A bit of a renaissance has been happening in the city of Tacoma and from what I can tell it’s bringing us back to the community this city was back in 1909 at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition when they celebrated Tacoma Day. An apt tagline for the day, “You’ll Like Tacoma” certainly rings true today. As in all good things, this transformation back to the City of Destiny was certainly worth the wait. In fact, while I’m frequently referred to as the “queen of Seattle”, having spent two days recently in the Tacoma, I’d be just as happy to be dubbed a maven there, too.
What do I look for when I travel? A wealth of delicious dining opportunities; affordable accommodations; a city with a personality that is a natural extension of its roots, rather than a contrived facade; a community base of warm, interesting individuals; a place where I can explore new and unique places. Enter Tacoma!
Within an hour of my arrival I was cruising the placid waters along Tacoma’s Thea Foss Waterway. This once-gritty, maritime hub now welcomes a trove of shops and restaurants – bustling with boats, families and waterborne activities where an enclave of residents live and play. Destiny Harbor Tours brings Tacoma’s maritime history to life with 1-hour tours of the city’s waterfront. Their restored US Navy vessels are the perfect way to enjoy unobstructed views of the water, the city and mountains, while enjoying the wind in your hair and the crew’s engaging narrative of Tacoma then and now.
Just above T-town’s waterway sits their vibrant museum district – in the heart of their historic downtown core. Love art and glass? What about history? How about throwing in a healthy helping of sidewalk artists and food vendors? Mix this all up with Pacific Avenue’s funky stores and tasty restaurants and Tacoma’s found the perfect recipe for an afternoon … or a weekend. Tacoma’s Museum of Glass, their art museum, and the Washington State History Museum all sit centrally just off Pacific Avenue. Within these blocks are sidewalk cafes, coffee spots and an interesting mix of shops offering a truly local flavor. One of my favorites, Stocklist Goods, began as a portable gift shop, but has since come to occupy a cozy brick-and-mortar location teeming with local goods. Though Tacoma-centric, Stocklist Goods clearly embraces all things Northwest-eclectic.
Thirsty? The city’s collection of bars, breweries and restaurants has something for everyone. 7 Seas Brewing is just steps from Pac Ave’s bustle. The building – originally the home of city’s historic Heidelberg Brewing – has a rich history including housing a storage facility for Dale Chihuly’s extraordinary glassworks. With creaky hardwood floors and tiny windows looking out over their brewing facility, the folks at 7 Seas Brewing have created a community feel (you’ll find no TV screens blaring here) – welcoming guests to bring in food from their favorite restaurant (or home), or grabbing a healthy plate from local favorite 3uilt to enjoy with one of their brews. Along with a year-round list of popular beer, they showcase a handful of seasonals and a unique Tap Room Reserve series that ensures there’s a perfect beer for you.
Nearby Wingman Brewing believes in a simple process of carefully sourced ingredients, then pour their heart and soul into everything flowing from their taps. With a gritty, aviation-inspired aesthetic, they believe in community – as noted as a part of every sale at their taproom benefits local Tacoma charities. Couple this with their ’80s Galaga video game and a hearty brew and it was tough to drag myself away!
Not feeling the brew love? I found The Camp Bar just a few blocks up the hill from our snazzy digs at the Hotel Murano. A sharp contrast from my artglass-inspired accommodations, Camp Bar gives locals (and visitors) something I could only reflect back on as a “rustic summercamp” feel – complete with karaoke, s’mores, cheap drinks and Adirondack chairs.
What about sports? I’ve had my fill of massive baseball stadiums around the nation, and thus found the Tacoma Rainiers’ Pacific Coast League home in Cheney Stadium to be one of the best sporting experiences around. Viewing options varied from grassy berms to VIP experiences to box or bleacher seats. Every spot in the park gave a feeling of being close to the action and more engaged in the experience. Couple this with delicious concessions and local beers, and you’ve got yourself a destination!
Even after a weekend experience, there’s still so much I want to explore! I’m looking forward to a trip back soon to check out Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium‘s Eye-to-Eye shark experience, walk through miles and miles of park space, stroll along Ruston Way and historic Old Town, and nibble endlessly from one side of the city to the other.
See you soon, Tacoma!