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‘The Best of Both City and Sea’

Local author highlights Tacoma’s most iconic, and lesser known, spots By Rachel Kelly | Photo by Maurgerite Cleveland


There’s a lot to love about Tacoma. Yes, Stadium High School was the site of the filming of the iconic “10 Things I Hate About You.” And yes, Tacoma is also the location of the notable collapse of “Galloping Gertie.” We’re also famous for having been the northernmost point of the Northern Pacific Railroad back in the day, and are currently Washington’s largest port. This may be how the world has heard of Tacoma, but it’s not how we know it.

We know it as a place suspended between mountain and water, with views to match. A place with a cuisine that thrives on cultural representation and local flair. A place where the people are directly reflected in its many neighborhoods and outlying areas. Tacoma is a city where the community is close knit enough to erupt in spontaneous winter snowball fights, support mom and pop businesses, and form eclectic small groups centered around common interests. Yet, it’s large enough for large concerts, spectacular theater and thriving arts. This is our view of Tacoma.

Local author Marguerite Cleveland has sought to capture this view from home in her book entitled “100 Things to Do in Tacoma Before You Die.” It’s part of a larger series of bucket list-like books that are written about other iconic locations around the United States. However, this particular book is close to her heart.

“I leaped at the opportunity to promote the city I love so much,” says Marguerite. “Tacoma is gorgeous with stunning views of both the Puget Sound and Mt. Rainier. It has an old-growth forest right within city limits! There is both a theater and a museum district. You get the best of both the city and sea when you visit Tacoma.” Often overshadowed by our sister Seattle, Tacoma is an oft underappreciated destination. In her 100 places, some you’ve even might have missed, Marguerite is out to ensure that Tacoma has its time in the sun (we need all the sun we can get in the winter). Let’s see if you’ve heard of these lesser-known spots as highlighted in Marguerite’s most recent work!

The first section of the book is dedicated to food and dining, and a lot of different areas of the city (even some outlying areas!) are covered to ensure a full experience. Tacoma is full of foodies, so it’s difficult to imagine that some of you haven’t visited some of the best that Tacoma has to offer many times. Jan Parker Cookery is one such place for her award-winning and delectable approach to Filipino cuisine. Tibbitts at Fern Hill is another award winner considered a local legend. Longtime restaurants such as the Homestead, Frisko Freeze, and the Ruston Way Restaurants are also mentioned as Tacoma staples. But there are a few here that you might not have tried! Such as the restaurants in Parkland. Examples include the five-star Parkland Place Bakery and Bistro (cheesecake!) and the Marvel Food and Deli (focusing on European fare). There’s the international district in Lakewood where Marguerite highlights the Gangnam BBQ for excellent Korean barbecue (grill is at the table, great for groups) and the irrefutably wonderful Pal-Do World Market. Last but not least, consider hitting up the Red Hot for gourmet hot dogs and local brews on tap. That is, if you haven’t already.

No bucket list of Tacoma would be complete without a section on music and entertainment. Listed in “100 Things to Do in Tacoma Before You Die” are classics such as blowing your own glass at the Museum of Glass, rocking out at the Tacoma Dome, jazz at Jazzbones, shows in the Theater District, and catching an event at the Emerald Queen. Those are activities enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. Yet, as any person who lives here knows, there are always more things to discover. There’s always something new popping up, such as a ride on the Gig Harbor Gondola (named Nelly), or an entertaining and sometimes bawdy historical tour through Pretty Gritty Tours. Tacoma has activities from lazy to busy, from short to long. One thing is for sure though: It’s going to have its own vibe.

Tacoma may be a city, but it’s not without abundant opportunities for sports and recreation.

There are plenty of well-known choices, such as a visit to the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, mountain biking in Swan Creek, or beach combing along one of the many waterfront areas. However, as Marguerite mentions, there are also lesser-known areas. Places such as Farrell’s Marsh in Steilacoom has a wild abandoned feeling that seems to go on and on through a deeply entrenched marsh. Keep a look out for waterfowl and beavers as you wander, and don’t get lost! Another lesser-known spot is Charlotte’s Blueberry Park, which fairly recently has benefited from community attention. The acres and acres of blueberries are yours to pick when in summer, however, the park has offerings all year. Also in the park is a playground, miles of walking trails, and opportunities for exploration through the thin trails that meander through the forested areas.

Tacoma also has a rich culture and history. Some of its history is worth grieving, some to be treasured, and some to be celebrated. Regardless, Tacoma is a city that does well to highlight and reflect its roots. For exploration into the history and culture of the area, most will likely find themselves at one of the museums. The Washington State History Museum showcases both local and statewide history, while the Foss Waterway Seaport displays a fascinating array of local maritime history. And of course, no history would be whole without a Puyallup Tribe Walk.

These are some such examples of lesser-known locations and places highlighted in the book “100 Things to Do in Tacoma Before You Die,” but there are many more! Just one more reason why Tacoma is its own destination. It truly is the City of Destiny.

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