Tacoma, Washington is known for its vibrant, urban culture, incredible artistry at every turn and a healthy smattering of sophistication.
If you’re looking for all the coolest things to do in Tacoma, you’ve come to the right place.
Herein, you can dive into Tacoma’s rich art scene, some of the city’s favorite eateries, and historical sights aplenty.
If you’re looking for the cream of the crop in outdoor nature activities, Tacoma is rife with such opportunities.
If you’re wondering what to do when you arrive in Tacoma, there are dozens of laudable options.
From the top art museums to the incredible national parks and epic beaches to cultural epicenters, Tacoma has something for everybody.
As the glassblowing capital of the country, there are tons of art studios, shops, and museums that speak to this facet of art.
With the many amazing attractions in Tacoma, you can’t go wrong in planning your itinerary.
Things To Do In Tacoma
1. Tacoma Art Museum
If you’re wondering what to do in Tacoma, be sure to spend an afternoon at the Tacoma Art Museum.
The museum’s sole purpose is to provide art that “inspires perspectives and cultivates a compassionate future.”
As such, Tacoma Art Museum is home to more than 5,000 works of art that highlight artists of the Northwest and Western regions.
Some of the incredible mediums on display at the museum include glassworks, an immense collection of studio art jewelry, Japanese woodblock prints, and many others.
Of note, the museum was founded in 1935 and has since evolved into the national model for mid-sized museums.
Tacoma Art Museum is home to more than five amazing exhibition spaces.
In addition to housing regional artwork, the museum also showcases medieval manuscripts, Renaissance sculptures, French impressionist paintings, and avant-garde art among many other period pieces.
With such a vast array of astounding art on display, it’s no wonder Tacoma Art Museum is one of the greatest Tacoma attractions.
Address: 1701 Pacific Ave, Tacoma, WA 98402, United States
2. Tacoma Nature Center
If you’re looking for things to do in Tacoma that involve outdoor activities, Tacoma Nature Center is a good bet.
With over 70 acres of wetlands and forestry surrounding the beautiful Snake Lake, your options for outdoor fun are limitless.
The nature center itself is a lovely sight to learn about the surrounding ecosystem.
With fun, hands-on activities for children too, the center is a cool place to visit for the whole family.
One of the nature center’s best features is an epic trail system for hiking that includes a wheelchair-accessible route.
Another center feature includes Discover Pond which is a natural playground for children.
This area has hollowed logs for exploring, small waterfalls for splashing, rain gardens, log crossings, and more.
Finally, the center’s Interpretive Center is loaded with books and guides to help you interpret the cool sights you encounter during your hikes and explorations.
One of the top points of interest for stuff to do outdoors, Tacoma Nature Center is a must-see.
Address: 1919 S Tyler St, Tacoma, WA 98405, United States
3. Five Mile Drive and Trails
Five Mile Drive and Trails is a system within Point Defiance Park in Tacoma, Washington that’s surrounded by Puget Sound.
Two interconnected loops, an inner loop and an outer loop, are accessible by vehicle.
This is one of two lovely ways to explore the park.
Together the two loops add up to a five-mile drive.
Besides the vehicle roadways, a system of hiking trails varying in length from under one mile to nearly five miles, are a second awesome way to explore this divine tract of forestry.
While navigating Five Mile Drive and Trails you’ll encounter many wonderful sights.
From incredible wildlife to beautiful beaches and a marina to a public pavilion, there are lots to see and do at Point Defiance Park.
Besides the vast trail system, other park features include restrooms, a playground, a ferry dock, a boat launch, and picnic shelters.
One of the loveliest ways to see Tacoma, Five Mile Drive and Trails is one of the best tourist attractions.
Address: 5400 N Pearl St, Tacoma, WA 98407, United States
4. American Lake
American Lake, situated just outside of Tacoma, but also in Pierce County, is the largest natural lake in the area.
As such, it’s a big draw for locals and tourists alike.
Surrounding the magnificent lake are two public parks, one on either side of the lake.
Both American Lake North Park and Harry Todd Park have picturesque lakeside beaches.
