50 Things to See and Do in Tacoma


By Margo Greenman

boggs logoDo you ever feel like a tourist in your own town? Probably not – as a local, you know your city well. You can direct a visitor to nearly everything in town. You know all the best “hole-in-the-wall” restaurants to dine at.  You recognize friendly faces everywhere you go, and you can name your city’s most popular attractions (whether you’ve visited them yourself personally or not). But how much of your city have you actually experienced first hand? Play tourist for a day to visit some landmarks and discover some of the hidden gems that make Tacoma a truly unique place to live. Here are a few ideas to get you started.


Bob's Java Jive is featured in the Keanu Reeves movie, "I Love You to Death."
Bob’s Java Jive is featured in the Keanu Reeves movie, “I Love You to Death.”

1. Experience the arts during Tacoma’s Third Thursday Art Mingle. Enjoy free admission to museums and galleries, as well as special events and activities from nearly 30 participating businesses to boot.

2. Eat a bison taco at Tatanka Take Out.

3. Catch some live music at Bob’s Java Jive. A teapot shaped concert venue and bar, Bob’s Java Jive has been standing since 1927.

4. Rent a room at Tacoma’s renowned Hotel Murano – just because.

5. Sink your teeth into the best sandwich in town at MSM Deli. The acronym appropriately stands for “Magical Sandwich Makers.”

6. Go sledding down the hills at Wright Park on a snow day.

7. Eat pho at four in the morning. When you start to crave a bowl of Vietnamese style soup after everything else is closed, head to Pho Tai and get your fill until 4 a.m.

8. Catch a glimpse of Felicia Bachtman as she “dance walks” her way across Ruston.

9. Go on a beer and brewery crawl. There are several local breweries and beer bars located throughout Tacoma. Click here to view a map of all the beer-centric destinations the City of Destiny has to offer.

10. Watch the Dockyard Derby Dames at a derby bout.

11. Take a dance lesson at Studio 6 Ballroom.

Explore the shore at Owen Beach. Photo courtesy of Russ Carmack/Metro Parks.
Explore the shore at Owen Beach. Photo courtesy of Russ Carmack/Metro Parks.

12. Go kayaking at Owen Beach. Bring your own kayak or rent one on the beach.

13. Spot the Sonics Guy. His name is Kristopher Brannon and he’s always decked out in green and gold. Haven’t seen him yet? Check out his Facebook page to find out where he’ll be next.

14. Drink a fresh roasted cup of coffee from Bluebeard Coffee Roasters.

15. Go bowling at Chalet Bowl. This neighborhood bowling alley is located right in the heart of Proctor and surrounded by great restaurants, shopping and more. You can “Glow Bowl” every Friday and Saturday from 10 p.m. until midnight, too.

16. Peer into Washington’s past at the Washington State History Museum.

17. See what’s sprouting at the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory.

18. Watch a famous artist perform at the Tacoma Dome.

19. Take a ride on the Tacoma Link light rail.

20. Ride the bull at the Steel Creek. Have you always dreamed of riding a mechanical bull but didn’t know they existed outside of Texas? Grab a shot and get in line for this wild ride located in the heart of downtown Tacoma.

Walk, run or bike across the Narrows Bridge.
Walk, run or bike across the Narrows Bridge.

21. Peruse the shelves at King’s Books.

22. Take the kids to the Children’s Museum of Tacoma.

23. Check out the light show at Point Defiance Park Zoo & Aquarium Zoolights.

24. Walk, run or bike across the Narrows Bridge – the view is outstanding. If you want to experience it full throttle, lace up your running shoes and join the herd for Over the Narrows.

25. Explore the Five Mile Drive.

26. Drive around historic Stadium District and take in the sights of some old Tacoma homes.

27. Attend open-mic night at the Tacoma Comedy Club.

28. Sate your sweet tooth with mouth-watering treats from Corina Bakery.

29. Attend a Mexican wrestling match at the University of Puget Sound. Check the University of Puget Sound’s website for information about next year’s match.

30. Have a picnic in the Rose Garden at Point Defiance Park.

The band Letters to Cleo rocked out on top of this Tacoma high school in the cult classic movie, “Ten Things I Hate About You.”

31. Visit Stadium High School. This iconic Tacoma building was featured in the hit movie, “Ten Things I Hate About You.”

32. Eat a Tacoma themed hot dog at the Red Hot. (The “6th Ave Strut” will leave you hungry for more.)

33. Get lost inside Sanford & Son. This antique store, located on Tacoma’s Antique Row, is a massive maze of treasures – you’re sure to find something, just don’t get lost.

34. Attend Art on the Ave. This annual event draws in crowds near and far.

35. Make a dinner cooked entirely from food purchased at one of Tacoma’s three Farmers Markets.

36. Shake your stage fright and sing some karaoke at the New Frontier Lounge.

37. Play old school style video games at Dorky’s Arcade and Bar.

38. Visit Tacoma’s famous B&I. Located on South Tacoma Way, the B&I isn’t your typical “Public Market Place.” Food vendors, a beauty supply store, and a hodge-podge of retail options can be found at this bizarre shopping destination.

Tropical vacations are just a sip away at the Tacoma Cabana.
Tropical vacations are just a sip away at the Tacoma Cabana.

39. Watch skilled glass blowers do live glassmaking at the Tacoma Glass Museum Hot Shop.

40. Wade in the waters of the Puget Sound or read a book beachside at Titlow Park.

41. Get dizzy on the Tilt-a-Whirl at the Washington State Fair.

42. Go ice skating with the family at Sprinker, or roller skating at Rollin’ 253.

43. Eat authentic Korean barbecue on South Tacoma Way.

44. Catch an independent flick at the Grand Cinema.

45. Enjoy a trip to the tropics without leaving the city at the Tacoma Cabana.

46. Take a beading class at The Bead Factory and learn to make your own Tacoma-made jewelry.

47. Test your luck or catch a show at the Emerald Queen Casino.

48. Watch the Rainiers play at Cheney Stadium.

49. Visit Ruston’s Chinese Park and read a book in the pagoda.

50. Eat dinner at Stanley & Seafort’s and take in the epic view of downtown Tacoma.

What other hidden gems will you discover?


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