Tacoma, Washington, is the third largest city in Washington State. It has a small downtown area, but is largely made up of residential neighborhoods and pockets of commerce, often each with its own distinctive feel. Surrounding Tacoma are a number of neighboring towns and cities, too. While these are not part of Tacoma technically, they are close enough that a day out and about may well spill into them, and they add more things to do into the mix for residents.
Tacoma has several neighborhood councils, each representing one of its neighborhoods. Some of the neighborhoods, such as Central and South, bleed together and don’t have as distinct personalities as others. North and Northeast Tacoma both have very different feels than the rest of town, as does New Tacoma, which includes such unique neighborhoods as downtown and the Stadium District.
One of the nicest areas in the city, North Tacoma is more affluent than all the other areas except for Northeast. The North End has lovely old Victorian homes as well as smaller, more affordable houses, amazing water views, and contains areas like the Proctor District that help make living here so pleasant. It is close to downtown and Central Tacoma.
South Tacoma is appealing for its central location, easy freeway access, and affordable homes. There are many places to shop and go out to eat here since Tacoma Mall is located within this part of town. Green spaces such as Wapato Park also make this part of town a nice place for residents.
Central Tacoma is like a combination of North Tacoma and South Tacoma in terms of real estate (you will find older homes here as well as newer ones). This area has a number of stores, restaurants, and businesses, but is largely residential.
East Tacoma has a rougher reputation than most other parts of Tacoma, but is gradually pulling itself up. You will find new home developments, parks, and crime watches here, and there are parts of the East End that are great places to live. A bonus to living in this area is that it is closest to Seattle and getting onto I-5 at Portland Avenue bypasses much of the Tacoma commute traffic.
Tacoma’s West End is located on its western shore with the Puget Sound, meaning there are some lovely waterfront homes here or homes with views of the Narrows Bridge. This part of town also has some of the best places to walk and hike, including Point Defiance and the Narrows Bridge.
New Tacoma is the most diverse neighborhood as it encompasses areas such as the Stadium District and lower Pacific Avenue—vastly different parts of town. There aren’t quite as many places to live here, and what is here is often expensive. There is also a lot of business and industry, including the Port of Tacoma.
Located across the water on the other side of the Port, Northeast Tacoma is barely part of Tacoma other than in name. It can take up to an hour to reach parts of this neighborhood from most of Tacoma. However, freeway access here is great, water views are plentiful, and this part of town is very quiet and peaceful.
Within the neighborhoods are several districts. While not all of the districts are as popular, some of the better-known ones include the list below.
This is one of the best places to go to find nightlife spots, cheap or pricey restaurants, and in general fun things to do. While downtown Tacoma has some very nice clubs and restaurants as well, 6th Ave is more laid-back and walking friendly if you want to go bar hopping.
Downtown Tacoma is where many of the best things to do are located, including museums, restaurants, and theaters.
Located within North Tacoma, Proctor is a small patch of stores and restaurants, but features everything residents of its surrounding area need for daily life, including groceries, bars, restaurants, shops, a theater, and more.
Small, but all around awesome, the Stadium District is a great place to live or hang out. Cool restaurants and night spots like The Hub, Amocat Café, and Doyle’s Public House are all located close to each other, and this area is walkable, too.
Old Town is located in North Tacoma, very close to the Waterfront. It is a small area, but has The Spar restaurant, Café Divino wine bar, and a few places to grab a cup of coffee. Hanging out here with views of the water, or taking a break before you walk the Waterfront is the perfect way to go.
Surrounding Cities and Towns
Puyallup is Tacoma’s country neighbor. While it still has country homes and lots of produce that grows great in the shadow of Mt Rainier, this area has also boomed in the last decade. Planned development areas such as Gem Heights and Silver Creek are great places to look if you want cheap, large homes.
Gig Harbor is located across the Narrows Bridge from Tacoma. It is a quiet, seaside village. Tours of the harbor or wandering along Gallery Row are ways to enjoy what this town has to offer.
Lakewood is a sprawling residential town to the south of Tacoma. This is where the Lakewood Towne Center is as well as American Lake. Living, working, or playing here are all possible in this diverse town.
University Place is mostly residential, but does have some great places to walk such as Titlow Beach and Chambers Creek Golf Course.