Summer in Western Washington is just about as good as it gets. Long days. Warm weather (or at least mostly warm). Less rain. Maybe you celebrate summer with barbecues or trips to the ocean, but make sure not to miss out on Tacoma’s awesome festival scene too.
Here are the details on the many festivals taking place this summer in Tacoma. You can just about fill up every weekend day with festival fun and – best of all – all of Tacoma’s summer festivals have free entry to all or most of their events!
You could wait for July 4 to watch some fireworks, but why wait when you can catch spectacular fireworks during Friday night home games at Cheney Stadium. Fireworks take place about 10 minutes after home games and are most amazing if you’re sitting right in the stadium, but you can also spot them from nearby too. Remaining fireworks dates in 2018 are: June 1, June 15, June 29, July 3 (the Fireworks Extravaganza), July 13, July 20, August 3, August 17 and August 24.
Tacoma’s Freedom Fair is a tradition for many. About 125,000 people are expected to attend this year, making it one of the largest July 4 celebrations in the region. Freedom Fair sprawls out along Ruston Way and includes live music at several stages throughout the day, an air show, vendor and food booths (as well as the restaurants always found along the waterfront) and fireworks to cap off the night. The celebration goes all day long on July 4.
Tacoma Pride is more than a one-day festival. Instead, it’s an umbrella for several events, all celebrating the LGBTQA community. Events include a kickoff and awards event on July 13, a block party on July 14, an interfaith celebration on July 15, Pride Shabbat on July 20 and a brunch benefitting the Oasis Youth Center on July 21. To keep up with what’s on when and learn more about each event, check out the event’s website or follow the event on Facebook.
Art on the Ave takes over 6th Avenue from State to Alder on July 8, 2018, and it’s the quintessential bit-of-everything festival. There is – obviously from the name – a focus on the arts. Expect street performers, artists a plenty at the vendor booths and live music at stages up and down the street. This year’s bands include Booboolala, Smokey Brights, Pink Parts, The Blacktones, Torbjorn, Blood Drungs, Josiah French & The Americans and others. Kick back and the beer garden or grab a bite to eat as well.
Formerly the Old Town Blues Festival, the Blues On Festival still is all about soulful music in an outdoor setting. Held at Old Town Park near the Tacoma Waterfront on Ruston Way on July 14, Blues On has been around for 25 years and continues to draw in top musicians. In 2018, expect Little Bill & the Blue Notes, Tuck Foster & the Tumbling Dice, Rafael Tranquilino Band, The Lady A Band and the day will cap off with a performance by Dexter Allen.
Celebrate all things maritime on July 28 and 29 along the Thea Foss Waterway. The Tacoma Maritime Fest is focused on bringing attention to Tacoma’s waterfront, both in the present and in the past. Explore the Foss Waterway Seaport to learn more about T-Town’s maritime history, explore boats participating in the festival or even take a free boat tour of the Port of Tacoma.
Tacoma’s food truck scene only grows every year and that alone is worth celebrating. Food Truck Fest brings all the trucks you know and love (and maybe a few more too) to Wright Park on July 22. Listen to some live music or kick back in the beer garden while you nosh upon food truck fare. It’s a simple festival, but sometimes simple is best.
Ethnic Fest is all about culture and community and has been going strong each summer since 1986. On July 28 and 29, this festival fills the spaces of Wright Park with music and entertainment on several stages, Kids Zones, specialty arts and crafts booths, information booths and food. Festival participants not only offer some fun to this festival, but also help you appreciate just how diverse and interesting a city Tacoma is as they range from Spaceworks to Temple Beth El, YWCA to Radio Tacoma, NAACP to Agape Japanese Language School. The festival is family friendly and fun for all.
Wright Park just can’t stop partying throughout the summer. Also held in this historic park is Music and Art in Wright Park – a fun festival that’s just what it claims to be. Prepare to kick back on the grass and watch some live music. If you’re picky, check the band schedule in advance, but you likely won’t be disappointed if you just show up and see who’s on stage. The festival brings in all kinds of live entertainment so there might be a metal band on one hour and folk the next. In 2018, MAWP is on ???, and featured performers and artists include Tacoma resident and artist Larkin; the Tacoma-based Pig Snout (made up of a father and his two young children).
On August 4, kites of all shapes and sizes (as in, expect some really impressive ones!) will take to the windy hills of Chambers Bay. Activities will include kite demonstrations, races, face painting and the first 250 kids will get to make their own kites. Arnold’s Happy Days, Dippin’ Dots, and On the Grind Espresso and Treats will be on hand as well.
One of Tacoma’s biggest and best beer festivals is Brew Five Three, held this year on August 11. Brew Five Three brings in more than 30 breweries and cideries, live music and food trucks, meaning this is a super fun way to spend an afternoon. Admission gets you six tasting tokens (and you can, of course, buy more if you’re not too tipsy by then). Most breweries and cideries who come are local to Western Washington with a few from farther afoot.
Proctor Arts Fest is a lot like Art on the Ave, but smaller and tucked into the core of the Proctor District. On August 4, the streets surrounding the main intersection of N 26th and Proctor will be filled with artist booths, live music, a juried art show, kids activities and food. This festival is made even better by the fact that you can duck into Metropolitan Market or any of the nearby restaurants to enjoy lunch or dinner, too.
The Washington Midsummer Renaissance Festival consists of three weekends of Renaissance faire fun. You’ll find everything from jousts, to harpist Sarah Lavender and other musical acts, to a gnome hunt. Beyond maidens and knights, this faire also brings in plenty of fantasy as well. Each weekend comes with a different theme: August 4-5 is all about chivalry and honor; August 11-12 focuses on fairies, dragons and unicorns; and August 18-19 is pirate weekend.
The Washington State Fair is the biggest and baddest summer festival around, but it’s more than that. It’s also the event that transitions us all from summer to fall. Ride the rides, catch some concerts, wander some barns and say hi to the cows, explore the vendors and make sure to chow down on some fair scones or fried foods. In 2018, the fair takes place from August 31-September 23. The concert lineup this year includes: Chicago, Khalid, Florida Georgia Line, Scotty McCreery, Jamey Johnson, Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles, Seal, Boy George, Terry Fator, Toby Keith, Lauren Daigle, Joan Jett and Cheap Trick, Brett Eldredge, Macklemore, Gabriel Iglesias, and the Rascal Flatts.