Tacoma Things to Do

  • Wheel Hub: Duesenberg sj 1931
    Wheel Hub: Duesenberg sj 1931
    by fred98115
  • Duesenberg sj 1931
    Duesenberg sj 1931
    by fred98115
  • Smokey Yunnick Offset Raodster 1964
    Smokey Yunnick Offset Raodster 1964
    by fred98115

Most Recent Things to Do in Tacoma

  • solopes's Profile Photo

    Glass Museum and Bridge

    by solopes Updated Jun 18, 2014

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Tacoma - USA
    2 more images

    Dale Chihuli made a revolution in glass.

    I’m not totally convinced about the beauty of the bridge, since it looks too much as store shelves, but the glassworks are great.

    I was sad for not entering the museum nor the studio, though I think it can't beat the superb one at Corning.

    Related to:
    • Arts and Culture
    • Architecture

    Was this review helpful?

  • fred98115's Profile Photo

    Fascinating auto museum in Tacoma

    by fred98115 Written Feb 5, 2014
    Wheel Hub: Duesenberg sj 1931
    4 more images

    Tacoma has been viewed as the lesser cousin of Seattle, but if you are in the Pacific Northwest you must visit one of the country's best auto museums ... and it is in Tacoma. The museum is loaded with quality automobiles. Luxury cars like the Duesenberg and Lincoln are on the floor. The people's cars like Chevy and VW have their niche. Special exhibits exist, on the day we visited it was a collection Indy 500 cars. Included was the unusual Smokey Yunick sidecar design from years ago. Photographers: best not to bring your tripod. A digital camera with low light capability and a zoom lens will do nicely.

    Related to:
    • Museum Visits
    • Photography
    • Family Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • glabah's Profile Photo

    Point Defiance Park: The Basics

    by glabah Updated Sep 24, 2013

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    picnic shelter inside Point Defiance Park
    4 more images

    Surrounded on three sides by water, the 702 acre (over 283 hectare) Point Defiance Park is one of the gems located inside an urban area in the Pacific Northwest. Much of the park is maintained as native forest habitat with hiking trails, picnic facilities, view points and beaches. It is an extremely popular park, and during warm weather months I highly recommend visiting during the week due to crowds unless you are visiting something that only operates on the weekend.

    When driving in the park watch out for deer - they are fairly tame and come out during the day, even when people are around.

    There are a number of attractions inside Point Defiance Park and a day or two could be spent just exploring all the options that are in this wonderful park. Due to the number and variety of attractions I have created separate tips for many of these. For your convenience I have put links in the tip below so that you may directly view the item tip for more information. However, if you are looking at this in the VirtualTourist travel guides based on city rather than through my Tacoma travel page, you will not be able to select the hyperlinks as they are disabled in the travel guides.

    Those attractions inside Point Defiance Park that are fairly major attractions and activities (such as the zoo and Fort Nisqually) I have listed as separate "Things to Do" for Tacoma, while the many smaller features of the park have been put in the "Off the Beaten Path" section.

    The road system in the park is primarily made up of one way loop roads. On most Saturday and Sunday mornings significant parts of these loops are closed to allow bike riding or road jogging. The outer perimeter road is "Five Mile Loop Road" but there are one or two places where you are able to cut off legs of the loop if you want to go to particular attractions. I highly recommend visiting the Tacoma Parks web site and finding the map of the park available there, printing out a copy, and bringing it with you. It will help you find your way around this large park without getting extremely lost. Even though 700 acres may not sound like a huge area the fact is the dense forest separates the various attractions from one another, so none are visible from any of the others. This makes the park seem much larger, and means that you will have to be aware of where you are and what you need to do to get to the attractions you want to see. It is not possible to see land marks in the park, except in the developed southeastern section of the park, which is only a very small portion of this quite large area.

    + Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium has several points of fame, including a wolf breeding program that allowed the North American red wolf to be re-released into the wild after no wild population remained. The aquarium has a good introduction to marine animals of Puget Sound.

    + Fort Nisqually Living History Museum - while the original location of the old Puget Sound Hudson's Bay Company fort is now nearly completely suburban development, a 1930s era project moved and restored the historic buildings to Tacoma, where they enjoy a forested setting similar to their old home.

