20 Best Things to Do in Tacoma, WA

Tacoma, WA
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A place filled with stunning natural scenes and splendid wildlife, Tacoma offers tourists a refreshing break from their day-to-day routines.

The city in Washington will surely steal your heart with its scenic hiking trails, beautiful beaches, and activity-filled parks.

Tacoma is also home to museums with incredible works of art, theaters that host excellent performances, and a glass bridge that'll take your breath away.

With so much to offer, it's an ideal destination for the whole family.

Interested in learning what else it has in store for you?

Here are the best things to do in Tacoma, Washington:

Learn about Tacoma's Marine Heritage at the Foss Waterway Seaport

Bird's eye view of Foss Waterway Seaport
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If you're interested in learning about how culturally rich Tacoma was in the old days and why it was one of the most famous American cities, head over to the Foss Waterway Seaport.

What remains of Tacoma's marine heritage is preserved here.

Exhibits of boats at Foss Waterway Seaport
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Ships, boats, and waterway transportation used to contribute the most to Tacoma’s economy, and this museum tells visitors all about this.

You can find old models of boats and ships inside, and there are a lot of documents on past business ventures.

Outside view of the museum at Foss Waterway Seaport
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All these will give you a clear idea of how Tacoma used to rule among other cities.

Go Hiking at the Five Mile Drive

Scenic view of the Five Mile Drive covered with thick plants and trees on both the side of the road
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Ready to take on some challenging hiking trails?

Add the Five Mile Drive, one of Tacoma's most popular spots, to your itinerary.

It's located inside Point Defiance Park.

The park has two loops, an inner one and an outer one.

The inner loop is pedestrian-friendly and is dedicated to hikers, walkers, and runners.

You can go cycling in the outer loop.

The hiking trails are diverse and offer splendid views.

If you are an experienced hiker, you are free to choose one of the trails that run through dense forests and high cliffs.

Check Out the Works in Tacoma Art Museum

Exterior of Tacoma Art Museum
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Ardent art lovers shouldn't miss out on a visit to Tacoma Art Museum.

The museum was not always located here.

As its collection increased, the museum required a bigger space to more gracefully display all the delicate art pieces.

Entrance of Tacoma Art Museum
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Tacoma Art Museum’s permanent collection includes gorgeous European and Japanese art pieces.

Its most popular displays would have to be the works of the famous Dale Chihuly.

Take a Walk around the Tacoma Nature Center

Narrow nature trail at Tacoma Nature Center
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Visit the Tacoma Nature Center for a much-needed nature escape.

This vast park is built on a land of 71 acres and is filled with beautiful plants and flowers.

A lake covered with plants at Tacoma Nature Center
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Apart from its paved walking trails and tiny forested lands, there are a lot of animals that call this place home.

You can spot catch deers, foxes, and even raccoons here.

You may also see mallards, turtles, and wood ducks roaming around the scenic lake inside the nature center.

Be Amazed by the Dale Chihuly Bridge of Glass

Dale Chihuly Bridge of Glass
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A number of Dale Chihuly's amazing artworks are housed in Tacoma Art Museum.

On top of that, the city of Tacoma features yet another one of his pieces, which some people believe is his best work so far: the phenomenal Dale Chihuly Bridge of Glass.

Dale Chihuly Bridge of Glass in Tacoma
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Truly a work of wonder, the glass bridge connects Interstate 705 to the Foss Waterway.

It is said the bridge is almost 500 meters long.

When you look at the bridge from below, you will find that it's like looking at a coral reef.

Top view of Dale Chihuly Bridge of Glass
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The Dale Chihuly Bridge of Glass is such a jaw-dropping attraction, and you certainly shouldn't miss out on the opportunity to see it in real life.

Don't forget to bring your cameras and snap amazing photos.

Explore Point Defiance Park

Japanese garden at Point Defiance Park
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Point Defiance Park is more than just home to the Five Mile Drive.

This 760-acre park has an entire zoo, forested land, hiking trails, an aquarium, boathouses, a beach, a dog-walking park, and more.

Walkway at Point Defiance Park
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It will take you an entire day to look at all the things this park offers.

Ever seen a traditional Japanese garden?

You can find one inside this park, too.

