
 
3. Celebrate the love of the automobile at LeMay-America’s Car Museum. This four-story, 165,000-square-foot museum houses the automobiles of Harold LeMay, the largest private collection in the world, with over 3,000 cars. Rotating exhibits feature auto collections ranging from luxurious Ferraris and speedy Indy cars to a turn of the century Cadillac and 1983 DeLorean.
 
4. Take a glass blowing class at Tacoma Glassblowing Studio. For a new experience, both novice and skilled glassblowers are invited to take private or group classes and learn to blow glass from the pros. Create items like colorful garden art, birdfeeders or ornaments and bring them home as special mementos and memories from your trip.
 
5. Stroll through the Tacoma Art Museum. View exhibits ranging from Northwest artists to European painting to sculpture to Western American art. A walk through the permanent collection of world-renowned glass artist and Tacoma native Dale Chihuly’s works offers a truly memorable experience.

  • On October 10, 2012
    Adrienne Kuehl answered the question: Adrienne Kuehl

    What are the best places for live music in Tacoma?

    Whatever genre of music you prefer, you’re sure to find one of Tacoma’s many live music venues to suit your mood.
     
    Head to the Sixth Avenue district for a lively nightlife scene, including some of the best restaurants and bars in the city. Jazzbones attracts local, regional and national talents to its cool, classy venue that’s ideal for a night on the town. Nearby Chopstix features dueling pianos almost every night of the week, and the show is sure to get you signing along in no time.
     
    Tacoma’s largest and most well known venue for concerts is the Tacoma Dome. National headliners from Lady Gaga to Aerosmith and Brad Paisley get you on your feet and in front of some of the best artists in the country.
     
    If you’re looking for classical music, opera or theater, head to the Rialto and Pantages Theaters at the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts. Hear the Tacoma Opera, Northwest Sinfonietta and Tacoma Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Tacoma City Ballet, Tacoma Concert Band, Tacoma Philharmonic, Tacoma Youth Symphony, Theatre Northwest and Puget Sound Revels.
  • On October 10, 2012
    Adrienne Kuehl answered the question: Adrienne Kuehl

    What is the best thing to bring home from Tacoma?

    When brainstorming for a great souvenir to remember your trip to Tacoma, keep in mind that the art and handcrafted goods made in Tacoma are perfect keepsakes.
    Whether you created it yourself in a glassblowing class at Tacoma Glassblowing Studio or purchased it from the gift shops at The Museum of Glass, Tacoma Art Museum or local shops, hand blown glass is a beautiful reminder of your time spent in this Northwest city.
     
    Experience Tacoma at home through locally-roasted coffee or handcrafted specialty foods. Whether it’s a pound of Bluebeard or Valhalla Coffee, gourmet culinary salts from Libertine Tacoma, a jar of Lynnae’s Pickles, or numerous local goods from Füdie or the Pacific Northwest Shop, you’ll be glad you brought home a taste of the area.
  • On October 10, 2012
    Adrienne Kuehl answered the question: Adrienne Kuehl

    What are the best Tacoma food experiences?

    For the more adventurous set, Tacoma offers certain food experiences that go a step beyond your typical meal at a restaurant. Here is the Forbes Travel Guide editors’ list of the five best Tacoma food experiences: 
     
    1. Dine on the farmers market special at BITE. During the farmers market season, chef Matt Stickle hand selects the freshest local ingredients from the Tacoma Farmers Markets and creates specials such as blackberry honey glazed chicken or a Copper River salmon sandwich that bring the flavors of the Pacific Northwest to your plate.
     
    2. Take in the view at Stanley and Seafort’s. Looking over downtown Tacoma and Commencement Bay, enjoy panoramic views along with Stanley and Seafort’s classic steak and seafood dishes and a glass of Washington wine.
     
    3. Take a cooking class at Primo Grill. Learn how to create the different flavors of the world at home alongside one of Tacoma’s best chefs, Charlie McManus, or a local guest chef. Using fresh, local ingredients, chef McManus’s classes guide you through the steps to create a delicious meal, all while dining on the results.
     
    4. Experience the tableside preparations at El Gaucho. Let the skilled servers at El Gaucho create part show, part culinary masterpieces as you enjoy their tableside preparations of Caesar salad and hand-carved Chateaubriand, all finished with flaming bananas Foster or cherries jubilee.
     
    5. Sample the small plates at 1022 South. Enjoy the hip vibe of 1022 South in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood. With an inventive craft cocktail in hand, nosh on the variety of small plates, including fava bean hummus, house pickled vegetables, and a selection of charcuterie and local cheese.
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  • On October 10, 2012
    Adrienne Kuehl answered the question: Adrienne Kuehl

    Where is the best place to get a cup of coffee in Tacoma?

