Family Road Trip Extravaganza
Ideal Season: Summer
One of the best ways to explore Pierce County is with a road trip that balances scenery and serenity with action and activities. This itinerary will take you from the waterfront village of Gig Harbor, all the way through downtown Tacoma and the city's waterfront, and into the Puyallup Valley's farmlands.
Day 1: Gig Harbor
Gig Harbor is a quiet waterfront village that feels hours away from the city life, when it’s really just a 15-minute drive across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge from downtown Tacoma. If you arrive early enough to see some of Gig Harbor in the morning, you're in luck!
A morning kayak or paddleboard around Gig Harbor is a great way to get to know the area, so rent watercrafts at Lee’s SUP. The harbor is protected, so the water is usually very calm, making paddling easy for adults and teens.
For a solid, excellent restaurant dining experience, Millville Pizza Company is a good bet. But if the weather is nice, and your family is up for an al-fresco meal, consider buying a sandwich or acai bowl from the Harbor General Store and then taking it a couple blocks down to Skansie Brothers Park, where there are picnic tables with incredible water views on top of the welcome center.
The Harbor History Museum is a gem of Gig Harbor, and well worth a visit. Dig into Gig Harbor’s Croatian history of fishing and boatbuilding, or just enjoy some of the unique treasures from around Gig Harbor, like the annual winners of the roundest rock contest, going back several decades. It might not sound like something you’re into, but I really recommend it, if only for the round rocks.
Afterwards, treat your family to a ride on the Gig Harbor Gondola (by appointment). The Pacific Northwest’s only Venetian gondolier, the Gig Harbor Gondola rows you and your family around Gig Harbor in an authentic Venetian gondola, giving you a story-rich history of the harbor, pointing out the unique architecture and wildlife you might otherwise never notice. Your gondolier even sings in Italian, and if you order ahead of time, there will be sweet or savory appetizers waiting for you on board.
Enjoy some delicious, country-style barbecue in a fun, family-friendly environment at Brimstone PNW Smokehouse, where they have a little Kansas City-style, and a little Texas-style in the mix. A Texas Twinkie goes perfect with their chili-rubbed and shredded pork shoulder.
Gig Harbor has several incredible hotels to make your home base for the night. If you're interested in being near the water, the Maritime Inn is a good option, but if you'd rather stay inland, closer to the stores and more convenient to the highways, Best Western Wesley Inn and Suites is the place for you and your family.
Day 2: Gig Harbor/Tacoma Day
Continental breakfast at your hotel, Java and Clay for coffee and light breakfast, or go all out on the waterfront at Netshed No. 9.
Cross the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to Tacoma's Museum District.
Start the morning off with the Children's Museum of Tacoma (the only pay-as-you-will children's museum in the United States), or LeMay - America's Car Museum, the largest automotive museum in the United States. With more than 300 vehicles on display, it's a car museum for people who normally wouldn't consider themselves car-museum people, complete with a Family Zone with slot cars, racing simulators, and a pinewood track.
Zeek’s Pizza in downtown Tacoma is your go-to spot for wood-fire pizzas, soups, and salads, right in the heart of the Museum District.
Make the afternoon all about Tacoma's number-one draw: glass art! The Museum of Glass has a functioning hot shop amphitheater built into the iconic cone, so you can watch the professionals ply their trade while an emcee narrates what you're seeing.
Make sure and see the Chihuly Bridge of Glass in between the Museum of Glass and Tacoma Art Museum, where the new Benaroya Wing features glass from the most famous and highly regarded glass artists in the world.
After you've had your fill of museums, drive along the Ruston Way Waterfront to Point Ruston. Point Ruston is Tacoma's newest hub for shopping, dining, and entertainment, and it's built overlooking the Salish Sea.
Rent a bicycle or bicycle surrey (an easier option for families) from Wheel Fun Rentals at Point Ruston to explore the Ruston Way Waterfront. If you get tired of biking, return them, and stroll from Point Ruston to Dune Peninsula, and the Wilson Way Slides, which are the most fun way to get down to the waterfront.
Or, drive into Point Defiance Park and explore the scenery, old-growth forest, and occasional wildlife along Five Mile Drive. While you're in the park, explore the eight botanical gardens, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, and Owen Beach (currently closed for renovation).
For fresh seafood, incredible chowders and spectacular views, you'll be hard-pressed to beat Duke’s on the Point Ruston Waterfront. However, there are several restaurants right along the waterfront that you can choose from, to find one that suits your speed: Katie Downs, the Lobster Shop, or The Ram.
Choose from one of Tacoma's waterfront hotels, a beautiful room in the middle of downtown Tacoma, or budget-friendly accommodations nearby. Compare rates and get a great deal on a room here.
Day 3: Puyallup/Sumner Day
Head out early and start your day off the right way with sweet or savory crepes, and coffee in Sumner at Craft 19, one of the coolest spots in Sumner. While you're there, don't miss your chance to get a photo in front of the mural that declares the Pacific Northwest mindset: Live Like the Mountain's Out.
Shopping in Sumner is an immersive experience. The downtown is full of classic Americana charm, with small, family-owned bakeries, gift shops, vintage boutiques, antiques stores, bookstores, and more, all throughout the city. A few places you shouldn't miss while you're in town are:
A Good Book (kids’ section is upstairs)
1014 Main St., Sumner, WA 98390
13608 Cannery Way, Sumner, WA 98390
1109 Main St, Sumner, WA 98390
1002 Main St, Sumner, WA 98390
Sparrow & Nightingale's (gifts, home décor, home accessories)
1008 Main St, Sumner, WA 98390
For a relaxing oasis after a morning of wandering in downtown Sumner, you'll find yourself sitting among the flowers at The Windmill Bistro, which is a restaurant, a garden, and a gardening store, all in one. We highly recommend the open-faced Dungeness crab melt for seafood lovers, and the chicken and pear sandwich for everyone else.
The Puyallup Valley is famous for many things, including its berries, rhubarb, pumpkins and flowers, so obviously, you're going to want to see one of the working farms that has been made into a guest-friendly experience. Depending on the season, and on the events that are regular, annual draws to the area (blooms and baby animals, sunflower festival, pumpkin/harvest/Halloween, and other seasonal festivities), time your visit to be able to enjoy a relaxing afternoon on one of the major agri-tourism farm experiences:
25001 Sumner Buckley Hwy., Buckley, WA 98321
5820 44th Street East Puyallup, WA 98371
9710 WA-162 E, Puyallup, WA 98374
6006 52nd St E, Puyallup, WA 98371
14734-14926 96th St E, Puyallup, WA 98372
Now that you've seen where all that delicious food began its journey, you can see where it ends its journey at Farm 12, a farm-to-table eatery in Puyallup.
For your last night before departing back to the real world, stay over at a Puyallup hotel, where you'll find sweet deals on comfortable and spacious rooms, and even a pool for the kids (or the grown-up kids).