Staycation: Tacoma

We’ve been saying it for a while now, but Tacoma isn’t the city you knew 10 years ago. We’ve loved it for decades, but in the last several years, it’s really blossomed. There’s this wonderful harmony between its metropolitan downtown ­— packed with enviable restaurants, world-renowned art museums, artists, and shops — and green space that envelops the outer edges and pockets within the city, offering a reprieve from city life. Tacoma really is the best of both worlds. So, we’ve decided that it’s time. It’s time for you to fall in love with Tacoma, too. Or, if you never fancied it much, spend a weekend here and get to know it. We’re certain it will surprise you.


Photo courtesy McMenamins

If you’re a fan of the work done by the McMenamins family to restore historic spaces and turn them into community hubs, then you’ll definietly want to check out the Elks Temple in downtown Tacoma. The Elks Temple was built in 1916 for a fraternal organization and has been reimagined as a hotel, brewery, ballroom, restaurant, and event venue. The $30-plus-million project has been one of the most anticipated renovations in Tacoma’s recent history, and is sure to be a must-see. It’s set to open this month, and is currently taking reservations. 

Photo by: Jeff Hobson

However, we have a couple other favorite places where you can rest your weary head. Hotel Murano is a top pick, and one reason we love it is its proximity to downtown, making entertainment a short walk away. Hotel Murano’s chicly modern design showcases the grandeur of modern glass blowing, with several larger-than-life pieces that meet guests at the entrance. The rooms offer a modern elegance, and with its award-wining SAVI Day Spa on-site, as well as its BAR960 and BITE restaurant, you’re sure to have the most satisfying staycation. 

If you prefer to take advantage of Tacoma’s water views, book a night or two at the Silver Cloud Inn, which has a location in North Tacoma on Ruston Way. It’s also building another location in Point Ruston, the city’s first hotel. Once completed in spring of 2020, the roughly $60 million inn will have waterfront views, a heated outdoor swimming pool, and spa. The ushering in of this key new piece of Point Ruston brings us to our next point: Now that you’re here, what should you do?


Point Ruston is hopping. It’s come a long way in the past 20 years, from the site of a defunct smelter to a revitalized cityscape complete with million-dollar residential property, retail, and recreation. Once the Silver Cloud Inn is open, visitors can eat, sleep, and play without ever having to repark their cars. 

Now that the weather has warmed up a bit, stop by Wheel Fun Rentals during the spring season, and cruise along the waterfront strip on one of its bikes. The little pedal-powered Surrey bike — which looks more like a vintage car on wheels — is super fun for families with small children or couples who want to cozy up and explore the bay with new eyes. Trust us on this: Go full tourist, and spring for a bike rental. You’ll feel like a kid again as you race along the paved trail with your friends or family. 

Photo by Jeff Hobson

Once you’ve worn yourself out fill your belly at any of the myriad of restaurants — from pizza and pub food to fantastic seafood, there’s something for even your pickiest palates. Even if you’re stuffed after that, hit up Ice Cream Social and order your favorite flavor doused with hot fudge, because the hot fudge is among the best out there. If you fall in love with it like we did, you can buy it by the jar. 

If during your staycation you’d prefer to escape to the wilderness, then no worries. Point Defiance Park is a local favorite. It boasts 760 acres of forest, saltwater beaches, trails, and gardens. The gardens are beautiful in the spring and summer — from rhodies to roses. Explore Five Mile Drive, which can be tackled in chunks by foot on shorter trails, or if you’re feeling up for it, the 4.6-mile Outer Loop, which will take you along the peninsula with several viewpoints facing the Puget Sound. 

Photo by: Oona Copperhill

While you’re at Point Defiance Park, be sure to check out the zoo and the new Pacific Seas Aquarium, a 35,000-square-foot aquarium with two tank exhibits housing hammerhead sharks, sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, and more. The construction of the aquarium was a much anticipated roughly $51.6 million project approved by voters in a $198 million Metro Parks Tacoma bond issue in 2014.

In celebration of the new attraction, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium is hosting a month-long series of events starting April 1. It’ll be an opportunity to get an up-close look at staff biologists caring for the marine animals, as well as experiencing hands-on activities, live performances, and a speaker series highlighting ocean conservation experts. The Pacific Seas Aquarium truly is an other-worldly experience, and Point Defiance is a local gem.


Photo by: Jeff Hobson

So many phenomenal restaurants call Tacoma home, so it’s really hard to name just a few. But, alas, here we go. One long-standing treasure has been seen by millions from the freeway over the years, but maybe you haven’t stopped in to try it yourself. Stanley & Seafort’s has been serving up some of the best breakfast around since 1981. Head in right when they open for brunch, at 10:30 a.m. on a Saturday or Sunday; order a mimosa or house-made Bloody Mary; and split the blueberry muffin French toast. It’s incredible. The bread is dipped in a ginger beer batter, fried, and topped with a blueberry sauce and a sprinkling of powdered sugar. 

Another standout is Indo Asian Street Eatery, a cozy restaurant on North Tacoma Avenue serving up Southeast Asian dishes. The restaurant, which opened in 2015, was conceptualized by the family that opened the Indochine restaurants, but Indo has a more casual, home-y atmosphere. 

Photo by: Jeff Hobson

Camp Bar and Alma Mater are two new kids on the block and should both be part of your Tacoma repertoire. Camp Bar is located unassumingly on Tacoma Avenue South and features all the kitschy-ness of the Pacific Northwest with décor that would be gaudy in any other setting. Co-owner Patrick Haight headed up several Seattle bars before coming south to Tacoma to open his own establishment with co-owner Nuri Aydinel. Get a burger, just so you can have the tater tots on the side, and check out its specialty cocktail menu with drinks like the Camp Bar Manhattan that have unexpected twists. You must have tableside s’mores, too.

Alma Mater on South Fawcett Avenue, a few blocks up from the core of downtown, is a mash-up of event space with a café and cocktail lounge. Settle into a chair at café Honey with a cup of coffee, and enjoy the ambience. It has all the fixings of a trendy coffee bar, with leafy, potted plants and eclectic books surrounded by warm, wood furniture. On the other end of the hall is Matriarch Lounge, a cocktail bar adorned with velvet emerald couches and chairs and a cocktail list that surprises and delights. No matter your mood — sassy and sultry or calm and casual — Alma Mater is the place to be in Tacoma. 

After exploring the City of Destiny, we’re certain you’ll be smitten.

is a contributing writer.
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