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Revision as of 17:42, 25 February 2013 by (talk) (By Bus)

South Sound : Tacoma
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The skyline of Tacoma, with the Tacoma Dome in the foreground.

Tacoma [12] in Washington, is the state's second-largest city, with just under 200,000 residents. It is served by Sea-Tac airport [13], which serves Seattle, Tacoma, and the greater Seattle area. Tacoma often gets a negative description that is similar to the one given to Oakland, California but in the same way, this comes from those who have never lived in or even visited the city. While it has neither the tourist amenities of its neighbor Seattle to the north nor the suburban safety of Olympia to the south, one can certainly spend a few pleasant days in Tacoma and see the city's dynamic art scene as well as its great ballet.

Get in

In addition to Sea-Tac airport (and taxi/limo or rental car), there are:

By Car

  • I-5 (north and south) is the main arterial through Tacoma. The freeway goes east and west between downtown Tacoma and Fife where it turns and continues north. The shortest way to I-90 east is to go northbound on I-5 to Federal Way and exit at WA-18 (Exit 142A) to Auburn. Why 18 goes NE through Auburn, Covington and Maple Valley to Tiger Mountain where you merge into I-90 east at exit 25. Continue north along I-5 to the I-405/WA-518 (at exit 154) in Tukwila to get to SeaTac Airport and than go west on WA-518 toward Burien and follow the signs into the airport.
  • I-705 (spur) goes into downtown Tacoma from I-5 (Exit 133). From the I-5/705 junction the freeway south was supposedly to be WA-7 to Mt Rainier but was never completed so it just ends at S 38th St.
  • WA-16 goes from exit 132B along I-5 through Tacoma and crosses over the famous Narrows Bridge to Gig Harbor and up north through Bremerton to Hood Canal where it merges into WA-3. The bridge crossing into Gig Harbor is toll free but there is a $6 toll to cross from Gig Harbor back into Tacoma.
  • WA-512 goes east from exit 127 along I-5 to Puyallup where it continues north towards Renton as WA-167. Exit at WA-7 (Pacific Ave S) and go south along WA-7 to get to Mount Rainier.

By Train

  • Amtrak Cascades trains [14] runs between Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada) and Eugene, Oregon, stops in Tacoma at 1001 Puyallup Avr (north side of the road by the big railroad yard). Amtrak [15] also has a once daily train continuing to Los Angeles, CA on the 'Coast Starlight' train.
  • Sounder Commuter Rail [16] goes between Lakewood and Seattle King Street Station (via S.Tacoma, Tacoma Dome (at Freight House Square), Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn, Kent & Tukwila), with the majority of trains running to Seattle in the mornings and to Lakewood in the evenings. Additional trains are put into service during Seahawks and Seattle Mariners (home) games going into Seattle before the first kick off or first pitch and returning to Tacoma after the game.

By Bus

  • Greyhound [17] goes north to Seattle and south to Portland or Sacramento (stopping in Olympia, Centralia off exit 82, Kelso and Vancouver, WA) along I-5 from 510 Puyallup Ave, a block over from the local Sound Transit and Pierce Transit bus station. Passengers typically transfer to other Greyhound buses going to additional places in Seattle, Portland, Eugene or Sacramento.
  • Northwestern Trailways [18] goes up north to Everett via Seattle along I-5 and than east to Ephrata along US Hwy 2 via Leavenworth, Wenatchee, etc. and from Ephrata to Spokane along I-90. There are connections to other eastern Washington and Idaho destinations from Spokane and Wenatchee. They're at the same stop as Greyhound at 510 Puyallup Ave.
  • Sound Transit buses [19] go to/from Seattle (Rt #586-593 during the weekday rush hours while 594 runs both directions all day till 23:30PM (11:30PM) at night, during the week and weekends); SeaTac Airport (Rt #574); and Lakewood (Rt #574, 594)
  • Intercity Transit buses from Olympia [20]

By Boat

  • Washington State Ferries, 5810 N Pearl St in Point Defiance Park at Tacoma's north end , [21]. Ferry goes from here to Tahlequah in south end of Vashon Island. The #11 bus goes up to the ferry terminal in Point Defiance Park from Tacoma Dome via downtown Tacoma. From the other side the infrequent King County Metro #118 bus goes north to the Vashon Ferry Terminal (other end of island). Otherwise you'll need a car to get anywhere worth seeing as it is to far to walk. Some people bike around the island, but be prepared for major hills. You can continue to Seattle or Port Orchard by crossing the island from the other end (north).

