A new year is here and with it comes new opportunities to get out and enjoy all Tacoma and Pierce County have going on. Whether you’re looking to get out while it’s still cold in January and February, or hoping to wait until summer when the days are long and the sun is warm, there’s something on this list of unique things to do for you.

In completely random order, here are 18 uniquely Tacoma (and Pierce County) things to do in 2018.

Walk the Narrows Bridge

The Narrows Bridge is one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. With the addition of a second bridge in 2007 also came a walkway over the second bridge for pedestrians. Park at War Memorial Park just off 6th Avenue, walk through the park and you’ll come out right in front of the Tacoma side of the bridge. The span is almost 200 feet above the water, but you can still watch seals and boats pass beneath and enjoy views of landmasses, water and mountains in the distance. It’s pure Western Washington bliss.

Original Pancake House
Pecan pancakes with hot tropical syrup at Original Pancake House — yum! Photo credit: Kristin Kendle

Go to Brunch or Breakfast

You’ve probably done this one before, but do it again. Go some place new! Tacoma is known for many things, including serving up a mean brunch and breakfast. You’ll spot the most popular places if you drive down 6th Avenue any given weekend morning and look for people waiting outside. But, really, you can’t go wrong. Whether you want something traditional (look to Old Milwaukee Cafe or the Hob Nob or Shakabrah), or something creative (Dirty Oscar’s Annex), you’ll find options unlikely to disappoint.

Explore Downtown Gig Harbor

Pierce County has many small towns and cities worth exploring. Just across the bridge from Tacoma, Gig Harbor is one of these. Downtown Gig Harbor is perched right on the water and has many small shops, galleries and antique stores to wander. Grab a meal at the Tides Tavern, Kelly’s Cafe, Anthony’s or one of the other restaurants in the area, or rent a kayak to get out on the water. If kayaking isn’t your thing, the Puget Sound’s only gondola is also based here.

Pantages Theatre Tacoma
The Pantage is Tacoma’s largest theater, but far from the area’s only one! Photo credit: Kristin Kendle

Go to a Show

Pierce County has a number of theaters, with the greatest selection in Tacoma. You’ll find the more major shows in the theaters of downtown T-Town’s Theatre District at the Pantages, Rialto and Theatre on the Square (collectively known as the Broadway Center), but don’t dismiss the many community theaters in the area. Tacoma Musical Playhouse, Tacoma Little Theater and Lakewood Playhouse all put on amazing and affordable shows. Tacoma Musical Playhouse also has a solid lineup for young theater goers.

Take a Ghost Tour

Tacoma Ghost Tours puts on spooky tours throughout the year, not just at Halloween. Learn a little bit of history, a little bit of legend and enjoy a bit of humor to go with it as you explore downtown Tacoma and the Stadium District. If you want a tour with a twist, join the Downtown Tacoma 2 Tour, which starts at Wingman Brewers.

Enjoy Some Antiquing

If you haven’t explored Pierce County’s antique shops, you’re missing out. The easiest way to jump in is to visit Tacoma’s Antique Row as a number of antique stores – all with their own vibe and specialty – are clumped together along Broadway near the Theatre District. And don’t assume antiques means only high-end artsy fare. While you’ll find that too, don’t miss places like Lily Pad Antiques that carries vintage toys (including plenty from the ‘80s) or Broadway’s Best where you’ll find lots of local history in the mix. Downtown Puyallup is also home to a pod of antique stores.

Rent a Kayak

Pierce County has a few places to rent kayaks, but by far two of the best are either from one of the shops in downtown Gig Harbor (Gig Harbor Fly Shop and Lee’s SUP & Kayak Rentals are both options) or at Owen Beach. Kayaking in Gig Harbor gets you the advantage of exploring a closed-in harbor, but there are more water craft to contend with. Kayaking from Owen Beach lets you explore the open water with fewer boats, but more currents to navigate, but either is approachable for beginners and experienced kayakers alike and offers up plenty of scenery.

