While Tacoma is not a huge city, it does have a lot of festivals and events going on all year round. Many of these events are small, but several of the events are large and draw large crowds of visitors. These are the best festivals in Tacoma overall for sheer number of things to do, see, and enjoy. If you live in the area, these are not to be missed!
Perhaps the most popular and well-known event in the Tacoma area is the Washington State Fair. This is not your average county fair—it is the largest annual event held in Washington State with over 1 million attendees each year, and is one of the largest fairs in the US. The Fair is highly anticipated and if you live in this area and haven’t been, you’re missing out on this fantastic fall event. There is something for everyone here—rides (for kids and adults), fair food (scones, burgers, and corndogs are among the most popular), animal exhibits, crafters, vendors, and more all provide lots of things to do. Concerts are also a major facet of the fair, which draws big names, often for better ticket prices than you would find elsewhere.
The Tacoma Freedom Fair is the premier July 4th event in the area. It takes place along the Waterfront on Ruston Way and has over a mile of vendor booths, places to grab snacks or meals, and lots of live music. Several stages are set up along the span of the festival, featuring different kinds of music. Beer gardens are often located near the stages, especially near the RAM restaurant. Special events take place throughout the day, including a pretty cool airshow, a car show, and of course fireworks after 10 p.m. The fireworks here are some of the largest in the region and are amazing to watch from just about anywhere along the Waterfront.
Taste of Tacoma
The Taste is one of the top area events simply because it is a large-scale event centered around food! This event was designed to offer visitors the chance to taste foods from a variety of local caterers and restaurants. Each of the food vendors here offers at least a full plated meal and a smaller taste of one of their specialties, but some offer many menu items. There is always a max price on plated meals so you won’t pay more than that price. If you show up earlier in the day, you can also buy food dollars at the gate that will get you a discount. The Taste also has several live entertainment stages, rides, and arts and crafts booths.
Held at the Washington State Fairgrounds, this Oktoberfest is one of the best Oktoberfests in the Northwest - and it's all indoors so you don't have to worry about soggy giant pretzels. While there is plenty of beer here, there are also kids’ activities. Along with beer gardens, this Oktoberfest also features lots of delicious German food, wine events, live music, and places to shop for German merchandise.
It’s not Christmas in Tacoma without visiting either Zoolights or Fantasy Lights. Zoolights is located at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium and showcases thousands of tiny lights sparkling on displays throughout the zoo grounds. Stroll the grounds with a cup of hot chocolate or even ride a camel. The advantage to this display over Fantasy Lights is that it is on foot and you can linger as long as you like at each display or at the event in general. The disadvantage, of course, is that this is the Northwest and if the weather is rainy or very cold, you will be exposed to the elements.
Fantasy Lights is the alternative to Zoolights and is one of the largest drive-through light displays around. Set on the grounds around Spanaway Lake, these Christmas lights are seen entirely from your car, which can be a boon if the weather is cold and rainy. Many of the displays are animated, so reindeer will jump over your car or a dragon will flick its tail.