By Sonia Garza
Pretend you are new in town
I have always thought the best way to see a city is through the eyes of a newcomer, so make a pit stop at a local visitor center and pretend you’re new in town. At the visitor center you will find the most friendly faces willing to give you directions, maps, suggestions on restaurants, places to visit and even coupons.
If you’re in Tacoma, park free at the Freighthouse Square by the Tacoma Dome and hop aboard the free Tacoma Link light rail to the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center stop. Walk down the hill to Pacific Avenue where you will find the Tacoma Visitor Information Center.
If you’re up for an adventure further south, visit the Olympia Lacey Tumwater Visitor and Convention Bureau (OLTVCB) servicing Thurston County. Just go through the tunnel and the building will be at the corner of Sid Snyder Avenue and Capital Way, right by the capital building.
If you love to run then you know how expensive those runs can get. This weekly run won’t break the bank and you can join a group of patrons running to remember those who have fallen. The route is the same every Saturday and is family friendly. Meeting time is at 9:00 a.m. at Powderworks Park in DuPont.
For art enthusiasts
In Tacoma you can explore city art on the days when admission is free! The Tacoma Museum District hosts free admission on the third Thursday of the month during Third Thursday Art Mingle, providing free admission into the Tacoma Art Museum, Washington State History Museum, Museum of Glass and other art galleries across downtown. What a steal of a deal!
Feel free to peruse the outdoor art featured throughout the Chihuly Bridge of Glass any day of the week.
If you find yourself further south, you can attend Olympia’s monthly Arts Walk. Hundreds of businesses and artists gather every fourth Friday and Saturday in April. You’ll find hands on activities and surprising impromptu street performances. But, you don’t have to wait for the arts walk to appreciate art in Olympia. Check out Olympia’s public art online and head out for a day scavenger hunt.
Free zoo day!
If you are a Tacoma resident and can show proof of that residency, then you are granted free access into the zoo and aquarium. This offer is only available a couple times a month. Not a Tacoma resident? Not to worry. They still offer many discounts, including a Pierce County discount, military discount and even a discount if you purchase tickets online prior to arriving.
Toting kiddos with you?
Pierce County’s Play to Learn is a free program for children and adults to play together. Parents, grandparents and friends are encouraged to come with their tots, ages 6 and younger to partake in individual play, group activities, songs and circle time. You do not have to register, just show up. Children will love playing with blocks, puppets, dinosaurs, bubbles and will even have a chance to create an art piece to take home. You can find Play to Learn happening twice a day around Pierce County at various locations in Tacoma, Puyallup, and South Hill.
If you have access to JBLM, then you have to take your little one to visit Raindrops and Rainbows. This free venue encourages children from birth to 5-years-old to come and play with sand, musical instruments, kitchen toys, trains and so much more. No registration required.
The Children’s Museum of Tacoma is completely free for kids of all ages and is a blast, to say the least! Children will love the log cabin forts, gigantic ship and slide, air shoots, waterways and crafts.
If you’re in Olympia, the Hands On Children’s Museum offers free admission the first Friday of the month from 5:00 p.m.–9:00 p.m.
For even more free activities with children, click here.
Picnic at Bradley Lake Park
Puyallup’s Bradley Lake Park features 59 acres of walking trails, covered picnic areas and an expansive playground. The 12-acre lake is home to beautiful wildlife and ducks. You can fish off the pier and on especially warm days, you will find many sunbathing on their towels. This is a perfect spot for a picnic, so pack a sandwich or two and enjoy people watching and children flying model planes. After your meal, walk the 0.8-mile trail that circles the lake. What a view!
Have you heard of voluntouring?
Voluntourism combines travel and tourism with volunteer work. That doesn’t mean that you have to travel far to be a voluntourist. You give of your time to a needy organization, all while seeing and experiencing something new. It’s a win-win!
Metro Parks Tacoma offers many opportunities to volunteer and see the wilderness. Up for a volunteer party? The Olympia Volunteer Work Parties program offers a variety of ways to help Olympia’s parks. Tools, gloves and some refreshments are provided. All ages are welcome to participate.
Or you can simply call your favorite nonprofit organization and see if they need a couple eager hands.
Have fun enjoying your free day and don’t be afraid to look around. You just might find a hidden gem!