Railroad Terminal of Puget Sound
While it didn't wind up being the grand city its original boosters envisioned, Tacoma did wind up being an important termination point for the Northern Pacific Railway and Chicago Milwaukee Saint Paul & Pacific Railroad.
Evidence still abounds of this tradition, including Tacoma Union Station (now a courthouse - the railroad lines that once served it disappeared when Interstate 705 was built), Freighthouse Square (a shopping center built from a railroad freight house) and the large, busy railroad yards on the north side of the city.
Perhaps the best way to get an impression of this long tradition is to go inside Freighthouse Square and take a look at the historic photos on the walls of the shopping center. You will see evidence of what Tacoma once was in terms of being the "City of Destiny" in the nickname of the city.
Fluent Steps (outdoor art at Museum of Glass)
Between March 12 and June 24, 2008, artist Martin Blank was an active artist inside the Museum of Glass own demonstration studio (the "Hot Shop") and created the very work you see pictured here, which as of this writing occupies the eastern courtyard of the museum. As the sculpture is outside the museum, it is one of the works that is free to visit without paying admission to enter the museum proper.
The entire artist's statement and information about this work could consume several pages, and already has: its written on the sign posted on an outdoor wall of the museum near this impressive work. So, there is no need for me to duplicate every word written on the sign: if you are interested in the details of the sculpture, you need to come to Tacoma and visit the Museum of Glass: it is that simple!
If you really want to see the sculpture at its absolute most spectacular, visit the museum at night, when the sculpture is lit up.
Some interesting details of the sculpture are worth noting:
+ The inspiration was steam rising from the artist's coffee cup.
+ The complete sculpture is 207 feet (about 64 meters) long, used some 71,000 pounds (32,000 kilograms) of molten glass, and has 754 pieces.
Among the interesting artist's quotes on the sign describing the sculpture is:
"This installation is a visual exploration capturing the chase between the macro and micro qualities of water using glass as a conduit to translate my thoughts."
The section of the museum of glass web site below includes photographs of the installation of this work of art, among various other things.
For more information about the Museum of Glass and its displays, please see my Museum of Glass tip.
Wright Park: Pathways among Shade Trees
Located on the northwest edge of downtown Tacoma, Wright Park was opened to the public in 1890, after the land for use as a public park was donated to the city in 1886. The park is designed in a very classical fashion and is typical of the era, and includes a duck pond, gravel walkways, a bridge over the duck pond, horshoe pits, a lawn bowling green, a fairly nice playground, and a lot of picnic tables under the wonderful large trees.
There are some public works of art here as well, including a statue of Henrik Ibsen that was dedicated on May 17, 1913, on the 99th anniversary of Norway's independence. The huge lions on the south side of the park are designed to mimic those of certain parks in Europe. The two maidens at the north entrance to the park are reproductions of statues of maidens that are thought to have been created to serve as attendants to Ceres, the Greek goddess of agriculture. From time to time, these women are decorated with flowers or other artifacts.
The lions and the Greek maidens were brought to Tacoma from Europe by Colonel Clinton P. Ferry, and they have been named "Annie" and "Fannie" after Annie Wright Seminary School and Fannie Paddock Hospital.
The statue "Trilogy" is of three young people having fun, which should be part of what a good park is all about. There are a few others public artworks scattered through the park.
Another feature in the park is the "Spanish American War" Cannon (though the date on the cannon appears to be from the 1700s, and the name only describes the fact that it was captured in Cuba during that conflict.
When I visited on August 13, 2010, an extensive park construction project was underway in the center of the park. This will replace the old wading pool with a modern "water spray" area, replace the restrooms, and otherwise make improvements to the park.
The old restrooms near the playground are usable, but at least on the men's room side there is little privacy at all once inside the restroom.
This park is also the home of the WW Seymour Botanical Conservatory, which is a small greenhouse museum of living plants. The conservatory also has a memorabilia store.
Unfortunately, one of the most spectacular features of the park is no longer here. When the land was first developed, a huge cedar tree grew here, and it was cut down, most likely before the land was donated for use as a park. The huge stump was converted into a building (yes, it truly was a huge tree) that served as a bandstand and gazebo for a number of years. Alas, it burned in the 1930s, and was removed. However, please try to find some photos of this spectacular tree stump, and imagine what this huge tree must have been like.
The park is bordered by Division Avenue on the north, South I Street on the west, 6th Avenue on the south and South G Street on the east. The busiest road is Division Street on the north side, which makes that part of the park have quite a bit of traffic noise. However, the noise goes away rapidly after you get fairly deep into the park.
How To Get Here:
The north side of the park has bus service from bus route #11, which goes between Point Defiance Park and downtown Tacoma. The south side of the park has bus route #1, which also goes to downtown Tacoma. However, the theatre district and other features of north downtown Tacoma are nearby, and thus it really isn't that far to walk to many other places.
There are a variety of ways to get there by driving, but if you go north on Yakima it will run directly into the park at what is considered the main entrance from downtown.
Chambers Bay: The Newly Accessible Beach
This is part of the series of tips about Pierce County's Chambers Bay Facility, which contains a huge number of different features. My main tourist tip about this facility is located at
and there are links from there to the various tips that discuss the sub-pieces of this wonderful park, golf course, trail, beach, and educational facility.
Until September 16, 2010 it was not possible to access the beach along Chambers Bay park, as access was blocked due to the railroad line. On September 16, 2010 the new North Dock Overpass was opened to the public, and people could, for the first time in well over 100 years, access the beach.
This is a lot less interesting than it may sound, however, as the beach here is mostly rocks, like many of the beaches in Puget Sound. There are significant mud flats that open up during the low tide (and be sure to check the tide table if you go out there, as you don't want to get into a situation that you can't get yourself out of!).
Even so, it is a popular location to visit for now, and maybe at some point the novelty will wear off, though it is somewhat doubtful considering the limited beach access around Tacoma.
Tides changes here can be in the 14 to 17 foot range, so be sure to check the tide tables and don't get yourself trapped out in the middle of Puget Sound on the mud flats without a plan to get back.
One section of the beach south of the pedestrian bridge has been designated an off-leash dog area, so that those with dogs can enjoy Puget Sound as well.
How to Get Here: Please see my general Chambers Bay tip, which is located at
as it is somewhat complicated.
There are a few good wine bars in Tacoma and I like this one a lot because it is modest and welcoming. The owner is a practical man that runs his wine shop and wine bar according to what he knows and wine is what he's knows very well. The wine bar is small and intimate like the neighborhood wine bars of Italy. The two chalk boards on the wall list many good international wines, domestic wines, and also cheese and meat plates for around $8-$12. A glass can cost between $5 and $9, bottles at around $18 average. There are a few seats at their bar, about 4, 2 person tables and a nice window booth with pillows. The owner and bar tender are some of the nicest people I've ever meet and they created a bar that is warm and comfortable for anyone, anytime, and on any occasion. Glass of Prosecco and a cheese plate.