The Museums of Tacoma

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

A first-rate city for family entertainment

written by Sophia McDonald featured photo courtesy of Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

When my husband and I decided to spend a weekend exploring Tacoma’s museums with our 2-year-old twins, we were apprehensive about finding enough to keep everyone busy.

Tacoma may have a reputation as playing second fiddle to Seattle, but it is first rate when it comes to family entertainment. Our museum experience seemed to start as soon as we reached the Hotel Murano. Each floor features glass sculptures from a different artist. It was a good preface for a visit to the Museum of Glass the following morning. The highlight for me was watching artists shape glass in the hot shop. Dad and the kids enjoyed the Dale Chihuly sculptures.

Museum of Glass
Photo by Mahesh Thapa

While the girls begged for pizza for lunch, my husband was itching for televised football, so we walked to Harmon Brewing Company. We weren’t brave enough to try the PB&B burger (a beef patty topped with peanut butter and bacon jam). Nonetheless, the burgers, pies and beer we did consume were delicious.

My husband took nap duty so I could check out the Tacoma Art Museum. The current special exhibit is Art AIDS America, which explores the role art played in raising awareness and spurring action during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. It was an educational, deeply moving look into our country’s not-so-distant past.

Fully rested, the kids dove headlong into the activities at the LeMay Car Museum. Besides admiring dozens of vehicles built over the past 100 years, they loved building and racing pinewood cars and climbing behind the wheel of a 1920s Dodge in the Family Zone. Older kids would enjoy driving one of the racing simulators.

LeMay Car Museum

My sister came down from Seattle to spend the afternoon with us, and babysat for us so my husband and I could have dinner out. We’d heard good things about Over the Moon Café in the historic St. Helens area. With an emphasis on Italian and French cuisine, a highlight was the wild Pacific Coho salmon with warm bacon jam and duck breast in a port reduction. The wine list focused on Washington and Italian bottles, with a measure of Oregon and California, too. On the way back, we made a decadent detour to Hello, Cupcake for French toast and salted caramel cupcakes.

Our plan was to spend Sunday morning at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. On the way there, we found Shakabrah Java on 6th Avenue, one of Tacoma’s best breakfast spots. This bakery and café is famous for its outsized and delicious omelets and pancakes. The coffee was good, too.

point defiance zoo & aquarium

At the zoo, we stayed indoors to ogle the jellyfish and touch sharks and stingrays in the aquarium. In the summer, there are more options outdoors, playing in the Kids’ Zone or going to the park for a picnic by the water.

While we headed back to the train station on a wet November day, we plotted a warm-weather return.


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