Either beach is perfect for spending a day at the lakeside or as a launching point for watersports.
Furthermore, these beaches are the best spots to go for a swim.
Some of the popular water sports to do at American Lake include kayaking, boating, fishing, and jet skiing.
Amid the lake are three independent islands that can be accessed by boat and are super fun to explore.
Besides watersports, there are nearby tennis courts and perfect spots for picnicking.
Best of all, the backdrop for American Lake is breathtaking views of Mount Rainier.
Whether you’re visiting Tacoma today or this weekend, make a point of visiting this beautiful lake.
Address: 9222 Veterans Dr SW, Lakewood, WA 98498, United States
5. LeMay – America’s Car Museum
LeMay – America’s Car Museum opened in 2012 and is named for a local Tacoma businessman.
In fact, many of the cars in the museum’s collection were donated by Lemay’s family following his death.
Speaking of the collection, the museum is home to an unbelievable car collection that runs the gamut from cars of the British Invasion, The James Hetfield Collection, Legends of Motorsports, and historic cars aplenty.
If you’re looking for one of the coolest places to go with car enthusiasts, make sure to carve out time for LeMay – America’s Car Museum.
The museum is simply incredible; it encompasses 165,000 square feet, a three-and-a-half-acre show field, galleries out the wazoo, a banquet hall, and much more.
To give you an inkling of what to expect at the museum, some of the fabulous cars currently on display include a 1928 Ford Model A Cabriolet, a 1940 Lincoln Zephyr, a 1952 MGTD, and a 1994 Flintmobile to name a few.
Address: 2702 E D St, Tacoma, WA 98421, United States
6. Chihuly Bridge of Glass
Given to Tacoma as a gift in 2002 the Chihuly Bridge of Glass is an epic sightseeing attraction and one of a few free things to do in the city.
Spanning Tacoma’s Interstate 70, the Chihuly Bridge of Glass is a 500-foot pedestrian footbridge.
The bridge isn’t actually made of glass, however, it not only leads to the city’s Museum of Glass but is also surrounded by public exhibits of art.
Sunset is by far the best time of day to walk the Chihuly Bridge of Glass.
The amber gleam from the setting sun perfectly shines through glass display boxes creating a gorgeous image of dancing lights.
The pavilion that hangs over the bridge is a glass display ceiling with over 2,000 colorful blown glass artifacts.
A truly stunning sight to see, the Chihuly Bridge of Glass is one of the most unique things to see in all of Washington.
Address: Bridge of Glass, Tacoma, WA 98402, United States
7. Children’s Museum of Tacoma
Children’s Museum of Tacoma is a donation-based attraction, meaning the admission fee is up to you, making discovery and play accessible to all Washington residents and out-of-town visitors.
The museum is a play-based center for discovery suitable for children ages 0-8 years old.
If you’re interested in places to go with little ones when in town, the Children’s Museum of Tacoma is definitely your ticket.
With discovery spaces such as arts & crafts rooms, pretend-play spaces, dress-up opportunities, an aviation display, water play, and so much more, the opportunities for fun are limitless.
All of the exhibits in the museum are interactive so your child will never get bored.
The museum also has many convenient amenities such as stroller parking, an on-site cafe, and lockers for storing personal effects.
If you’re curious about where to go with children when visiting the city, the Children’s Museum of Tacoma is undoubtedly your answer.
Address: 1501 Pacific Ave, Tacoma, WA 98402, United States
8. Fort Nisqually Living History Museum
Historically, Fort Nisqually was a significant fur trading post along Puget Sound.
Located in DuPont, Washington, the Fort Nisqually Living History Museum is only a short drive from Tacoma.
Of note, when fur trading declined in the mid-1800s, the 160,000-acre space was transformed into an agricultural center.
By 1855, the once British-owned settlement was sold to the U.S.
It is this time period that’s portrayed by the living museum.
Staffed by live-action roleplayers, a visit to Fort Nisqually Living History Museum is truly like stepping back in time.
Tours of the fort are self-guided; during your tour, you’ll explore field crops, orchards, meadows, smokehouses, barns, poultry houses, and so much more.
