East Tacoma is one of the areas of town that still carries a bit of a stigma about it in the minds of many Tacoma residents. This area of town has the highest percentage of low income residents and one of the largest subsidized housing developments on the west coast. Does this mean mid-level income earners should ignore looking at the homes in this part of town? Not necessarily. Even if you don’t want to live here, there are some cool things to do in this part of town that are largely overlooked.
East Tacoma has a lot going for it, though. Most of all, it's got a lot of great restaurants, affordable housing (great for starter homes) and it's the part of Seattle that's closest to Seattle. If you're a commuter, you'll get to completely skip over the bulk of Tacoma's freeway traffic if you get on I-5 at Portland Avenue.
East Tacoma is not a large area of Tacoma and is bounded by E 72nd to the south, Pacific Avenue to the east, approximately Portland Avenue to the west, and I-5 to the north.
East Tacoma has a mix of eateries and restaurants, mostly tending toward smaller places. Notable spots include the Top of Tacoma bar at 3529 McKinley Avenue, which is one of the best happy hours in Tacoma (as well as a great vegan and vegetarian menu).
There are several great Asian food places on 38th Street, including Vien Dong and Gari of Sushi. Neither looks spectacular from the outside, but both have great food.
Stanley and Seaforts is also in East Tacoma. It's an older restaurant with classic decor, a steak and seafood-driven menu, and one of the best views of Tacoma.
Otherwise, you will find lots of small places along the main thoroughfares of 38th, 56th, 72nd, McKinley, and Pacific.
One of the best perks of living in East Tacoma is that getting around is convenient and easy.
Freeway access to I-5 is close by. If you commute to Seattle, the northernmost Tacoma I-5 exit is Portland Avenue, and if you get on the freeway here, you essentially skip all the traffic backups around the Tacoma Dome.
Pierce Transit bus routes have a nice coverage of East Tacoma and you can easily get downtown, to the Tacoma Dome station, to the Tacoma Mall area, and often without having to transfer. Bus routes here include: 41, 42, 45, 53, 54, 56, and 409. There is a transit center at 72nd and Portland and the Tacoma Dome main transit center is close by.
Living in East Tacoma
Tacoma’s Eastside is a great place to look if you want affordable housing. Homes on the Eastside sold for an average of $176,000 in 2016 according to Zillow.com, but you'll find many homes for lower than that. While some areas are pretty slummy, not all are. It is worth looking in this part of town, but also worth investigating crime and other statistics before you commit. Some parts of East Tacoma are downright cute, while others are pretty rough around the edges, and these areas can vary literally street to street.
Most of the homes on this side of town are somewhere between 1,000 and 2,400 square feet and you can find quite a range of sizes, shapes, and eras.
There are many well-kept homes from the 1940s and 50s here, some new development, and many homes in between.
You will not find an abundance of apartments in East Tacoma, and you’re more likely to find a viable home for rent by searching around. There are indeed apartments here, but they are mostly low income. If you are seeking purely affordable, they are worth considering. Areas to check include right around 72nd and Portland, along Portland Avenue, and there are a few small properties along 38th Street. You won’t find much in the ways of sprawling apartment complexes.
Nearby South Tacoma and the areas around Tacoma Mall offer many more apartment options, often still very affordable options as well.
Things to Do
East Tacoma is not exactly advertised for its many things to do, but there are some things worth doing and seeing here, especially for residents.
First and foremost may just be the Emerald Queen Casino, located at 2024 East 29th Street, which is just off the I-5 Portland Avenue exit. You will see a variety of reviews out there about ECQ, but the fact is that it’s pretty big, has lots of table games and slots, has a pretty tasty buffet and gets a variety of concerts (but, yes, it is smoky so if you're sensitive to smoke, skip it).
One of the best hikes in Tacoma is also located here. Swan Creek’s network of wooded trails has a trail head just off 56th and Portland. It may look like a dead-end street with some trees around it, but venture on up into the trees and you’ll discover a place that feels miles away from its surroundings. Keep following the trails and you will eventually pop out near Pioneer Way and a more official entry to the Swan Creek County Park.
East Tacoma, like all of Tacoma, has lots of parks. Stewart Heights Park on 56th Street has playground equipment, fields, and a pretty large skatepark. A park on the corner of 44th and McKinley also has fields and a playground as well as a splash park for kids.
Rogers Elementary School – East Nth Street and 34th
McKinley Elementary School - 3702 McKinley Avenue
Blix Elementary School - 1302 East 38th Street
Roosevelt Elementary School - 3550 East Roosevelt Avenue
Lister Elementary School - 2106 East 44th Street
Lyon Elementary School - 101 East 46th Street
Stewart Middle School - 5010 Pacific Avenue
Gault Middle School - 1115 East Division Lane
First Creek Middle School - 1801 E 56th Street
McIlvaigh Middle School - 1801 E. 56th Street
Fawcett Elementary School - 126 East 60th Street
Eastside Christian Academy - 14615 SE 22nd Street
Concordia Lutheran School - 202 East 56th Street
Lincoln High School - 701 South 37th Street
Northwest Casino School - 3541 McKinley Avenue