Wednesday Bargains -- With the Museum of Glass, the Tacoma Art Museum, and the Washington State History Museum all within 3 blocks of one another, Tacoma is an even better museum town than Seattle. You can save a little on the cost of visiting these three museums by visiting on a Wednesday when you can get into all three museums for $18 ($16 for seniors and $14 for students and children). For adults, this is a savings of $6.50, or, put another way, you get to visit the art museum for free!
Point Defiance Park
Point Defiance Park, on the north side of town at the end of Pearl Street, is Tacoma's center of activity and one of the largest urban parks in the country. In the park are several attractions, including the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, Fort Nisqually Historic Site, and the Camp 6 Logging Museum. Founded in 1888, this park preserved one of the region's most scenic points of land. Winding through the wooded park is Five Mile Drive, which connects all the park's main attractions, as well as picnic areas, and hiking and biking trails. Also in the park are a rose garden, a Japanese garden, a rhododendron garden, a dahlia test garden, and a native-plant garden. You can reach the park by following Ruston Way or Pearl Street north.
Other Tacoma Parks
Although Point Defiance Park is Tacoma's premier park, the Ruston Way Parks rank a close second. Once jammed with smoking, decaying industrial buildings and piers, the Tacoma waterfront was an industrial area of national infamy. However, since the city of Tacoma reclaimed the shore of Commencement Bay and turned it into parkland, it has become one of the most attractive waterfront parks on Puget Sound. With grassy areas, a sandy beach, a public fishing pier, and a paved pathway, the waterfront is popular with strollers, cyclists, and in-line skaters.
Downtown, at the corner of A Street and South Ninth, you'll find Fireman's Park, which has one of the world's tallest totem poles (carved in 1903), as well as a view of the Port of Tacoma below. After gazing down on the port, if you want to have a closer look, stop by the Port of Tacoma Observation Tower off East 11th Street. Here you can watch as ships from around the world are loaded and unloaded. To reach the port tower, take the 11th Street bridge from downtown.
Wild Waves & an Enchanted Village -- Wild Waves Theme Park, 36201 Enchanted Parkway S., Federal Way (tel. 253/661-8001; www.wildwaves.com), is a combination water park and amusement park with a large wooden roller coaster. When temperatures heat up in July and August, the waterslides here are the cool place to be. Bring your kids here on vacation, and they'll never forget their trip to Washington.
Historic Districts & Buildings
Tacoma has quite a few historic buildings, the most notable of which is Union Station, 1717 Pacific Ave. Built in the Beaux Arts style as the terminal for the first transcontinental railroad to reach the Northwest, the imposing building is now home to the federal courts and adjacent to the Washington State History Museum. In the building's lobby, you'll find a large glass installation by Dale Chihuly.
Stadium High School, 111 North E St., is a French château-style structure that was built as a hotel and later converted to a high school. The school is the centerpiece of the historic Stadium District, which is at the north end of Broadway and has more than 100 Victorian homes. This is one of the prettiest residential neighborhoods in the entire state, and many of the old homes verge on being mansions. At the south end of the Stadium District is the Old City Hall Historic District, which is the city's main antiques neighborhood. At the visitor center in the Courtyard by Marriott , you can pick up brochures on the city's historic districts.
Two miles north of downtown along the waterfront, you'll find Old Town Tacoma and the reconstructed Job Carr Cabin Museum, 2350 N. 30th St. (tel. 253/627-5405; www.jobcarrmuseum.org), where you can learn about the city's early history. The little museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 1 to 4pm (from noon in summer); admission is free. To reach it, follow Schuster Parkway/Ruston Way north.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.