What?! Did you just read “FREE”? Why, yes. Yes you did.
If you live local to Tacoma, then you should be aware of the lightrail system downtown. It is awesome. It is free. And it goes to all the best places downtown.
Where: Downtown Tacoma, WA
When: Anytime! Weekdays or weekends. Summer, winter, spring, fall….
Cost Breakdown: 0$ for gas, 0$ for food (unless you want to buy a coffee or lunch while downtown)
Tricks/What to do when you get there: Here’s how my family does it. We like to park at Freighthouse Square. Its a historic building that was the westernmost destination for the Milwaukee Railroad back in the early 1900’s. Inside you can see historical photo’s and news clippings from then and read more on how cool our area was when the railway was first introduced this far west. You can read a little about the history before going here. Unfortunately I couldn’t find much info online. By the way, you can park for free across the street from the Freighthouse building.
First stop is exploring the unique shops inside. Our favorite is City Blocks. Our very own famous Lego Man has a studio here and builds the coolest things. You can build something cool or buy your own legos to take home. Don’t forget to grab a snack if you didnt bring a sack lunch. Check out the artwork or look for old framed pictures of the trains from last century.
Now its time to catch the Lightrail. Cross the street from Freighthouse Square and you’ll see a “bus stop” in front of the parking garage. This is Tacoma Lightrail‘s beginning location. It runs every 24 minutes or so. Hop on. Its free.
When you see Union Station up ahead, you know you’re almost there. Hop off. Cross the street and head inside. Union Station is filled with history as well. Downstairs they have more pictures and stuff for the history buff in you. When you first walk in, though, you should look up and see beautiful glass art from Chihuly himself. Meander around and take a gander. Its gorgeous! When you’re done here, go around to the right of Union Station and walk behind it. You should see the famous Chihuly hothouse (the silver upside down ice cream cone) across the highway. That’s your next stop.
Cross over The Bridge of Glass (there’s a tunnel with a ceiling of glass artwork) and take a peek around. In the summer, there are outdoor exhibits for the public to view for free. Sometimes there are street musicians as well. There are certain time and days that you can actually visit the Museum of Glass, such as every third Thursday of the month from 5pm-8pm, for FREE. Also if you are a student and its a Sunday, you can get in for FREE. Visit their website for more information.
Next stop is the Antique District or Tacoma’s Antique Row. Catch the lightrail again and get off on the corner of Broadway Ave. There are several antique shops that are really fun to visit. You can find anything from old post cards to beautiful antique figurines. Read more about it here. If you need more energy after all this walking you can always stop at my favorite Tully’s Coffee shop at the corner of 9th and Broadway. I just like the shape of the building.
From here, you can walk up 9th to visit the Theater District. Just follow 9th up the hill and cross over to Broadway Center for Performing Arts. This is always my kids’ favorite part. There are big rock sculptures, some that remind me of ancient Micronesian currency. Go in search of face sculptures on the facade of the buildings and walls. Walk past the Theater on the Square to the grassy area. Take photos by the big mural. In the Spring and Summer there are great things to see here, including the farmers market and musicians. If you keep walking down Broadway to 11th St, you’ll come to a water fountain. This has been a fun place to let the kids climb and balance. Im not entirely sure that you’re allowed to be climbing on it, but I’ve seen tons of families letting their kids monkey around and no one’s ever come out to yell at them. So, I let my kidlets explore it. None have fallen in yet.
This is about the time we all get tuckered out and know that the fun filled day needs to be over. Hop back on the lightrail and find your car. Be thankful that yet again, you have tuckered your family out. For free.