Tacoma Travel Guide

Write a Review
Popular Travel Destinations

Recently Reviewed Hotels Around Tacoma

  • Waynesboro Inn Hotel 239 West Main Street, Waynesboro, Maryland 7.1/10 - 29 reviews Hotel Class 2 stars 52 Rooms

Tacoma Travel Guide

Tacoma Local History

A broad delta, at the head of a bay, is formed where the Puyallup River flows from the slopes of Mount Rainier, and enters Puget Sound. The delta was named Commencement Bay, in 1841, by Lieutenant Charles Wilkes (1798-1877) of the U.S. Navy. The first Euro-American habitation on Commencement Bay was by Swede Nicolas Delin. He built a water-powered sawmill in 1852 where a creek entered the head of the bay. A small community grew up around the operation, but the settlers evacuated during the Indian War of 1855-56 and they did not return.

In 1864, Union Army veteran Job Carr spotted a small lagoon, that the Puyallups called Shu-bah-lip, and hoped to build a city there. With the arrival of Morton McCarver (1807-1875), a developer, in1868, things started rolling. McCarver named his project Tacoma City and started a campaign to attract settlers and the Northern Pacific Railroad.

In 1873, the Northern Pacific Railroad chose Commencement Bay for its western terminus. With a transcontinental rail connection and statehood in 1889, the future was Tacoma's oyster. The population grew considerably, the boom was busted during the Panic of 1893. By 1901 warehouses and grain terminals lined the waterway.

The city boomed in the 1900s and 1910s, because of a water system on the Green River and a hydroelectric system on the Nisqually River. In 1917, World War I brought an industrial boom, as the region's lumber fed shipyards on the tide flats and new residents moved to town. The U.S. Army built Camp Lewis on 70,000 acres of land on the Nisqually plain, purchased by Tacoma voters. In November 1918, voters created the Port of Tacoma, which began improving waterways and facilities.

Following World War I, agriculture slumped and the price for timber dropped to half. The 1920s did not roar as loudly in Tacoma as throughout the rest of the country, but the city managed to improve the water system and build more hydroelectric plants. The Great Depression, that began in 1929, pummeled the area's economy further.

Things turned around in Tacoma in 1940, with the defense buildup for World War II. Shipyards grew again, this time building with steel. War workers and soldiers and sailors crowded into the city. The African American population in Tacoma increased. In 1952, voters approved a mayor/city-manager system in which the elected city council determined policy and the city manager implemented it. The Port of Tacoma became an important link to Alaska and to Asia in the 1970s during the construction of the Trans Alaska Pipeline.

Tacoma Attractions

Tacoma Shopping

Brown & Haley Warehouse Candy Outlet - A famous confectionery store and well known for their experimental creations with chocolate and sugar candies. Brown and Haley started working together in 1912, and incorporated their candy manufacturing business in 1914. Together they created confections known and loved world-wide.

By 1916, Brown and Haley was marketing a full line of candy products, including a chocolate and nut confection with a vanilla-cream center called Mt. Tacoma Bar, later known as Mountain® Bar. In 1923, the company hit the jackpot with a crunchy, log-shaped candy piece suffused inside with butter and coated with chocolate and diced almonds. Their families carried the tradition of candy-making throughout the years, and has added interesting creations to the offering-list. This is really a spot worth a visit. Located at 2105 Frank Albert Rd E, Fife. Tel: 253/926-0240.

Soapdish - Soapdish is an interactive melt & pour soap studio and gift store located in Gig Harbor. At this retail store customers make & take their own soap in 45 minutes. There is a full assortment of soap forms, fragrances, colours, botanicals and toys that are readily available. To complete the experience, they have many different packaging and gift ideas to enhance your handmade soap. The perfect place to pick up some really special gifts. The Soapdish is located 4810-B Pt Fosdick Dr NW, Gig Harbour. Tel: 253/858-3474.

Hoodsport Winery - This Winery is a small award winning winery, located on the rural Olympic Peninsula. From the winery, you have a majestic view of the Hood Canal and the Olympic Mountains, just as the label depicts. Hoodsport produces limited bottlings of some of the finest award winning Washington State wines.

This includes Traditional vinifera varietals such as Chardonnay, Merlot, Johannisberg Riesling. It also features smaller productions of unique varieties like, Island Belle and Lemberger-Cabernet. In addition, they specialize in Raspberry, Rhubarb and Loganberry wines. These wines are made from top grade fruit and taste like the fruit it self.

The Raspberry has won top awards at many wine competitions. Hoodsport wines are available at supermarkets and other wine retailers in Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho and parts of Canada. You may purchase some of the more limited varieties at the winery. There is a Gift Shop on site, as well as Wine Tasting. Open daily 10am to 6pm. The winery is located 1948 Pacific Ave, Tacoma. Tel: 253/396-9463.

