I LOVE living in Downtown Tacoma. I’ve moved away to other neighborhoods around town, but I keep coming back. Compared to many cities, Tacoma is very affordable. Also, aside from the hills (which ensure we get our great views of the Puget Sound and Mt. Rainier) it’s very walkable. There are tons of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. There are also a surprising number of Spas and Theaters.
Let’s Get Real, Tacoma
What I Like Best: Even though Tacoma is home to over 200,000 people, Downtown Tacoma really lives more like a small town; there’s a lot of connection between business owners and residents, and it’s so easy to quickly become a part of the community. Downtown is so lucky in that it’s large enough to have all of the services and entertainment that people need and enjoy, and yet, it’s still small enough that you don’t feel like you’re just being swallowed by anonymity. I walk out the front door in the morning and get coffee from the same guy- and on my way to my car I stop and chat to neighbors and business owners. For real. Like in the movies. It’s great.
What I Like Least: While Downtown Tacoma has come a long way in developing the core of its downtown area, there’s still pockets that need to see more development and new businesses— I especially wish there was more shopping. But I’m so excited to see what new businesses will move in over the next few years as the housing market recovers and we have more and more people choosing to live downtown. Also, it bears mentioning if you’ve never lived in a city before: it’s not QUIET. I mean, It’s quiet when the doors and windows are closed, but there are block parties, car alarms, farmers markets, and the odd crazy person shouting and walking down the street. That’s urban life kids, love it or leave it.
Living in Downtown
As far as housing goes, there are a ton of options in Downtown Tacoma- whether you’re looking for a townhouse, a loft, a brand new condo or an older building— there’s really something for everyone. There are also different types of neighborhoods to choose from, and it’s all considerably less expensive that you would typically spend in most cities of the same size.
Convenience is another huge perk of living downtown. If you need to commute to Seattle or Redmond or wherever, it’s so easy to get on and off of the freeway. Many Downtown Seattle commuters avoid driving entirely, simply taking The Link to the Tacoma Dome Station and hopping on the 594 (bus) or the Sounder (Train) to Seattle. You also have the benefit of being able to simply walk places downtown— the area is very walkable, and I personally always feel safe and I’m never afraid to walk somewhere, even at night. I’m super brave though, so maybe check the crime data if you’re skittish.
Parks: Wright Park is a lovely place to go for a run or a picnic, and Fireman’s Park is a smaller park and a bit hidden behind Matador, but it has an amazing view. Another nice walk is to walk across the glass bridge and then on down the Thea Foss.
There’s also lots of locally owned coffee shops and bars downtown, so heading out to get some work done or meeting up with friends is always easy. Errands like grocery shopping are also made convenient with downtown supermarkets like Stadium Thriftway and Tacoma City Grocer IGA.
Favorite Community Events
One of my favorite events of the year is the Out in the Park and the Tacoma Pride Festival followed by the block party on St. Helens in front of The Mix. It’s always an amazing day followed by a GREAT party. Family friendly at out in the park, crazy fun and no kiddies at the The Mix’s Block Party.
I also love it when Tollefson Plaza (the plaza across the street from the Tacoma Art Museum) is transformed into the Polar Plaza ice skating rink around Christmastime. A guy sets up an RV and sells Christmas Trees (25Trees! How clever is that?) and every year there are cool new things there. I’m still crossing my fingers that it turns into a German Style Christmas Market.
There are always, always awesome musicals and theatre acts going on at the nearby Broadway Center for the Performing Arts (in the past year, they’ve hosted Cyndi Lauper, Neko Case, David Sedaris, the musical Chicago, etc.).
The Downtown Block Party is held every August and it’s basically a big celebration of food, drinks, music, interactive art and just neighbors getting together and having fun! It’s held in Opera Alley and is fun for the whole family.
May through October there’s a big downtown farmers’ market on Broadway between 9th & 11th. It’s a great place to pick up food from local farmers, get lunch from food vendors, pick up some flowers, or just enjoy the hustle and bustle.
Enjoying Local Flavor
So many of my very favorite places to hang out in Tacoma are right downtown; here’s the DL on what’s happening and some fabulous places to check out.
Restaurants: I adore Pacific Grill. They have the best happy hour (GREAT food, really great prices in the bar) and are always changing their menu to add variety and improve upon their already delicious repertoire. They also have very flattering lighting… yes, that is a thing. Over the Moon Cafe in Opera Alley is a nice little romantic spot with a creative and ever-changing menu, and Indochine is the fanciest place in Tacoma to get Thai food (and they have amazing fresh spring rolls).
Nightlife: One of my favorite spots to head to with friends on the weekend is Tacoma Cabana. The tropical atmosphere instantly takes you on vacation, the bartender wears a fez, they serve delicious craft drinks, and Gilligan’s Island is on the TV all the time. NEVER SPORTS. Matador is another great spot with fabulous margaritas, a seriously awesome happy hour (Texas Size Nachos FTW!), a good patio and just overall great vibe. The Mix, my own personal cheers, is also a fun part of downtown nightlife and is an inclusive gay bar (fun straights welcome!) with the best karaoke in town.
Coffee Shops: Whether you need to hit the coffee shop to get some work done on your laptop or are just looking for a good hot cup of coffee- downtown has some great options. Amocat Cafe (now also home to Tacoma Brewing Co.) is a cool local spot started by owner Morgan Alexander in 2010. He wanted to serve great coffee, and now he wants to make amazing craft beer, too. Sounds like a winning combination to me. I also love stopping by Tully’s in the Bostwick Building (the triangle-shaped building across from the Pantages)— sure, Tully’s is a chain, but this one is so special and unique. Most of the employees have worked there for years, and the Bostwick building is over 100 years old, built in 1887 and has even been featured in films (like I Love You to Death). Anthem is also a cool new cafe space in the heart of the museum district and is perfect for working or having a meeting.