Portland and Seattle are the usual cities people think of when the Pacific Northwest is mentioned; often overlooked is neighboring Tacoma. Situated along Puget Sound, Tacoma is less than 30 minutes from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. It is a walkable city — and if you enjoy San Francisco hills, Tacoma won’t disappoint. The lack of urban traffic is a big plus.
Tacoma has an active port scene with its harbor on Commencement Bay. It was because of this that in the 19th century, Tacoma was chosen as the end of the Northern Pacific Railroad line whose motto became when “rails meet sails.” Tacoma is also known for its abundance of glass art.
On a recent visit, my husband and I found interesting museums, locally grown food, neighborhood coffee favorites, views, and great golf nearby.
We stayed at the downtown Hotel Murano, named after the Venetian island known for its exotic glass. The hotel is replete with glass chandeliers, glass exhibits, a soaring atrium, and works of international glass artists on each floor.
Our corner room had views from one window of the Thea Foss Waterway (flowing from Commencement Bay) and Mt. Rainier from the other (at least from what we could see — when we visited, the air quality wasn’t very good). The room offered plenty of space to relax as well as store golf clubs overnight.
SHOP AND PLAY
The Thea Foss Waterway Public Esplanade is a scenic three-mile trail — great for bird watching, biking, jogging, and the people scene. The trail also passes in front of the Museum of Glass. Home to many of Dale Chihuly’s pieces and other glass artists, the museum is an ode to the possibilities of glass blowing and has a working glass-blowing studio. Watch the artisans up close in the “Hot Shop” as they employ diverse techniques on all things glass.
From here, cross over the Chihuly Bridge of Glass to the Tacoma Art Museum. The 500-foot pedestrian bridge is always open and incorporates three large Chihuly glass works. The museum is best known for the works of Pilchuck Glass School, founded in 1971 by Chihuly and other artists, and the birthplace of glass arts education. The museum is also known for its collection of Northwest American artists, including beautiful jewelry.
Other interesting sights around the city include:
Ruston Way Park, is a two-mile waterfront area with views of Commencement Bay with space for walking, biking, jogging, and more.
The Chinese Reconciliation Park is dedicated to the Chinese people forced from Tacoma in 1885. It’s a serene place to reflect on the city’s history and the present as well.
The Spanish Steps, designed to mirror the original in Rome, opened in 1916.
Tacoma Farmer’s Market has several locations throughout the city.
There are several fine public golf courses in Tacoma including Chambers Bay, which hosted the 2015 U.S. Open. The rambling links-style course is on the shores of Puget Sound. The views are as spectacular as the golf. Another is The Home Course, situated in Dupont, a quick drive from downtown Tacoma. Owned and operated by the Pacific Northwest Golf Association and Washington Golf, The Home Course has hosted national events and continues to serve as the site of many northwest amateur championships. There are two additional courses at The Gold Mountain Golf Club: The Cascade and Olympic courses. Located in nearby Bremerton, it’s also a short drive from Tacoma. Both are championship caliber, featuring rolling fairways and strategic design.
Here’s what we tried around town:
Anthem Coffee is a popular neighborhood spot situated right across from the Chihuly Bridge of Glass. With an outside patio, it is the spot for people watching and admiring the Chihuly installations on the bridge. Get delicious coffee as well as creative breakfast offerings and flatbreads. The industrial design blends with the architectural style of adjacent buildings, including the renovated Union Station (listed on the National Register of Historic Places).
Stink and El Tufo Wine Bar brings international flair to Tacoma. The wine list changes about every 10 days and reflects the owners’ passion for travel. We tried the 2017 Duorum Coheita from Portugal and the Italian 2018 Bricco Carlina Barbera d’Asti Fontanavi. Savor housemade soups, salads, sandwiches, and charcuterie boards. And don’t miss this: A sandwich called The Stinker — peanut butter, blackberry preserves, bacon, and blue cheese. Also enjoy live music some evenings and a monthly focus on an international wine region.
The Fish Peddler, on the waterway, offers a spacious patio and lots of seafood options. We devoured steamed clams and mussels, coconut prawns, crab cake sliders, and razor clam chowder. From the bar, we had unobstructed views of the active waterway and great people watching in the packed dining room.
En Rama, located in the Courthouse Square neighborhood, has intimate seating inside and an outdoor patio. They mix interesting cocktails, even if it’s not on the menu, and a frequently changing wine menu. Try their delicious housemade pasta dishes like brown butter gnocchi and the popular Spanish patatas bravas. For dessert, don’t miss the Basque cheesecake made with a sherry and berry reduction.
Sit inside or out at the popular Wooden City. Try their blistered Hungarian peppers, spicy jerk cauliflower, wood-fired pizza, or a burger. A house specialty the night we visited was beet ravioli made with goat cheese and pistachio butter. Cocktails and wine abound as do nonalcoholic drinks like lavender lemonade or soda made with hibiscus agave and grapefruit and cranberry juices. For dessert, we savored the chocolate custard topped with espresso whipped cream and candied pecans.
Patty Burness can be found on Instagram (pburness) and reached by email at [email protected].