At each stop of your tour, you’ll witness 1850s workers engaging with the setting as if it was still the 19th century.
It’s all pretty impressive.
If you’re looking for great historic attractions near Tacoma, Fort Nisqually Living History Museum is highly recommended.
Address: 5519 Five Mile Dr, Tacoma, WA 98407, United States
9. Tacoma Glassblowing Studio
The Tacoma Glassblowing Studio opened in 2006 and is run by a husband and wife team of artisans.
The studio is a place where visitors can see amazing works of art, purchase unique pieces, and revel in the beauty of glass arts.
What’s more, however, the Tacoma Glassblowing Studio invites guests to tour the facility and, best of all, witness glassblowing in action.
These demonstrations are only available on the weekends and are suitable for ages eight and older.
If you’re interested in a more hands-on experience, the Tacoma Glassblowing Studio offers visitors opportunities to participate in glassblowing their own pieces.
Some of the studio’s hands-on packages pair guests with experienced artists to create their very own globe, lighted globe, pumpkin, ornament, or other cool pieces.
Without a doubt seeing glass in its purest form and actually working with it is a unique experience.
One of many cool things to experience in Washington, be sure to check out Tacoma Glassblowing Studio.
Address: 114 S 23rd St, Tacoma, WA 98402, United States
10. Job Carr Cabin Museum
The Job Carr Cabin Museum is a replica of the first-ever permanent residence built in Tacoma, Washington.
Named after the homeowner, Job Carr, the first non-Native resident of the city, the cabin is replicated as a circa 1813 dwelling.
This replica home was built in 2000 when it opened its doors as a public museum.
The Job Carr Cabin Museum is another historical attraction that turns back the pages of history in an authentic way.
Within the museum, you’ll enjoy learning about the life and times of Job Carr.
Furthermore, you’ll see firsthand what furnishings, fixtures, and the like would have looked like in the early 19th century.
Much like a time capsule, the Job Carr Cabin Museum is a unique way to experience the city’s history.
If you’re looking for places to visit with history buffs, the Job Carr Cabin Museum is a must-see.
Address: 2350 N 30th St, Tacoma, WA 98403, United States
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11. Mount Rainier National Park
Sitting just south of Seattle near Tacoma, Washington, is one of the most beautiful vacation spots in the US: Mount Rainier National Park.
The park comprises nearly 400 miles of pristine nature reserves.
Surrounding the park are breathtaking glacier-capped mountain peaks rising to a 14,410-foot elevation.
If you’re wondering what to see in Washington, undoubtedly, Mount Rainier National Park should top your list.
Whether traveling solo, with family, or with children, the park’s sights are incredible to all who visit.
Mount Rainier National Park is fraught with all the amazing outdoor activities you can imagine.
Some of the fun and exciting things you can do within the park include bicycling, climbing, fishing, boating, hiking, camping, and beyond.
With both primitive campsites and lodges within the park system as well as a handful of noteworthy restaurants, the park is full of days’ worth of things to do.
One of the best places to see in all of Washington is Mount Rainier National Park.
Address: Washington, United States
12. Museum of Glass
If you’re looking for some of the coolest places to visit in Washington, be sure to check out the Museum of Glass.
One of the most unique Tacoma attractions, the Museum of Glass is situated in the heart of downtown Tacoma.
The Museum of Glass is a 75,000-square-foot art museum that showcases only glass as an art medium.
Established in 2002, the museum is the only of its sort in the area.
One of the coolest places to see during a tour of the museum is the live glassmaking studio.
Besides observing art in the making, the museum is home to incredible exhibits that display the works of a wide variety of artists and styles.
While some of the pieces are thought-provoking and others are whimsical, each of the thousands of works is as interesting as the next.
When planning your visit, know that the museum allows for docent-led and self-guided tours.
Moreover, the museum has an on-site farm-to-table restaurant that’s worth trying too.
One of the top things to do in Tacoma, the Museum of Glass is highly recommended.
Address: 1801 Dock St, Tacoma, WA 98402, United States
13. Owen Beach
One of the most beautiful things to see, Owen Beach is Tacoma’s most popular beach.
