Downtown Tacoma Overview:
Downtown Tacoma, Washington, is a relatively small area of Tacoma overall, but in the past decade it has grown to include some of the best restaurants and things to do in town. After a long period of downturn in the 1970s and 80s, downtown Tacoma began a process of renewal and revitalization in the 1990s that has largely been successful. Today, there are several museums here, a range of dining spots, theaters, and public artwork. These things combine to make the downtown area a great place for a walking tour or a day or night out with a date or friends or family.
Downtown Tacoma is bounded approximately by South Tacoma Way, Dock Street, Division Avenue, and approximately Yakima Avenue. Downtown and Hilltop blend together to an extent. The true downtown area is generally within a few blocks of Pacific Avenue.
Downtown Tacoma is one of the hubs for Pierce Transit and, as such, has almost all the bus routes running through its transit center at 10th and Commerce, including most of the express buses to surrounding cities. Downtown also links to the Tacoma Dome Station, which has more express bus options (including airport service) as well as Greyhound and Amtrak service. Running regularly between downtown and Tacoma Dome station is also the Link lightrail, which is free and runs every 10 to 20 minutes.
Pierce Transit Bus Routes: 1, 2, 3, 11, 13, 16, 26, 28, 41, 42, 48, 53, 57, 60, 61, 102, 490, 500, 501, 582, 586, 590, 594, 603, 603A
Apartments and Real Estate:
You will not find any houses in downtown Tacoma, but an increasing number of apartments and condos are being built here, often offering upscale touches and views of the Puget Sound, mountain ranges, and the Port of Tacoma.
Cheap Tacoma apartments can be found on the fringes of downtown near Wright Park for as little as $400-500, and within the downtown core often range upward of $1000. Condos generally start around $200,000 and range upward from there and it’s not uncommon for some of the higher-floor view units to sell for around $1 million.
Restaurants in downtown Tacoma are one of the best facets of this blossoming area. Not only is there just about every kind of cuisine or price range diners could hope for, but they are all found within a walkable distance of each other and of the cool things to do. Cheaper options abound and include Jack in the Box, Subway, and Taco del Mar, and several pretty good teriyaki spots, but the real deals here are not found at your typical chain restaurants. Try the lunch buffet at India Mahal, Hal of a Sub, or the pizza buffet at Rock Pasta for reasonably priced lunches.
For a sit-down meal of delicious yet still affordable cost, head to Harmon Brewing Co and Restaurant, Old Spaghetti Factory, or The Swiss. For date night or other special occasions, downtown Tacoma restaurants also have you covered with options from The Melting Pot and El Gaucho to the Pacific Grill and Indochine. Indochine is one of the best options for a special occasion with an incredibly beautiful setting and amazing food as well.
Downtown Tacoma nightlife is some of the best in town, aside from the many additional options along 6th Avenue. Due to the fact that several theaters are located here, clubs, pubs, and night spots have flourished. Laid back options include Paddy Coyne’s. Many venues feature live music or comedy, and these include The Swiss and Varsity Grill. If you fancy a night club, check out The Mix or Hell's Kitchen.
Attractions and Things to Do:
Of the many things to do in Tacoma, some of the best are found in downtown. Downtown Tacoma attractions are all within walking distance of each other, but the Link Light Rail is also a great option to hop around the Pacific Avenue area. Museums in downtown are: the Tacoma Art Museum, Washington State History Museum, the Museum of Glass, and the Children’s Museum of Tacoma. All are worth a visit, but perhaps the best is Tacoma Art Museum.
Downtown Tacoma is also an excellent place to view the many public art installations found here. The Bridge of Glass is the preeminent artwork installation, but also has the practical purpose of linking downtown to Dock Street where the Museum of Glass is located. Other artwork installations can be found up and down Pacific Avenue. Union Station is also a great place to visit. The architecture of the building is quite cool and to complement that, there are installations by artist Dale Chihuly throughout the building. Entrance is free.
Taking a walking tour to view the public artwork installations can be an excellent day out.
The theater district is also found downtown near the 9th and Broadway area. Here the Pantages Theater, Rialto, and Theater on the Square are linked to the rest of town via Link Light Rail and put on shows from classical music performances to jazz and blues to world-class plays.
Downtown Tacoma's history includes periods of boom and bust. During the first half of the 1900s, downtown was the place to be. Many of the top retailers were located here and so shoppers came to fill the streets on weekends. After Tacoma Mall was built in the 1960s, many of the retailers relocated, leaving downtown dilapidated and empty. For much of the '70s, '80s, and early '90s, this part of town was likely the last place to attract families or tourists.
However, in recent times, an effort has been made to gentrify this area, including bringing in cultured institutions such as the museums, building upscale housing here, and welcoming in fine dining establishments. While there are still patches of downtown Tacoma that remain rough around the edges, the revitalization efforts have largely made it a great place for an evening out.