Get around

  • Tacoma LINK [22] A light rail/streetcar line that runs between Freighthouse Square (near the Tacoma Dome and the train station) and downtown, with a stop that serves the Washington State History Museum / University of Washington, Tacoma area. Trains runs every 10-20 minutes, and the fares are free.
  • Pierce Transit [23] operates local bus routes in & around Tacoma, Lakewood, Steilacoom, University Place, Gig Harbor (Rt #100), Sumner, Parkland, Puyallup & Madigan Hospital (Rt #206) on natural gas buses. The system is typical of a North American public transit system: not all that nice. Plans are underway to further reduce service after voters had rejected a sales tax increase in a 2012 referendum.
  • Locally 6th Ave (going east & west between downtown and the Narrows Bridge) divides the addresses & street names from "North" & "South" in the more central part of town while A St (going north & south, opposite the freeway, south of downtown) divides the addresses & street names between "South" and "East" in the Eastside neighborhoods. The 'NE' addresses are separated from the rest of Tacoma by Commencement Bay and are closer to Federal Way than to Tacoma but the homes & businesses there have a Tacoma address. By road, the NE part of town is only connected by WA-509 from downtown, going around the bay, through the industrial areas in the tideflats without going through Federal Way (by S 320th or 356th to I-5).


Point Defiance Park

Over 100 years old, Point Defiance Park [24] features old growth forests, gardens, the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium [25], Owen Beach [26], Fort Nisqually Living History Museum [27], and Camp 6 Logging Museum [28], as well as a playground and countless hiking trails. You can get there from Tacoma Dome and downtown on the #11 bus.


Tacoma is home to a variety of museums:

  • Washington State History Museum [29]
  • Tacoma Art Museum [30]
  • Museum of Glass [31] - you can cross to or from this museum on the Chihuly Bridge of Glass [32] - and no, the bridge is not made of glass - it's 500 feet long, over Interstate 705, with glasswork exhibits.
  • Children's Museum of Tacoma [33]
  • Fort Nisqually Living History Museum [34]
  • Working Waterfront Museum [35]
  • LeMay - America's Car Museum [36] Hundreds of cars in the collection are on display. Vehicles of note include a 1948 Tucker, of which less than 21 are on public display worldwide, and the Flintmobile used in the 1994 Flintstones film.


  • The Seymour Botanical Conservatory [37], within Wright Park [38].
  • Union Station [39] and its Dale Chihuly glass exhibits [40]. Next to the Washington State History Museum.
  • University of Washington Tacoma [41] - located in an historic business district near downtown. A suggested walking tour [42] is available. (UW Tacoma is across the street from the Washington State History Museum.)
  • Brown & Haley's Outlet Store The [43] near the factory (most famous for Almond Roca® candy).
  • A new convention center [44] opened in late 2004.
  • Tacoma Dome [45] the big dome, on 2727 'D' St, seen from the freeway and three blocks up the hill from the Greyhound/Sound Transit/Pierce Transit transportation center. There could a exhibition, concert, or convention going on that may be of an interest.
  • The Tacoma Narrows Bridge, the gateway to Gig Harbor, Poulsbo, Hood Canal, Port Townsend, and the Olympic Peninsula, was recently remodeled to include a second span (which now requires a $4 toll for those returning to Tacoma)[46]. (The original bridge, built in 1940, and known as "Galloping Gertie", is well known because of its collapse [47].)


  • The Tacoma Regional Convention & Visitor Bureau [48] has its Visitor Information Center at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel in downtown Tacoma (1515 Commerce Street). Visitor guides, maps and brochures on area attractions are avaialable, and the center includes a new computer station where visitors can research travel information on the Internet.
  • Tacoma Musical Playhouse [49] runs musical plays throughout the year, using local talent. This group has grown to become one of the South Sound's biggest draws, so buy your tickets early for the popular shows.
  • Scooter Adventure, 5428 South Tacoma Way, Tacoma, WA, 253-565-1117, [1]. A complete scooter adventure including orientation, 3 hour rental, DOT approved helmet rental, rider insurance, Scenic Excursion Map and commemorative photo.


  • Freighthouse Square [50] is a building three city blocks long, with shops and eating places inside, near the Tacoma Dome. Open M-Sa from 10AM-7PM and Sunday from noon to 5PM
  • The Tacoma Mall [51], near Interstate 5 (at the 38th Street exit) is a major shopping center in Tacoma. A wide variety of stores extending well to the north and south of the mall, as well.
  • Star-Lite Swap Meet is at a former drive-in theater at 8327 S Tacoma Way at the NE corner of S Tacoma Way and S 84th St. Most busiest during spring and summer weekends with all sorts of people selling vegetables, fruits, cell phones & components, CD's, fishing gear, tools and a variety of other items. With a large number of Hispanics selling & buying there is a reminisce of a Mexican market in Mexico or Central America. There's an admission of $1.00 to go in though.


6th Avenue has some affordable restaurants.

