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City living at its best

The perks of urban living in downtown Tacoma

Tacoma’s downtown, waterfront housing along the Thea Foss Waterway has increased significantly as the mid-sized city continues to expand its urban core. Photo credit: Christina Butcher

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City living is all about ease: easy access to entertainment, nightlife, housing, and of course, public transportation. Cities across the Pacific Northwest pride themselves on living up to that "quick and easy" mantra, especially cities like Tacoma. But let's not take the city's word for it when we could just as easily let you, dear reader, decide for yourself: how does the Gritty City's downtown core rank as a true urban destination?

Let's start with one of the most obvious (and enjoyable) aspects of city living in downtown Tacoma: the plethora of available arts and entertainment. In addition to a hearty dose of restaurants, bars and locally-owned storefronts, you'll also find more museums than you can count on one hand, including the Children's Museum of Tacoma; the Foss Waterway Seaport; Lemay - America's Car Museum; the Museum of Glass; the Tacoma Art Museum; and the Washington State History Museum.

Downtown Tacoma is also home to off-the-beaten path venues like the Tacoma Comedy Club, the ever-popular Keys on Main piano bar, and quirky bookstores like Kings Books and Destiny City Comics. Historical, live performance theaters like Pantages, The Rialto and Tacoma City Ballet can also be found in the area. Most of the City of Destiny's downtown entertainment is conveniently located off the main drag, Pacific Avenue.

Like any city worth its salt, Tacoma's offerings of downtown public transportation ensure visitors and residents alike can easily make their way in, out and around the city as it suits them. The best way to travel through Tacoma, which happens to be the third largest city in Washington State, is to use the Link: a light rail streetcar system that runs daily and free of charge to all passengers. The Link's route begins at the Tacoma Dome and ends in Tacoma's Theater district. Plans to extend the light rail into nearby stadium and hilltop neighborhoods are already underway.

The public bus system, or even taking an old-fashioned walk through town, are both great alternatives to navigating downtown, as Tacoma is still small enough to get from one end to the other without tiring yourself out. According to, downtown Tacoma has a solid 94-point walk score (out of 100) for walkability.

In the world of housing, the downtown area offers plenty of apartment and condo-living options, including apartments in historic buildings off the main thoroughfare, new-build condos along the waterfront and modern high-rise apartments with impressive amenities uphill from the commercial hub. The further uphill you venture, the more affordable housing becomes. Less glamorous but vital aspects of downtown living, like schools, grocery and drug stores, coffee shops and local businesses, are all tucked into rich pockets of commerce throughout the area.  

Hand in hand with housing is education. Downtown Tacoma boasts campuses for several universities, the most prominent among them the University of Washington Tacoma, Bates Technical College and The Evergreen State College. School-aged children will attend schools within the Tacoma Public Schools system, which serves approximately 30,000 students in preschool through grade 12.

Downtown is also home to plenty of city parks and green spaces. The largest among them is Wright Park, a 27-acre arboretum encompassing short, rolling hills above the downtown core. Wright Park's tree- and grass-laden landscape is filled with walking trails, children's play areas, lawn activities and a large pond. Thea Foss Park, which is smaller but more open, sits at the mouth of Thea Foss Waterway. It has fishing docks, a wide expanse of grass, picnic tables, and an esplanade to amble along as you watch boats drift by. Further south along the waterway, a wide boardwalk lined with art, musical instruments and trees and shrubs lines the shoreline, giving museum-goers and visitors a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.

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