    Tacoma’s sights are best enjoyed with a cup of locally roasted coffee in hand. Luckily, there are many quality coffeehouses in which to enjoy a steaming espresso and absorb some of the local culture.
     
    The Sixth Avenue Business District is home to multiple coffee roasters and coffee shops. Valhalla Coffee Company hand-roasts its beans in small batches, creating a perfectly executed cup. Bluebeard Coffee Roasters features a range of specialty coffees roasted in-house. The friendly baristas and comfortable atmosphere make for a pleasant place to spend an afternoon. Metronome Coffee is the coffee aficionado’s dream, with a variety of preparations sure to please even the most particular customers.
     
    Not on Sixth Avenue? Stop in to Corina Bakery for a cup of Valhalla Coffee or local Mad Hat Tea — and don’t forget to try one of their spectacular pastries. Forza Coffee Company has multiple locations in the Tacoma area, and serves locally roasted Dillanos Coffee.
  • On October 10, 2012
    Adrienne Kuehl answered the question: Adrienne Kuehl

    What is the best way to see Tacoma in one day?

    Whether by boat, car, light rail, foot or bicycle, it’s easy to get around Tacoma is and see the sights.
     
    Tacoma is a walkable city. Blaze your own path and take off by foot through the museum district in downtown Tacoma. The Museum of Glass, Tacoma Art Museum, Washington State History Museum and Children’s Museum of Tacoma are all within steps of each other. Explore the University of Washington Tacoma campus and many shops and cafes before you cross the Chihuly Bridge of Glass and meander down the Thea Foss Waterway promenade.
     
    Prefer a little guidance? Download a walking tour map from Downtown on the Go and find your way through Tacoma’s Brewery District, Hilltop, Wright Park, North Waterfront or South Waterfront, hitting all the highlighted destinations along the way.
     
    Take the complimentary Tacoma Link Light Rail for a short ride to the Dome District and to LeMay-America’s Car Museum, or to the Theater District to browse the shops.
     
    Seeing Tacoma from the water gives you a unique viewpoint with spectacular views. Book a private charter with Destiny Harbor Tours. Bring a picnic lunch from Pacific Grill as you cruise along Commencement Bay, Point Defiance and Gig Harbor.
     
    Join the locals and pedal your way through the city. Rent a bicycle from Tacoma Bike and follow one of Tacoma’s many bike routes. Don’t forget to stop and refuel with an espresso and freshly baked pastry at Corina Bakery before hitting one of the many bike-friendly breweries or pubs around town.
  • On October 10, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best places to eat in Tacoma?

    Good meals very much contribute to a successful trip, and Tacoma boasts a slew of great places to eat. Here are our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ picks for the five best places to eat in Tacoma:
     
    1. El Gaucho. Experience uncompromised service and an intimate ambiance at El Gaucho in downtown Tacoma. Dine on fresh seafood and 28-day dry-aged Niman Ranch steaks as you’re transported to an earlier era with the sounds of a live pianist. The restaurant’s tableside creations such as Caesar salad, Chateaubriand and bananas Foster are not to be missed.
     
    2. Asado Cucina Argentina. Vibrant flavors abound at Asado, an Argentine restaurant in Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue business district. From the ceviche and empanadas, to the seared sea bass and mesquite wood grilled steaks, each dish brings authentic flavors and seasonal specials to your table.
     
    3. Marrow Kitchen and Bar. One of the most innovative restaurants in Tacoma, Marrow offers both a vegetarian menu and a carnivore’s dream selection. Adventurous eaters dine on dishes such as chicken fried veal sweetbreads and a French lentil Wellington in the modern space —think bourbon bottles suspended from the ceiling. The cocktail menu isn’t to be missed either, with choices like the Josephine made with citrus vodka, amaretto and rhubarb soda served on the rocks.
     
    4. BITE. This restaurant — located inside Hotel Murano — offers panoramic views of Puget Sound, Commencement Bay and Mount Rainier. The décor is streamlined and contemporary, and the menu is equally up-to-date, with dishes such as grilled tofu with miso vinaigrette served alongside classics like scallop fettuccine.
  • On October 10, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best places to stay in Tacoma?

    Between Tacoma’s downtown area and its close proximity to the water, your options in where to stay benefit from the best of both worlds. Here are our picks for the best places to stay in Tacoma:
     
    1. Hotel Murano. This sleek, contemporary boutique hotel features a three-story, skylit lobby decorated with glasswork by world-renowned local artist Dale Chihuly. The stylish rooms feature flat-screen TVs, iPod docking stations and beds swathed in luxury linens. At the top of the hotel is BITE, a rooftop restaurant where you can enjoy contemporary cuisine and check out views of Mount Rainier and Commencement Bay.
     
