101 Awesome Things to do in Tacoma

Visiting a new city can often be overwhelming. If you find yourself wondering what to do in Tacoma, we’ve got you covered! We’ve pulled together a list of our favorite things to do in Tacoma, the city of destiny. Our list has an assortment of free things to do in Tacoma as well as some experiences worth splurging on.

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Things to do in Tacoma

From visiting a real life Hogwarts to swimming with sharks, there are so many exciting and unique things to do in Tacoma. Check out our guide to exploring all that the City of Destiny has to offer.

Visit Tacoma’s Museum District

There are six major museums that line Tacoma’s downtown core, highlighting some of the world’s most treasured collections of art and history. Tacoma’s museums are relatively close in distance allowing guests to experience multiple museums in a day. Some notable Tacoma museums have partnered together to offer Third Thursday Artwalks where the Tacoma Art Museum, Washington State History Museum, Foss Waterway Seaport Museum, and Museum of Glass are free to the public. Visiting the museums are some of the best things to do in Tacoma.

Tacoma Art Museum

The Tacoma Art Museum (TAM) serves the diverse communities of the northwest through its collections, exhibitions, and learning programs, emphasizing art and artists from the Northwest and broader western region.

Museum of Glass

The Museum of Glass is an iconic fixture to Tacoma’s skyline. The museum boasts incredible glass works of art, live glassblowing demonstrations, dynamic exhibitions, and the opportunity to even create your town glass art.

Washington State History Museum

Tacoma’s Washington State History Museum is the perfect place to take the family to learn about the state’s past and the people that helped form the state into what it is today.

America’s Car Museum

Whether you’re a collector, a car enthusiast, or simply a fan of cars and history, LeMay’s America’s Car Museum is perfect for you. Listed as one of Tacoma’s top things to do, the whole family will find something to enjoy at his expansive automobile museum.

Foss Waterway Seaport

The Foss Waterway Seaport maritime museum boasts displays and exhibits that will delight both children and adults of all ages. This is a must stop for anyone looking for fun things to do in Tacoma. Highlights include wooden boats, humpback whale skeletons, and the history of the Puyallup people and their connections to the local waterways.

Children’s Museum of Tacoma

The Children’s Museum of Tacoma features hands-on exhibits and an art studio for children of all ages to learn and play. The museum is one of the best things to do with kids in Tacoma.

Fort Nisqually Living History Museum

Fort Nisqually was an important fur and trading post in the Puget Sound area. The fort is now a living history museum that’s open for the public to wander at will. The Fort Nisqually Living History Museum also offers heritage workshops where you can learn how to garden, blacksmith, and more.

Buffalo Soldiers Museum

Since its founding in 2005, Tacoma’s Buffalo Soldiers Museum has served as a community resource encompassing a significant, and often overlooked, facet of American history. According to the museum’s Executive Director, Jackie Jones-Hook, “the museum creates and disseminates knowledge about the history of the Buffalo Soldiers and their service and contributions.” We highly recommend adding his museum to your list of things to do in Tacoma.

Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum

The Karpeles Manuscript Libary Museum is a unique way to explore history. Get outrageously close to history with thousands of original documents, including sheet music that Mozart wrote by hand, peace treaties signed between nations, and Napoleon’s grand plans for governing. The museum rotates its featured exhibits every three months and is one of the most unique things to do in Tacoma.

Job Carr Cabin Museum

The Job Carr Cabin Museum is a replica of Tacoma’s first permanent non-Native residence. The replica was built in 2000, roughly one block away from the original site of Job Carr’s home. Docents greet guests and are happy to answer any questions as well as share the history of Job Carr and Tacoma.

Tacoma Telephone Pioneer Museum

This is one of Tacoma’s hidden gems. The Tacoma Telephone Pioneer Museum is a carefully curated selection of information regarding the evolution of communication technologies. While it might not speak to everyone, it’s definitely one of the more unique things to do in Tacoma.

Point Defiance Park

Point Defiance Park is a sprawling urban park in the Tacoma/Ruston area. It’s home to beautiful hiking, endemic gardens, a zoo, museum, marina and more. Read below to see all that Point Defiance Park has to offer.

Five Mile Drive

Point Defiance Park has an appropriately named inner loop called Five Mile Drive. It’s open to vehicles and cyclers and give a great view of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and local wildlife. You’ll often spot roaming deer and begging raccoons (please don’t feed them, no matter how cute they are).

The drive will take you past the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, Owen Beach, and Fort Nisqually.

Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium

Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium boasts polar bears, elephants, and tigers- oh my! The aquarium offers a floor to ceiling glass looking area where visitors can watch sea turtles and hammerhead sharks swim right above them. Peacocks freely roam the premise and zookeepers will often bring out an animal friend to speak to the public.

Cross the Tacoma Narrows Bridge

Tacoma’s iconic bridge is actually two suspension bridges next to each other. They span the straight of the Puget Sound. Cars can cross from Tacoma to the other side for free but will have to pay a toll to come back. Those on foot can take in the stunning water views while walking across and won’t be charge any tolls either way. Walking across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge is an exhilarating experience and if you’re lucky, you might even spot an orca pod frolicking in the waters below.

Take a Pretty Gritty Tour

If you prefer to explore Tacoma with a fun and knowledgeable tour guide, look no further than Pretty Gritty Tours. This local tour company offers historical, foodie, beer, and ghost tours of Tacoma. Owner, Chris Staudinger, is a former travel writer who has been all over the world but chose to call Tacoma home. If you can’t make it for an in-person tour, you can join him on Facebook or Youtube for a free virtual tour.

Visit Tacoma’s Hogwarts (Stadium High School)

That’s right, Tacoma has its very own Hogwarts. Stadium High School was built to be a massive hotel but has since transformed into a local high school. Fans of the 1999 classic Ten Things I Hate About You will recognize the fortress as the movie’s Padua High. Heath Ledger’s character crooned from the Stadium bowl steps and you can even take a Pretty Gritty Tour through the high school to take in the history and walk in the footsteps of Heath Ledger himself.

Visit the Ruston Farmer’s Market

You’ll be hard pressed to find a more beautiful setting for a local farmers market. From June to September, visitors can shop for locally grown produce, delicious honey, and fresh flowers at the Point Ruston Farmer’s Market. You’re steps away from the ocean and might even spot friendly seals bobbing in the water.

Walk the Ruston Way Waterfront

Come for the market and stay for the scenery. You’ll find cyclists, roller skaters, and joggers enjoying the trail along the Ruston Way waterfront. There’s a number of local restaurants and lots sandy beaches perfect for the whole family.

Top of Tacoma

Ruston Way Waterfront

Watersports

Proctor Farmers Market

Take in a show at Pantages

Brown and Haley

Tacoma Glass Blowing

Chihuly Glass Bridge

Tacoma Chinese Reconciliation Park

Brewery District

Iconic Bob’s Java Jive

Dive with sharks

Hike the gulch

Fly a kite at Chambers Bay

Load ships from Port of Tacoma Viewing Deck

En Rama

Devil’s Reef Tiki Bar

McMenamin’s Elk Lodge

MSM sandwiches

Watch roasters at Bluebeard

Wright Park

Atrium Seymour Botanical Gardens

Trainspotting

Throw clay at Spun

Murals at 6th ave

Prairie Line Trail

UW Tacoma Campus

UPS Campus

Ride the ferry to Vashon

Frank Herbert’s Dune Park

Slides at Point Defiance

4-person bikes at Ruston

Lincoln District (international district) for authentic pho and boba tea

The Social Ice Cream

Red Hot Hot Dogs

Shakabra

Visit a cannabis store

Escape room

Rankos at Stadium

Johnson Candy Company

Tease chocolates

Ride the Link lightrail

Show at the Tacoma Dome

Tacoma Little Theatre

Corina Bakery

Underground Comedy Club

Earthwise

Wapato

Wingman Brewery

Arthouse Cafe

Shake Shake Shake

Stink (wine and cheese)

Viva Vegan Food

Manifesto

Red Elm

Zodiac Supper Club

Northwest Fish Company

Weyerhauser Mansion

Parasailing

Brown’s Point Lighthouse

Rent Kayak Foss Waterway

South Tacoma Way

Cat Cafe (?)

Fish Peddler

Book a trip on My Girl

Northwest Trek (zoo pass works)

Tinkertopia

Gig Harbor Gondola

Hello, Cupcake

Peaks and Pints

Jungle Fever Exotic Nursery

Sandford and Sons antiques

Boswick Cafe

Bluemouse Theatre

Metropolitan Market (?)

Parkway Tavern

Engine House 9

Murals on 6th Ave

Tacoma Rockwall

Freighthouse Square

Puyallup Casino

Tacoma Planning Guide

generic stuff here

Our Favorite Tacoma Hotels

TK

Rental Car

Travel Insurance

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