Free things to do in Tacoma are plentiful, especially in downtown Tacoma. Tacoma's free attractions largely gravitate toward art, but of course include many parks to visit, museums with free days, and more.
Walking through downtown Tacoma is the perfect way to view several installations by glass artist Dale Chihuly for free. Take a self-guided tour (audio tours are available at Tacoma Art Museum) through the Tacoma Art Museum (costs to go past the reception desk, but not to step inside), Union Station, Bridge of Glass, art galleries, and a promenade along the Thea Foss Waterway—all free.
Location: Downtown Tacoma
If you don't want to walk all around downtown, visiting single attractions is also free. Union Station is a federal courthouse, but its rotunda is open to the public and has a number of installations by Chihuly to view as well as views of the Port of Tacoma.
Location: 1717 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma, WA 98402
You can get onto the Bridge of Glass by going behind Union Station and it is completely free to view. There are many pieces of Chihuly glass artwork on the Bridge, more than you will find at most exhibitions. The views of Mt Rainier and downtown are great. You can also watch traffic pass below on the freeway.
Location: Directly behind Union Station
4. Foss Waterway
If you go behind the Museum of Glass, there is a promenade along the water. Traver Gallery and Vetri Gallery are here, or you can simply walk or sit along the water and watch the boats pass by. There are some restaurants in the condo and apartment buildings along the walkway, if you want to take a break from the free activities.
Location: Along Dock Street and Thea Foss Waterway
The Waterfront in Tacoma is free to stroll and is one of the best places to walk in town. There are several small parks along the paved path to stop and admire the view, watch boats come and go from the port, or even see the occasional sea lion.
Location: 2.5 miles along Ruston Way
Point Defiance is no ordinary park. There are a number of non-free attractions here, like the zoo, but there are many free things to do as well. A Japanese garden, Five Mile Drive, and Owen Beach are just a few examples.
Location: 5400 N. Pearl Street, Tacoma, WA 98407
7. Metropolitan Market Tacoma
Metropolitan Market is a treasure trove of free food experiences. There are almost always cheese samples out to taste, but there are cheese and wine tasting events regularly, too.
Location: 2420 N Proctor Street, Tacoma, WA 98406
8. Ride the LINK
Riding the LINK is a fun free thing to do, especially if you have kids. The LINK is always free and trains arrive every 10-30 minutes depending the time of day. The route travels between 10th and Commerce and the Tacoma Dome, largely along Pacific Avenue.
9. View Public Art
You will need to do some research for this one, but there is a large number of public art projects in Tacoma. Each year, the Tacoma Art Commission puts up several new murals as part of its Tacoma Murals Project. These involve community members and are located all around town. In downtown, there are pieces of public art around almost every corner.
10. Tacoma Art Walk
The third Thursday of each month is the Tacoma Art Walk. Museum of Glass, Tacoma Art Museum, and the Washington State History Museum are all free from 5 to 8 p.m. for art walk.