The skyline of Tacoma, with the Tacoma Bridge in the foreground.

Tacoma in the state of Washington, is now that state's second-largest city, with just under 200,000 residents.


Tacoma often gets a negative description reminiscent to the one given to Oakland, California. These negative vibes are equally unrealistic and often comes from those who have never lived in or even visited the city. While it has neither the tourist amenities of its neighbor Seattle to the north nor the suburban safety of Olympia to the south, one can certainly spend a few pleasant days in Tacoma and see the city's dynamic art scene as well as its great ballet.

Get in

By plane

The   Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SeaTac) (IATA: SEA) is the nearest airport for commercial flights located 25 mi/40km north of Tacoma. Sea-Tac airport serves much of the greater Seattle Metropolitan area and the Pacific NW. Options besides taxi/limo or rental car are:

By car

Tacoma is located along Interstate 5 (I-5), approximately 35 mi south of Seattle (35 min), 293 mi (5 hr) southwest of Spokane, and 143 mi (2.5 hr) north of Portland.

By bus

The bus station for Greyhound, Northwestern Trailways, Sound Transit, Intercity Transit, Pierce Transit & Link Light Rail is at the Tacoma Dome Station Parking Garage Bldgs at 510 - 610 E Puyallup Ave (facing E Puyallup Ave), between E 'E' St and E 'G' St, one block north of the Freighthouse Square (2501 E 'D' St). Greyhound, NW Trailways and a taxi stand are at the west building while Sound Transit, Intercity & Pierce Transit buses are next door in front of the east building. The Link Light Rail to downtown Tacoma is at the opposite side of the parking buildings along E 25th, between the E Parking Garage Building and the Freighthouse Square building:

  • Rt #574 goes up to the airport via Federal Way, Kent and Sea-Tac (Along S 188th). Goes down to Lakewood (Lakewood P&R and Lakewood Towncenter) in the other direction with NO stops in downtown Tacoma
  • Rt#586 goes up to the University Washington in Seattle in the mornings and return to Tacoma in the afternoons only. No stops in downtown Seattle, no mid-day or weekend service.
  • Rt#590,594 goes straight up to downtown Seattle along I-5 in one direction and to downtown Tacoma & Dupont via Lakewood (Lakewood P&R and Lakewood Sounder Train Station) in the other direction on Rt #594. Rt #590 operates only between Tacoma Dome Station and downtown Seattle during weekday rush hours.
  • Link Light Rail runs frequent trains from Freighthouse Square to downtown Tacoma (just north of 9th & Commerce). The train goes by UW Tacoma, several museums, several downtown hotels and the downtown convention center. The stop is along E 25th between the parking garage buildings and the Freighthouse Square building.

By train

There are two train stations. The Amtrak station is 0.5 mi or 0.8km east and at the opposite side of Puyallup Ave from the Tacoma Dome station next to the railroad yard at 1001 E Puyallup Ave. The Sounder Train Station is in the middle to the west end of the Freighthouse Square Building, entrance at 425 E 25th. Both are well marked. Plans are underway to move the Amtrak station from its present location into the vacant space next to the Sounder Station in the old Freighthouse Square building.

By ferry

Get around

By car

Locally Division (between Stadium Way & Sprague) and 6th Ave (btwn Sprague & Titlow Park by the water) divides the cross streets & addresses north & south. 'A' Street (Court 'A' in downtown), two blocks east and parallel to Pacific Ave from downtown down through Roy Y (south of town) divides the cross streets and addresses from 'South' to 'East'. Anything west of 'A' St (or Court 'A' in downtown) has a 'South' address while anything east has an 'East' address. Northeast Tacoma (NE addresses) is in a separate area in the opposite side of Commencement Bay from the rest of Tacoma. Northeast Tacoma is accessed by WA-Hwy 509 (from S 21st & Pacific in downtown) which goes across an industrial area from Tacoma as a freeway and then wind around the bay as Marine View Dr up into Dashpoint. The road continues through the Dash Point residential neighborhoods northwards as East Side Dr NE and crosses into the Federal Way city limits as Dash Point Dr SW ending at Hwy 99. If coming from Pacific Hwy (Hwy 99) Federal Way go west along S 356th/29th St NE; S 348th/Northshore Pkwy; or Dash Point Dr (WA-Hwy 509) at the 28000 block to get to northeastern Tacoma.

