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Tacoma WA Travel Guide: What to See Eat and Do

Tacoma WA Travel Guide: What to See Eat and Do
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Updated: 7/9/2024 | Tacoma WA Travel Guide

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Stadium High School

About Tacoma, WA

Did you know there are 7 Tacoma cities in the United States and 1 in Bolivia?

But nothing compares to Grit City in Washington! Tacoma is home to the aroma, but not to worry, the aroma typically remains along Point Ruston and the bay.

Tacoma is also known as the City of Destiny, Grit(ty) City, T-Town, and more. 

Tacoma is a port city and is the birthplace of the famous glass-blowing artist, Dale Chihuly. Here you’ll get amazing mountain and bay views. Living here has really made us fond of what Tacoma has to offer.

Tacoma is about 40 minutes south of Downtown Seattle but is worth a day trip or weekend visit. 

Below we’ll share our favorite spots to eat, drink, and explore in Tacoma!

Tacoma WA Travel Guide

Here is our guide on what to do when visiting Tacoma, Washington. We’ve picked the best attractions for you to explore!

Best Things to Do in Tacoma

#1 Explore Point Ruston

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Point Ruston Waterfront

Point Ruston is one of the best experiences Tacoma has to offer. There are many parks and restaurants along the bay that you can stop at to take in a view of Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountain Range.

Here is a list of stops that we recommend making along Point Ruston:

  • Point Ruston Waterway
  • Les Davis Public Fishing Pier (right next to Duke’s Seafood and the red Fireboat No. 1)
  • Cummings Park (right next to Lobster Shop)
  • Jack Hyde Park
  • Tacoma Public Sundial
Les Davis public fishing pier point ruston tacoma washington pact nuuly wallaroo

Les Davis Public Fishing Pier (Point Ruston)

#2 Visit the Museum of Glass + Walk the Chihuly Bridge of Glass

Did you know that Dale Chihuly is from Tacoma?

Many of his artworks are on display along the Bridge of Glass, which displays many of Chihuly’s artworks. It also connects the waterfront to Downtown Tacoma starting at the University of Washington, Tacoma.

We also recommend heading over to the Tacoma Art Museum to check out the small yet impressive Chihuly exhibit inside.

#3 Chill Out at Wright Park

Wright Park is Tacoma’s version of New York City’s Central Park. It has a fountain, playground, benches, and the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory, a gorgeous greenhouse.

It’s centrally located in Tacoma next to Stadium High School and the Hob Nob restaurant.

#4 Check Out Opera Alley

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Opera Alley

Opera Alley is a colorful street in Downtown Tacoma known for its colorful buildings and unique businesses such as the Devil’s Reef Tiki Bar and Over the Moon Cafe. It also has a neon sign!

The actual Opera Alley is a small alleyway designed as a walkway adjacent to the Nevin Opera House at 321 Broad Street. The opera house, which opened in September of 1880, was built by Mr. M.A. Nevin.

The Nevin Opera House burned down in 1919 but the alley archway remains.

#5 Visit McMenamin’s Elk Temple + Spanish Steps

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Spanish Steps

The Spanish steps will lead you into one of the many bars at McMenamin’s Elk Temple

McMenamin’s Elk Temple is a must-visit! It’s probably the MOST unique experience you’ll have in Tacoma.

This 7-story building houses a hotel, 6 bars and restaurants, and the Spanish Ballroom, a venue for music and performances. They have daily performances that you should check out. 

One of our favorite spots in the Elk Temple are the secret speakeasy (you’ll have to push on walls and turn knobs to find it) and The Old Hangout bar, a Tiki-style bar with tasty drinks, food, and incredible ambiance. 


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#6 East 21st Street Bridge

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East 21st Street Bridge

This picturesque cable bridge is located next to the Henry Apartments over the Thea Foss waterway.

It looks gorgeous on a sunny day and we highly recommend crossing it via car or finding a grassy area or park where you can take photos of or with the bridge.

#7 Visit Stadium High School

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Stadium High School

Stadium High School was where a scene in 10 Things I Hate About You was filmed starring Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles. It looks like a school out of Harry Potter!

The scene was filmed in the stadium, which is gated off to visitors, but locals tend to jump over the fence anyway to take a photo of the site. 

#8 Visit a Tacoma Museum

If you’re into museums, Tacoma has you covered. 

Here are a few museums that are worth checking out!


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#9 Union Station

This historic Beaux-Arts train station is now a federal courthouse featuring large-scale glass sculptures by artist Dale Chihuly.

