48 Hours In: Tacoma
Tacoma, Seattle's little brother, is all grown up.
If the last time you visited Tacoma was never (save for that monster truck jam at the Dome circa ’92), you’re not alone. For many years the city was little more than an industrial hamlet, where folks willing to brave the 45–minute commute north to Seattle—make that two hours in rush hour—could find cheap real estate and a sleepy pace. Today, a burgeoning food scene and youthful energy make it an unexpectedly great getaway.
Check in at the Hotel Murano, where the soaring lobby flooded with natural light doubles as a gallery of local glass artwork. Each floor of the 21–storey building is dedicated to a different international glass artist, with exhibitions of their work in common areas. Expect all the nice extras: a pillow menu, iPod docks and Torrefazione coffee.
Once you’ve settled in, head to the historic Stadium district—and know that “district” here usually means only a block or two, and everything is walkable as long as you’re fit to chug up and down hills. The beautiful turn–of–the–20th–century buildings are well preserved, as is the 1891–built Stadium High School (which, locals are quick to announce, was the setting for 1999’s 10 Things I Hate About You). Dinner is at Shake Shake Shake burger shack, a 1940s–channelling spot with a short menu of under–5 burgers, hot dogs and fries modernized by sauces like rooster ketchup or umami bomb. Settle in for a nightcap at brand–spanking–new craft cocktail mecca Hilltop Kitchen where Latin American spirits like cachaa, tequila and mescal are the stars.
Fuel up for the day at farm–to–table Art House Cafe with fried eggs over sautéed wild mushrooms and duck–fat–roasted fingerling potatoes. Lighter (and gluten-free) options are nearby at Corina Bakery. Mosey two blocks toward the water and find the new Triangle district with shops likeGiraffe , which hawks fair–trade home decor and gifts (mango-wood platters from Thailand, La Chamba pottery from Colombia, hand–quilted sari throws: think Anthropologie, not Ten Thousand Villages), and Dwelling, where vintage–inspired décor like mercury–glass vases and Amy Butler fabrics are artfully displayed. If the timing’s right, hit up a bursting–at–the–seams farmers’ market (surrounding Pierce county was once the country’s largest producer of raspberries); or pick up sandwiches and snacks at the gourmet but modestly priced Metropolitan Market for a picnic at the sprawling 700–acre Point Defiance park, where little pockets along the circular road showcase stunning views over Puget Sound. Surprisingly, the park’s 105–year–old zoo is a thriving model for naturalistic exhibits done right–we’re sending you there to meet Homer, the only surviving otter rescued from the Exxon Valdez spill, and E.T., a bug-eyed, three–and–a–half–tonne walrus. Work up an appetite roaming the grounds for dinner back at Maxwell’s Speakeasy, housed in a historic block, where you’ll enjoy a happy conundrum: King salmon with pea tendrils or bourbon’glazed ribs with new potatoes and radish?
Chef Matt Stickle is up at the crack of dawn to buy direct from neighbouring farms and turn out dishes like a fresh–egg frittata rich with Dungeness crab at Bite in the Hotel Murano. Grab a coffee from the lobby bar to rally for a self–guided museum tour, which is thankfully contained to a compact area by the waterfront, easily navigated over a morning: you can hit Museum of Glass or the Tacoma Art Museum. Both have serious collections from hometown hero Dale Chihuly. Inspired? Roll up your sleeves, strap on protective eyewear, and do something… kind of out there. Billy Carson, a tattooed water polo champ, will show you how to bend and blow a stick of molten glass into a beautiful shape of your choosing at the Tacoma Glassblowing Studio. After sweating in front of a 2,200°F furnace, unwind at the excellent Savi day spa, where they know it’s the little things that count—like a warm, scented neck pillow and cucumber water in the waiting room, and a soothing in–room foot soak before your treatment. WL