As a Tacoma resident, I am often asked my recommendations on what to do for folks stopping through or wanting to get out of out Seattle/Portland. I have lived here for about 2.5 years now and was pretty immediately charmed by this city when I first visited in 2015. Probably the most frequent response I get asked upon telling people I live in Tacoma is either a super enthusiastic “I LOVE TACOMA!!!’ or a head tilt and puzzled “what on earth brought you there?!”. It seems to be the city of mixed opinions- some still fearing the “tacoma aroma” or its dangerous reputation from the 90s…and others having been or lived there and “getting it” and loving tacoma and all its grit with their full heart. To answer the most commonly asked question of what brought me here: I had met my partner while I was still living in Boulder (he is a musician and has lived in Tacoma for well over 10 years), we did long-distance for a few years, then I moved up to be with him- always having known I would end up in the Northwest at some point. The things that initially caught my attention about Tacoma was the architecture, grit, and true appreciation for (local) artists and the arts. It really is a smorgasbord of people living in this 200,000 person city, too, which I love. Having always/only lived in far-left-leaning liberal bubbles my whole life (Burlington, VT area and Boulder, CO), that part was very welcomed and refreshing. The port city is right on the Puget Sound, about 45m south of Seattle, and the tip is fully preserved 760 acre park called Point Defiance (the green splotch right about Ruston on the map below) which is full of trails, gardens, and other amenities. It really is its own city- not just a suburb/sprawl of Seattle.
Some of my favorite things to, places to eat, etc. in Tacoma out and about:
(divided by neighborhood, photos found via google)
-Chihuly Glass Museum
-Lemay Car Museum
-Tacoma Art Museum
-Foss Waterway Seaport – a museum celebrating the local maritime history
-Tacoma Children’s Museum
-Grand Cinema – the best place to see a movie. Local, independent non-profit theater with local beer/wine and a cozy old school theater feel.
-Wooden City – our go-to for happy hour or dinner. Delicious wood fired pizza too 🙂
-En Rama – also a well-loved spot for an intimate supper, drinks, or dessert. By far the most interesting cocktail menu in town. And the bread pudding (if its still on the menu)…oh my god.
-Corina – when you’re in need of a sweet, baked treat.
-Mad Hat Tea – an impressive tea menu (both herbal and caffeinated- all blended in house) and a super Tacoma vibe. My favorite is the Mad Campfire tea.
-King’s Books – such a great book store. As well as amazing recommendations from the folks who work there (the real reason to go!).
-Antique Row – a strip of awesome antique and vintage shops. Super “tacoma”. A great way to spend a rainy afternoon solo or with a friend! I compare it to walking through a museum for those amongst us who love antiques.
-Savoy Special Vintage – if you dig vintage clothing, I need not say anymore.
-Little Sister – an awesome and gorgeous wellness-y shop with many of my favorite oils and such. They also have a great makeup area with all (actually) non-toxic, simple ingredient brands like Ilia and RMS.
-Cocobolo – a great small shop with their own line of clothing made in house. A great selection of designers and vintage.
-Tinkertopia – an incredible resource for artists, DIY’ers, parents (for kids craft and art projects). It is a whole shop of recycled supplies and odd and ends. Like the locally owned goodwill of art supplies…but so much more!! Everything from yarn and fabric to frames to scrapbook supplies to old maps to paint to really anything you can imagine. They also have kids camps! I love how they cultivate dialogue around using what is already in the world, as well as creative curiosity and playfulness. All around an awesome thing to have in town. Also very “tacoma”.
-Manifesto Coffee & Red Elm Coffee – two of our go-to neighborhood coffee shops. They’re both too good to choose just one!
-Le Donut– our favorite neighborhood donut place in town, just a few blocks from our house. Where you can also get egg rolls! Who knew that the ol’ old fashioned donut & egg roll combo was so dang good?! Now you will…
-Pho King – the best pho in town, in my humble opinion…
-Zodiac Supper Club – tiki-esque bar with an awesome, groovy vibe.
-1111 – a great spot for a beer if you find yourself in hilltop.
-Fawcett Hall at Alma Mater – for live music!
-Expand Yoga – my favorite yoga studio in town for hot yoga.
-Bluebeard Coffee – great coffee and vibes.
-Shakabrah– Honestly…the only spot I like for brunch/breakfast in Tacoma! It has a down to earth feel and their potatoes are some of my favorite hash browns ever.
