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Tall buildings lit up next water at sunset in Downtown Tacoma

14 Things to Know About Living in Tacoma

Moving to Tacoma, Washington? Known as Grit City, the third-largest city in the state is the birthplace of famous actor and singer Bing Crosby, and one of the best cities to live on the West Coast. Here are 14 things to know about living in Tacoma!

Take Advantage of Affordable City Living

Sunset view of Tacoma showing Mt. Rainier, Tacoma Art Museum, and Union Station. Photo by Instagram user @outer_rim_art.

Photo via @outer_rim_art

Living in Tacoma is an affordable alternative to other Washington cities like Seattle—which is part of why it’s one of the best places to live in the Pacific Northwest! Though Tacoma’s cost of living is 11% more expensive than the U.S. average, Seattle’s cost of living is 57% more expensive than the U.S. average. Additionally, Tacoma’s real estate prices are 21% lower than the Washington average, while Seattle’s are 80% higher than the state average. Washington also has no state income tax, so living here will save you some money throughout the year.

Score a Job in Tacoma

View of Port of Tacoma with Mt. Rainier in the background. Photo by Instagram user @portoftacoma.

Photo via @portoftacoma

As a coastal port city, there are many job opportunities at the Port of Tacoma. However, there are plenty of other top industries in Tacoma, as well—including finance and insurance, aerospace, government, and retail. Find work with some of Tacoma’s major employers. Teach at the University of Puget Sound or Tacoma Public Schools. Join the military at Joint Base Lewis–McChord, where the United States Army and United States Air Force reside. Consider the numerous opportunities in healthcare, including MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital and St. Joseph Medical Center.

See What’s Near Grit City

Sunset view of Mount Rainier National Park with a lake and pink flowers in the foreground and Mt. Rainier in the background. Photo by Instagram user @neohumanity

Photo via @neohumanity

Though there’s a wealth of things to do and see in Tacoma, the city is also perfectly situated to make traveling to surrounding cities and attractions easy. Many professionals live in Tacoma for its affordability, and commute to Seattle both to work and visit its attractions—but Seattle isn’t the only nearby place worth seeing. Travel less than an hour to the state capital of Olympia or do some incredible shopping in Bellevue. Hike Mt. Rainier (Washington’s highest mountain), look for 280 species of wildlife, or ski at Mt. Rainier National Park just over an hour away. Or for scenic boating, fishing, and backpacking opportunities, visit Olympic National Park less than two hours away.

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Enroll in Higher Education

Students walking in front of a building at the University of Puget Sound, surrounded by flowers. Photo by Instagram user @univpugetsound

Photo via @univpugetsound

No matter your field of study, you can gain a solid education in Tacoma. Earn a degree in your choice of 50 undergraduate degree programs including computer science, psychology, and more at The University of Washington Tacoma. Take advantage of experience-based learning opportunities and advanced research labs at private University of Puget Sound. Fulfill your potential with individualized instruction and hands-on travel opportunities at Pacific Lutheran University. Learn robotics, information technology, or electronics at Bates Technical College. Pursue religious instruction with degrees in religion, education, leadership, and business at Faith International University & Seminary. Or jump-start your education before diving into campus life at Tacoma Community College.

Not as Rainy as You May Think

A lake in Wright Park surrounded by fall trees, with a partly cloudy sky above. Photo by Instagram user @adan_one77.

Photo via @adan_one77

You may have heard that the Pacific Northwest is known for its rain and gloom. While that may be true in some areas, Tacoma doesn’t rain as much as you might think. On average, Tacoma gets 41 inches of rain per year, which is only slightly above the national average. The amount of cloud cover you’ll experience depends on the time of year—the sky is more overcast in the winter, and clear or partly cloudy in the summer. But the best part of Tacoma’s climate is it provides great weather year-round—with average highs of 77 degrees and lows of 37 degrees—so you can experience all four seasons without the extremes of other areas of the United States!