Situated along the coast of Puget Sound, Owen Beach welcomes visitors from sunrise to sunset every day year long.
Of the many popular points of interest in Tacoma, Owen Beach is a forerunner.
The beach itself is popular for summertime lounging, picnicking, and water sports.
Surrounding the beach is the picturesque Point Defiance Park which serves as an idyllic backdrop and fun place to explore.
Of all the wonderful outdoor Tacoma attractions, Owen Beach is loaded with the most amenities.
Some of the many convenient amenities at Owen Beach include public restrooms, waterfront benches, a picnic pavilion, a kayak launch ramp, open-air art, and more.
Moreover, a concession stand serves lunch, snack, and beverage options Sunday through Wednesday during the summer months.
If you’re looking for perfect summertime things to do in Tacoma, be sure to visit Owen Beach.
Address: 5605 Owen Beach Rd, Tacoma, WA 98407, United States
14. Lincoln District
The Lincoln District is one of the most fun places to visit in Washington.
A culturally vibrant neighborhood centered in a two-block section of the city, Lincoln District is a great place to shop and dine.
A perfect blend of family-owned and commercial businesses, this area has something for every taste.
Of note, the aesthetic and culture of the Lincoln District are heavily Asian-influenced.
In fact, the best Vietnamese food in Washington can be enjoyed here.
Moreover, there are other wonderful eateries like a taqueria, bakery, an Asian supermarket, and other ethnic-influenced establishments.
Other points of interest within the neighborhood include the historic Lincoln High School and the adjacent Lincoln Park.
Gift shops, art spots, and a local farmstand are just a few of the other awesome attractions in Lincoln.
One of the top things to do in Tacoma, the Lincoln District is a must-see.
Address: 38th St, Tacoma, WA 98418, United States
15. Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium
One of the coolest places to visit in Washington, the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium is the only establishment of its kind, combining both a zoo and an aquarium experience.
Seated on nearly 30 acres of zoological land, Point Defiance is fraught with wildlife, reconstructed habitats, and astounding views of Mount Rainier and Puget Sound.
There are many reasons to plan a visit to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.
One of the top tourist attractions in Washington, Point Defiance Zoo is home to animals such as tigers, leopards, elephants, otters, porcupines, and so much more.
Some of the unique features you’ll observe in the zoo include tropical settings, waterfalls, streams, a bamboo forest, and beyond.
Within the aquarium, you’ll come face to face with marine life such as sharks, stingrays, penguins, and many more.
Furthermore, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium has many wonderful features like a kids’ zone, art, feeding experiences, and a play garden to name a few.
Undoubtedly, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium is an excellent attraction to visit with children.
Address: 5400 N Pearl St, Tacoma, WA 98407, United States
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16. Swan Creek Park
If you’re in the market for free things to do when visiting Washington, be sure to check out Swan Creek Park.
A wonderful space to get to know Tacoma’s incredible ecosystem, there’s so much to do and see at Swan Creek Park.
Some of the park’s notable features include a salmon creek perfect for a day of fishing, a spectacular wooded canyon, a lovely community garden, and even a dog park.
Within the park, you can explore natural and paved paths on foot or navigate the fun mountain bike paths.
The park is also a premier destination for bird watching, picnicking, and nature observance.
With nearly 375 acres to explore, there’s no telling what you’ll encounter during your visit.
Furthermore, Swan Creek Park hosts super cool events such as guided Night Walks.
Finally, fun recreation areas and beautiful open spaces make Swan Creek Park a great place to spend the day.
Address: 3997 E Roosevelt Ave, Tacoma, WA 98404, United States
17. Destiny Harbor Tours
If you’re looking for a way to explore Tacoma by water, Destiny Harbor Tours is the best around.
Established in 2007, Destiny Harbor Tours allows visitors to get on the water and see the city from the vantage point of Puget Sound.
With two Navy boats in their fleet, each of which seats up to 33 passengers, Destiny Harbor Tours makes boating accessible and fun for all.
These tours on the Puget Sound are educational and instructive; you’ll learn all about the majestic coastline, incredible sea life, and marine history.