Northwest Trek
Northwest Trek has a zipline course perfect for both adventurous souls and families alike. Photo courtesy: Northwest Trek Wildlife Park

Ziplining at Northwest Trek

Northwest Trek is a lot of fun if you like watching animals in their natural habitats, but there’s also a zip line course where you can find experiences that range from kid-friendly to more adventurous.

Go to a New Festival

Pierce County is filled with festivals, especially in the spring and summer months, but there is no shortage during the fall and winter either. Chances are you’ve been to one or more of the big ones – Taste of Tacoma, Freedom Fair, Washington State Fair, et al. But chances are just as strong that you haven’t been to them all. Try something new in 2018 and seek out a festival you haven’t visited before. Art on the Ave, Ethnic Fest, Old Town Blues Festival and others are all excellent choices.

Wilson Way
Wilson Way will connect Point Ruston and Point Defiance in Tacoma. Photo credit: Stephanie Bower | Site Workshop

Walk Wilson Way

Okay, so this one isn’t open as of the start of 2018, but is slated to make its debut in late summer or early fall. Wilson Way will connect Point Ruston to Point Defiance and will be solely for pedestrians and cyclists. On top of being a picturesque walk, the path also serves the larger purpose of further connecting Tacoma’s waterfront walkways.

Go Floating

Floating is a pretty nifty way to unwind and experience a near weightless state that’s perfect for recentering, relaxing or meditating. Uncharted Waters Float Center in Tacoma is one of a few float centers, but offers the advantage of not only floating, but also getting a massage, acupuncture and other modalities of relaxation.

Crabbing or Squid Jigging at the Waterfront

So this one isn’t for everyone, but if you have any desire to catch your own food, but you don’t have access to a boat or want to drive to the coast, the Les Davis Pier at the Ruston Way Waterfront is a place where you can cast your crab pot, go fishing or go squid jigging. Just make sure you have the proper licenses.

The smoothest riding in town can be found along the waterfront. Photo courtesy: Point Ruston.

Relax at Point Ruston

Point Ruston is growing and changing constantly, and becoming a superb place to spend some time. Walk along the walkways and enjoy the open water views, dine at one of the many restaurants, go see a movie or rent a wheeled vehicle in warmer months.

Visit the B&I

While the B&I is far from trendy, it’s one of those places that natives likely have some kind of memory about. Maybe you visited the arcade as a kid, or maybe you even remember Ivan the Gorilla, or possibly you’ve never set foot in the B&I before. Today, the shopping center is a bit rundown, but still chocked full of history (look for displays on the walls that tell the story of the B&I in its heyday). It’s worth a stroll if you enjoy unusual Pierce County adventures.

Climb the Port Tower

The Port of Tacoma is tough to miss. You’ve likely seen it from the Waterfront or smelled it here and there, but have you really gotten to know this pillar of the local economy? Venture to the top of the Port of Tacoma Observation Tower and watch ships loading and unloading as well as what else goes on here.

Picnics at Lakewold Gardens have a little extra edge of solitude as it’s not a well-known picnic spot. Photo credit: Kristin Kendle

Lakewold Gardens

For a dose of pure serenity, visit Lakewold Gardens. The gardens feature all kinds of plants and flowers, but also views of Gravelly Lake. If formal gardens are your thing, you’ll be in your element, but even if you know nothing about the finer points of flora, take a seat on the grass and simply enjoy this uniquely peaceful place. Lakewold Gardens does close in the winter so check that they’re open before you go.

Take a New Hike

Most Pierce County residents have set foot in Point Defiance to explore its trails and pathways, but Point Defiance is hardly the only place to take a walk or hike in Pierce County. In 2018, try some place new. If you haven’t walked the Foothills Trail in Puyallup, Swan Creek in East Tacoma or Chambers Bay in University Place, start with one of them as they’re all excellent.

Visit a Farm

Pierce County’s farms open their fields to the public throughout the year for different events. In the fall, you’ll find pumpkin patches and haunted woods at farms like Maris Farms in Buckley. In the winter, you can hunt for the perfect Christmas tree at many local farms like Glenwood Tree Farm. In the summer, buy farm-fresh produce right from farm stands along River Road or even go berry picking at Picha Farms.

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