By bus


Point Defiance Park

Point Defiance is a 700-acre city park featuring old growth forests, gardens, the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, Owen Beach, Fort Nisqually Living History Museum, as well as a playground, picnic areas and countless hiking trails. It is the north end of Tacoma and is accessible from I-5 by following I-705 past downtown to Schuster Pkwy which goes along the Ruston Way waterfront to N 51st & Pearl. Go north on Pearl (right turn from N 51st coming from Ruston Way) into the main entrance of the park. From Hwy 16 go north on N Pearl (WA-163) into the park. By bus the #11 goes from downtown (10th & Commerce) to the park. From the Tacoma Dome station take the #41 bus going into downtown which becomes the #11 bus so no transferring of buses needed.


Tacoma is home to a variety of interesting museums:





6th Avenue has some affordable restaurants. Most of the suggested venues below are along 6th Ave between Sprague and Union. Sixth Ave divides north from south so some of the listed establishments in the below may be in the north or the south side of 6th Ave.

Downtown Tacoma has a wide range of restaurants, from fine dining to casual. Most of the downtown restaurants suggested in the below are in the immediate areas surrounding the University of Washington Tacoma campus, Tacoma Convention Center and Union Station which are along the Link Light Rail route. They could also be located elsewhere such as towards the Stadium District north of downtown such as Maxwell's (one of the suggested venues).

Hilltop just up the hill from Downtown Tacoma has many choices for dining. Most of the mentioned venues in Hilltop are clustered around S Martin Luther King & S 11th St. They can be located further north or south along S MLK and east or west along the cross streets too.

South Tacoma has wonderful Asian restaurants.

Lincoln District has international flavor.




North End

The "North End" neighborhood is an upscale neighborhood especially those closer in and north of downtown and along the waterfront ('Stadium District' and 'Old Town'). Except the Silver Cloud by the waterfront most of the accommodations in the North End are in large (historic) homes that have been permitted and converted to board guests as a Bed & Breakfast.

South Tacoma

The "South Tacoma" accommodations are near some of the large shopping complexes as well as quicker access to the Lewis McChord military reservation. The accommodations are typically lined up along S Hosmer at the 7400 block (accessed off of S 72nd at Exit #129) and more are lined up from the 8000 block down to the 9200 block where S Hosmer become S Steele (accessed from Exit #128 if going north bound I-5). They're the typical national chain hotels and motels, located off of the freeway for someone needing a break from a long day of driving. They're also surrounded by several restaurants such Ihop, Burger King, Jack in the Box, Subway, etc. for a place to get a quick bite to eat as well.

Stay safe

While Tacoma's crime problem has improved over the past decade, the city still has a high crime rate relative to other Northwest cities. Much of the crime is concentrated on the Hilltop and Eastside neighborhoods. The Stadium District area has the lowest crime rate in the city and Downtown has a low crime rate compared to downtown areas of other cities (including Seattle), however visitors should be cautious as in any urban area. Visitors should also be careful when entering the surrounding suburbs of Lakewood, Spanaway and Parkland. Crime problems in Lakewood sometimes run over into near by Parkland. As always when traveling alone or at night, avoid poorly-lit areas with little foot traffic.


The area code for the Tacoma area and South King County is 253.

Go next

Near Tacoma are some other things worth visiting, listed roughly north to south:

Routes through Tacoma

Seattle Fife  N  S  Lacey Portland
Bremerton Gig Harbor  N  S  END
END  W  E  Puyallup Renton
Seattle Federal Way ← Dash Point  N  S  END
END  N  S  Jct Mount Rainier Ends at Jct in Morton
Seattle Tukwila  N  S  Lacey Portland

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, March 16, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.