Colorful flowers at Point Defiance Park
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Catch a Show at the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts

Rialto Theater
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Has it been a while since you got to see an excellent performance inside a theater?

Head over to Broadway Center for the Performing Arts to catch a show.

The center contains not one but three theaters for you to check out.

The Rialto Theater and Pantages Theater are pretty old and have been around since 1918, while Theater on the Square was built much later, in 1993.

All three are situated in the Theater District and welcome lots of visitors daily.

They have hosted some of the best performances of the era and are still standing strong.

Be a Part of History at Fort Nisqually

Entrance of Fort Nisqually
Steven Pavlov, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You might have heard the name of Fort Nisqually from history books.

Tacoma offers you the chance to see the real deal.

If you don’t know much about it, Fort Nisqually once served as one of the leading centers for fur trading by the Hudson’s Bay Company.

A young girl walking across the Fort Nisqually
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It saw a lot of uprisings.

The locals were not happy, and there were continuous turmoils around it.

The trade stopped in 1869.

Wooden cabins at Fort Nisqually
Mariusz S. Jurgielewicz / Shutterstock.com

Visiting Fort Nisqually means mingling with history, as you get to see a lot of the original stuff still intact.

Meet the Animals at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Jelly fish in sphere tank in Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium
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Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium is home to more than 9,000 animals.

The zoo also serves as a sanctuary and breeding ground for red wolves, which are almost extinct.

Entrance of Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium
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You can also see the endangered Sumatran Tiger, walruses, and polar bears in the zoo.

Tourist enjoying their day at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium
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The aquarium features a shark tank and corals.

There are endless species of aquatic life in this aquarium.

Live the Beach Life at Owen Beach

Vibrant sunset at Owen Beach
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One of the best beaches in Tacoma, Owen Beach is situated inside Point Defiance Park.

There is no shortage of activities you can enjoy on this gorgeous beach.

Swimmers love it here, as the ocean water is quite pleasant.

You can go surfing here as well.

Calm waters at Owen Beach
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You may even get the chance to spot aquatic species like dolphins and sea lions while you're at this beach.

Interested in spending a whole day here?

Pack a picnic and relax at this stunning beach that offers excellent views of the Puget Sound.

Run through the Trails of Swan Creek Park

If you ever feel like you need to run free amid nature, pay a visit to Swan Creek Park.

This fantastic space filled with greenery is a lovely place to spend an afternoon.

The Puyallup River passes through the forest, offering some majestic views.

The river also happens to be one of Tacoma's largest sources of salmon.

There is a park inside where you can go mountain biking.

The trails are pretty new, and tourists seem to enjoy them very much.

Both beginner and expert cyclists can embark on these trails.

Admire Vintage Cars at LeMay - America’s Car Museum

Side view of LeMay America’s Car Museum
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Harold and Nancy LeMay were some of the wealthiest businesspeople in Washington State.

This couple put together the world's most extensive privately owned collection of cars and other automobile-related memorabilia.

Front view of LeMay - America’s Car Museum
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At its peak, the museum housed over 3,000 vehicles and thousands of artifacts.

Though most of the collection was given away to Marymount, you can still find a huge number of private cars, military vehicles, and buses at this museum.

Car enthusiasts won't want to miss out on this jaw-dropping attraction.

Interior of LeMay - America’s Car Museum
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Gawk at the Works at the Museum of Glass

Tacoma Glass Museum
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The Museum of Glass happens to be one of Tacoma's most iconic attractions.

Blessed with some of the most gorgeous artworks, this museum will surely blow you away.

Sculptures at Glass museum
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Famous architect Arthur Erickson was the mastermind behind this museum.

True to its name, everything here is made of glass.

The museum houses an amphitheater made of glass as well.

Beautiful hallway of Museum of Glass
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Step Back in Time at the Washington State History Museum

Street view of Washington State History Museum
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The Washington State History Museum is a great place to get a sense of the state's rich and dynamic past.

Operated by the Washington State Historical Society, the museum features a permanent collection and rotating exhibitions.

Entrance of Washington State History Museum
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Several old relics from the state's early history may be seen in its most extraordinary permanent display, the Great Hall of Washington History.

Also included are first-person descriptions of immigrants' experiences in Washington and the evolution of the state over the years.

