After enjoying Tacoma's museums, theaters and antique stores, you might want to spend time exploring the surrounding areas. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge links the city with the seaport towns along Puget Sound. A short drive brings you to Washington's capital city, to a city with a water theme park and to a town with a 400-year-old Elizabethan manor. There is much to see here, so pick a hotel and stay a while.
The Kitsap Peninsula
The six-mile Tacoma Narrows Bridge connects Tacoma with the Kitsap Peninsula, where a necklace of seaport towns provides opportunities for outdoor pursuits, cultural enrichment and specialty shopping. Gig Harbor is located two miles north of the bridge. This maritime village, known for its Harbor History Museum, offers clear views of Mount Rainier. The Maritime Inn, located on the waterfront, combines bed-and-breakfast intimacy with modern amenities. Each room takes its name from a boat that once operated in the Gig Harbor waters. Breakfast and Internet access are included in the rates. Some packages include dinner or lunch at a local restaurant. The Maritime Inn management offers special rates for government employees.
Point Defiance Park, with its zoo, beach and historic fort, is a must-visit Tacoma attraction. While you are there, you will notice a ferry terminal. One of those ferries goes to Vashon Island. The 15-minute ride takes you to a town known for its 10-acre country store, wineries, art galleries and the July Strawberry Festival. The Quartermaster Inn sits on the harbor, and offers rooms with waterfront views and old-fashioned claw-foot bathtubs. Breakfast, included in the room rate, features fresh-baked goods, homemade granola, yogurt and quiche. Quartermaster Inn's restaurant serves specialties such as shitake mushroom tarts, rosemary Gorgonzola fries and vegetable lasagna.
Olympia, the Washington State capital, is about 31 miles south of Tacoma. The city has an unusual mix of attractions, which include casinos, nature preserves, antique shops and foodie tours of the downtown area. The Governor Hotel, located in downtown Olympia, puts you in the heart of the action. It is within walking distance of the Washington State capitol building, the dramatic Heritage Park Fountain and the Hands On Children's Museum, a big hit with kids. Rooms at the Governor Hotel have views of either Capitol Lake or Sylvester Park. The hotel offers special packages that include trips to the nearby Wolf Haven International wolf habitat and the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park.
A 20-minute ride on the Pierce Transit bus system connects downtown Tacoma with Lakewood, a city whose main attraction is also a major hotel. Thornewood Castle is a three-story manor home, built in 1908 in the English Tudor/Gothic mansion style. It is one of the only genuine castles in the United States. The castle's opulent suites, available for overnight stays, feature four-poster and canopy beds, marble bathtubs, velvet curtains and stained glass windows. A warm breakfast, included in the room rate, is served in the dining area. "Rose Red," the ABC mini-series based on the Stephen King novel, was filmed at Thornewood Castle.
The Pierce Transit bus system also serves Federal Way, which is about a 30-minute ride from downtown Tacoma. Federal Way is home to the Wild Waves Theme & Water Park, famous for its thrill and family-friendly rides. The Best Western Plus Evergreen Inn and Suites, a nonsmoking hotel, is about five miles from the park. Rooms have refrigerators and microwaves, and breakfast is included in the room rate. Seasons, the hotel restaurant, serves lunch and dinner. The hotel management can arrange special birthday party packages.