Tacoma, Washington? You'll Be Surprised!

Tacoma... the OTHER city near Sea-Tac Airport! You will be amazed at how many interesting and fun things Tacoma has to offer!


Tacoma, Washington? You'll Be Surprised!

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Koala_D on July 2, 2007

Most visitors getting off the plane at Sea-Tac Airport never see this city...but head straight for Seattle, 30 miles north!

Tacoma’s birthplace is the Old Town District, where it was founded in 1864.

Bordering Old Town is the Ruston Way Waterfront, a 2-mile promenade perfect for jogging, biking, or simply enjoying an unobstructed view of Commencement Bay and Puget Sound. Ruston Way also boasts "Restaurant Row" with waterfront dining ranging from casual to upscale.

Located in downtown Tacoma, Wright Park boasts an unusual collection of mature trees from around the world and the W. W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory, a 1908 Victorian conservatory featuring 500 species of exotic tropical foliage and flowers. Free and open year-round, it is one of only three such historical conservatories on the West Coast.

Another free outdoor experience right in the city is the Tacoma Nature Center, a 54-acre wetland habitat with nature education center....ideal for kids. (1919 S Tyler)

There are a variety of museums (please read my reviews), and many recreational activities to choose from. My personal favorite is Point Defiance Park. The park has picnic areas, scenic viewpoints, a zoo and aquarium, Fort Nisqually, and flower gardens. At nearly 700 acres, Point Defiance Park is one of the top 20 largest urban parks in the United States.

For a unique shopping experience, go to "Freighthouse Square"...430 East 25th Street, Website: www.FreighthouseSquare.com. This building was built in 1909, and was the western terminus for the Milwaukie Railroad freight line. There is an International Food Court, and the many shops offer items not normally found in a typical "mall."

Recreational opportunities include boating, many golf courses, and nearby Mount Rainier National Park. The Park is great for a day trip, and will please everyone, I'm sure! For something different take a ride on the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad at Elbe!

Tacoma has good restaurants everywhere; my favorite lunch spot is "Meconi's Pub & Eatery" on Pacific Avenue. You can eat outside or inside. The food is delicious and more than you'd get in most restaurants. "The Old Spaghetti Factory" (1735 Jefferson Avenue South) is always good for a family dinner, but there are many other restaurants. Ask at your hotel for those nearest you.

If you happen to visit in September, the Western Washington State Fair in nearby Puyallup is entertaining for the entire family. It runs for several weeks.${QuickSuggestions} Take advantage of the many specials at the fabulous museums here! The Third Thursday is free from 5pm to 8pm, but check for other specials on your travel dates.

During busier times, park at the Tacoma Dome and ride the train into the downtown area. You'll be able to visit the museums and Union Square, and there are many restaurants here on Pacific Avenue.

Do be sure to check the 5- or 10-day weather forecast! The weather is often unpredictable, and you may need an umbrella and coat.

Definitely bring a camera. Mount Rainier loves to pose for photos, and is magnificent in the morning and evening hours! If you visit Point Defiance Park, or the Bridge of Glass I'm sure you'll want photos there, too. The museums usually allow cameras, but do not allow flash.

If you are a AAA member, be sure to get a map of the city and the surrounding areas. Tacoma really sprawls out! I think they also have a scenic tour of Mount Rainier printed in a brochure...ask.

Most areas are safe in the daylight hours, but be careful at night and walk in lighted areas where there are other people.

The Tacoma Mall is large with a good variety of stores. It is located just off I-5, a little south of downtown Tacoma.

Pearl Street (the street to Point Defiance Park) has the "chains" like Dairy Queen, Cold Stone Creamery, many pizza places and sandwich shops, etc. ${BestWay} Because it covers such a large area, I prefer getting around in Tacoma by car, but you should have a city map! Most places in Tacoma offer free parking.

Avoid the commuter hours, if possible.

Tacoma is home to the famous Tacoma Narrows Bridge (aka "Galloping Gertie"), and a second bridge is nearly finished which will help to ease the commuter traffic congestion if you decide to drive north. Gig Harbor is close, and has many little shops. Good restaurants, too, for a leisurely lunch.

Sound Transit's light rail system connects the Tacoma Dome Station (a regional hub for local and express bus, and commuter train service) with downtown Tacoma. Link trains run every 10 minutes, Monday through Saturday, and every 10 to 20 minutes on Sunday.

On busy days it is easier to park at the Tacoma Dome Station and take this train to the museums or to Freighthouse Square.

Best of all, Tacoma link rail service is free!

Meconi's...Great Food, and Lots of It!