  • Primo Grill, (on 6th & South Pine). Moderately Priced, Italian/Mediterranean, Lunch & Dinner.
  • Asado, (on 6th & South Pine). Pricey, Argentinian, Dinner.
  • Gateway to India, (on 6th & South Fife). Inexpensive, Indian, Lunch & Dinner.
  • Southern Kitchen, (on 6th & Division). Inexpensive, Southern/Soul, Lunch & Dinner.
  • Wild Orchid, (on 6th & South Cedar). Inexpensive, Pan-Asian, Lunch & Dinner.
  • Silk Thai, (6th Ave). Mid priced, Lunch & Dinner, Delicious Thai Dishes.

Downtown Tacoma has a wide range of restaurants, from fine dining to casual.

  • El Gaucho, (in Downtown Tacoma near 21st Street and Pacific Avenue). Pricey, Steaks & Chops, Dinner.
  • Melting Pot, (in Downtown Tacoma near 21st Street and Pacific Avenue). Pricey, Fondue, Dinner.
  • Pacific Grill, 1502 Pacific Ave. Tacoma, WA 98402 (near the hotels and Convention Center in Downtown Tacoma on 15th Street and Pacific Avenue), (253)627-3535, [2]. New American. Steaks & Seafood, Lunch & Dinner. Known for Tacoma's Best Happy Hour. Celebrity Chef Gordon Naccarato ( Gordon's - Aspen,CO , Monkey Bar - Los Angeles, CA , Michael's - Santa Monica, CA)
  • Indochine, (near the University of Washington, Tacoma is on 19th and Pacific). Not pricey (and rather enjoyable), Pan-Asian, Lunch & Dinner.
  • Maxwell's, (6th Ave & St. Helens). Moderately Priced, Dinner & Cocktails, Northwest small plates.
  • Johnny's Dock, (right across Thea Foss Waterway from Pacific Avenue on D street). Steak and Seafood, Great Views of Downtown and the Museum of Glass.
  • The Rock, (in downtown Tacoma near S 19th and Jefferson Ave). offers a great lunch or dinner, inexpensive pizza and pasta

Hilltop just up the hill from Downtown Tacoma has many choices for dining.

  • LeLe, 1012 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, (253)-572-9491, [3]. offers a Vietnamese cuisine with a mix of Thai. The spacious dining room allows for large groups. LeLe is popular spot for lunch with downtown workers.
  • Pho Boc Cafe, 1115 South 11th Street (near 11th & MLK), 253-272-7270. is a popular spot for Pho in Tacoma. Cash Only
  • Pho King, 1020 Martin Luther King Jr Way (near 11th & MLK), 253-272-6287. Popular Pho & Vietnamese food. Very affordable. Has vegetarian pho. inexpensive.
  • Thai Garden, 1202 South 11th Street (Near Key Bank off 11th & MLK), 253-627-2590. a bit of a hole in the wall but a great place for affordable Thai food in Tacoma. Service is fast and pleasant.
  • Quickie Too: A Vegan Cafe, 1324 Martin Luther King Jr. Way (Corner of 14th & MLK), 253-572-45-49, [4]. Tacoma's only all Vegan restaurant adds a Jamaican flare to all of their food. Service can be slow but is worth the wait. Meat eaters will love the flavors and won't know the meat is missing.
  • The Fish House, 1814 Martin Luther King Jr. Way (near 19th and MLK), 253-383-7144. offers Southern cooking at affordable prices. Small place so you can always get orders to go.
  • Bob's Bar-B-Que Pit, 911 South 11th Street (1 block east of MLK), 253-627-4899. A popular BBQ joint in Tacoma

South Tacoma has wonderful Asian restaurants.

  • Wendy's II, (near the Tacoma Mall, on Tacoma Mall Blvd). Inexpensive Vietnamese cuisine, Lunch and Dinner.
  • The Palace Restaurant, (Corner of South Tacoma Way and Steilacoom Blvd). Informal Korean restaurant. Cook at the table or order ready to eat. Lunch, Dinner, Drinks. Open late.
  • Tacoma Szechuan, (In the Paldo World stripmall, corner of 96th and South Tacoma Way). Authentic Chinese food. Moderate prices. Lunch, Dinner, Bubble Tea.

Lincoln District has international flavor.

  • Vien Dong, 3801 Yakima Ave, Tacoma, WA, 98418 (corner or 38th & Yakima west of Pacific), (253) 472-6668. Excellent & authentic Vietnamese restaurant. Low to moderate prices. Well known locally & busy at lunch. Excellent Pho soup.


