Oh, Tacoma, or as your infatuated locals like to call you... T-Town. You are the perfect balance of outdoorsy and urban, where historical and eclectic mesh beautifully. How we love your food, your picturesque waterfront, your drinks, and all the other fun and trendy goodness you had to share with us.
Real talk: This miiiiiight be why Tacoma is number ONE in the U.S. real estate market currently. Tacoma has been named one of the most livable areas in the entire country and was listed as one of the "most walkable" cities in America. So come for a stroll through T-town with us and see what everyone is talking about!
As we said when we released our first city guide in the Tacoma series a few weeks back, there is just too much to love about Tacoma to fit into one post! We already covered Downtown and 6th Ave but there are so many more districts to explore, so here we will take you through our favorite places in Stadium and Proctor districts, Historic Old Town, Point Ruston, and Point Defiance! Without further Ado, here are our favorite things to do in Tacoma: Part 2!
A little old, a little new… a lot of incredible.
Stadium High School
Where did you go to high school? Was it in a castle built in the 1800’s? Tacoma teenagers attending here have something that’s pretty hard to beat. This amazing building was originally meant to be a hotel but ran out of funding and was repurposed as a place of education in the early 1900’s. If it looks familiar to you there’s a reason…. It’s the setting for the cult classic movie “10 Things I Hate About You.” That’s right, this amazing place has seen the likes of Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles. Not to mention it’s been visited by Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and other incredible people of history. This school is old, it’s beautiful, it has a secret tunnel, it won a Guinness world record, and is definitely a place worth visiting.
Seymour Botanical Conservatory
Listed on the City of Tacoma, Washington State and National Historic registers, the tropical plants taken care of inside of this conservatory continue to enthrall all who visit. These tropical plants and flowers gave many of the early T-Town residents their first chance to learn about many exotic species not common in the PNW. Some of the natural beauties you can see here include orchids, bird of paradise plants, crown of thorns and citrus trees. On regular display, you can expect to find an environment that resembles a midsummer night's dream: more than 250 individual plant species from all over the world. They also host a range of events here! For example: Story Hour for the kiddos (can you imagine a more incredible setting for kids to learn about nature and plants?) or Second Sunday Music, which are live acoustic performances on every second Sunday of the month surrounded by the lush beauty.
Also, you can enjoy the magnificent colors and fragrances of each season by visiting the grand floral exhibits which happen four times annually.
Spring Feb. 12-Apr. 7, 2019: azaleas, cyclamen, tulips, clivia, cymbidium orchids, different species of winter-blooming orchids and oxalis (purple shamrocks).
Summer May 7-Jun. 16, 2019: impatiens, salvia, begonias, lilies, caladiums, mimosa pudica, agapanthus, orchids and coleus.
Fall Oct. 22-Nov. 24, 2019: peppers, coleus and exhibition mums.
Winter Dec. 6, 2019-Jan 5, 2020: cymbidiums, poinsettias, paperwhites and amaryllis.
This park's impressive collection of over 600 trees makes it the perfect place for a leisurely stroll, a picnic, or a place to catch up on some reading in the shade on a beautiful day. Have kids who are out of school for the Summer? The Summer Playgrounds Program is perfect. It's a free program that happens at parks all over Tacoma like Wright Park. Bring the kiddos by Mon-Fri during summer for some fun activities, learning, and games. Speaking of kids... we'd be remiss not to mention what Wright Park refers to as a "sprayground." It's exactly what you think it is! It's a giant playground with water continually shooting up from the ground! It's a child's paradise. Or an adult's. We won't judge. Make sure to get over and enjoy parks like this while we still have a few late summer days left!
Ramen Moshi Moshi
Ramen: it's so simple, yet so complex. Here, they make their own broth and noodles daily. They also offer traditional izakaya delights like dumplings, fried chicken and grilled meats. They even make a vegan broth that is so rich in flavor from shitake mushroom, kombu, and two types of miso that you would never guess it's vegan. Their impressive bar and sake collection is the perfect companion to this vibrant and delicious menu. The Paper Crane (whiskey, Aperol, and yuzu!) or the Matcha Mule are some of our favorite cocktails. In their own words, in reference to Tacoma's food culture, the chef here said "I thing we're attempting to be a progressive city, trying to do good food without being pretentious, while sticking to who we are: blue collar and gritty, but that doesn't mean we can't care about our food and technique." We couldn't agree more. Make sure to get a little taste of Japan while you're visiting T-Town.
Point Defiance District:
Right on the water, filled with the outdoors and wildlife.
