Tacoma Travel Guide

Discover the best places to visit, things to do, and local culture of Tacoma, the vibrant city in the South Sound region of Washington state.

Introduction to Tacoma

Nestled in the heart of South Sound, Tacoma is a vibrant city in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. Lying between Seattle and Olympia, Tacoma boasts a rich history, a thriving arts and culture scene, and stunning natural beauty. With famous museums, outdoor adventures, and delicious food and drink offerings, Tacoma is a must-visit destination for every traveler.

List of Places to Visit in Tacoma

Whether you’re interested in museums, outdoor adventures, or simply exploring the city’s vibrant culture, you’ll find plenty of attractions in Tacoma to suit your taste:

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

  • Tacoma Art Museum: Known for its world-class exhibits, the Tacoma Art Museum showcases works from renowned artists in the Pacific Northwest region.

  • Washington State History Museum: Located next to the Tacoma Dome, this museum offers visitors a glimpse of Washington state’s vibrant history and culture.

  • LeMay – America’s Car Museum: With over 350 cars on display, this museum is a must-visit for any car enthusiast.

  • Point Defiance Park: A national historic landmark, Point Defiance Park is home to the Fort Nisqually Living History Museum, the Pagoda, and the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium.

Natural Attractions of Tacoma: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

  • Mount Rainier National Park: Located just an hour’s drive southeast of Tacoma, Mount Rainier National Park is home to stunning glaciers, old-growth forests, and sparkling lakes.

  • Puget Sound: One of the most beautiful waterbodies in the Pacific Northwest, Puget Sound is perfect for kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and whale watching.

  • Point Defiance Park: In addition to its historical attractions, Point Defiance Park is the perfect place to explore nature, with its miles of trails, beaches, and gardens.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Tacoma

Tacoma is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, with its plethora of hiking and biking trails. Some of the most popular routes include:

  • The Foothills Trail: A 25-mile trail stretching from Puyallup to Enumclaw, this route is perfect for hiking and cycling enthusiasts.

  • Scott Pierson Trail: This paved trail offers stunning views of Puget Sound, with plenty of opportunities for cycling, skating, and jogging.

  • Chambers Bay Loop Trail: With its panoramic views of the Puget Sound, Chambers Bay Loop Trail is perfect for a leisurely bike ride or hike.

Best Things to Do in Tacoma: Activities and Tours

In addition to its natural beauty and rich cultural history, Tacoma offers plenty of activities and tours to keep you entertained:

  • Tacoma Glassblowing Studio: Take a glassblowing class or watch the experts in action at the Tacoma Glassblowing Studio, a must-visit attraction in the city.

  • Harbor WildWatch: Join the local naturalists on this free wildlife watching tour, and learn about Puget Sound’s diverse marine life.

  • Chihuly Bridge of Glass: Spanning the Thea Foss Waterway, the Chihuly Bridge of Glass is a stunning pedestrian overpass that features three distinct installations by world-renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly.

Week-Long Itinerary for Tacoma

If you have a week to spend in Tacoma, here’s a sample itinerary to help you plan your trip:

Day Activity
1 Visit the Tacoma Art Museum and Washington State History Museum
2 Explore Point Defiance Park, including Fort Nisqually, Pagoda, and Zoo and Aquarium
3 Take a day trip to Mount Rainier National Park
4 Visit LeMay – America’s Car Museum and the Museum of Glass
5 Go kayaking or paddleboarding on the Puget Sound
6 Take a glassblowing class at the Tacoma Glassblowing Studio and visit the Chihuly Bridge of Glass
7 Spend the day biking on the Foothills Trail or Scott Pierson Trail

Food and Drink Scene of Tacoma

Tacoma is known for its thriving food and drink scene, with a plethora of restaurants, bars, and breweries to satisfy your taste buds. Some must-try dishes and drinks include:

Must-Try Dishes

  • Fish and chips: Tacoma, being near Puget Sound, has some of the best seafood in the region, and fish and chips is a local specialty.

  • Artichoke dip: Made with local artichokes, this appetizer is a staple at many of Tacoma’s restaurants.

