Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Pierce County, WA

  • Published 2023/05/21

Pierce County in Washington takes pride in being the second most populous county in Washington and the 60th most populous in the country.

With over 1,806 square miles of land area, the county offers diverse landscapes: from relaxing beaches and nature preserves to modern museums.

Tacoma may be the county’s seat, but trust me when I say that there’s more to see and explore aside from it!

If you’re looking for a new adventure, I’ve compiled this list of the 20 best things to do in Pierce County, Washington:

Spend the Day at Mount Rainier National Park

Pretty flowers at the Mount Rainier National Park

CrackerClips Stock Media /

Mount Rainier National Park is perhaps Pierce County’s crowning glory, offering thousands of miles of natural wonders.

As someone who loves nature, I can’t think of a better word to describe the park aside from majestic.

From the snow-capped peaks of Mount Rainier, the gorgeous foliage in autumn, and the colorful wildflowers you’ll find along the trails, there’s something in store for you at Mount Rainier National Park.

Path along the Mount Rainier National Park

melissamn /

If you’re into spending time with Mother Nature, I’d suggest camping overnight, although you’ll have to apply for a wilderness permit.

On the other hand, short and easy trails like Naches Peak Loop and Silver Falls Loop Trail are recommended if you want something relaxing.

Picturesque waterfall at Mount Rainier National Park

Checubus /

Treat Your Dogs to a Day Out at Fort Steilacoom Dog Park

Traveling with your four-legged friends? Bring them to Fort Steilacoom Dog Park for an exciting day out.

This off-leash park in Fort Steilacoom Park offers 22 acres of fenced open spaces where your dogs can run free.

There are separate areas for small dogs and large dogs, so fur parents are assured that their canine friends are in a fun yet safe environment.

Bring your dogs to Fort Steilacoom Dog Park and watch them meet and play with fellow canines.

Although I didn’t have my dog with me when I visited the park, it’s still nice to see the dogs and get a chance to play with them in the park.

Watch Live Demonstrations at the Museum of Glass

Unique glass art at Museum of Glass

Chamomile_Olya /

The Museum of Glass is one of my favorite museums in Pierce County as it’s a unique art museum dedicated to glass and the art of glassmaking.

The museum offers temporary and permanent exhibitions that feature 20th to 21st-century glass art and give a deeper insight for those unfamiliar with the medium and art form.

Check out the exhibits outside and inside the Museum of Glass and marvel at the intricate glassworks.

Exterior view of the Museum of Glass

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One of my favorite things about the museum is that you can watch live glassblowing and flameworking demonstrations from experts.

As someone interested in the medium, I got a chance to try making my own glass art—with the help of an expert glassblower, of course!

Glass art floating on the water at Museum of Glass

Nichole Park /

Swim at Lowell Johnson Park

Lowell Johnson Park is one of Anderson Island’s best-kept secrets and one of my personal favorite retreats.

Also known as The Ol’ Swimmin’ Hole, the park has two swimming areas for adults and children, a floating dock, and a slide.

In addition, I love that it has simple amenities like sandy beaches, a sand volleyball court, picnic areas, and grassy fields where I can lie down and relax.

To get to Lowell Johnson Park, you’ll have to take a ferry to Anderson Island and enjoy a relaxing summer escape.

The park is open from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, and I usually visit during the weekday to avoid the crowds.

Find Solace at Tacoma Chinese Reconciliation Park

Entrance to the Tacoma Chinese Reconciliation Park

Colleen Michaels /

Whenever I need a break from the busy city life, I’d like to head to Tacoma Chinese Reconciliation Park, a lovely park overlooking the water.

A relaxing stroll in this park makes me feel as if I’ve been transported to a tranquil escape somewhere in China.

View of the Tacoma Chinese Reconciliation Park

Jill Shepherd /

Learn more about the history behind Tacoma Chinese Reconciliation Park on a walking tour, crossing the String of Pearls Bridge and admiring the details of the Fuzhou Ting.

There are interpretive signs around, so you can explore at your leisure while enjoying the calming views.

I highly suggest reading these signs so you’ll get to appreciate the beauty and the intention behind the park.

Pedestrian bridge at the Tacoma Chinese Reconciliation Park

Tabisa /

Shop at Proctor Farmers’ Market

I love shopping at farmers’ markets because not only do I get fresh and healthy produce, but I also get to help local farmers and small businesses.

Although there are plenty of farmer’s markets in Pierce County, Proctor Farmers’ Market is arguably one of the best I’ve been to.

Proctor Farmers’ Market is available every Saturday morning to afternoon, so I’d usually go here in the morning when there are few people.

That way, I can browse the stalls at my own convenience and get early dibs on fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and even flowers.

There are ready-to-eat and take-out meals if ever you feel hungry from all the walking and shopping.

Visit Point Defiance Park

Beautiful rose garden at the Point Defiance Park

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If this is your first time visiting Pierce County, don’t miss the famous Point Defiance Park.

This is the largest urban park in the county and is an all-in-one destination for hiking enthusiasts, nature lovers, families, and every kind of traveler.

When I went here, I was torn between what to do first because it has everything: from quiet hiking trails, scenic viewpoints, lush gardens, and even a zoo and aquarium!

Doe and ducks at the Point Defiance Park

GeorgeColePhoto /

Explore the formal gardens, find Zen in the Japanese Garden, and see the animals at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.

As there are plenty of things to do in Point Defiance Park, I suggest spending half a day here, or even a full day if you’d like to stay in one location and make the most of your visit.

Japanese garden at the Point Defiance Park

SNC Art and More /

Play Different Games at Tower Lanes Entertainment Center

Tower Lanes Entertainment Center is my go-to for all-in-one entertainment in Pierce County and with good reason!

