All About East Tacoma: An Up-and-Coming Tacoma Neighborhood

East Tacoma
View from the northernmost part of East Tacoma. Kristin Kendle

East Tacoma - more commonly called the Eastside these days - is one of the areas of Tacoma that still carries a bit of a stigma (from decades of being rougher around the edges) in the minds of many long-time Tacoma residents, and yet real estate in this neighborhood is just as hot as everywhere else in town, while neighborhood restaurants like the Top of Tacoma and Stanley and Seaforts draw people from all around for their tasty eats.

Whether you're looking to buy a home or just looking for new areas of town to check out, the Eastside has a lot going for it. Most of all, it's got a lot of great restaurants, affordable housing (great for starter homes), and it's the part of Tacoma 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...and the way I-5 construction and traffic has been going the past few years, this perk can't be emphasized enough.

Eastside Boundaries

The Eastside is bounded by E 72nd Street to the south, Pacific Avenue to the east, approximately Portland Avenue to the west, and I-5 to the north. It neighbors the South End and New Tacoma.

Things to Do

There are a number of things to do on the Eastside. 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 on the Eastside. 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.

Last but not least, the Eastside is a great place to eat.

Restaurants

The Eastside 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 has one of the best happy hours in Tacoma, is known for its tacos, and has 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 food that is authentic and delicious.

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. It's a surefire hit for a date night.

Otherwise, you will find lots of small places along the main thoroughfares of 38th, 56th, 72nd, McKinley and Pacific.

Transportation

One of the best perks of living in the Eastside 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. For commuters, there may be no finer neighborhood (unless you enjoy traffic).

Pierce Transit bus routes have solid coverage of the Eastside 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.

Parts of the Eastside are walkable and parts are less so. If you live in the northern part of the neighborhood, you can even walk to spots like the Tacoma Dome, Freighthouse Square or the Lincoln District. If you live close to E 72nd, Charlotte's Blueberry Park makes a fine destination on a summer day when you can pick as many blueberries as you'd like. However, the neighborhood doesn't really have one central hub where a clump of stores and restaurants can be found.

Buying a House on Tacoma's Eastside

Tacoma’s Eastside is a great place to look if you want more home for your money or more affordable prices than you'll find in many of Tacoma's other neighborhoods. Homes on the Eastside sold for an average of $252,000 in 2018 (up from $176,000 in 2016, if you want some perspective) according to Zillow.com, but you'll find many homes for lower than that. Some parts of the Eastside 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. Hands down, you can get more home for your money here than you can in the North End, which is another perk. The neighborhood has an active neighborhood council.

Apartments

You're more likely to find a home for rent than lots of apartments to choose from as you will not find many apartment complexes in East Tacoma. 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.

Nearby South Tacoma and the areas around Tacoma Mall offer many more apartment options, often still very affordable options as well.