Hop on Public Transportation

The Point Defiance Ferry letting cars out onto the terminal. Photo by Instagram user @paulmanning72.

Photo via @paulmanning72

Most Grit City residents get around by car, but there are also public transportation options to take advantage of. Jump on a PierceTransit bus, which has 31 convenient routes throughout the city. Take advantage of the Link Light Rail to get free service from one end of downtown to the other, with six stops in between. If you’re commuting from Tacoma to Seattle for work, the Sound Transit bus and the Seattle Sounder commuter train are convenient options. You can also access Vashon Island via the Point Defiance Ferry, which takes you over Puget Sound. If you prefer to travel by foot, Tacoma is also relatively walkable, particularly in the downtown area.

Connect With the Great Outdoors

Moss-covered trees with sunlight filtering through them in Point Defiance Park. Photo by Instagram user @roxannecooke.

Photo via @roxannecooke

With its lush, green surroundings, Tacoma is a terrific place to lose yourself in nature. Bike across the bridge at Dune Peninsula, relax at the beach pavilion at Owen Beach, or wander through eight different gardens all at Point Defiance Park. Let your kids play in the Sprayground, take a dip in the pool, or harvest vegetables in the Community Garden at Kandle Park. Swim at the beach, walk the trails, or have a picnic at Titlow Park. Attend year-round events and nature programs for little ones and families at Tacoma Nature Center. Hike one of the many trails throughout Tacoma—like Pacific Crest Trail, Puget Park Trail, or Wapato Lake Trail. Or spend the day kayaking or paddleboarding across the water at Foss Harbor Marina.

Have Some Family Fun

A harbor seal with long whiskers at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. Photo by Instagram user @ptdefiancezoo.

Photo via @ptdefiancezoo

If you’re looking for family-friendly things to do, Tacoma has you covered. Marvel at incredible red wolves in the Red Wolf Woods, enjoy underwater views of sea turtles and sharks in the Pacific Seas Aquarium, and ride the carousel at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. Learn local history with workshops and live demonstrations at Fort Nisqually Living History Museum. Catch a Tacoma Rainiers (MiLB) game at Cheney Stadium. Bring family and friends to root for the Tacoma Stars (MASL) at ShoWare Center. Go ice skating, play hockey, or ride the ice bumper cars at Sprinker Recreation Center. Or browse homemade goods and fresh produce at five different farmers markets throughout the city.

Visit the Museum District

Several impressive museums sit within walking distance of each other in Downtown Tacoma’s Museum District. Stroll through unique exhibitions and collections from Pacific Northwest artists at the Tacoma Art Museum. Celebrate the power of play at donation-based “Pay As You Will” Children’s Museum of Tacoma. Admire amazing cars from history with exhibits like the British Invasion and Route 66 at LeMay: America’s Car Museum. Fall back in time with exhibitions such as Remembrance and the Great Hall of Washington History, as well as special events at the Washington State History Museum. Or explore the region’s maritime history at the Foss Waterway Seaport.

Support Tacoma’s Art Scene & Glass Blowing

Whether you’re an artist or just appreciate art, Tacoma is where you want to be. Tacoma’s Municipal Art Program dedicates money to public art projects—so no matter where you walk in Tacoma, you can enjoy things like gorgeous glass sculptures hidden in plain sight. Plus, world-renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly was born in Tacoma, adding to glass art’s influence on the city. Walk directly on Chihuly’s Bridge of Glass, located at the entrance of the Museum of Glass. If you’re up for a challenge, learn how to blow glass yourself at the Tacoma Glass Blowing Studio! Or get involved with the local art scene by attending a workshop or hosting your own gathering at Tacoma Arts Community Center. Have your art framed or explore fine art exhibits at the oldest gallery in the Pacific Northwest—American Art Company. Browse local art in mediums from glass art, to photography, to pottery, and more at Proctor Art Gallery. Or support local artists for the long haul by getting involved with the Office of Arts & Cultural Vitality.

