Sometimes you just need to get out of the house, but don't want to spend a lot to do it. Fortunately, free things to do in Tacoma are plentiful, especially in downtown Tacoma. Tacoma's free attractions largely gravitate toward art, but of course include many parks to visit, museums with free days, and more.
Walking through downtown Tacoma is the perfect way to view several installations by glass artist Dale Chihuly for free. Take a self-guided tour (audio tours are available at Tacoma Art Museum) through the Tacoma Art Museum (costs to go past the reception desk, but not to step inside), Union Station, Bridge of Glass, art galleries, and a promenade along the Thea Foss Waterway—all free.
Location: Downtown Tacoma
If you don't want to walk all around downtown, visiting single attractions is also free. Union Station is a federal courthouse (so make sure you have an ID on you as you'll be checked at the door), but its rotunda is open to the public and has a number of installations by Chihuly to view, as well as beautiful views of the Port of Tacoma, Mt. Rainier and marinas.
AddressBridge of Glass, Tacoma, WA 98402, USA
You can get onto the Bridge of Glass by going behind the Washington State History Museum and it is completely free to view. There are many pieces of Chihuly glass artwork on the Bridge, more than you will find at most exhibitions, including a ceiling, two giant blue towers and a wall filled with glass sculptures. The views of Mt Rainier and downtown are great. You can also watch traffic pass below on the freeway.
If you go behind the Museum of Glass, there is a promenade along the Thea Foss Waterway that passes by several marinas, at least one restaurant and leads down to the Murray Morgan Bridge. The views are pretty, it's not overcrowded and it's a great short walk to add to viewing the glass downtown.
The Waterfront in Tacoma is free to stroll and is one of the best places to walk in town. There are several small parks along the paved path to stop and admire the view, watch boats come and go from the port, or even see the occasional sea lion.
Point Defiance is no ordinary park. There are a number of non-free attractions here, like the zoo, but there are many free things to do as well. A Japanese garden, Five Mile Drive, and Owen Beach are just a few examples. Owen Beach is one of the best beaches in Tacoma and has a boardwalk as well as a sandy beach to relax on.
Go to a Park
Tacoma is filled with parks that offer a range of different experiences. Playgrounds and spray grounds (open during warmer months) are highlights at Wright Park, Titlow Beach Park and Kandle Park. If you're looking for a hike, look to Swan Creek or Snake Lake (or even walk the Narrows Bridge by parking at War Memorial Park).
Metropolitan Market Tacoma
Metropolitan Market is a treasure trove of free food experiences. There are almost always cheese samples out to taste, but there are free cheese and wine tasting events regularly, too (check the events calendar available in bins near the cash registers).
Ride the LINK
AddressTacoma, WA 98421, USA
Riding the LINK is a fun free thing to do, especially if you have kids. The LINK is always free and trains arrive every 10-30 minutes depending the time of day. The route travels between 10th and Commerce and the Tacoma Dome, largely along Pacific Avenue. Along the way, you'll get views of the Tacoma Dome, Union Station, Washington State History Museum, Tacoma Trade and Convention Center and the Theater District.
Tacoma Art Walk
The third Thursday of each month is the Tacoma Art Walk. Museum of Glass, Tacoma Art Museum, and the Washington State History Museum are all free from 5 to 8 p.m. for art walk.