Tacoma Activities

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium - This spot is both a zoo and an aquarium, and both facilities are outstanding. The focus here is on the wildlife of the Pacific Rim countries, and you will find animals from such far-flung locations as the Arctic tundra, Southeast Asia, and the Andes Mountains. In the aquarium, the Rocky Shores exhibit features marine mammals, including beluga whales. The Jewels of the Sea exhibit sheds a new light on jellyfish. and children will enjoy it to see these creatures from close-by.

Other exhibits include a northern Pacific aquarium, a tropical coral reef aquarium (the home to more than 40 sharks), an aquarium of deadly sea creatures, and a new seahorse exhibit. At the farm zoo, kids can pet various animals. The zoo's biggest event of the year is its annual Zoolights program, which each December turns the grounds into a fantasy of Christmas lights. The establishment is open daily from 9:30am to between 4 and 6pm (depending on the season), and admission is $7.75 adults, $7 seniors, $6 children 4-13, free for children under 4. Located at 5400 Pearl St. Tel: 253/591-5337.

Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection - Little people will surely love a visit to this impressive attraction. In honour of the trade relations with Pacific Rim nations, the Bonsai Collection was assembled by the Weyerhaeuser Company in 1989. The collection includes more than 50 miniature trees from Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan, and Canada.

This is the most impressive public bonsai collection in the state, and there are free guided tours of the collection on Sundays at noon. It is open Friday through Wednesday 10am to 4pm (March to May), and Saturday through Wednesday 11am to 4pm (June to February). Admission is free and this spot is located on the Weyerhaeuser Corporate campus, Federal Way, at 33663 Weyerhaeuser Way S. Tel: 253/924-5206.

Tacoma Parks & Gardens

Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden - This garden, of 22 acres, has one of the most extensive collections of species of (wild) rhododendrons and azaleas in the world. More than 2,100 different varieties of plants put on an amazing floral display March through May. Also included in these gardens are collections of ferns, maples, heathers, and bamboos.

For serious gardeners, this is one of the Northwest's garden musts. The gardens is open Friday through Wednesday 10am to 4pm (March to May), and Saturday through Wednesday 11am to 4pm (June to February). Admission is $3.50 adults, $2.50 seniors and students, free for children under 12. Located on the Weyerhaeuser Corporate campus, Federal Way, at 2525 S. 336 St. Tel: 253/838-4646, or 253/661-9377.

W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory - Constructed in 1908, this elegant Victorian conservatory is one of only three of this kind on the West Coast. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It houses more than 200 species of exotic plants (including plenty of orchids) in the huge greenhouse, which is built of more than 4,000 panes of glass. The conservatory stands in Wright Park, and the Park has more than 700 trees, from a 100 different species. It is shady retreat from downtown's pavement. Admission to this site is free and it is open daily from 10am to 4:30pm. The conservatory is located at 316 South G St. Tel: 253/591-5330.

Lakewold Gardens - This 10-acre garden was designed by noted landscape architect Thomas Church, and was formerly a private estate. It includes extensive collections of Japanese maples and rhododendrons. Also on offer are rose, fern, and alpine gardens that include numerous rare and unusual plants. The garden is open Thursday through Monday 10am to 4pm (April to September), and Friday through Sunday 10am to 3pm (October to March). Admission is $5 adults, $3 seniors and students, free for children under 12. Located at 12317 Gravelly Lake Dr. SW. Tel: 253/584-4106, or 888/858-4106.

Tacoma Beaches

Tacoma is also in the process of reclaiming its shoreline, and today a waterfront park runs the length of Ruston Way, just north of downtown. Walkers, joggers, cyclists, and in-line skaters all flock to the paved trail that runs through this park.

All along the park's length there are several good waterfront restaurants.

Tacoma Restaurants and Bars

It is difficult to agree on which foods are traditional in American cooking and cuisine. Certain simple dishes like roast beef, fried chicken, grilled steak, stuffed turkey, meatloaf, baked potato, yams, corn on the cob, potato salad, apple pie, clam chowder, hamburgers, hotdogs and hot wings would normally be included on most lists of American cooking. Many restaurants and bars in the US serve hot wings or Nachos as snack food. Try them both, but order mild seasoning the first time.

You will certainly find plenty of fast food establishments and chain restaurants in the USA. They are convenient places where you can find a consistent quality of food in clean surroundings with good service. Explore the local establishments where you can sample a variety of dishes from the regional cuisine.

Tacoma Restaurants

Anthony's at Point Defiance - This modern seafood restaurant, has the best location of any of Tacoma's many waterfront restaurants. It is located adjacent to the Vashon Island ferry landing, on the edge of Point Defiance Park. In clear weather conditions, it is possible to see Mount Rainier rising beyond the adjacent marina, with all its ferry activities.

The best views of the mountain are from the bar area. Expect to find everything from clam chowder and pan-fried oysters, to alder-planked salmon and copping. You might want to try the fish tacos for a light meal. The prices are surprisingly reasonable, considering both the location and the contemporary decor. Main courses are available from $5 to $17, and reservations are accepted for 6 or more people. Situated at 5910 N. Waterfront Dr. Tel: 253/752-9700.