    + Camp 6 Logging Exhibit has been closed due to difficulty in finding sufficient funds and volunteers. 2010 was the final year of operations.

    + Rhododendron Garden - Unlike most of the rhododendron gardens in the northwest, the Point Defiance garden simulates the native northwest habitat for these flowers. No fee.

    + Japanese Garden - is quite small, no entrance fee.

    + Northwest Native Plant Garden - a semi-wild garden designed to illustrate what can be done with plants that are native to the Pacific Northwest. Divided into sub-sections based on soil type and sun/shade conditions. It is fenced against the deer but the gate is unlocked. No fee.

    + Rose Garden - ree to enter, but part fenced off area towards the center of the developed part of park. This is to protect the rose, herb and connected gardens from being eaten by deer.

    + Trails - there are some 14 miles (23 km) of main trails, plus some branch trails. Much of this is through forest, which is an absolute treasure of a preserved ecosystem. Bald eagles and various other wildlife are regulars in the wilderness part of the park.

    + The Boathouse and Marina doesn't just feature a place to put your boat. You can rent boats here, plus boat motors, plus rain gear, purchase bait, and a number of pieces of memorabilia. You may not be hugely into boats, but the views from the public walkways around the boat house are wonderful on a clear day.

    + The Anthony's Restaurant next to the boathouse also features wonderful views, and good food too.

    + Owen Beach and its Promenade connect a reasonably popular beach spot with the boathouse area.

    + An entire section of the park includes a number of smaller gardens, including an herb garden and a small Iris Garden. They aren't much as individual attractions but as a group they are an attractive place to visit in spring.

    + There are a number of viewpoints in the park, including the Richard Devore Viewpoint. The far west edge of the park includes a viewpoint that looks west towards the Tacoma Narrows Bridge (see photo 2 of this tip) also.

    + For other forms of recreation, across Pearl Street from the park main entrance is TNT Carts, Batting Cages and Miniature Golf.

    You can come here to walk, play, swim, kayak, bike, or observe history the fort or watch wildlife at the zoo and/or aquarium and/or in the forests. Or, just relax on one of the benches with a view of Commencement Bay and Puget Sound.

    This wonderful park was originally set aside in the 1880s as a potential military post. However, it was never developed as such and by the 1890s permission was granted to the city of Tacoma to use it as a park. They have been using it to fullest advantage ever since.

    How To Get to the Park:

    Take highway 16 and get off at exit 3 and go north on route 163. Follow signs to Point Defiance Park and the Vashon Island Ferry. The main entrance to the park is at Pearl and Park, and there is a confusing 5 way stop sign at the end of the straight section of Pearl Street. Going leftish-straight puts you on the main 5 mile loop road, and is an OK road to be on unless you are trying to get to the zoo or to the boathouse or to Anthony's. Anthony's, the ferry and the boathouse are rightish-straight. To get to the zoo, your best bet is turn left at the stop sign and take N Park Avenue. If you go straight into the park at the main entrance, follow the signs that say "zoo parking". (Or, take N 51st street before you even get to the main entrance to the park. There is a separate set of signs that say "Point Defiance Zoo" at 51st & Pearl but that is out of the way for almost all other park attractions, and it is possible to get to the zoo just as well from the main entrance if you miss this sign.) If you are going to Fort Nisqually, or the overlook of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, or almost any other attraction in the park, it is best to go north on Pearl until you get to the confusing 5 way stop sign at the main entrance to the park. If you are going to Fort Nisqually, or the overlook of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, turn left just after you pass the Rhododendron Garden on the "5 Mile Loop" road. Otherwise, you wind up doing a long loop through the beach area that is not necessary. If you are going to the beach area, turn right at the road division that happens just after the Rhododendron Garden.

    Certain traffic lanes in the park are labeled too so pay attention to both directional signs and the lettering painted onto the road itself.

    From downtown Tacoma it is possible to take Interstate 705 to Schuster Parkway to Ruston Way, which turns into N 51st Street. You can either keep going straight and go into the park at the entrance from 51st that is the best entrance for the zoo or N on Pearl to the park's main entrance.