-Gateway To India – some of the best Indian food I’ve eaten. Our go to order is the Mutter Aloo, Saag Paneer, Naan and Vegetable Samosas. Yum
-State Street Beer – they have an awesome selection of beers on tap as well as snacks and a beautiful interior. There is a sweet patio in front for warmer months.
-Gather Juice and Smoothies – they make good green smoothies and adaptogen lattes that aren’t too sweet!
-Scorpio Rising Vintage (perhaps my favorite vintage shop ever…)
-Hi Voltage Records – if you’re a record person…you won’t want to miss it.
-Olympus Korean Spa– my favorite place to go for self care. Get a day pass and spend hours between the pools, heated infrared rooms, sauna, steam room, scrub stations (or book a scrub and feel like a new human), and korean restaurant. It is women-only and no clothing allowed (robes for the heated rooms, restaurant, etc.). If you haven’t been to a Korean Spa before…get ready to experience your new favorite thing. The ultimate secret for thriving throughout the grey, rainy winters…
-Marlenes Market & Deli – my favorite grocery store/health food store in town (next to the Co-op). Really low-key. Reminds me of health food stores in the 90s in a good way. Plus their deli is my favorite in town. A great spot to go before a picnic or your way out of town on a road trip!
-Farmers Market – there are farmers markets in town Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. Lots of options to fit anyones schedule for local food. Google Tacoma Farmers Market to find out when they are. I go to the Proctor one and Broadway one most often.
-Point Defiance – there are lots of trails winding within the park. OR you can drive through on the road and see it all. We take our dogs to the trails off mildred ave. (below the dog park and above salmon beach) daily. Get (pleasantly) lost in the moss and ferns.
-The ferry to Vashon Island!– my most loved escape. I head on over with the dogs every few months/weeks for a visit to Snapdragon to get a pastry and then over to Maury Island for a walk along the beach. No dogs, no problem! You can also visit some of the amazing restaurants to grab lunch or go for a show at the Center for the Arts. I love Vashon lots and lots.
-W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory– when you need a break from the rain, its a lovely place to walk and admire the plants and gorgeous Victorian greenhouse.
-Be sure to check the calendar at Fawcett Hall (at Alma Mater), the Spanish Ballroom (at Mcmenamins), and the Tacoma Arts Live for live music!
locals only 🙂-Brown Paper Bread– the best sourdough bread, bagels, and other baked goods, baked here in town by Ashley! You can sign up for a bread share and pick up weekly bread (pick up location is at Expand Yoga- so on pick up day you can head to a class before or after if you wish).
-Holistic Health Clinic – I really love my primary care doc, Dr Julia L. Miller, who is a naturopath here. She also does my pap smears and gyno exams. They are also a wonderful clinic in general and focus on expanding the scope of practice from western trigger-happy medicine (as I like to call it…aka finding natural modes of healing before prescribing pharmaceuticals. But they are all able to prescribe as well, so no need to go to another clinic if that healing mode is the right fit.)
-Hawthorne Natural Health– my acupuncturist Rebecca Babik does incredible work. I highly recommend her services if you are in search of a good acupuncturist in town!
-King’s Books Book Clubs – there are MANY amazing book clubs ranging from nature lovers to feminists to latinx to politics to white people wanting to to anti-racism work to banned books to classic and more. check them out on their website!
-Eloise’s Cooking Pot Food Bank – a great spot to volunteer and/or utilize and recommend to others. You can walk out the door with over 60lbs of food if you need it- plus vegetarian options are available. No questions asked. Open 6 days a week. Some really great offerings. I think we often forget what resources are available to us. I have been volunteering for a little while there and it is amazing to see the impact they have on the community. Truly incredible.
-Ecologic Dentistry- The best dentist I have found. Dr. Yamashiro is such a great doctor and her practice focuses on holistic dentistry which is prime.
-Brown's Point Vet- Dr. Sperlich is my favorite vet ever. The staff is incredible. I don't have better things to say about any other vet (And I have been to a lot...). She saw us through the last chapter of one of our dogs life and I wouldn't have wanted any other vet to help us.
-GRLS Studio – a beautiful, light-filled spot if you are in need of a workshop or photoshoot rental space!
I am sure there places I have forgotten…I will keep this updated as I continue to explore the city more!