  • Up on Tacoma's MLK Way is the terrific Tempest Lounge [52]. Scenesters and neighbors mingle in this gay-friendly bar, craving the cool cocktails and tasty treats.
  • Right around the corner from Tempest is the equally fabulous 1022 South. Featuring a huge list of traditional - and some very non-traditional - cocktails, they turn out some astonishing flavors.
  • For old-school, straight-out-of-the-'70s flava, the bar at Johnny's Dock [53] is a must [especially for the nice days on the deck]. From the naugahyde swivel chairs to the odd touches of brass, this place hasn't had its mousse ruffled in a while. They serve workmanlike drinks, but they've got a great deck and happy hour prices apply during any televised sporting event.
  • Engine House 9, aka E9 [54] is in the trendy 6th avenue area. A great beer list and karaoke on Thursdays make this bar very popular with college students from the local University of Puget Sound. Metrosexual atmosphere welcome & encouraged. <6th and Pine>
  • Farrelli's is located up 6th Ave from E9, popular place for college students
  • The Mix 635 St Helens Ave. in Downtown's St. Helens Neighborhood caters to a mostly gay crowd but all are welcome with open arms. On weekend nights The Mix [55] is packed with 20 and 30 somethings having a good time.
  • Club Silverstone, 739 1/2 St. Helens Ave., (253) 404-0273, [5]. Club Silverstone is Tacoma's largest gay nightclub. It is in the Theater District in Downtown Tacoma. During the week the club is lowkey but on the weekends the club gets busy with dancing all night long.
  • The Hub, St Helens Ave, [6]. Excellent Mediteranian themed faire. One of the hot spots in the popular Stadium district.


The four major downtown hotels in the city are:

  • Hotel Murano,[56] 1320 Broadway Plaza, +1 253 238-8000.
  • Silver Cloud [57], on a two-mile long scenic waterfront, Ruston Way [58].
  • The Villa [59] is a highly rated, luxury six-room bed and breakfast hotel in the Stadium district. Their website has restaurant recommendations [60].
  • Comfort Inn Tacoma Hotel, 8620 S. Homsmer Street, (253) 538-7998, [7]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: 11AM. Offers guests free wireless high-speed Internet access and a fitness center with an indoor heated pool. $80.
  • Courtyard Marriot - Tacoma Downtown, 1515 Commerce Street (Across from the Great Tacoma Convention Cener), 253-591-9100, [8]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: 12PM. The Courtyard Marriott in Downtown Tacoma is a newer hotel in the heart of the city. It is across the street from the Convention Center and the free LINK light rail. The hotel is connected to the historic Waddell building. The Waddell building's ground floor features the award winning restaurant, Pacific Grill[9], ran by famed Chef, Gordon Naccarato. Above Pacific Grill are 2 luxury suites that are one of a kind for a Courtyard property. The hotel also feature Club Biella Spa & Salon[10], a 10,000 sqft space with an Italian villa theme. The spa includes a pool and workout room that can be used by hotel guests. A small hidden gem in the hotel is Joe's Barber Shop which can be found just down the stairs from the main lobby. This barber shop features hair cuts, shaves and more in a masculine setting. On the lower level of the hotel is the new Pacific Grill Events Center[11] that host many events year round. Pacific Grill's catering operation is also ran out of the Events Center.
  • Enoteca Wine Bar, 21 N. Tacoma Ave., 2537798258. Located in the Stadium District, this cozy, European-style wine bar offers over thirty wines by the glass. Cheese plates, panini, soups and salads available as well. One of the best bargains in town!

Stay safe

While Tacoma's crime problem has improved over the past decade, the city still has a high crime rate relative to other Northwest cities. Much of the crime is concentrated on the Hilltop and Eastside neighborhoods. The Stadium District area has the lowest crime rate in the city and Downtown has a low crime rate compared to downtown areas of other cities (including Seattle), however visitors should be cautious as in any urban area. Visitors should also be careful when entering the surrounding suburbs of Lakewood, Spanaway and Parkland. Crime problems in Lakewood sometimes run over into near by Parkland. As always when traveling alone or at night, avoid poorly-lit areas with little foot traffic.

Get out

Near Tacoma are some other things worth visiting, listed roughly north to south:

  • To the northwest, the waterfront town of Gig Harbor. I-5 to exit 132 (WA Hwy 16) [61] You can visit the park below and slightly adjacent to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge without paying any toll. Take the first exit (24th St NW) and follow the signs (several left turns). Don't miss it, or you will be charged after turning around at the second exit. On a very clear day, Mount Rainier will be in the background to the east, beyond the waterway.
  • Seattle, north of Tacoma, has a lot to do for visitors.
  • To the northeast, Rhododendron Species Foundation and Garden [62], and the adjacent Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection [63] in Federal Way, just off Interstate 5.
  • Wild Waves [64], a water-themed amusement park, also in Federal Way, just off Interstate 5.
  • To the south, Lakewold Gardens Estate [65], in Lakewood.
  • Also to the south, Northwest Trek [66], a 615-acre park that is home to more than 200 North American animals.
  • To the southwest is Washington's easygoing capital city, Olympia.

Routes through Tacoma
SeattleFife  N noframe S  LaceyPortland&#13;
BremertonGig Harbor  N noframe S  END

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