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Koala_D on August 25, 2008

Located right downtown in the oldest building on one of the city’s oldest blocks is a local Tacoma pub which boasts a true Tacoma atmosphere—part working class grit and part unabashed optimism for the future. Oh, and the food and drinks are pretty good, too. (Must be 21, no minors allowed.)
I was with a group of 10 ladies... looking for a new place to eat lunch. We had picked a restaurant, and were dismayed to find it closed on Thursday! We then wandered from one restaurant to another, and couldn't find any that pleased the entire group. Meconi's was the last one after searching for many blocks.... so we reluctantly entered. "pub" was not what we were looking for... just good food and a place where we could chat. We were greeted by a smiling waitress, and found it quite cheerful inside (you may also dine at tables outside). It is very quiet during the day so you can enjoy a leisurely lunch, but it has more of a pub atmosphere in the evening.
The lunch and dinner menu offers sandwiches and Italian subs... plus pasta, meat, and fish entrees... and pizzas. Entrees include a soup or salad, and pasta dishes arrive with fresh bread. Half our group chose spaghetti & meatballs, and the other half chose sandwiches & subs.
All our meals were delicious, and no one was able to finish!! "The Parm" sandwich with fries was the MOST filling of all ( a chicken cutlet topped with homemade marinara sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, and served on a fresh baked roll. $8.95). By the time we finished (well, TRIED to finish...) our waitress was calling us all by our first names. And, yes, she received a generous tip for that.... and for the good service.
This restaurant was very clean and our food was served promptly. We all agreed it was a place we would like to eat at again.
Just a little more information for you: Meconi’s has FREE on-street parking or you can catch the FREE Tacoma light rail link at any station! It is open for lunch at 11:00, and Happy Hour is from 3:00 – 6:00 pm.
Free Wi-Fi is available ALL hours. However, they recommend afternoons from 1:30 – 3:30 as your best time to enjoy this free service (between the lunch rush and Happy Hour crowd).
Visa, MasterCard, American Express and debit cards accepted. No checks. Call for Take Out: (253) 383-3388
Meconi’s Pub & Eatery
709 Pacific Ave.
Tacoma, Washington, 98402
(253) 383-3388

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Koala_D on July 8, 2007

I love this zoo!

It continues to grow, and recently has built some new natural settings for the animals. Also, a second beluga whale named Qannick was just acquired.

This zoo is large enough (29 acres) to offer many different animals for viewing, but is small enough to let you get close to them. It is the only combined zoo and aquarium in the Northwest.

Peacocks roam freely, and I always encounter at least one with his magnificent tail spread wide...and posing for pictures.

Other favorites of mine are the otters...I love watching them playing and rolling in the water. The polar bears are also entertaining, and you will often see them playing ball. Both the otters and the bears have above and below water viewing areas. The children are especially fascinated with this underwater view of the animals at play.

For photos, my favorite animal is the beautiful Sumatran Tiger that roams free in his natural savannah. He is most active just before closing time (he knows it's time for dinner!).

Zookeepers give regular presentations-- be sure to pick up a printed schedule as you enter. Keepers often roam the zoo grounds with animals to give you a close-up encounter. These impromptu encounters are always memorable....something different.

There are too many other zoo animals to name, but they are all wonderful!

The South Pacific Aquarium features dozens of brightly colored tropical fish and eels swimming in a 24,000-gallon Lagoon. Down deeper there are more than 20 sharks in a 240,000-gallon Outer Reef environment. You may get to watch staff biologists feed the sharks or dive with them.

In the North Pacific Aquarium you'll see the fascinating and beautiful creatures of Puget Sound such as: salmon, rockfish, jellyfish, bay pipefish, giant Pacific octopus, and more. Enjoy the exhibit from above, or explore the lower level of this aquarium where marine animals are housed in the Around the Sound exhibit gallery.

Stop by the Marine Discovery Center inside the North Pacific Aquarium and see what a sea star or sea urchin feels like.

Outside the aquarium building, take time to stop by the North Pacific Tidepool to view sea urchins and anemones. These exhibits are newly renovated.

The zoo has a gift shop, cafés, stroller -wheelchair - umbrella rentals, picnic areas, Assisted Hearing Devices, first aid, and free parking.

The zoo and the aquarium are just some of the things to see in Point Defiance Park. Before or after your zoo visit, be sure to see the Rose Gardens or take the leisurely 5-mile Drive on the park perimeter.

Hours vary with the seasons from 9:30am to 6pm in summer (4pm in winter).

Admission: Adults (13-64) $10 - Seniors (65+) $9 - Youth (5-12) $8 - Toddlers (3-4) $4.

Directions: From I-5...Take Exit 132 (Highway 16 West). Exit at 6th Avenue, and turn left. Take the next right to Pearl Street, which leads into the park. Signs will lead you to the Zoo parking area.
Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium
5400 N Pearl Street
Tacoma, Washington, 98407
(253) 591-5337

Museum of Glass

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Koala_D on July 8, 2007

Home to the famous Chihuly Bridge of Glass!