    2. Thornewood Castle. A 500-year-old Tudor Gothic historic site located on American Lake, a stay at Thornewood Castle may feel like you’re at a grand manor somewhere in Europe. Lavishly-appointed guest rooms and suites feature special touches such as 16th-century stained glass, dark wood canopy beds, soaking tubs and electric fireplaces. Wander the expansive gardens at the property and soak in its history — U.S. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft stayed here.
  • On October 10, 2012
    Adrienne Kuehl answered the question: Adrienne Kuehl

    Where is the best shopping in Tacoma?

    Tacoma’s individual districts and neighborhoods each offer their own individual shopping experiences. From national stores to locally-owned shops and boutiques, there is something for everyone.
     
    In the quaint, walkable Proctor District, you’ll find gift shops filled with Northwest products and art, upscale women’s clothing boutiques and children’s stores. Grab a coffee, browse the shops and stay for lunch at one of the many charming restaurants.
     
    At the convenient Tacoma Mall, you’ll find all your favorite brands, from stores like Nordstrom and Macy’s to H&M and Gap.
     
    If antiques strike your fancy, visit Antique Row, located in downtown Tacoma. Get lost in the many antique stores and boutiques and bring home a piece of history or a favorite collectible. Visit the nearby Triangle District for more antique stores as well as furniture and home goods boutiques.
  • On October 10, 2012
    Adrienne Kuehl answered the question: Adrienne Kuehl

    What are the best things to do with kids in Tacoma?

    There’s plenty to do with the kids in Tacoma, so here’s our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ list of the best:
     
    1. Visit the Children’s Museum of Tacoma. Children will never forget the hands-on experiences to see, touch, make, hear and play at the museum’s five playscapes, or areas of exploration. Watch as they express themselves through the many interactive activities and art projects.
     
    2. Have an adventure at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. See animals of all kinds such as polar bears, meerkats, puffins, Asian elephants, walruses and red wolves. Spend the night at the zoo or learn to be a zookeeper for the day. Activities are endless for kids at this combined zoo and aquarium.
     
    3. Explore Northwest Trek. Located less than an hour outside of Tacoma, this 723-acre wildlife park features a tram tour, walking tour, nature trails and zip line adventure. See Northwest animals up-close, including bison, moose, bald eagles, grizzly bears and coyotes.
     
    4. Run the bases at a Rainiers game. Come to the newly renovated Cheney Stadium and experience a Tacoma Rainiers Minor League Baseball game. Enjoy one of the best hotdogs in baseball, watch the game and afterwards, kids are invited onto the field to run the bases.
     
    5. Watch live glassblowing at the Museum of Glass. Grab a boxed lunch from the museum’s restaurant and watch talented glass artists blow glass in the massive hot shop. Participate in the kids design class and watch your own glass creation come to life.
  • On October 10, 2012
    Adrienne Kuehl answered the question: Adrienne Kuehl

    What are the best things to see and do in Tacoma?

    With Tacoma’s charming combination of outdoor beauty and world-class attractions, you won’t be at a loss for things to do during a visit. Here our Forbes Travel Guide editors have rounded up the five best things to see and do in Tacoma:
     
    1. Golf, walk or run Chambers Bay. Perfect your swing at this scenic 18-hole golf course overlooking the Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains. As the home of the 2015 U.S. Open, the course is a unique opportunity to play these world-class holes. Surrounded by miles of paved trails and large public grassy areas, Chambers Bay is a great place to enjoy a leisurely walk, a heart-pumping run, or romantic picnic.
     
    2. Experience the Museum of Glass. For its unique architecture, carefully selected exhibitions and spectacular Chihuly Bridge of Glass, this world-renowned museum is second to none. Watch world-class glass artists blow intricate glass pieces in the museum’s hot shop — the largest in the world. Before you leave, be sure to stroll along the Thea Foss Waterway promenade and view the impressive outdoor installations.
     
    3. Celebrate the love of the automobile at LeMay-America’s Car Museum. This four-story, 165,000-square-foot museum houses the automobiles of Harold LeMay, the largest private collection in the world, with over 3,000 cars. Rotating exhibits feature auto collections ranging from luxurious Ferraris and speedy Indy cars to a turn of the century Cadillac and 1983 DeLorean.
     
    4. Take a glass blowing class at Tacoma Glassblowing Studio. For a new experience, both novice and skilled glassblowers are invited to take private or group classes and learn to blow glass from the pros. Create items like colorful garden art, birdfeeders or ornaments and bring them home as special mementos and memories from your trip.
     
    5. Stroll through the Tacoma Art Museum. View exhibits ranging from Northwest artists to European painting to sculpture to Western American art. A walk through the permanent collection of world-renowned glass artist and Tacoma native Dale Chihuly’s works offers a truly memorable experience.