The Bair Restaurant - To have a milkshake, or an ice cream soda at this historic 1906 soda fountain, is perhaps the best reason to visit Steilacoom. The interior of this old wooden building, makes this place part museum, part soda fountain, and people line up for their milkshakes or ice-cream sundaes and the like.

This is the oldest soda fountain known of in the Northwest, and it is a definite favourite amongst locals and visitors. dinner is served on Friday and Saturday nights in summer, and afternoon tea on Monday through Saturday afternoons. This is the perfect spot for an old-fashioned soda fountain experience. Reservations are recommended for dinner, and prices are $5 - $12 for breakfast and lunch, and $16 - $20 for dinner. The Bair is located at 1617 Lafayette St, Steilacoom. Tel: 253/588-9668. The Lobster Shop South - The most upscale and expensive seafood place, and has long been the city's top special-occasion seafood restaurant. The view is a special attraction here and in summer, there is lots of outdoor seating on the deck. Starters include a respectable New England-style clam chowder and a good lobster bisque.

The hot Dungeness crab dip (made with crab, artichoke hearts, onions, and Parmesan), should not be missed as a appetizer. As main dishes, the crab cakes and the cioppino are very good choices. There are set $15 three-course dinners on offer from Sunday through Friday between 4:30pm and 5:30pm. Other prices are $8 - $15 for lunch, and $17 - $30 for dinner. Reservation are recommended. The restaurant is located 4013 Ruston Way. Tel: 253/759-2165.

Tacoma Bars & Clubs

Cafe Divino - This little wine bar and restaurant is located in the historic Old Town Tacoma neighbourhood. The menu is short and the wines by the glass tend to be a bit pricey, but the food is good and the atmosphere is boisterously convivial. Simple sandwiches (try the pesto chicken) and a few pasta dishes comprise the bulk of the menu, but there is also some excellent salads and appetizers available. The oven-roasted prawns and the smoked salmon quesadilla, are strongly recommended. Main courses are priced $8 - $12. Cafe Divino is located at 2112 N. 30th S. Tel: 253/779-4226.

Harmon Pub and Brewery - Located across from the Washington State History Museum, this large pub is one of Tacoma's favourite downtown after-work hangouts. The menu offers primarily burgers and pizza, but there are also more interesting specials available. There is plenty of good microbrews and wines to choose from. The pub has an outdoors theme, and houses various skiing-oriented special events, during the winter ski season. Reservations are not accepted, and main courses are $7 to $16. Located at 1938 Pacific Ave. Tel: 253/383-2739.

The Swiss - This spot is a good place to visit if you are just looking for someplace interesting to have a drink. The pub is housed at the top of a long flight of stairs, that links the Washington State History Museum with the University of Washington Tacoma Campus. It is a favourite amongst local, especially students. Not only does it have a great beer selection and decent food, it also houses a collection of Dale Chihule glass sculptures. The Swiss is located just uphill from the Washington State History Museum, at 1904 S. Jefferson Ave. Tel: 253/572-2821.

Tacoma children's activities

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium - This spot is both a zoo and an aquarium, and both facilities are outstanding. The focus here is on the wildlife of the Pacific Rim countries, and you will find animals from such far-flung locations as the Arctic tundra, Southeast Asia, and the Andes Mountains. In the aquarium, the Rocky Shores exhibit features marine mammals, including beluga whales. The Jewels of the Sea exhibit sheds a new light on jellyfish. and children will enjoy it to see these creatures from close-by.

Other exhibits include a northern Pacific aquarium, a tropical coral reef aquarium (the home to more than 40 sharks), an aquarium of deadly sea creatures, and a new seahorse exhibit. At the farm zoo, kids can pet various animals. The zoo's biggest event of the year is its annual Zoolights program, which each December turns the grounds into a fantasy of Christmas lights. The establishment is open daily from 9:30am to between 4 and 6pm (depending on the season), and admission is $7.75 adults, $7 seniors, $6 children 4-13, free for children under 4. Located at 5400 Pearl St. Tel: 253/591-5337.

Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection - Little people will surely love a visit to this impressive attraction. In honour of the trade relations with Pacific Rim nations, the Bonsai Collection was assembled by the Weyerhaeuser Company in 1989. The collection includes more than 50 miniature trees from Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan, and Canada.

This is the most impressive public bonsai collection in the state, and there are free guided tours of the collection on Sundays at noon. It is open Friday through Wednesday 10am to 4pm (March to May), and Saturday through Wednesday 11am to 4pm (June to February). Admission is free and this spot is located on the Weyerhaeuser Corporate campus, Federal Way, at 33663 Weyerhaeuser Way S. Tel: 253/924-5206.

Know a thing or two about Tacoma ?

Please share your experiences and tips with your fellow travellers.
Your personal details and email address won't be published.

Fields with an * are required. Errors will be indicated in red