  • Pho: Tacoma has a large Vietnamese community, and as a result, there are many delicious Vietnamese restaurants in the city, serving up steaming bowls of pho.

Local Beverages

  • Craft beer: With more than a dozen breweries in the Tacoma area, there’s something for every beer lover.

  • Cider: If beer isn’t your thing, try some of the local hard ciders, made from the abundant apple orchards in the region.

Where to Stay in Tacoma: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

Whether you’re looking for luxury accommodations, budget-friendly hostels, or something in between, Tacoma has plenty of options for every traveler:

  • Hotel Murano: A luxury hotel inspired by the works of glass artist Dale Chihuly, Hotel Murano is a must-visit for art lovers visiting Tacoma.

  • McMenamins Elks Temple: With its art deco design and quirky interior, McMenamins Elks Temple is a great choice for travelers looking for something offbeat.

  • The Villa Bed & Breakfast: This charming bed and breakfast is located in a restored historic mansion in the hills above downtown Tacoma, offering stunning views of the city.

What to Buy in Tacoma: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

If you’re looking for something to commemorate your trip to Tacoma, here are some great options:

  • Glass art: Tacoma is known for its glass art, with many local artists creating stunning pieces that make perfect souvenirs.

  • Craft beer: Bring home a taste of Tacoma by picking up some locally brewed craft beer at one of the many breweries in the city.

Local Culture and Customs of Tacoma

Tacoma has a diverse and vibrant culture, shaped by its rich history, arts and culture scene, and natural beauty. Some local customs and traditions to be aware of include:

  • Respect for nature: The people of Tacoma have a deep appreciation for their natural surroundings, and it’s important to show respect when exploring the city’s parks and beaches.

  • Support for the arts: Tacoma is known for its thriving arts and culture scene, and locals take great pride in supporting local artists and musicians.

Best Time to Visit Tacoma

The best time to visit Tacoma is during the summer months (June to August), when the weather is warm and sunny, and there are plenty of outdoor festivals and events to enjoy.

Do’s and Don’ts of Tacoma

Here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when visiting Tacoma:


  • Visit the museums: Tacoma has some fantastic museums, showcasing the city’s history and vibrant arts and culture scene.

  • Spend time outdoors: With its beautiful parks and stunning natural surroundings, Tacoma is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts.


  • Underestimate the traffic: Tacoma can be quite congested during rush hour, so plan accordingly when driving around the city.

  • Ignore the local culture: Tacoma has a rich and unique culture, shaped by its history, arts and culture scene, and natural beauty. Take the time to explore and appreciate what makes Tacoma special.

Safety and Health

Safety in Tacoma

Tacoma is generally a safe city, but it’s always important to take basic safety precautions, such as locking your car and being aware of your surroundings.

Health in Tacoma

Tacoma has several good hospitals and healthcare facilities, including Tacoma General Hospital and St. Joseph Medical Center.

Getting to Tacoma: Transportation Options and Logistics

Tacoma is easily accessible from the nearby cities of Seattle and Olympia, as well as from other parts of the country. Here are some transportation options to consider:

  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport: The closest airport to Tacoma, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is located about 30 minutes north of the city.

  • Amtrak: The Amtrak Cascades line stops in Tacoma, making it a convenient option for travelers coming from Portland or Seattle.

How to Get Around in Tacoma

Tacoma is a walkable city, but if you’re planning to explore some of the more far-flung attractions, you’ll need a car. Alternatively, you can use public transportation, including buses and light rail.

Where to Go Next from Tacoma: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

If you have more time to spend in the South Sound region, here are some nearby destinations and excursions to consider:

  • Olympia: The capital of Washington state, Olympia is home to the Washington State Capitol and many great restaurants and shops.

  • Gig Harbor: A charming seaside town located just across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Gig Harbor offers stunning views of the Sound and a long list of outdoor activities.


With its rich cultural history, stunning natural surroundings, and thriving food and drink scene, Tacoma is a must-visit destination for every traveler. Whether you’re interested in museums, outdoor adventures, or simply exploring the city’s unique culture, Tacoma has something for everyone.