Before you even enter this museum you will be walking through the Chihuly "Bridge of Glass," a 500-foot long pedestrian overpass. It isn't very long, but you can stand there gazing up at the many artworks in the ceiling for quite some time. This "Seaform Pavilion" is a ceiling made of 2,364 objects from Chihuly's Seaform and Persian series. As visitors walk through, they experience a seemingly underwater world of glass shapes and forms a few feet above their heads. It is illuminated at night.

Continuing on, you approach the 40-foot high Crystal Towers, which mark the center of the bridge. The 63 large crystals in each tower are hollow, and glacial blue in color.

The eighty foot Venetian Wall displays 109 of Chihuly's glass works. Fiber-optic lights illuminate this at night.

You will see Chihuly's work in the Tacoma Art Museum (not in the Museum of Glass), and also in Union Station (next to the museums).

The large metallic-looking cone you see ahead is the glass-blowing chimney at the Museum of Glass. This museum houses exhibitions with work by world-renowned contemporary artists.

Don't miss the "Hot Shop," where artwork is made from molten glass right before your eyes! You won't see this every day!!

General admission is $10, and hours vary between winter and summer. Current hours are: 7 days a week — Monday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm, and Sunday from 12pm to 5 pm. The third Thursday of each month is free from 5pm to 8pm. There are discounts for seniors and children.

You can park free of charge at the Tacoma Dome Station, and take the free Light Rail train, then walk across the Chihuly Bridge of Glass to the Museum. Parking is also available beneath the Museum of Glass. Parking rates are $2.50 per hour. Additional free parking is available on Dock Street and on Pacific Avenue.

Driving...how to get here:
From I-5 in Tacoma (north or south)
Take Exit 133 (City Center) to I-705
Take the S. 21st Street Exit
Turn left onto S. 21st Street
Turn right onto Pacific Avenue
Turn right onto Hood Street (just past the Tacoma Art Museum)
Turn right at stop sign onto S. 15th Street which becomes a ramp that curves to the left.
Turn left onto Dock Street

*** For additional information please visit their website at: www.museumofglass.org
Museum of Glass
1801 Dock St.
Tacoma, Washington
(253) 284-4750

Washington State History Museum - Interesting...and Fun!

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Koala_D on August 25, 2008

A great place to visit.... both adults and children will enjoy this museum !!
Through interactive exhibits, theatrical storytelling, high-tech displays, and dramatic artifacts.... learn about Washington state's unique people and places, as well as their impact on the country and the world.
The building itself is an architectural masterpiece designed by Charles Moore and Arthur Andersson. The 106,000 square foot museum building boasts soaring spaces and dramatic archways that invite you into a history experience full of colors, textures, sights, and sounds. It is a beautiful building !
In the Great Hall you can take a video trip down the Columbia in the three-screen Columbia River Theater, use an interactive computer to learn Native languages, walk through a traditional Southern Coast Salish plank house and listen in on a conversation with a basket maker and her granddaughter, and also look at the many other colorful, interactive exhibits and walk-through dioramas here.
Model Railroad.... I think they are still working on this, but you should be able to view the progress. The Puget Sound Model Railroad Engineers club is constructing an 1,800 square foot permanent layout depicting the rail lines from Tacoma's Point Defiance Park to the Stampede Pass tunnel in the Cascades.
Ezra Meeker's beloved oxen, Dave and Dandy, are back on display in the History Lab, an interactive learning experience, which is now open on the 5th floor. It engages visitors with interactive exhibits featuring such historical concepts as Time, Place, Viewpoint, Exploration, and Precedent. In the learning center, visitors of all ages are encouraged to use the Tools of the History Trade (artifacts, ephemera, books & periodicals, people, maps, and images) to think like detectives in search of evidence.
The museum also offers special events and limited time exhibits throughout the year. A very nice shop with some interesting gift items is located on the lower floor.
Driving directions: From I-5 North or South take the City Center exit #133. Follow the I-705/City Center signs to 21st Street where you'll turn left, and then turn right onto Pacific Avenue. The museum parking lot is located on Pacific Avenue and behind the museum near the Group Entrance.
Hours may change during the year, but most days the museum is open 10-5pm. (Sundays 12-5) Thursdays the hours are extended, and from 5pm-8pm admission is FREE. After 5:00 you may also park on Pacific Avenue across from the museum for free.
Admission Charges: Adult (18 & over): $8.00
Senior (60+): $7.00 Student (6-17 yrs): $6.00
Military: $6.00 Children 5 and under: Free
Family (2 adults and up to 4 children): $25.00
This is located next to Chihuly's famous Bridge of Glass. It is free to walk through the Bridge of Glass, and it is definitely something you should not miss. The museum is also next to the Train Station which is interesting enough for a quick visit, too.
Washington State History Museum
1911 Pacific Avenue
Tacoma, Washington, 98402
(888) 238-4373

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