Get cultured in Tacoma

Explore a budding arts scene

Kate Chynoweth

Could rubbernecking near the stylish new museums explain why interstate traffic often slows to a crawl near Tacoma? It's hard to miss the city's attractions, including the Tacoma Art Museum. But the best way to see the sights is on foot ― particularly during the Third Thursday Artwalk (5-8 p.m.; next walk Jan 15;, when museums and galleries offer free admission and extended hours.

Art patrons can view the Dale Chihuly glass exhibition in Union Station (closed Sat-Sun; 1717 Pacific Ave.; 253/572-9310) ― the city's original train terminal, now a federal courthouse ― then step into the Tacoma Art Museum (closed Mon; 1701 Pacific; 253/272-4258), which opened last May. Nearby are the Washington State History Museum (closed Mon; 1911 Pacific; 888/238-4373) and the Museum of Glass (closed Mon; 1801 Dock St.; 253/284-4750).

There's more art in the theater district, a short ride from Pacific Avenue via light rail. Here you'll find three theaters: the Pantages (901 Broadway) and the Rialto (310 Court C at Ninth St.), both built in 1918 (800/291-7593 for tickets and information for both), and the modern Theatre on the Square (915 Broadway; 253/272-2145). From here, walk to quaint Opera Alley, where Over the Moon Cafe (closed Sun-Mon; 709 Opera Alley; 253/284-3722) serves bistro fare. (From Broadway, walk to South Ninth Street and St. Helens Avenue; continue on St. Helens. Opera Alley is on the right.)

As you head out of town via Pacific, pause outside Union Station to look at Larry Anderson's New Beginnings sculpture, which depicts a man arriving in Tacoma with his carpetbag. "I like this one," says public art administrator Amy McBride, "because he's watching the city develop around him." Spend a day or evening here, and you will too.

WHERE: From Seattle, take I-5 about 40 miles south and exit at City Center/I-705 north; follow signs to S. 21st St., turn left, then go right on Pacific Ave.

CONTACT: Tacoma Regional Convention & Visitor Bureau,