More than a gateway to Mount Rainier National Park, Tacoma is enjoying a new life, losing its dated nickname—Grit City—and embracing its active waterfront, vivid arts community, and craft beer and distilling scenes.
Artist Dale Chihuly, founder of the famed Pilchuck Glass School, helped inspire a center devoted to all things glass. Trace the evolution of contemporary glass art in the 79,000-square-foot Museum of Glass, then watch artisans at work in the Hot Shop under a stainless steel cone 90 feet tall. Don’t forget to cross the colorful Chihuly Bridge of Glass, which heads toward historic Union Station.
Munch on Korean bulgogi tacos, tempura-fried green beans, and Hood Canal oysters spiked with shallot mignonette at the Fish Peddler on busy Foss Waterway. The restaurant doubles as a market where shoppers snap up smoked salmon, Dungeness crab, and plentiful seafood trays.
Tacoma once rivaled Seattle as a boomtown, and you can now view some of its venerable Victorian, craftsman, and Tudor homes on a stroll through Old Town. Check out the Job Carr Cabin, a replica of the city’s first nonnative home, built in 1865.
Cavernous 7 Seas Brewing is the latest of several craft breweries and distilleries that have sprung up downtown. In a 300-seat taproom next to gleaming boil kettles and mash tuns, taste pilsners, sour ales, and single and double IPAs while nibbling charcuterie from Seattle's Bavarian Meats.
The 760-acre Point Defiance Park boasts a winding drive through an old-growth forest with views of the handsome Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Come nose to nose with dog-paddling polar bears in the park’s zoo and aquarium, home to hundreds of animal species, the majority from around the Pacific Rim.