Founded in 1864 by pioneer Job Carr, Tacoma – aka “the City of Destiny” – is an up-and-coming, mid-sized metropolis located 32 miles southwest of Seattle and 31 miles northeast of the state capitol, Olympia. Home to 198,397 Washingtonians, according to the 2010 census, it is the largest city in Pierce County, which is Washington’s second most populous county with some 800,000 residents.
Locals enjoy the convenience of city living with less of the things that can make living in Seattle a hassle: traffic, crowding, skyrocketing housing costs. Many are drawn to the region by its thriving job market, great nightlife and dining options and its close proximity to some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the country.
Shopping and Dining
Tacoma offers a great balance of familiar commercial retailers, many conveniently located at Tacoma Mall, and innovative small businesses. Many of the latter are nurtured by the city’s Spaceworks Program which pairs aspiring entrepreneurs with training and free and low-rent store fronts as they get their ideas off the ground. In Tacoma, it’s easy to buy local, whether you’re getting your road bike tuned up by the friendly and knowledgeable techs at Old Town Cycle or scoring a stylish armoire on Antique Row downtown.
Tacoma’s restaurant scene is in the midst of a renaissance of sorts, with a plethora of well-reviewed restaurants serving up cuisine from around the world: enjoy succulent grilled steelhead salmon at the award-winning Pacific Grill; scarf down tasty habanero cheddarwurst at the new Bavarian-themed Rhein Haus; scarf down vegan soul food at Hilltop’s Quickie Too; or munch on a spicy Ragin’ Cajun at Red Hot, among the tubed meat offerings that got the Sixth Avenue bar ranked as one of America’s top hot dog joints by Travel and Leisure and MSM.
Tacoma is also a craft beer enthusiast’s paradise with several small breweries and taprooms showcasing the region’s hoppiest brews. Among the newcomers are the spacious 7 Seas Brewery and Taproom, the Odd Otter downtown, and the ski lodge-themed Peaks & Pints in Proctor. The best in regional brews are also showcased at Broadway Center’s annual Brew Five Three beer and blues festival.
Arts & Entertainment
Tacoma has a proud musical tradition as the birth place of crooner Bing Crosby and influential Northwest garage-rock bands, The Ventures, The Fabulous Wailers, The Sonics, so there is never a shortage of live music.
Chart-topping rock, pop and country stars routinely drop by the Tacoma Dome (the likes of Lady Gaga, Drake and Blake Shelton and, in recent years.) Play some slots and catch such veteran performers as Smokey Robinson in the Emerald Queen Casino’s spacious I-5 showroom. Or you can take in an indie-rock show at the coffee-pot-shaped Bob’s Java Jive, a local icon that was once a haunt for the likes of Nirvana and Neko Case. The best in homegrown talent is also showcased at family friendly festivals that include Art on the Ave, Music and Art in Wright Park and the Hilltop Street Fair.
Tacoma is also home to several museums, including Tacoma Art Museum and Tacoma native Dale Chihuly’s Museum of Glass; a top-notch symphony, Symphony Tacoma; multiple theater groups (Tacoma Little Theater, Tacoma Musical Playhouse); and a beloved art-house movie theater, the Grand Cinema.
Parks and Recreation
With open water and a majestic, snowcapped mountain as their backdrop, locals are constantly reminded of how easy it is to get away and commune with nature in this part of the country. Mount Rainier, Olympic National Park, Northwest Trek nature preserve and some of the best snowboarding conditions on the planet are all just a short car trip away. Not that Tacomans need to leave the city limits to enjoy a quiet walk in the woods thanks to 760-acre Point Defiance Park. While there, take the kids to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, hike several miles of winding trails, or venture down to the park’s Owen Beach to rent a kayak and do a bit or whale watching.
Schools, Health, Transportation
Tacoma School District operates 35 elementary schools, nine middle schools and nine high schools which serve more than 30,000 students. The city is also home to the University of Washington-Tacoma, University of Puget Sound, Pacific Lutheran University and Tacoma Community College.
Residents have easy access to several hospitals, including Tacoma General Hospital, St. Joseph Medical Center, Allenmore Hospital, Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital and St. Clare Hospital
Tacoma residents have direct access to Interstate-5. Many choose to drop their cars off at the convenient Tacoma Dome Park and Ride and commute to nearby Seattle, Olympia and Sea-Tac Airport on express buses and trains operated by Sound Transit.