15 free Things to do in Tacoma, Washington

Just in case you missed my guest post at C.R.A.F.T. 
I thought I would share with you some of my really awesome fun family things to do around my hometown of Tacoma, WA.  It was a fun list to create and makes me look forward to those warm summer days with my kids.  In true Pacific Northwest fashion, grab a coffee, sit back and read along.

Tacoma is a port city about half an hour southwest of Seattle located on the Puget Sound.
We have lived in the Tacoma area for the past 12 years and these are a few of our favorite things to do.

1. Dash Point State Park Beach

One of our favorite beaches is Dash Point State Park.  Dash Point is a sandy beach with lots of room to explore.  When the tide is out, the beach goes on forever.  It's the perfect beach for skimboarding and exploring sea life. In the past, access to the beach has been free, however, this year, the state is charging $10 for a one day pass or $30 for an annual Discover Pass.

2. Dash Point State Park Trails

Dash Point also offers over 11 miles of hiking and bike trails.  I've gotten lost more than once in the trails, but it's always an adventure!  Several local bike groups tend the trails making jumps, creating paths, and forming obstacles that are perfect for the beginner rider to the expert rider.  Access to these trails are free.

3. Tacoma Glass Museum

One of Tacoma's newer museums, The Glass Museum features many current temporary and permanent exhibitions of art created from glass, but the best part of this museum is the Hot Shop.  The Hot Shop is located in a 90 ft. tall stainless steel cone fully staffed with glassblowing artists and stadium seating so you can sit back and watch the whole process of making art from molten glass.  Free admission on the third Thursday of each month from 5-8 pm or anytime with a Pierce County library glass pass.


4. Chihuly Bridge of Glass

Internationally renowned local artist Dale Chihuly collaborated with the city of Tacoma to make this 500 foot long pedestrian overpass that links The Museum of Glass with downtown Tacoma. 
Walking the bridge is always free and if you have little explorers, it's a safe way for you to introduce your young kids to art without the worry that they will destroy a more expensive gallery piece.

5. Tacoma Art Museum

Just down the street from the Glass Museum you will find the Tacoma Art Museum.
While there are always popular exhibitions with big name artists (my favorite was the Eric Carle exhibition), our favorite thing to do at The Tacoma Art Museum is to go into the open art studio and make our own art.

The open art studio features stations with tool kits focused on artworks currently on display in the museum galleries.  Free admission to the museum is part of the third Thursday art walk or anytime with the library art access pass.

6. Washington State History Museum

As a transplant from the Midwest, it's interesting for me to find out facts about our state in a fun and  interactive way.  I could tell you the state flower of Indiana (peony), but I know very little about Washington.  There is a history lab, model railroads, and a great hall of Washington history always on display.  The History Museum is located downtown Tacoma situated between the Art Museum and the Glass Museum.  The History Museum participates in the free third Thursday of the month art walk and also provides free admission on your birthday.  You can also get free admission with a library history pass.

7. Ruston Way Waterfront

Ruston Way offers two miles of paved walkways perfect for a family bike ride or run.  Located on the waterfront, Ruston Way offers panoramic views of Commencement Bay, Vashon Island, and The Olympic Mountains.  If you fish, you can drop your line at Les Davis Pier.  There are several grassy play areas perfect for a picnic and kids can also explore the Fireboat dry-docked along the path.  You can find beach access along the walkway and scuba divers are often spotted going in and coming out of the water.  Several restaurants and pubs can be found along Ruston Way so you can take a stroll before or after dinner. Free

8. Tacoma Light Rail

I don't know of too many kids who don't like trains or trolleys.  As part of Sound Transit, the light rail provides free service to downtown Tacoma.  We often park at the Tacoma Dome Station (it's free), and take the light rail to various stops in Downtown Tacoma.  The light rail stops in front of the History Museum and provides a short walk after a stop by the Art Museum.  The last stop is the theater district which is just a short walk to the Farmer's Market on Thursdays on 9th street.  When the kids were little, we would sometimes just ride it back and forth through the city.  


9. Pt. Defiance Park

Pt. Defiance is located on the tip of Tacoma jutting out into the Puget Sound.  Inside the park you will find Pt. Defiance Zoo and Aquarium (there is an admission fee), as well as Pt. Defiance park (free), Owen Beach (free), five mile drive and hiking trails (free), Ft. Nisqually (admission), and the Japanese Gardens (free).  I will highlight them all separately as my numbers 9-15.  
Pt. Defiance zoo (10) isn't a large zoo, but it's perfect for a visit with young kids.  When my kids were smaller it was nice to fit a visit to the zoo in before naptime.  During the summer, the zoo has a splash park in the play area (open year round), as well as several live performances that are worth sticking around for.  During the colder rainier months, the aquarium is a great place to stay dry and warm up.  We would often times eat our snack while watching the sharks in the tank looked enviously on.
Pt. Defiance park (11) has several ponds, and lots of open green space.  You can also explore the rose and dahlia gardens during the summer.

Ft. Nisqually (12) is a living history museum.  When you step through the trading post, you step back into history.   Several special events happen throughout the year including 19th century family fun night and Halloween ghost stories around the camp fire.
Just inside the park you will find the Japanese gardens and Pagoda (13).  The Pagoda was built in 1914 but recently caught fire and is closed for repairs.  However, you can find feature pools, waterfalls, bridges and landscaped trees and plants.

Looping around the outer rim of the park you will find the five-mile drive (14).  Every Saturday and Sunday five-mile drive is closed to motor vehicles until 1 pm.  This makes it the perfect paved trail to go on a bike ride or run through old-growth forests and through breathtaking scenery.  Along the loop, you will find several entrances to trails.  No bikes are allowed through the trails.  

Owen beach (15) is located inside Pt. Defiance park.  You can walk along the boardwalk, hike along the beach, play in the sand or rent a kayak.
As you can see, there is lots to do in Tacoma. 
So grab your sand pail and some walking shoes and stay for awhile!
So what are some of your favorite things to do in your city?

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