32 miles S of Seattle, 31 miles N of Olympia, 93 miles S of Port Townsend
Tacoma is a city that, in the words of Rodney Dangerfield, "just don't get no respect." For years its industrial image made it the brunt of jokes, many of which centered around the aroma of Tacoma. I'd like to be able to tell you that the skies over Tacoma are always clear and the air is fresh and clean, but it would be stretching the truth just a bit. However, it is definitely time to forget the old jokes and take a new look at this city, which is in the midst of a profound transformation.
Things have changed a lot since the days when the city's waterfront was lined with smoke-belching lumber and paper mills, and, with a newfound commitment to the arts, Tacoma competes with Seattle as a city on the move. With its impressive museums and free downtown streetcar, Tacoma has, in some ways, made greater strides toward reinventing itself than Seattle has.
Tacoma has also reclaimed much of its shoreline, and today a waterfront park runs the length of Ruston Way just north of downtown. Walkers, joggers, cyclists, and in-line skaters all flock to the paved trail that runs through this park, and several good waterfront restaurants are along the park's length. Despite Tacoma's ongoing makeover, little has changed at Point Defiance Park, long a local favorite. With miles of trails, a world-class zoo and aquarium, numerous attractions, and great bicycling and in-line skating, this is one of the premier city parks in the Puget Sound region.
In between Point Defiance and downtown Tacoma lies one of the most impressive historic neighborhoods in the state. The streets of the Stadium Historic District are lined with beautiful mansions, most of which have been renovated and some of which are now B&Bs. These homes are a testament to the important role Tacoma played in Washington history. In 1883, Tacoma became the end of the line for the Northern Pacific Railroad, thus sealing the city's fate as the industrial center of Puget Sound, a fate that the city has been trying to overcome.
To see the past and the future of Tacoma, drop by downtown's Fireman's Park. From this small park, you can look down on smoke-belching mills and commercial port facilities, but if you then turn around, you'll be facing a new, revitalized Tacoma where the arts are flourishing and historic buildings are being preserved and renovated.