    Again I highly suggest printing the park map, or at least carefully studying it, before coming. This is particularly the case if you are trying to get to a special speaker or special event (Fort Nisqually hosts occasional special speakers regarding specific events in history) or otherwise get somewhere by a specific time.

    Bus route 11 comes from downtown Tacoma to the park and ends at the ferry terminal to Vashon Island. That is where you want to go if you are going to Anthony's restaurant or the boat house. Otherwise, get off that bus at the main entrance to the park. There are some maps that show a bus stop at the entrance to the zoo, but this simply is not the case right now. Bus route 10 also serves the Vashon Ferry terminal, but it comes from the Tacoma Community College transit center and thus is a slower way, so is only useful if you just missed a #11.

    Routes 13, 16 and 51 are not too far away either, and it is possible to walk here from downtown Tacoma or the Old Tacoma community (route #13) on the Ruston Way Walkway. (see my tip)

    Related to:
    • Photography
    • Hiking and Walking
    • Family Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • glabah's Profile Photo

    Ruston Way Walkway

    by glabah Updated Sep 22, 2013

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    typical Ruston Way walkway section
    4 more images

    Runinng along the edge of Commencement Bay from the interchange between Ruston Way and 30th Street northwest all the way to Ruston Way and 49th Street, this riverfront walkway passes through a number of small waterfront parks and is approximately 2.3 miles (3.8 km) long.

    While Ruston Way is a busy road, many of the areas of this walkway are far enough away from traffic that the noise isn't exceptionally bad. There are a few areas where the walkway is right next to the road, and those areas are a bit annoying.

    The views from this walkway are quite pleasant, and can include several peaks in the Cascade Mountains when the weather is clear. You may see bird life of various types hunting for fish, including Bald Eagles and Great Blue Heron.

    There are several areas that feature benches, picnic tables with grills. There are fishing piers, boat docks, beach access points, and places where people can drop kayaks or other human powered portable craft into the water. Several restaurants are scattered along this area as well.

    The far nothern end of the walkway is somewhat hard to get to from the residential area up the hill from Ruston Way, as there is no traffic signal at 49th and Ruston. However, thankfully Ruston Way is less busy at this point than it is closer into town. The intersection at 30th and Ruston is controlled by a traffic light.

    There is no public transit service as of yet on Ruston Way. However, the transit options are closer than walking back the entire distance. So, it may be desirable to consider walking one way and then to the nearest transit stop. Waterview is the shortest route from this part of Ruston Way to a transit stop, but currently Waterview is far too narrow a road to walk on safely. It is better to go north to the Copperline Appartments, go north to Baltimore, and then south to 46th where it is possible to get bus route #11. It is also possible to get bus route #10 over on Pearl Street, but that means having to transfer to a different bus to get to downtown Tacoma.

    The following are links to other tips with more specific information about some of the parks along the route. (If you are reading this on the Tacoma travel guide, you will have to switch to reading my personal Tacoma page for the links to be usable.) From south to north, parks along the route include:

    + Chinese Reconciliation Garden (as of this writing, the garden is still under construction)

    + Jack Hyde Park

    + Old Town Dock

    + Dickman Mill Park

    + Tacoma Fallen Firefighters Memorial and Park

    In 2010 the walkway essentially ended at Waterview Street, which has a very narrow walkway down one side of it, serving as the only connection between this part of Ruston Way and the bus routes in the neighborhoods above. However, as of 2012 and 2013, a new development called Point Ruston has not only allowed the construction of new sidewalks along some of the connecting roads, but it has continued the Ruston Way Walkway into a new realm by constructing the Waterwalk, which directs non-motorized vehicles away from the traffic noise of Ruston Way, adds approximately 1 mile to the Ruston Way Walkway, and provides a new set of facilities at the north end of the walkway.

    It is possible to walk the entire length of this side of the Point Defiance Peninsula from downtown Tacoma to Point Ruston. However, there is a 1.6 mile (2.6 km) location that consists of a narrow sidewalk along a very busy road. See my Walkway from Thea's Park to Old Tacoma tip to see a few photos and a description of this area.

    Related to:
    • Beaches
    • Kayaking
    • Hiking and Walking

    Was this review helpful?

