Another way to vacation

When it comes to vacations, sometimes there’s no place like home

By Morf Morford, Tacoma Daily Index


It is a truism that few of us fully explore or appreciate where we live.

When I am out of town or in an airport lobby I tend to grab travel brochures that focus on the South Puget Sound region. Those lush photos and glowing reviews describe our area as a near-paradise.

It’s easy for those of us who are locals to say, “Yes, but you don’t know it’s really like here”. That might be true, but I think the travel booklets show a side of the Tacoma area that most of us overlook or don’t see at all. Scenes and scenery and seasonal events tend to dazzle those who have not been here before.

WalletHub compared more than 180 cities across 42 key metrics including parks per capita to restaurant-meal costs. A vacation of any kind tends to have three key dimensions: 1) recreation, 2) food & entertainment and 3) rest & relaxation. You can see their full study results here.

The top cities for staycations were not a surprise; Honolulu was first. Orlando, Florida was second and Las Vegas was third.

Seattle was 34th (parking, traffic and the expense along with urban crime probably had an impact on their score). Tacoma came in at number 109 – just after Fresno, California and Peoria, Arizona.

But Tacoma offers far more than what might first meet the eye.

There’s more to see than you might expect

From our outdoor activities (including paddle-boarding and saltwater or lake front beach walks) to other festivities (from farmers markets to street fairs), just a short drive (or bus ride) can take you to an experience new or familiar that is, at minimum, an enjoyable and memorable experience. Regardless of your schedule or your budget, interesting and worthwhile activities are abundant within a short drive for most of us.

Washington State Fair

For most of the month of September, the Washington State Events Center (also known as the fairgrounds in Puyallup) hosts the Washington State Fair (the largest fair in the state and the Pacific Northwest, and one of the biggest in the world – it lasts 20 days!) and offers top-name entertainment, animals and agriculture, exhibits, booths, community and professional art displays, food and rides, and also is the setting for a variety of trade shows, conventions, workshops and special functions.

On their regular schedule you can find the Oktoberfest Northwest in October and Holiday Magic in December. Oktoberfest Northwest is the largest Munich-style celebration at a venue in the state and features three days of great food, drinks, entertainment and activities for all ages. Holiday Magic is a festive winter experience filled with lighted displays, ice skating, live nativity animals, festive food and drinks, rides, a night market and more.

The Taste Northwest

As of July 2022, The Taste Northwest had its inaugural year at the Washington State Events Center. Formerly known as The Taste of Tacoma, (previously held at the entrance to Point Defiance) a well-loved food and entertainment event since 1986, has found a new home. The three-day event welcomes a diverse array of restaurants, food trucks, music and a full range of activities for all ages and interests. Entrance and nearby parking is free.

You can also catch a wide variety of concerts throughout the year at the fairgrounds. You can see a schedule here:

Farmers markets

On a regular basis, you can find fresh food and related festivities on almost every day of the week from Dupont to Gig Harbor. From food trucks to fresh fruit in season, you can find it in Pierce County here.


Washington state has 142 state parks, 17 national wildlife refuges, five state recreation areas, three National Parks and lots of local city and county parks. You can see a full list of Washington State Parks here.


If you want to escape the rain (or the heat) don’t forget the unique museums we have around here. If you want to see art, blown glass, historic cars or a history of the Buffalo Soldiers, rare manuscripts, or military history, don’t miss the unique places Tacoma offers. You can see a few of them here. If you are a local and have a library card, many library branches offer family passes for some of the museums.

Ferries and islands

Not many areas have immediate access to islands via state or county ferries, but we do. Take a walk or a bike ride to a world away and nearby at the same time.

In short, if you are looking for time alone, a family gathering, a quiet time or a loud time, a public extravaganza or an alpine hike, free or meeting any budget, you can find it here.