Zoo & Aquarium
Okay, where to begin!? The Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium are absolutely the perfect place to spend an afternoon or even the full day. Kids or not, it's a genuinely fun and educational trip for all ages. The zoo and aquarium are the home to over 9,000 different specimens spanning over 350 different species! From goats to polar bears to tigers, elephants and more. Get an up-close visit with a Red Wolf, who, without the help of the zoo, may have gone extinct. And if you're feeling up to it, experience the odd yet incredible sensation of riding a camel! Whatever it is you're looking for, there's a high chance you'll find it here. You can also meet Kazu, their endangered Malaysian tapir calf on the weekends. He's awful cute. At the aquarium, you can watch hammerhead sharks, giant pacific octopus, or touch jellies and tidal creatures. They even do "eye-to-eye" shark dives if you want the thrill of being up close while you learn about them!
Point Defiance Park
Most people don't know this, but Point Defiance Park is currently the second-largest inner-city park, second only to Central Park in New York. It's 760 acres are visited by over 3 million people every year. From an awesome off-leash dog park to the zoo to a natural history museum, you could easily spend a full and fun day here at the park. Excellent bike paths wind through the park. They even cut off motor vehicle access on Sunday mornings to give cyclists the freedom to ride the 5 mile loop safely and comfortably. So if you're out for a morning drive or want to take the kids on a fun day out, make sure to keep Point Defiance Park in mind.
Oh, the charm of living here! This district has some of our favorite real estate in Tacoma! Tree-lined streets and beautiful homes filled with character that are all centered around a retail core focused on community and local goods. Not to mention the other districts are very close so you don’t have to miss out on any of T-Town.
Blue Mouse Theater
Due to the popularity in huge theater chain multiplexes, hard times fell on neighborhood movie theaters in the late 80s and 90s. In the 90s a group of activists joined forces to purchase and restore this amazing property. After removing decades of layers of paint, wood veneer and glass tiles put on in the ‘30s and ‘40s, they discovered the original Craftsman-style timbering, stucco, brick pillars, polished marble terrazzo and original mahogany doors. The same was the case with interior renovation. The theater’s original architectural charm was brought back to life! It’s quite an experience to enjoy either vintage or modern films in this incredible theater.
The background of their website is a spattering of mouth-watering olives. They seriously had me at olives. Here you can enjoy some American comfort food done really, really well. The owners also love to travel the world and they make sure that it shows in their menu. They change their menu every four months to stay seasonal and fresh. It's in a very cozy little corner of the Proctor District, is kid-friendly but also has 14 Northwest beers on tap at all times. Sounds like a great time to us!
Old Town District:
Small, historic and super charming!
Breakfast Montamara Kitchen
If you were traveling through Tacoma about 100 years ago, you might find yourself stumbling on a festival celebrating food, family and friends. The name of this festival? Montamara. It's roughly translated "where the mountain meets the sea." Here at Montamara Kitchen, a keen focus is given to seasonal, locally produced, natural ingredients. They do all the classics really well. Eggs Benny, biscuits n' gravy, chilaquiles, and pulled pork n' biscuits which is a local favorite. You are sure to fall in love with this rustic yet straightforward approach to delicious food.
Northern Fish Company
Just like us, Northern Fish Co is family-owned and operated. Something we don't see too often in today's landscape. Five generations of the Swanes family have owned and operated Northern Fish Products since 1912. They are proud to be one of the oldest family-owned and operated businesses in Washington State. They have an incredible reputation for providing genuinely quality seafood for years and years. They set a very high standard for a clean, fresh and delicious product that is safe to eat year-round. Stop into one of their shops to pick up some fresh fish for that back yard barbecue or get quite possibly the best halibut fish and chips you'll ever taste.
Point Ruston District:
Point Ruston is a waterfront village with panoramic views of the South Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains and Mount Rainier!
The Grand Plaza
The Grand Plaza is referred to as the “centerpiece” of Point Ruston. Sprawling over an acre, the Grand Plaza has it all— including a state of the art children’s “sprayground” that mimics the motion of salmon swimming upstream (!) and that concludes every day with a technicolor light show from dusk until close. There’s also a waterfront amphitheater perfect for events and concerts!
The Mile Long Waterwalk
One of the most popular attractions at Point Ruston is the (nearly) one mile-long scenic “Waterwalk,” or trail system, along Commencement Bay. It’s a gorgeous and well maintained open space for visitors and locals alike to run, stroll, walk their dog, or even rollerblade. Running parallel to the paved waterwalk is a jogging path paved with crushed rock that offers a different terrain but still amazing views at the water’s edge. The waterwalk is also a great place to gain direct access to The Sound for endless water activities, like kayaking or stand up paddle boarding. Just put your board or kayak in the water at the entrance of the Waterwalk and paddle out in the direction of Point Defiance Park!