  • Agraichen's Profile Photo

    Museum of Glass

    by Agraichen Written Sep 6, 2013
    4 more images

    No visit to Tacoma, WA is complete without a visit to the Museum of Glass. The displays of internationally fames artists as well as the real time exhibitions in the "HOT room" are incredible. Watching molten glass become art objects is breath taking.

    Related to:
    • Road Trip
    • Museum Visits

    Was this review helpful?

  • glabah's Profile Photo

    Tacoma Chinese Garden and Reconciliation Park

    by glabah Updated Sep 27, 2012

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Chinese Garden Fuzhou Ting was Award Winner
    4 more images

    In 1885 the Chinese community of Tacoma was driven out of Tacoma. The park aims to be a symbol of reconciliation over the division and healing of this historical rift. It was under construction when I visited in September of 2010, and by September of 2012 it was largely complete but there are still some large open areas that appear to be destined to become additions to the park.

    There is a small parking area that is part of the park, but this parking area is also extremely well hidden. Schuster Parkway is a main road heading northwest from downtown Tacoma along the waterfront in this area. As the main road crosses the railroad line on a bridge it changes name to Ruston Way. At the bottom of this bridge, you need to immediately turn left into a parking lot, where there is a sign indicating "Chinese Garden". Make a complete U turn as you turn into the parking lot, and you will be facing the southeast, running parallel to the railroad line. This small road is the driveway into the parking area for the Chinese Garden. As the parking area at the garden itself is very limited, you may need to park somewhere along Ruston Way, or in Old Town Tacoma, or in the parking area along the railroad line.

    The garden features views of Commencement Bay and is right next to the two old navy ships that have been sitting at moorage in this part of Tacoma for some 20 years now.

    The park also provides the the Ruston Way walkway with another advancement, be it ever so slight, in its effort to provide a continuous walkway from downtown Tacoma to Point Defiance Park.

    Part of the park features stonework and Chinese-style artwork, with interpretive signs designed to make people think about the problems that led to the racist situation that happened in the early part of the 20th century here.

    Part of the rest of the park includes the actual garden plantings, and a Fuzhou Ting structure that won the 2011 Innovation Arts and Culture Award at the International Sister Cities Conference.

    The park is quite small, and not a spectacular affair if you are used to the Chinese Gardens offered in larger cities. However, this little admission and attempts at provoking the thoughts of residents and visitors alike as to the human condition that allowed such prejudicial acts as excluding an entire race from a city deserves to be applauded for being a step towards getting people to think about their own attitudes.

    Related to:
    • Arts and Culture
    • Family Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • solopes's Profile Photo

    Tacoma's Federal Courthouse

    by solopes Updated Sep 26, 2012

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Tacoma - USA
    1 more image

    Would it be possible in Portugal? Na!

    Our courthouses are always sad and severe buildings, exclusively concentrated in legal affairs.

    Art? One painting in the main room, and... that's it. Or nothing. But in Tacoma, watching from outside the windows decorated with Chihuli's pieces, I had to enter the courthouse. Austere, discreetly elegant as it is convenient, but the tribute to the local artist continues in the large chandelier, and... dignifies the place.

    Related to:
    • Arts and Culture
    • Architecture

    Was this review helpful?

  • yooperprof's Profile Photo

    Chihuly Bridge of Glass

    by yooperprof Updated Apr 4, 2011
    glass on a pole!
    3 more images

    "This will be the gateway that welcomes people to Tacoma. We wanted something unique in the world, something that has a lot of color, a joyous experience, night or day." —Dale Chihuly

    It links the Glass Museum with the "platform" behind the Union Station and Historical Society Museum. Visible from the freeway, it really needs to be seen up close. I am very impressed by the bluish ice cubes on shish-ka-bob skewers - and by the cases which enclose hundreds of Chihuly Venetian glass "objets". There's nothing else like it I know of in the USA!

    Related to:
    • Arts and Culture

    Was this review helpful?