While aboard one of the two Destiny Harbor Tours vessels, you’ll navigate narrow bridges, see amazing boats and ships docked in local harbors, and revel in epic mountain views.
Tours vary in length, depending on your preference, from two to four hours.
Although the boats aren’t equipped with galleys, you’re welcome to pack food and beverages for your tour.
One of the most fun Tacoma attractions, Destiny Harbor Tours is highly recommended.
Address: 1817 Dock St, Tacoma, WA 98402, United States
18. Washington State History Museum
Situated in downtown Tacoma, Washington, the Washington State History Museum is a sightseeing staple.
Home to interactive exhibits, incredible artifacts, and intriguing storytelling, the museum tells the history of Washington state.
Essentially, the museum showcases artifacts that tell the story of the state’s establishment and evolution.
With many fascinating exhibits, the Washington State History Museum is a wonderful place to tour with the history buffs in your group.
Some of the museum’s many exhibits deal with subjects such as migrant farm work, Native American arts and culture, the history of the Hawaiian shirt, and immigration to Washington to name a few.
If you happen to be in town for a weekend, be sure to check out the museum’s “Family Saturday” program wherein families participate in themed, historically-inspired activities.
With so many things to do in Tacoma, especially museums, narrowing down an itinerary can be tricky, however, don’t pass on an opportunity to tour the Washington State History Museum.
Address: 1911 Pacific Ave, Tacoma, WA 98402, United States
19. Pick-Quick Drive-In
Pick-Quick Drive-In is a Tacoma institution.
Established in 1949, Pick-Quick Drive-In has been serving the very best in burgers and ice cream ever since.
It provides guests with an authentic drive-up experience; you’ll feel like you’re truly dining in the 50s.
Whether you’re visiting during the day or at night, anytime is a good time to visit Pick-Quick Drive-In.
Family-owned since its opening, Pick-Quick Drive-In serves the freshest of local ingredients.
Each of Pick-Quick Drive-In’s menu items is made from scratch using only locally-sourced ingredients.
From hand-cut fries to homemade, all-natural ingredients, you just can’t beat the integrity of Pick-Quick Drive-In.
One of the most unique things in this day and age, if you’ve never experienced an authentic drive-in, here’s your opportunity.
Address: 4306 Pacific Hwy E, Fife, WA 98424, United States
20. Tower Lanes
Tower Lanes is a family entertainment center in Tacoma.
Providing locals and visitors the most fun around Washington, Tower Lanes is the perfect place to spend an unseasonable day.
Tower Lanes is home to epic bowling lanes perfect for challenging your friends and family.
Within the facility, there’s a world-class arcade too.
Another exciting Tower Lanes attraction includes indoor mini-golf.
With so much family fun to be had in one place, it’s no wonder locals and visitors alike flock to Tower Lanes.
Whether visiting Tower Lanes today or this weekend, there’s always so much to do.
Another convenient feature of the center is the onsite bar and restaurant.
The restaurant’s menu has a bevy of lunch, breakfast, and appetizer choices.
A full bar rounds out the incredible experience you’ll have at Tower Lanes.
During the day, Tower Lanes is perfect for a great family experience while in the evening, it’s a super place to have some relaxed, adult fun.
Address: 6323 6th Ave, Tacoma, WA 98406, United States
21. Dorky’s Bar Arcade
Dorky’s Bar Arcade is an 80s-themed bar and arcade in the city’s downtown area.
One of the coolest things to do in downtown Tacoma, Dorky’s Bar Arcade is a must-do.
The perfect coupling of tasty drinks and nostalgic activities, make sure to pay Dorky’s a visit when you’re in town.
Dorky’s bar and restaurant serve up fresh pizzas, tasty tacos, and other excellent bar nibbles.
Dorky’s full bar is a great place to belly-up between rounds of arcade games.
Whether visiting today or this weekend, most days are good days to visit; Dorky’s is open every day of the week with the exception of Mondays.
The arcade is loaded with throwback games such as KISS Pinball, Star Wars Battlepod, and Jurassic Park to name a few.
The bar and arcade are loaded with comfortable seating and the DJ booth pumps music most nights.
