Exploring Tacoma's Coolest Landmark - The Bridge of Glass

Bridge of Glass
••• Tacoma's Bridge of Glass includes a wall of handblown vases as well as two blue towers. ART on FILE Inc/Getty Images

You can't miss it. If you're driving into downtown Tacoma on I-705, the Bridge of Glass arches right over the freeway. By day, two blue crystalline towers sparkle in the sun (if there's any sun...this is Washington after all). By night, the entire structure is lit up. It's a sight to see, but it's even better to get up close and walk across the structure on foot.

Tacoma’s Bridge of Glass is one of the most unique things to see in the South Sound region.

For glass art fans and Dale Chihuly fans in particular, the bridge might just be a highlight for all of Western Washington. No ordinary bridge, the Bridge of Glass is a footbridge that connects downtown Tacoma to the Thea Foss Waterway. All across the bridge are works of art by glass artist Dale Chihuly. It's most known for its two towering blue spires, but there's far more to see than the towers. The bridge functions essentially as an open-air art museum...and a free one, at that!

Glass artist Chihuly grew up in Tacoma and still has a strong presence in town. Along with the Bridge of Glass, you can spot Chihuly pieces at the Tacoma Art Museum, Union Station, University of Washington-Tacoma and the Swiss Pub—all in downtown Tacoma and all part of a great self-guided walking tour. Chihuly also has artwork on the campuses of Pacific Lutheran University and University of Puget Sound in Tacoma.

Where is the Bridge of Glass?

The Bridge of Glass links downtown to the area along the Thea Foss Waterway, which is home to the Museum of Glass and Foss Waterway Seaport. You can access the Bridge from Pacific Avenue by walking through the area between Union Station and the Washington State History Museum.

From the Foss Waterway side, the bridge connects to the staircase outside of the Museum of Glass.

There is no charge to walk across the Bridge and view the incredible artwork along it—the largest public display of art in Tacoma by far.

Crossing the bridge also gets you great views of Tacoma and its surroundings. On clear days, you can see Mt. Rainier in the distance. On all days, you can see most of downtown Tacoma, the Tacoma Dome, LeMay - America's Car Museum and the Thea Foss Waterway. If you enjoy photography, the bridge opens up all kinds of opportunities, from artwork photos to interesting shots of the freeway beneath.

Artwork on the Bridge

Along the Bridge, there are several different displays of artwork. The first display you will see (coming from Pacific Avenue) is the Seaform Pavilion—a glass ceiling filled with 2,364 bits and pieces of glass. These pieces come from different types (called series) of glass Chihuly makes. The walls of this area are darkened so that you can look up and experience the glittering pieces of glass more fully. This is a great place for a unique selfie.

The most prominent display here are the two towers of blue called the Crystal Towers. These are not pieces of glass, but instead a type of plastic called Polyvitro.

The pieces are hollow and there are a total of 63 individual pieces in each tower. These are especially stunning on clear, sunny days.

The last display along the bridge is called the Venetian Wall and this features 109 pieces by Chihuly that are called Venetians—exuberant and lively glass vases. Embellishments such as twisting spirals, glass sea creatures, cherubs, and flowers decorate the exteriors of the vases and no two are alike. This is a great spot to take your time and really look at the glass up close as most of these pieces are really intricate. You'll spot all kinds of great little details that make great Instagram pics.

Bridge Design

The Bridge is 500 feet long and was completed in 2002 as a gift to the city. It was designed by Austin-based architect Arthur Andersson in close collaboration with Chihuly.

Andersson also designed the Washington State History Museum. The Bridge crosses over Interstate 705 and connects two parts of town that formerly required a bit of a drive or long walk to get between because of the freeway splicing through town. Because of this connection, Thea Foss Waterway has become more of a draw to residents and visitors, and a trendy place to live.