  • AgentJX's Profile Photo

    Point Defiance Park

    by AgentJX Updated Apr 4, 2011

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Owen Beach

    As one of the largest city parks in the country there is plenty to do at Point Defiance. You can take a hike through the dense forest, enjoy time at Owen Beach, visit one of the many gardens that are located throughout the park, go to the Point Defiance Zoo, or even take a drive around the loop road (5 miles) stopping at any of the many scenic overlooks. Although I suggest hiking as the best way to see the park. Fort Nisqually offers a look back at an old west coast fort, and Never Never Land offers a great place for children.

    Related to:
    • Hiking and Walking

    Was this review helpful?

  • glabah's Profile Photo

    Fort Nisqually: Living in the 1850s in Pt Defiance

    by glabah Updated Oct 17, 2010

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    main entrance to Fort Nisqually living history
    4 more images

    Please note that this is located inside Point Defiance Park, which has a large number of activities and attractions. For basic information on Point Defiance Park, please see my Point Defiance tip which gives a basic introduction to the park, and links to the various other attractions and activities inside the park.

    With the first construction in 1833, through the1850s and up until its closure in 1869, Fort Nisqually served as the primary trading post for the entire Puget Sound region. Operated by the Hudson's Bay Company, it was the only supply point for a vast area of Washington State for a number of decades.

    By the 1930s, the historic structures were either demolished or in poor repair, and their location was not in a spot that was considered desirable for historic artifacts. The city of Tacoma volunteered a spot in Point Defiance Park for the remaining historic structures, and a federal restoration grant moved the structures from their original location (today the location of the city of DuPont, Washington) to Tacoma's Point Defiance Park.

    The oldest remaining structure anywhere on Puget Sound is here: the Granary, from the 1850s.

    As much as reasonably possible, the fort appears and operates as it did in 1855. When living history museum actors are available, you will find an active blacksmith shop, wool spinning, and a number of other things going on here. Special events can draw very large crowds, and in recent years some 90,000 visitors a year were recorded at the fort.

    The structure at the main entry includes a small museum and artifact display placing the fort in its larger context. This building also serves as a gift shop, and a number of items of interest to history fans may be found here.

    There are some considerable adaptations for modern life, however. The older structures are maintained in reasonably original condition, but those that had to be built as replicas of buildings that were lost feature modern additions such as electrical power outlets, and electronic display equipment for presentations by visiting guest speakers, and various other modern conveniences. Though the exterior of these structures were kept authentic, their modern purpose at the fort requires that they have these modern additions.

    Notes about Location: I highly recommend printing a map of the park, found on the Tacoma Parks web site. Point Defiance Park can be a little confusing. The road sysem in the park is a series of one-way loops, and if you don't turn left just after passing the rhododendron garden you will take a long, time consuming detour to get to the fort. If it is a weekday, you may find it better to park in the zoo parking lot (it will be full on weekends) and walk west to the fort, but you will need a trail map to find your way.

    Significant parts of the five mile loop road is closed to vehicle traffic on Saturday and Sunday mornings. However, it is still possible to take the short - cut just after the rhododendron garden to get to Fort Nisqually.

    Related to:
    • Museum Visits
    • Historical Travel
    • Family Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • glabah's Profile Photo

    Third Thursdays Art Walk

    by glabah Updated Sep 27, 2010
    Bridge of Glass in Evening: Attraction of 3rd Thur
    2 more images

    Every Third Thursday of the Month is special in downtown Tacoma, as the three big museums (Washington State History Museum, the Tacoma Art Museum, and the Museum of Glass) are all open until 8 at night. Furthermore, these museums are free of charge during those late night hours.

    However, the attraction isn't just those three museums. There are actually quite a collection of galleries that are also open for the Tacoma Art Walk, and even the Hotel Murano is open to the public as an art show during that time.

    About the only thing of significant artist interest that doesn't participate in Third Thursday is the Union Station Courthouse, which keeps regular federal courthouse hours no matter what.

    The art walk has been going since 1989, and therefore is one of the oldest such art walk shows in the Pacific Northwest. The web site below gives you a map of the various locations, all of which are within a very short walk of eachother, but does not give you any idea as to what type of art or materials will be on display at that particular location.

    The biggest problem that you have is that you will not be able to see it all during the course of one evening, especially when you start to include the three big museums that are free of charge on Third Thursday, and thus you have some good excuses to come back.