So if you’re looking for a great night out with friends, Dorky’s Bar Arcade is your spot.
Address: 754 Pacific Ave, Tacoma, WA 98402, United States
22. Tacoma Comedy Club
If you’re looking for something to do tonight or the perfect date night spot when you’re in Tacoma, be sure to check out Tacoma Comedy Club.
One of the best comedy clubs around, it hosts an amazing lineup of touring comedians.
In fact, celebrities such as Margaret Cho and Tom Green have even played the club; you can check out the event schedule to see if any big names will be in town when you’re in Washington.
In addition to a spectacular celebrity lineup, Tacoma Comedy Club often hosts “open mic nights.”
If you’ve ever thought to try your hand at comedy, a new city where nobody knows you might be the ticket.
Besides the awesome entertainment, Tacoma Comedy Club has a great drink and dinner menu.
From shareable apps and salads to burgers and sweet treats, you can easily enjoy dinner and a show.
Furthermore, in addition to a full bar, the club’s menu boasts some tasty mocktails.
Address: 933 Market St, Tacoma, WA 98402, United States
23. Northwest Trek Wildlife Park
Northwest Trek Wildlife Park is a more than 700-acre wildlife preserve that’s open to the public all year long.
If you’re looking for a fun way to experience nature at its finest during your upcoming trip to Tacoma, add an excursion to Northwest Trek Wildlife Park to your itinerary.
Home to bears, bald eagles, wolves, and bobcats among other wildlife, a day at the park can bring you face to face with the most stunning animals in their natural habitat.
If you’re wondering what to do to experience all the great outdoors has to offer, plan a day at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park.
The park has curated trails, such as a kids trek, wild drives, and walking paths, each of which gives you the greatest opportunity to see the park’s wildlife.
Other cool park features include a children’s playground and animal walking paths.
Of all the things to see in Washington, you won’t want to miss Northwest Trek Wildlife Park.
Address: 11610 Trek Dr E, Eatonville, WA 98328, United States
24. Chambers Bay Golf Course
If you’re looking for something enjoyable for adults during your Tacoma getaway, consider visiting Chambers Bay Golf Course.
This stunning public golf course was designed by a world-renowned golf architect; it’s even been the site of a U.S. Open.
The golf course sits on more than 900 acres of land so pristine it’s even been dubbed an “environmental sanctuary.”
Best of all, the course is adjacent to Puget Sound which makes for a picturesque backdrop.
One of the best places to vacation, especially for golf enthusiasts, Chambers Bay Golf Course partners with area lodging options to make your experience seamless.
With hotels and the like near the golf course, you can make an entire weekend (or more) of your visit to Chambers Bay Golf Course.
In addition to 18 holes of incredible golfing, the course offers lessons, fittings, and shopping too.
Finally, the course’s Chambers Bay Grill is known for its scenic views, delicious food, and ice-cold cocktails.
Address: 6320 Grandview Dr W, University Place, WA 98467, United States
25. Titlow Park
Titlow Park is a beachfront park with more than 75 acres of picturesque property.
One of the few free things to do in the city, Titlow Park is a must-do especially if you’re traveling with children.
The park is fraught with fun activities for the whole family.
For starters, Titlow Park is a desirable place to hang on the beach, splash in tide pools, or even launch a kayak or paddleboard.
Undoubtedly, Titlow Park is a great spot to spend a few hours outdoors in the sun.
In addition to beach activities, Titlow Park is home to an awesome playground, an exciting splash pad, and picnic areas.
Moreover, the park has tennis and basketball courts, hiking trails, and a historic lodge as well.
With so much to do in one beautiful locale, it’s no wonder locals and visitors alike adore Titlow Park.
Address: 8425 6th Ave, Tacoma, WA 98465, United States
Start Planning Your Trip To Tacoma
Hopefully, you’ll no longer wonder what to do when visiting Tacoma.
With so many epic things to do in Tacoma, experiences to be had, and memories to be made, you truly can’t go wrong with any of the attractions reviewed herein.
So pack your bags and hit the road, the Grit City is waiting for you.