This entertainment complex in Tacoma has everything you need for a day or night of fun and games.

It has a bowling area, a mini golf course, an arcade, and a restaurant and bar, perfect if you’re traveling with your friends, family, and work colleagues.

Best of all, Tower Lanes Entertainment Center is open from morning until late in the evening, so you can make the most of your stay.

I like to play classic arcade games while waiting for our lanes to be available, then after, we’ll head to the restaurant and bar or play at the 18-hole mini golf course.

Admire the Greenery of the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory

Glass house at the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory

Tim Babcock, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory is located in the historic Wright Park at the heart of Tacoma.

Surrounded by exotic tropical plants and gorgeous floral displays, the botanical garden is a breath of fresh air for those like me who need a change of scenery every now and then.

The garden is housed in a Victorian-style glass dome, featuring hundreds of orchids and blooming plants.

Stone walkway with colorful flowers on both the sides at W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory

© Steven Pavlov /

Walking around the seasonal display of orchids and listening to the relaxing flow of the ponds makes me feel as if I’m not in a busy city.

Admission to the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory is free, so I highly recommend dropping by the park and spending an hour or two exploring the garden.

Lawn at the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory

Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hike at Chambers Creek Regional Park

One of my favorite things to do in Pierce County is to go on a hike at Chambers Creek Regional Park.

Located in University Place, the park boasts hiking trails that offer majestic shoreline, mountainside, and Puget Sound views.

Best of all, the trails at Chambers Creek Regional Park have varying levels of difficulty and are paved.

My personal favorite trail is the Grandview Trail as it provides the right amount of challenge while having rewarding views of Chambers Bay Golf Course, Puget Sound, and nearby islands.

You can also bring your bike to the trails since they are paved.

Enjoy the Scenery at Lake Tapps Park

Waterfront houses at Lake Tapps Park

Nadia Yong /

Lake Tapps Park in Bonney Lake is another city park offering picture-perfect views of Mount Rainier.

When I visited the park, I was welcomed by towering trees and perhaps the best views of the famous mountain.

It has facilities like picnic tables, barbecue grills, and coal dumps, perfect if you want to have a picnic with the family.

Scenic view of the Lake Tapps Park

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Have fun under the sun at Lake Tapps Park and swim on the lake or use the boat ramp to launch your kayaks and small boats.

I also went on a short photo walk around the park and got amazing views of Mount Rainier’s peaks covered in snow.

Snow covered picnic area at Lake Tapps Park

Perry Guarnacci /

Drive Through the Colorful Fantasy Lights at Spanaway Park

Christmas in Pierce County is an experience I’ll never forget, thanks to the annual Fantasy Lights at Spanaway Park.

This is the largest holiday drive-through display in the Northwest, boasting over 300 colorful light displays spanning two miles.

It really puts you into the holiday spirit, and travelers of all ages will appreciate this annual spectacle.

Although I got to see the lights at Spanaway Park by walking around, you can drive through the lights show as well.

This is a great option, especially for families with children or members with limited mobility.

If you’ll be bringing your car, let me tell you this: dial your radio to AM 1700 and listen to a curated selection of holiday music to pair with the festive atmosphere!

See the Animals of Northwest Trek Wildlife Park

A white wolf walking through the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park

Paul Goudarzi-Fry /

Discover native animals and other wildlife species at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park in Eatonville.

What I love about this park is that it offers three ways for you to explore the park, each with its unique charm.

My personal favorite is exploring the free-roaming area on a Jeep, as I get to see elks, deer, bisons, and bighorn sheep up-close.

Bison at the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park

Joseph Becker /

Otherwise, you can take the designated walking paths or explore the park on a caravan, led by a naturalist.

We also got to explore habitats like lakes, forests, and meadows, showcasing the beauty of Pierce County’s natural wonders.

Racoon at the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park

Joseph Becker /

Go Back in Time at Pioneer Farm Museum

Take a trip down memory lane and take a tour of Pioneer Farm Museum, a living history museum that dates back to the 1880s.

This homestead offers hands-on tours and activities and chores pioneer children used to do, including churning cream, carding wool, and scrubbing laundry.

On my Pioneer Farm Museum tour, I also got to dress up like a pioneer, and it made me feel as if I’m in a period movie as I participated in the chores.

Other activities in the homestead include gathering eggs in the barn, milking the cow or goat, working in the blacksmith shop, and jumping into the hay pile!

Touring the rest of the property and doing the chores also made me realize how lucky we are that we get to enjoy the modern conveniences today.

Enjoy Outdoor Activities at Joemma Beach State Park

Pier at the Joemma Beach State Park

Prod.Tenshi /

Joemma Beach State Park may be quite far from Tacoma, but it’s very much worth the drive.

This is one of my favorite places to visit in summer because you can enjoy various nature activities, from fishing and boating to birdwatching, hiking, and even camping.

On my visit to Joemma Beach State Park, I was reminded of summer camp because of the atmosphere, with picnic tables surrounding tall trees, a boat launch, and a picturesque waterfront setting.

View of the Joemma Beach State Park on a sunny day

Prod.Tenshi /

Kayaking along the waters is also a relaxing activity, although I enjoyed hiking along the trails.

I didn’t get to camp overnight (although I’m not opposed to trying on my next visit), but the park has primitive tent spaces and vault toilets.

Scenic view of the Joemma Beach State Park

Prod.Tenshi /

Final Thoughts

And that’s a wrap on the best things to do in Pierce County!

Pierce County is one of my favorite regions in Washington since it has something for every kind of traveler—history buffs, nature lovers, city dwellers, and families.

You can hike on parks and trails, visit museums, have fun under the sun, and enjoy moments of peace.

I hope this list of the best things to do in Pierce County, Washington, gives you an idea of your next adventure!

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