The station is only open from 7 am to 5 pm. You can get through security with a valid government ID to check out the interior of the building which has many glass artwork by Chihuly.

Address: 1717 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma, WA

#10 Visit Washington’s LARGEST Used Bookstore


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#12 The Grand Cinema

The cinema was previously the Tacoma Odd Fellows Lodge in 1925 and was converted into a film theater in 1995.

Here you can watch independent and foreign films, thus preserving the art of film. 

#13 See at Concert at the Tacoma Dome

You can’t miss the Tacoma Dome! It’s a huge silver dome that you’ll see driving into and past Downtown Tacoma.

They have plenty of events here that you should definitely check out. It’s also worth making a trip to Tacoma for.

#14 Visit the Almond Roca Factory Store

While the Almond Roca factory doesn’t offer tours, you can stop by their factory candy store to buy discounted candies and factory seconds for only $1!

If you love candy, you’ll need to visit to this awesome attraction!


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You can also visit the Almond Roca Outlet in Fife, WA for a bigger selection of candies and more.


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#15 Tacoma Narrows Bridge

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge connects the City of Tacoma to the Kitsap Peninsula. They’re gorgeous seafoam green twin suspension bridges. 

One of our favorite spots to view the bridge at Narrow’s Brewing or Titlow Beach.

#16 Visit the Thornwood Castle

The Thornwood Castle isn’t actually located in Tacoma, but about 12 miles south in Lakewood! It’s still worth a visit becuase of its 500-year history and design as a Tudor castle.

Where to Eat in Tacoma

Here are our restaurant recommendations for Tacoma. We also listed what we think you should order.

  • 1022 South J Bar – Their fried guacamole is AMAZING! All the food was delicious and flavorful. They’re also woman-owned and LGBTQ-friendly! See for yourself here.
  • Cuerno Bravo Steakhouse – Created by the same owner of Asadero Steakhouse in Kent. The steaks here are phenomenal. It’s one of the best spots for a special occasion dinner.
  • Doyle’s Public House – An authentic Irish pub with good eats and drinks. Get the perfectly poured pint of Guinness at Doyle’s!
  • Dusty’s Hideaway – This cute restaurant in a house with a patio deck and outdoor seating. It’s perfect for summer and group dining. We love their burgers, cheeseburger nachos (made with tater tots!!!), and refreshing cocktails.
  • Howdy Bagel
  • La Isabella – Excellent spot for Mexican food and Mezcal. They have tacos, tamales, enchiladas, and more. We especially loved the Al Pastor tacos and carne asada burritos. All their cocktails are also made with fresh squeezed juices!
  • Lobster Shop – The view of Commencement Bay and Mount Rainier from here is amazing. The food is very tasty and portions are huge.
  • Lucky’s Drive-In – Great place for burgers and fries.
  • Manuscript – One of our favorite spots for pizza and pasta! Their sauce and fluffy dough is worth a visit.
  • MSM Deli – Great spot for deli sandwiches.
  • Tibbitts Fern Hill – This is a great breakfast spot! Chef Sean Tibbitts creates flavor-packed unique breakfast and brunch dishes. He incorporates his native background to create a cuisine made with the freshest and hyperlocal ingredients. The only way to dine here is by calling in to make a reservation. Make sure to make a reservation 2-3 weeks in advance as they do tend to get booked up in their tiny dining area.
  • Toast Mi – Best Vietnamese sandwiches (aka Bánh Mì) in Tacoma! 


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Where to Drink in Tacoma

  • Bar Rosa
  • Devil’s Reef – A cool tiki bar located in Opera Alley. The drinks are no longer served in fun tiki cups, but it’s still worth a visit.
  • E9 Brewery – Craft brewery serving a variety of beers including sours, stouts, and lagers.
  • Manuscript – This Italian restaurant turns into a nightclub on the weekends and is owned by Eda, a DJ and mixologist.
  • Narrow’s Brewing – A craft brewery that offers an amazing view of the Narrow’s Bridge from its deck. It’s also a great place for tasty beers and a beautiful sunset.
  • The Vault – Speakeasy located inside the McMenamin’s Elk Temple. We won’t say much about where it is, but you’ll need to press on some walls and turn some nobs to find it.
  • Spanish Bar – Another McMenamin’s bar that welcomes guests through the Spanish Steps. The bar is adjacent to the Spanish Ballroom where you can see daily performances.

Tacoma Travel Guide Map

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