There are so many reasons for Seattleites to start loving on Tacoma, and a staycation there might be just what you need if you’re tempted to start moving in that direction. As a waterfront city that doesn’t feel as big city as Seattle - it still has bespoke coffee shops, breweries and oodles of family-friendly activities. Here are a few ideas to help plan your visit!
Where to Stay
The luxurious Hotel Murano in downtown Tacoma dedicates each floor to a different glass artist, which helps set the mood for an arts-centric vacation in a city known for glassmaking. The hotel's convenient location makes it easy to walk to the Museum of Glass or the Tacoma Art Museum where there is a permanent Dale Chihuly exhibit celebrating the world-renowned artist (who was born in Tacoma). If you wait until the first Thursday of the month for your visit, both of these museums have free entry from 5 - 8 p.m. The nearby Bridge of Glass - where you'll get some of your most spectacular Tacoma pictures - is always free of charge as well. If you choose to stay in this area you can cap the day off with a stop to The Swiss Restaurant and Pub where a few of Chihuly’s works are on display beside the bar or the Hub where Wednesday night's mean Kids Meals are half off for 10 and under, with the purchase of a grownup entree.
Staying at the Silver Cloud Inn in Old Town Tacoma is the closest place in Tacoma you can stay to the water - it's built on a dock - and staying here means you can walk to dinner at Duke's Seafood and Chowder or the casual Northern Fish Company while searching for the perfect rock-skipping stones along the way. It's also one of the only places where you can wander through the remains of one of the city's last working lumber-mills as you stroll through Dickman Mill Park. If you pack your bikes you can ride the Ruston Way Path along the water for about 3 miles on a paved trail.
What to See
The Foss Waterway Seaport is an under-the-radar maritime museum in Tacoma that is fun to check out. If you have a MOHAI Plus membership to Seattle’s MOHAI (Museum of History and Industry) or another museum connected to the North American Reciprocal Museum Program you have free admission and it will take you about an hour to visit the working model trains, play in the touch pools and wander through all the displays. The Point Defiance Zoo is a must-see in the area if you have little ones in tow too. It is one of the rare places in the Pacific Northwest where you can see a polar bear swim, touch a manta ray or watch a live interactive animal show in the outdoor amphitheater. Their new Pacific Seas Aquarium opens in September and will feature sharks, sea turtles and a coastal kelp forest. If you have a car enthusiast in the family, the LeMay America's Car Museum has an incredible collection including one of the first electric cars and they have also recently opened a new exhibit all about energy and powering the future that my kids are dying to check out.
What to Eat
You can't miss the Waffle Stop where crispy waffles and Caffe D’arte coffee are a great start to the day in a fun Tacoma neighborhood. Shake Shake Shake also has an extremely instagrammable interior, reasonably-priced burgers (even vegetarian and gluten-free) and shakes; the signature Tiger Shake is made with Almond Roca, a chocolatey treat made locally in a factory close by. The Brown and Haley Almond Roca factory store is actually also a great place to stop if you need inexpensive tasty souvenirs to bring home from your trip but they unfortunately do not do tours. If you need more sweets, try Ice Cream Social - which recently opened its second location in the trendy Point Ruston area and has fun flavors like roasted banana, star anise and buttered popcorn. If you are dining with a group and want a variety of food choices you can't go wrong with Freighthouse Square, an eclectic food hall where my kids had one of their favorite fish and chips ever at Paya Thai Fish and Chips. If you're looking for an amazing no-fuss sandwich, make sure you try MSM deli where we've stopped a few times for a quick bite on our way from Seattle to one of the museums or the zoo.
Regardless of what you choose to do in Tacoma, you'll soon find that a day or a weekend isn't enough time to explore everything. Are you ready to move to Tacoma yet?