Few places capture the heart and soul of a region like Ruston Way does for the greater Tacoma area. Showcasing incredible views of the Puget Sound, offering fantastic dining and recreation, as well as a showcasing truly stunning glimpses of Mount Rainier, the spirit of the Pacific Northwest comes alive along the Tacoma Waterfront.

Ruston Way has played a role in the development of the region and continues to do so today. Today, Ruston Way is where people flock to on sunny summer days, making it one of the most popular spots in the county. With new growth blending seamlessly with history, exploring Ruston Way makes for an excellent excuse to leave the house and take a walk. When wandering this iconic stretch, grab a bite to eat, ride a bike along the paved path by the water and take in the grandeur of Washington State.

A Brief History of Ruston Way

Since the mining days of the 1800s, the area now known as Ruston Way played an important role in the history of the region. In 1888, one year before Washington became a state, a businessman named Denis Ryan built what would become the historic smelter on the northern end of the road. The smelter was operated by a man named William Rust, who by 1890, ran the smelter and built the region so well that the area was named Ruston in his honor. The smelter and its stack were a sight along the waterway until it was demolished in 1993.

Mount Rainier from Ruston Way
Along Ruston Way, discover breathtaking views of Mount Rainier. Photo credit: Brandon Koch

Originally known as Front Street, the street was renamed Ruston Way in 1926 and by 1928, Tacoma Metro Parks had purchased land to transform the area to be more friendly for public fishing. The trend of Tacoma transforming this road into a tourist destination and local attraction continued when Tacoma purchased more land in 1968. Each year, Ruston Way continues to grow, with new restaurants, parks, housing and walkways being built. One of the newest additions is Point Ruston, which is an entire community and destination in itself . If you haven’t explored this waterfront walkway, we have a few recommendations on how to start your Ruston Way adventures.

Tasty Places to Eat and Drink

For over three decades, Duke’s Seafood and Chowder has been serving delicious seafood and chowders to the Pacific Northwest. With numerous locations around the Puget Sound, including a picturesque restaurant right on the water on Ruston Way, your taste buds will thank you when you dine here, especially if you try the chowder. Reservations are always a great idea, as this place fills up on weekends and around sunset.

Ruston Way at night
Even after sunset, Ruston Way sparkles with beauty. Photo credit: Micah Sheldon

Also right on the waterfront at Ruston, C.I. Shenanigans is another great stop for awesome views and incredible foods. Serving seafood, steak, incredible cocktails and unique appetizers, this is a fun spot to grab a snack or a meal before walking along Ruston Way. With a great vegan-friendly menu, menu items that range from fish and chips to a Sunday morning buffet, as well as fantastic specials, C.I. Shenanigans appeals to a wide variety of diners.

For even more incredible seafood, Sunday brunch options and drinks, one can’t overlook stopping at the iconic and popular The Lobster Shop. Visiting during happy hour, which runs from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. and 8:30 to close, you can taste incredible seafood dishes like manila clams and salmon cakes while sipping on drinks. Try the Lobster Claw, which is Malibu rum, pineapple juice, grenadine and Myer’s dark rum.

For nearly six decades, Harbor Lights has been a cornerstone dining experience along Ruston Way, and it is still a must-stop destination. With a happy hour that runs from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday and a Sunday happy hour from noon to 9:00 p.m., stopping here for post-work drinks or a weekend hangout is perfect. Harbor Lights also serves incredibly delicious seafood, as it is part of the Anthony’s restaurant family.

Finally, the classic Katie Downs Waterfront Tavern is another great blend of food and drinks. Katie Downs is a 21 and older, Northwest-themed restaurant that gives breathtaking views of Tacoma’s waterfront. Serving great food in an ideal location, what sets this place apart from the others is the great drinks and perfect happy hour. Since 1982, this waterfront tavern has been serving up favorite beers and drinks in between the Cascade and Olympic Mountains.

Point Ruston

Point Ruston
With a theater, restaurants, bars and even places to rent bikes, Point Ruston is a great place to start your Ruston exploration. Photo credit: Douglas Scott

If you haven’t yet visited Point Ruston, you’re missing out. This is the newest and quite possibly the greatest addition to the Ruston Way waterfront. This development is an all-in-one destination with great food, entertainment, drinks and recreation for all. The developing is still building, so every month or two, a new business opens here, giving even more reasons to come back. The movie theater at Point Ruston is incredible, showing the latest and best movies in a spacious theater, while those looking for outdoor activities can rent a bike from Wheel Fun Rentals, or play in the fountain overlooking the Puget Sound.

While the waterfront includes plenty of restaurants spread out along the way, Point Ruston has several in close proximity. Enjoy some amazing drinks and a burger at Stack 571 Burger and Whiskey Bar. If you love whiskey, don’t even bother looking elsewhere, this is the place for you. I highly recommend trying the Smoke Stack Maple Fashioned, which is Jim Beam bourbon, maple syrup, Scrappy’s aromatic bitters and apple wood smoke.

Other restaurants at Point Ruston include Wildfin American Grill, Farrelli’s Pizza and even a second location of 6th Avenue favorite Ice Cream Social.