Historic arch at Washington State History Museum
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You'll learn something more than your place of origin with this museum.

Discover more about art, society, and human experience!

Have Your Kids Explore the Children's Museum of Tacoma

Sign board of Children's Museum of Tacoma
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To the Children's Museum of Tacoma, play is a child's most natural means of learning.

Many different play areas are available for children between the ages of one and eight at this museum.

Rubber aprons allow children to play in the rushing water and the waterfall, while logs, raised platforms, fort-building materials, and pulleys may be found in the Woods part.

Another feature is the Voyager, which aims to inspire your child's creativity.

It's easy to be dirty and creative in Becka's Studio, which contains a wide variety of materials for art and invention projects and tools to teach gross motor skills and early arithmetic concepts.

Visitors are prohibited from bringing strollers or other large bags inside the museum.

Explore a Noble Past at Job Carr Cabin Museum

Display of the wooden canoe at the entrance of Job Carr Cabin Museum
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Job Carr was born in New Jersey in 1813, and he was a guy who was always on the go.

While serving in the Union Army, his staunch anti-slavery sentiments pushed him to volunteer for combat for three years.

In 1864, he sold his farm in Iowa and relocated to Tacoma to become the first European settler in the area, making him the region's first European settler.

The two resided in the shelter made of cedar bark while the cabin was constructed.

Interior of Job Carr Cabin Museum
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A replica of the original cabin, filled with antiques and decorated in the mid-nineteenth century style, is now open to the public.

To learn more about Job Carr and why people migrated to the Northwest, its staff are available to guide you.

Costumes and toys from a bygone era are available for children, and the place is a favorite destination for school field trips.

Relax at the Tacoma Chinese Reconciliation Park

Beautiful architecture of Tacoma Chinese Reconciliation Park
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This park on Ruston Way's waterfront was created to honor the city's rich cultural heritage.

Learn about the city's recent efforts at reconciliation by taking a trip to this area.

Scenic view from Tacoma Chinese Reconciliation Park
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If you're looking to get away from the commotion of city life, this is an ideal location.

To enjoy Puget Sound and the surrounding mountains, walk along walkways and sculptures that wind through the park.

Don't forget to have a look at the very detailed Fuzhou Ting pavilion.

Gorgeous bridge at Tacoma Chinese Reconciliation Park
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Craft Your Own Souvenir at Tacoma Glassblowing Studio

Creative exhibits and seminars have been enticing visitors to this studio since it opened in 2006.

If you're planning a trip to Tacoma, you may want to stop by this workshop and make your own glass art gift or keepsake.

At this studio, you may learn how to blow and make one-of-a-kind pieces of art with the aid of experts.

Learn how to make glass art in a one-on-one class.

Catch demonstrations and well-produced art exhibits while you're there.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Catch the Sunset at American Lake

A bird flying closer to the water at American Lake
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American Lake is situated in Lakewood, just a 20-minute drive outside Tacoma.

The lake offers excellent opportunities for fishing and other water activities.

American Lake is home to largemouth bass, rainbow trout, yellow perch, kokanee, rock bass, and bullhead catfish.

Beautiful view of American Lake
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The lake is mainly managed by the Department of Fishery, and they have done an excellent job of keeping the area clean and beautiful.

Apart from fishing, this area is great for swimming, picnicking, and sunbathing.

A bald eagle overlooking the American Lake
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Enjoy a Day at Mount Rainier National Park

Beautiful hiking trail at Mount Rainier National Park
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Less than an hour and a half away from Tacoma, Mount Rainier National Park is one of the oldest national parks in the United States.

The vast park spans 236,000 acres and comprises mountains, waterfalls, valleys, gorges, glaciers, and many more ecosystems.

Pasture covered with beautiful flowers at Mount Rainier National Park
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You can find a wide variety of wild animals here, such as black bears, elks, cougars, deers, and golden eagles.

Visitors can enjoy activities like hiking, camping, and stargazing.

Picturesque view of Myrtle falls at Mount Rainier National Park
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Final Thoughts

When you're in Tacoma, Washington, you'll find an abundance of picture-perfect sites and stunning vistas of Mount Rainier.

New and old collide in this coastal metropolis, a haven of architectural marvels and cultural treasures.

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