    Also, if you happen to be visiting during the non-summer months, take the opportunity to go out and look at the outdoor glass sculptures on the ground of the Glass Museum and the Bridge of Glass in the evening. The opportunity to view these works with the lights behind them are one of the attractions of Third Thursdays for sure!

    Related to:
    • Arts and Culture
    • Museum Visits

    Was this review helpful?

  • glabah's Profile Photo

    Tacoma Art Museum

    by glabah Updated Sep 27, 2010

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Entrance to Tacoma Art Museum
    1 more image

    [This tip is still undergoing development. Please check back again later.]

    There are two art museums in Tacoma. The most well known is the Museum of Glass as it is certainly the most unique.

    However Tacoma also has an general art museum. This museum is located directly in downtown Tacoma, just north of the Union Station Courthouse on Pacific.

    Standard admission is $9, and the museum participates in Third Thursday and is free of charge between 5 and 8 pm on the Third Thursday of the Month as part of that participation.

    Was this review helpful?

  • glabah's Profile Photo

    Museum of Glass

    by glabah Updated Sep 27, 2010

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Museum of Glass from Walkway along Waterway
    4 more images

    The Museum of Glass is probably one of the best known attractions in Tacoma, and is very obvious to anyone who has gone through the city on Amtrak, with the huge "hive" structure on one side of the train and the rather eccentric blue towers of light on the the Bridge of Glass on the other side of the train (this is most obvious at night). The museum is all but invisible to through traffic on Interstate 5, though, as Interstate 5 passes far to the south of the museum.

    Such features as the Bridge of Glass directly above Interstate 705 make the presence of the museum very known to anyone passing by on that highway, due to the large Crystal Towers that stick up from the bridge above the highway.

    Outside of the museum, you will find several sculptures and other works that are available to see free of charge (including the three that make up the the Bridge of Glass), and are interesting attractions in their own right.

    The primary museum entrance faces the Thea Foss Waterway and the Walkway to the Bridge of Glass, it is necessary to walk past these works by either the staircases or ramps between the Bridge of Glass and the Thea Foss Waterway Esplanade - unless you take the elevator from the bridge to the museum, then you would miss seeing the freely available artworks built into the roof of the museum of glass. You will also overlook these exterior artworks if you park alongside Dock Street or park in the parking lot under the museum. Either way, please make sure you go outside and take a look at the exterior artworks if you are arriving at the museum using one of the ways that goes past these works.

    The displays inside the museum include a few permanent displays, short term shows in two primary galleries, and artists demonstrations. Be sure to check the web site of the museum to see what artists are currently and scheduled for shows and demonstrations. With the live glass work demonstrations being a primary focus of the museum, you don't want to come here when there are no artists working in the "hot shop".

    The artist demonstrations are performed inside the museum's "Hot Shop", which is a facility inside the museum where people can watch artists create their works. Two significant works outside the museum (Fluent Steps and Mirrored Murrelets) were created inside the museum while being observed by museum visitors. These are located in courtyards arranged on elevated terraces that lead from the side of the museum that faces the Thea Foss Waterway upward to the the Bridge of Glass, essentially making the museum itself one large artwork connecting downtown with the waterway.

    It is also possible to watch what is going on inside the "Hot Shop" on the museum's web site using their live video feed.

    Photographs are not allowed inside the museum galleries, but they are allowed inside the museum "hot shop" and inside the memorabilia store.

    The museum has both summer hours and winter hours, and during the winter hours it is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Normally, the museum closes at 5 pm, but there is a Third Thursday Art Walk (see my tip about that under "Things to Do") where the Museum of Glass and other attractions stay open until 8 pm, and during Third Thursday the museum is free of charge. Normally, general admission is $12.

    Visiting artists working in the "hot shop" are not just local: for example, when I first wrote this tip about the museum the artists that are doing live demonstrations are one from Sweden and one from Wisconsin.

    Obviously, if you want more information, the place to go is the web site for the Museum of Glass, below.

    Related to:
    • Museum Visits
    • Arts and Culture

    Was this review helpful?

  • glabah's Profile Photo

    Point Defiance Park: The Trail System

    by glabah Updated Jun 3, 2010

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    huge old tree in Point Defiance Park next to trail
    4 more images

    Please note that this is located inside Point Defiance Park, which has a large number of activities and attractions. For basic information on Point Defiance Park, please see my Point Defiance tip which gives a basic introduction to the park, and links to the various other attractions and activities inside the park.

