What to Do and Where to Stay in Lakewood, Washington

One of Tacoma's Neighboring Towns

Lakewold Gardens
Kristin Kendle

Lakewood, Washington, is not a large town, with a population of just around 60,000, but it has places to go that run the gamut. Lakewood is a suburb of Tacoma, so many residents work and play in Tacoma and vice versa. Even though many locals may not immediately think of Lakewood as their go-to place for fun, this town has an array of things to do from places to shop to a stellar lineup of Asian restaurants and grocery stores. It can also be a great place to find affordable homes not too far out of the city that range from below average in price point to amazingly upscale homes along picturesque lakes.

Lakewood is popular with those who live or work at JBLM as it's just outside the base's gate, but its neighborhoods also offer close proximity to both Tacoma and the Olympia area.

Things to Do

One of the best known places in Lakewood is the Lakewood Towne Center. After the Lakewood Mall was mostly demolished in the early 2000s, this collection of big box stores and restaurants went up. You can find a bit everything from Michael’s to Bed Bath and Beyond to Target, lots of restaurants both sit down and fast food, grocery stores, and more. This is the premier area to shop in Lakewood.

Lakewood Playhouse is located at the Towne Center, too. The playhouse puts on a variety of plays and musicals. While it's a community theater, the production value is high and shows are a lot of fun.

Lakewood is serviced by the Pierce County Library system and the Lakewood Library is one of the largest in this system. It is located at 6300 Wildaire Road Southwest, on the west side of the Lakewood Towne Center. The library has room for community meetings as well as computers for the public.

Lakewood does, of course, have many lakes, including American Lake, Gravelly Lake, Lake Steilacoom, and Lake Louise. American Lake is the largest and also has two of the Tacoma-area beaches along its shores. This lake is great for boating and its nearby park is a good place for walks, picnics, and lounging outdoors.

Lakewood has some surprisingly beautiful spaces, one of which is Lakewold Gardens. These gardens were designed by Thomas Church and showcase many of the most iconic Northwest plants—the most popular of which are likely the 900 rhododendrons! There is a Georgian mansion on the grounds. This is a great place for events, especially summer weddings. It's also a great place to spend a few hours on a sunny day. You can bring your own picnic along, shop at the garden store, or look for public events. There is an admission fee to get in.

Hotels

Lakewood is about a 20-minute drive from downtown Tacoma so if the hotels located in Tacoma proper don’t suit you or if you just want more options, it is possible to stay in Lakewood.

The absolute best place to stay in Lakewood is hands-down the Thornewood Castle. This 500-year-old Tudor mansion was shipped piece by piece from the English countryside to Washington State in 1907. Today, it is the top bed and breakfast in the area. It’s not cheap, but you will not leave feeling disappointed. This is also a great spot to look if you want to splurge for the Halloween season as, most years, the castle offers haunted tours with its overnight stays during October.

If spending a few hundred dollars to stay in an elegant castle bedroom is a bit out of your range, don’t worry—there are lots of cheaper hotels in Lakewood, too. These include:

  • Best Western Lakewood Motor Inn - 6125 Motor Avenue Southwest, Tacoma - (253) 584-2212
  • La Quinta - 11751 Pacific Highway Southwest, Lakewood - (253) 582-7000
  • America’s Best Value Inn - 4215 Sharondale Street Southwest, Lakewood - (253) 589-8800
  • Candlewood Suites - 10720 Pacific Highway South, Lakewood - (888) 299-2208
  • Western Inn - 9920 South Tacoma Way, Tacoma - (253) 588-5241

Living in Lakewood

Lakewood is an affordable area to live for the most part, akin in some ways to East Tacoma and South Tacoma in terms of cost. Homes here range in square footage with the greatest percentage of homes having 1,000 to 1,800 square feet. You will also find many parts of Lakewood with very small and often rundown homes, and the complete opposite—grandiose lakefront mansions. The greatest percentage of homes in this area was built between 1960 and 1989. Many military families live in Lakewood due to its proximity to Joint Base Lewis McChord as well as I-5, as it's located not far from Olympia, DuPont and Tacoma.

You will find a fair range of apartments in Lakewood, from cheap places to large complexes with amenities like a pool. There is almost a complete void of apartments in the area between the major lakes (American, Steilacoom, and Gravelly), but you will find lots of options just to the north and west of the base.

You will find another pocket of apartments close to Pierce College. Scout along Military Road and Steilacoom Boulevard to take a look at these.

Getting to and from Lakewood and Seattle or Tacoma

If you have a car, Lakewood is easy to get to from Seattle or Tacoma via I-5 exits 123 through 129, depending on which part of Lakewood you're looking to get to.

If you don't have a car, the area is well served by Pierce Transit buses. Several buses serve the Lakewood Towne Center Transit Center, making it easy to transfer at the Towne Center to buses that go into all parts of Tacoma, Steilacoom as well as several Express buses, including the airport bus. Bus routes here include routes 2, 3, 4, 48, 202, 206, 212, 214 and 574.