Indulge in the Performing Arts

From spectacular actors to thrilling musicians, Tacoma has every type of performing art you could want. See all kinds of performances including plays, professional dance groups, and comedians at the Pantages Theater. Attend rodeos, concerts with popular bands and artists, live shows for kids, and more at the Tacoma Dome. Get inspired by orchestral music at the Symphony Tacoma. Laugh and cry along with talented performers at the largest community theater in the Pacific Northwest, Tacoma Musical Playhouse. Or experience the drama and support local performing artists at the Tacoma Opera.

Attend a Grit City Festival

People at the Brew Five Three festival jumping up to catch something in front of a yellow building and white tent. Photo by Instagram user @sip_magazine.

Photo via @sip_magazine

Tacoma has an array of festivals throughout the year that demonstrate the heart of Grit City. Admire the golden, floral parades and attend the crowning of the Princess at the Daffodil Festival. Create or admire art at a slew of festivals during Tacoma Arts Month in October. Celebrate Tacoma’s LGBTQ community with cultural events and live performances at Tacoma Pride Festival. Catch a variety of patriotic events like firework shows, concerts, and markets during Tacoma’s Fourth of July Celebrations. Honor regional native cultures by shopping hand-crafted goods and attending dancing and singing performances at the annual In the Spirit Native Festival. Find live music, tasty food truck options, and even your new favorite beer or cider with tastings at the Brew-Five-Three Beer and Blues Festival (Brew 53). And see dazzling lights in a winter wonderland, including a tunnel of lights and groovy goats in holiday coats, at Zoolights.

Eat Well at Tacoma Restaurants

Don’t worry, foodies—there are plenty of excellent restaurants in Tacoma! Sample affordable Mexican cuisine like Haba Prawns or a Carne Asada Sandwich at downtown’s The Matador. Try locally-sourced New American dishes like Oysters, Grilled Duck, or Braised Elk at The Table. Enjoy scenic views on the waterfront while tasting Crab Cakes, Lobster Carbonara, or Cremini Mushroom Chicken from the Lobster Shop. Sit down to a candlelit Argentinian dinner with Calamari Frito, Elote Gnocchi, or Parilla Mixta at Asado. Try some of the best dim sum in Tacoma when you order Shrimp Dumplings, Minced Pork Buns, or Egg Rolls at Harbor City Tacoma Restaurant. Or sample Potstickers, Cashew Chicken, and Basil Curry Seafood at Indochine Asian Dining Lounge.

Have a Good Time in Tacoma

A bartender setting a drink on fire in front of plates of fries and charcuterie at The Boom Boom Room Tacoma. Photo by Instagram user @food_flexin.

Photo via @food_flexin

Tacoma is a bustling city with some fantastic spots to let loose. Laugh with a professional comedian or attend an open mic night at the Tacoma Comedy Club. Go back in time with old-school video games while cracking open a beer in ’80s-themed Dorky’s Arcade. Or head over to 6th Avenue District for the ultimate nightlife experience, including the 3-in-1 restaurant, music venue, and bar at Jazzbones. Get your country on and take your partner line dancing at Steel Creek Tacoma. Explore seven floors of entertainment—from the brewery to the ballroom—and enjoy spectacular views of Puget Sound at McMenamins Elks Temple’s Spanish Ballroom. Grab a house-brewed ale on tap at converted historic firehouse E9 Firehouse and Gastropub. Catch happy hour twice a day, every day, and drink up a Feisty Maria or Rise and Shine at Top of Tacoma Bar and Cafe. Or end the night with a High Roller or Madagascar Dark and Stormy at Boom Boom Room Tacoma—the city’s only Mid-Century craft cocktail lounge.


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About Mike Beutler

Mike Beutler is a writer and digital content specialist who transitioned to self storage in 2020 after several years in the airline industry. His travels cultivated a passion for exploring cities across the U.S. and abroad and inspired him to learn more about practical insights for urban living. With 14 moves under his belt, both locally and cross-country, he also has a passion for minimalism and organization, and sharing tips to help others make any space feel like home while staying organized.