The City of Tacoma is the third largest city in the State of Washington. Called the City of Destiny by its residents, Tacoma offers a rich diversity of culture, history, outdoor, and natural attractions. Travelers will want to visit the Tacoma Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau to get guides, maps, and brochures highlighting local attractions and events. The Tacoma Live Guide will give you details on places to go and things to do while you're in the Port of Tacoma.
Located on Commencement Bay, an inlet of Puget Sound, the Port of Tacoma enjoys a year-round mild climate. Lying at the foot of Mount Rainier in the Puyallup River Valley and bordered by mountains, it is protected from extreme weather conditions. While it reputed to be a rainy city, the Port of Tacoma gets less rain than New York City. Most of its precipitation comes in the winter when snow falls in the mountains. Rains fall most from November through March, although October and April also get more rain than in the summer months. Snowfall is greatest in January, with an average of three snowy days per year. Temperatures range from an average high of 24 °C (75 °F) in July and August to an average low of 2 °C (36 °F) in December and January.
Visitors to the Port of Tacoma will want to see century-old Point Defiance Park with its playgrounds, hiking trails, old growth forests, and gardens. The park also houses the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, Owen Beach, the Fort Nisqually Living History Museum, and Camp 6 Logging Museum.
In 1888, the United States Congress granted permission for the public use of its military reservation at Defiance Park, and it was deeded to the City in 1905. The Port of Tacoma began to build the pavilion, aquarium, heated saltwater baths, and other attractions in 1907. Today, Port Defiance Park is a regional park offering, in addition to the many other attractions, beach access for salt water fishing and swimming, a boat ramp and boathouse marina, picnic shelters with tables, a playground, public restrooms, a snack shop, unlit outdoor tennis courts, and miles of dirt and surfaced trails.
Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium is one of the more popular attractions in this Port of Tacoma park. The Rocky Shores exhibits replicate the craggy coastline of the area and offer four major exhibit pools for harbor seals, walruses, sea otters, beluga whales, and tufted puffins. The exhibit is viewable from both above and below water. The star of this exhibit area is "ET," a orphan walrus pup that was raised at the zoo and now weighs more than 3400 pounds. The Arctic Tundra exhibit area presents an Alaskan coastal setting with sloping walkways that bring visitors close to reindeer, Arctic foxes, and the huge musk ox. The Kid's Zone is designed to let children (aged 3-8) touch, explore, and climb. They can "spy" on live animals like wallabies, millipedes, and stingrays. They can also meet animals up close and personal when they watch, and sometimes join in zoo staff caring or grooming the goats, sheep, and guinea pigs.
Other exhibits in the Port of Tacoma's Defiance Park Zoo include the Asian Forest Sanctuary, The Wild Wonders Outdoor Theater, and Animal Avenue. The Asian Forest Sanctuary presents the lush exotic environment of southern Asia. The two-hectare area contains six exhibit areas with Sumatran tigers, white-cheeked gibbons, Siamangs, lowland Anoa, Malayan tapirs, crested porcupines, Asian otters, and Asian elephants as they wander through land with waterfall, streams, ponds, mineral licks, and a bamboo forest. The Wild Wonders Outdoor Theater presents the talents of the animals on a naturalistic stage. Animal Avenue, the newest exhibit and the finishing touch on the Kid's Zone, features meerkats, lemurs, mole rats, and many other species of small mammals. Kids will enjoy the huge climbable spider web, a scorpion tunnel, a viewing cave, and a toddlers' sandpit.
Also in the Port of Tacoma's Defiance Park is the South Pacific Aquarium with a 24-thousand-gallon Lagoon exhibit with colorful tropical fish and eels. The Blue Hole hides deeper-dwelling fish in an artificial coral reef where visitors explore the 240-thousand-gallon Outer Reef environment containing dozens of shark species. The North Pacific Aquarium presents the native species of the Northwest seas including salmon, jellies, bay pipefish, and giant Pacific octopus. Visitors can view the aquatic life from above or below water. Outside the building is a cool-water North Pacific Tidepool with urchins and anemones.
The Port of Tacoma also offers a wide variety of museums that will enchant visitors. They include the Museum of Glass, the Washington State History Museum, the Tacoma Art Museum, the Children's Museum of Tacoma, and the Working Waterfront Museum.
The Museum of Glass in the Port of Tacoma is dedicated to works executed in glass. The museum features a permanent collection of 20th- and 21st-Century glass. Visitors can tour the museum on their own or take docent-led tours. The Kids Design Glass exhibition showcases 52 sculptures designed by children and crafted by professional artists in the Museum's Glass Hot Shop. The Made at the Museum exhibit features the works of the Visiting Artist Program where guest artists create projects produced in the Hot Shop. Seattle artist Cappy Thompson's exhibit, Gathering the Light, celebrates the history of the art of glass blowing. The 3.5 meter tall, 4.6 meter wide piece is an elaborate and colorful vignette depicting the mythical world of glassmakers including trumpet-blowing fish, a footbridge to the Temple of Muses, and an entourage of museum visitors.
Located at the foot of the Port of Tacoma's downtown is the Foss Waterway Seaport. It is housed in the century-old Balfour Dock building, the last intact sector of timber-framed warehouse from Tacoma's old waterfront. Featured exhibits include Discovery Wharf, an innovative hands-on exhibit for kids that teaches about marine life, waterfront history, and classic recreational boating. The Seaport's Working Waterfront Maritime Museum contains the James Robert Hanssen that was rowed over five thousand kilometers by University of Puget Sound graduates without assistance from New York to England in 2006. The Backyard to Big Time exhibit features a collection of recreational boats from speedboats to sailboats to hydroplanes, including several antique outboard motors from the early 20th Century. The Balfour Dock Building Exhibit is the main permanent exhibit, and it showcases the history of the building and its role in the development of the Port of Tacoma.