A WATERFRONT OF WONDERS IN TACOMA
Sometimes, when the world gets weird, you just have to head to the water. And while not all of us have beachfront property, there’s a a place along the shores of Commencement Bay that you can make your own. Whether you’re into water sports, hiking the shoreline, seeing the sights, or simply watching the sun set, the Tacoma Waterfront is for you.
Your Home Base:
There’s a great collection of Tacoma hotels with picture-perfect views of Mt. Rainier and the waterfront, but if you want to get up close to the water, you’e going to want to hang your hat at the Silver Cloud Point Ruston or the Silver Cloud Inn, both boasting right-on-the-water locales. The Silver Cloud Point Ruston sports every amenity of the finest resorts, including upscale dining, a luxurious spa, and and nightly entertainment, while the Silver Cloud Inn provides you with a more low-key relaxed setting and every room is a guaranteed view of the sea and the passing ships.
Start your day by heading up the hill to the Antique Sandwich Co. and its outdoor Garden of Eatin’ for breakfast. We recommend the Turkish Breakfast with toasted pita, eggs, and hummus, but everything is wonderful.
From there, venture down to the free Point Defiance Ferry for a morning look at the world from the water. You needn’t even get off - just take the one-hour round-trip and be ready for a glimpse of an orca or sea lion.
Next up is one of Tacoma’s crown jewels: the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, where you’ll get up close with elephants, tigers, gibbons, other land-lubbers and make friends with the sea-going walruses, otters, and stingrays. Grab some lunch at the Plaza Cafe, because you’re about to travel back in time.
The Fort Nisqually Living History Museum is a step back to the 1850s, where reenactors host workshops and demonstrations about how cooking, leatherwork, and tinsmithing were done back in the day.
It’s been a full day and you deserve a delicious way to end it. Treat yourself to Anthony’s at Point Defiance for an elegant dinner overlooking the water. A special treat is the fresh Willapa Bay Oysters from Washington’s own Pacific Coast.
Today, it’s all about Point Ruston, the lively, dynamic destination for tourists and locals alike. Start the day with crepes and espresso at the Jewel Box Cafe, then take a stroll along the waterfront. Feeling adventurous? Rent a bike or get in the water with a rental kayak or paddle board from any one of several outlets.
After you’ve dried off, spend some time exploring the unique shops along the main drag. Among the highlights: the Earth art and crystalline magic of Manic Mermaid; virtual reality games at DRG Arcade; and the old-school toys (and ukuleles) of Guppies.
Now that you’ve bought a ukulele (you really should), find a place to sit and practice for a bit at Dune Peninsula and the Frank Herbert Trail. The name sounds familiar? Yep, it’s named for Dune author and Tacoma native Frank Herbert.
While you’re nearby, stop in at the Waterfront Market at Ruston, where you’ll find a bustling community of artists, farmers, and sellers of all sorts. And you’d be cheating yourself to not stop by and get a half-pound or so of the pepperoni and cheese mix at Owens Meats.
Finally, get yourself some dinner at Wildfin American Grill and try the Alaskan Crab Stuffed Rockfish. You’ll thank us later.
Head a block up the hill for a latte and pastry at one of Tacoma’s all-time favorites, The Spar, before taking in the views from a walk along Harborview Drive. Among the joggers, skaters, and dog-walkers, you’ll find plenty of parks and historical points of interest to while away the morning.
Next, take a tour of Foss Waterway Seaport, a more-than-century-old stop for sailors and steamers from around the world. With hands-on displays, a wooden boat shop, and the greatest collection of maritime history in the region, you’ll experience first-hand the maritime magic of old Tacoma.
Magic of a different kind is found just down the street at the Museum of Glass. It’s an internationally renowned showcase for glass artists from around the world, but also an active hot shop where visiting artists demonstrate the process of creating remarkable work of glass art right before your eyes.
End your excursion at The Fish Peddler with a seafood dinner that - if it were any fresher, it’d still be in the water. The Simply Grilled King Salmon is a favorite. And on the way back to the hotel, stop by Northern Fish, a cute little fresh seafood store that will pack your purchase on ice and ship it home for you - just to make the neighbors jealous.