    A significant feature of Point Defiance Park is that much of the forest has been left as native habitat, and as such it is one of the few places in the cities of the Pacific Northwest where it is possible to see a true native forest in the middle of the city. Portland has Forest Park but that is mostly second growth forest. Seattle's Discovery Park has a little bit of native forest left, but much of the park is second growth as well.

    Point Defiance Park, on the other hand, has many huge trees, and a history that moved it from consideration as a federal military base directly into City of Tacoma hands without much development that would remove the native forest. The federal ownership was for eventual construction of a military facility, but as no military facility was ever built here almost the entire native forest survives intact. Today, it is a little piece of forest that except for invasive species removal is pretty much allowed to exist as it always has.

    The main trails in Point Defiance Park total about 14 miles (23 km) in length, with a number of branch trails not included in that total, and lead to all of the significant and minor attractions inside the park. For the most part, this has been done without running the trails next to any of the roads, so that it is possible to enjoy the forest (in spring especially listen for the many bird calls of nesting birds) without having to be right next to traffic noise for most of the time.

    Watch for Bald Eagles! as they regularly nest in the park, and visit here to fish in Puget Sound.

    Some of the trails are wide, and some are a little narrow. Some have fairly steep slopes, while others are reasonably level. There are a few places with spectacular views of Puget Sound and Tacoma Narrows, while most of the trails are only a forest view.

    You will want to download and print the map of Point Defiance Park and its trail system (available on the Tacoma Parks web site below or do a web search for "Point Defiance Park Trail Map"). While there are some signs in the park indicating trail names and locations, there are almost no signs in the park that feature a map of the trails so that you have some idea of what is where.

    The map is an important key for finding your way on some of the trails, as the map has symbols on it that identify the trails. These are used on the signs to indicate which trail is which, and thus it is somewhat difficult to find your way without having the map to show you these symbols.

    Among the spectacular views available from the trail system, you will want to visit the western edge of the park and the trail that runs along the edge of the bluff overlooking the Tacoma Narrows. Parts of this trail have wonderful views.

    Trails are either gravel or dirt, with only some of the most heavily traveled trails being gravel.

    Related to:
    • Hiking and Walking

    Was this review helpful?

  • glabah's Profile Photo

    Point Defiance Zoo: Part of Point Defiance Park

    by glabah Updated Jun 3, 2010

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium
    4 more images

    Please note that this is located inside Point Defiance Park, which has a large number of activities and attractions. For basic information on Point Defiance Park, please see my Point Defiance tip which gives a basic introduction to the park, and links to the various other attractions and activities inside the park.

    Considerably smaller than a number of other city zoos, the Point Defiance zoo has an ecclectic offering, including an aquarium, an arctic section featuring a variety including walrus, sea otters, and musk ox. The "kids zone" section features a variety of animals (including meerkats and goats) that are thought to appeal to children. The "Asian Forest Sanctuary" includes a small selection of Asian animals, including elephants. The penguins are in a category by themselves towards the center south side.

    An outdoor theatre offers occasional programs, mostly aimed at children.

    As stated above, the zoo and aquarium are quite a bit smaller than most city zoos, and at $13.50 to enter for general admission it may seem a bit overpriced. However, Pierce County residents are $11.50 and Pierce County youth are $9.50. So, it should be understood that the market here is primarily aimed at local residents rather than tourists from a long distance away.

    Even at those prices, and even with the zoo being smaller than many other zoos, you will find that a good weather weekend has the parking lot packed with cars, and probably at capacity.

    You will find the web site has a number of useful pieces of information, including a PDF version of the zoo map that will tell you exactly what is in the zoo.

    Related to:
    • Family Travel
    • Zoo

    Was this review helpful?

Instant Answers: Tacoma

Get an instant answer from local experts and frequent travelers

62 travelers online now

Comments

Tacoma Things to Do

Reviews and photos of Tacoma things to do posted by real travelers and locals. The best tips for Tacoma sightseeing.

View all Tacoma hotels