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 envelop 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 again. Or, if you never fancied it much, spend a weekend here and get to know it. We’re certain it will surprise you.

Stay Here

If you’ve been following the news, you know that McMenamins has been restoring the old Elks Temple and plans to open the restored building with hotel rooms, entertaining space, and three restaurants. The $30-plus-million project is one of the most anticipated renovations in Tacoma’s recent history, and it’s sure to be a must-see ­­­— set to open in April and is currently taking reservations.

Silver Cloud Inn

Silver Cloud Inn on Ruston Way

While that’s wrapping up, 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 it’s 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 in the final stages of building another location in Point Ruston, the city’s first hotel. Once completed, the roughly $60 million inn will be complete with 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?

Hang Out Here

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.

The Indigo Frozen Fountain Ice Skating Rink extended its winter season until Feb. 2, so grab a steaming hot chocolate or coffee — we’re partial to the dirty chai from Anthem on Main Street — and hit the ice. Once the weather warms 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.

Ice Cream Social

Ice Cream Social. Sergio Mottola Photography.

Once you’ve worn yourself out with ice skating or biking, 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. It’s possible you’ll encounter some wildlife, but consider yourself warned: You may be tempted to feed the sweet-looking squirrels and raccoons, but feeding the animals is illegal and comes with a hefty fine.

Eat Here

Yu Nanakornphanom

Co-owner of Indo Asian Street Eatery, Yu Nanakornphanom

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.

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.

Honey Cafe Alma Mater

Honey Cafe at Alma Mater

Alma Mater on South Fawcett Avenue, a few blocks up from the core of downtown, is a mashup 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 an assistant editor at South Sound magazine. Email her.
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