The Waterfront in Tacoma is a strip of property along the Puget Sound’s Commencement Bay ideal for walkers, joggers, or those in search of restaurants with a view. There is a two-mile-long sidewalk right along the water, paralleled by Ruston Way—a street that enables getting between downtown Tacoma and the Point Defiance area. Along the way, there are a number of restaurants, a hotel, and a few small parks perfect for picnics or watching the sunrise. Parking lots are available at McCarver and Ruston Way, in front of the Silver Cloud Inn, near all the restaurants, which dot almost the entire strip, and at the far end of Ruston Way.
The Tacoma Waterfront is part of Tacoma’s history from its very early days. The Ruston Way area, then called Front Street, was lined with industry—boatyards, warehouses, and mills. Visitors to the Waterfront today can see remnants of this booming time even now—a circular base of a grain mill, wooden pylons sticking out of the water, bricks among the rocks on the beach. In the 1920s, the industry of Ruston Way began to move toward the Tide Flats of Tacoma, which remain the center of industry in the city today.
The restaurants are a major reason to come to the Waterfront along with its recreational possibilities. There are a number of options. Most range in price from moderate to slightly expensive, about $10 per plate is the cheapest average you’ll find. All have outdoor seating when the weather is warm and views of the water all year. Restaurants here include:
Harbor Lights: An Anthony’s chain restaurant. Expect mostly seafood entrees, soups, salads, desserts, and a few non-seafood entrees as well. 2761 Ruston Way
Ram Restaurant and Brewery: One of the better deals on the waterfront. Burgers, sandwiches, and steakhouse-style entrees. The Ram serves its own microbrews. 3001 Ruston Way
C.I. Shenanigan’s: Creative yet still approachable entrees and sandwiches. Many are seafood based, but there are lots of options with chicken and beef as well. 3017 Ruston Way
Katie Downs Waterfront Tavern: Soups, salads, pizzas, burgers, seafood and steak entrees along with beer and wine. 3211 Ruston Way
Duke’s Chowder House: Duke’s has unique and delicious chowders along with a full menu of seafood entrees. 3327 Ruston Way
Lobster Shop: The Lobster Shop has higher quality seafood entrees and appetizers, and surprisingly, one of the best breakfasts in Tacoma with its Sunday Brunch. 4015 Ruston Way
There is only one hotel along the Waterfront—the Silver Cloud Inn at 2317 North Ruston Way. It has great views of the water, but prices can shoot up around major events and any other reason people would flood Tacoma hotels (conventions downtown and parent weekends at local universities).
A number of parks are located along Ruston Way. None are large, but offer patches of grass to picnic, play, or just enjoy the view. The parks along the Waterfront are: Jack Hyde Park, Hamilton Park, Dickman Mill Park, Marine Park, and Cummings Park.
The Les Davis Fishing Pier is also a great spot to go whether you want to fish or not. A little bit down the pier, if you look over the side, you can often see starfish. The end of the pier has views of Mount Rainier, downtown, and the Port of Tacoma.