You don’t need to shell out a lot of money to have a great time in Tacoma. After spending my high school years in this town, I can assure you this town has many cost-free things to do around every corner. Between public parks, shoreline on Puget Sound, original Dale Chihuly artwork and views of Mount Rainier in your face, Tacoma has a little something for everyone and every budget. Here are a few of my favorite things to do around the 253 that won’t break the bank.
1. Point Defiance Rose Garden
Point Defiance has a lovely, free garden where you can stop and smell the roses. It’s well-maintained, and features quaint gazebos, arbors of climbing roses, a wishing well, and a garden of miniature roses that bloom in the spring.
2. Ruston Way Waterfront
From the Ruston Way Waterfront you can get some amazing views of Rainier and Puget Sound. It’s a relaxing place to go for a walk, bike ride or watch the sunset in the evening. The waterfront has several benches to sit and admire your surroundings, as well as a pier that offers great fishing and photo opportunities.
3. Wright Park
Wright Park is huge and set in a great location downtown. It encompasses acres of open grassy space for picnics and walking, a duck pond with a bridge, historic statues, a playground area for kids, and serves as home to the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory. The conservatory’s free to browse as well and features several different exotic plant displays.
4. Chihuly Bridge Of Glass
Tacoma native Dale Chihuly is renowned for his glass art, and there’s nowhere better to see it than right here in his hometown. His art is always on display at the Museum of Glass – but if you’re not looking to pay admission fees, you can still see his masterpieces in the Union Station or on this bridge for pedestrians. It includes three original installations, spanning over I-705 and connecting the Museum of Glass to Pacific Ave downtown. The bridge can be accessed 24 hours a day, and even lights up after dark.
5. Stadium High School
Stadium may look like Hogwarts but it’s basically like any other high school on the inside. It was originally built as a luxury hotel in the late 1890s and later rebuilt after a fire. By 1906 it officially opened as a public high school with four floors, a basement and sub-basement, along with a separate gym/performing arts center and a multi-story parking lot. The castle and Stadium Bowl are beautifully designed overlooking Commencement Bay, and were famously seen in the Heath Ledger movie “10 Things I Hate About You”. Stop by on the weekend when classes aren’t in session and you’ll find the photo ops here are just amazing. See other places that look like something right out of Harry Potter.
6. Freighthouse Square
Freighthouse Square doesn’t cost any money to browse, but if you do have some cash to spend you can find a great variety of small locally owned shops and restaurants in the food court. Check out Noble Trove if you’re a Seahawks fan, Claudia’s Attic if you’re looking or antique treasures, and/or Geek Girls Collectibles if you’re into comics and gaming.
7. Tacoma Nature Center
Surrounding Snake Lake, Tacoma Nature Center offers a quiet place to go for a walk through woods and wetlands. The nature preserve has about two miles of walking trails, as well as premiere bird-watching opportunities and a visitors center with informative displays.
8. Titlow Park
Titlow Park is free and fun for the whole family. It’s set along railroad tracks and includes beach access, walking trails, a playground, and gorgeous views of Puget Sound and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
Have you been to any of these places before? What are some of your favorite things to do around Tacoma that don’t cost any money?