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Free Things to Do in Tacoma, Washington

Free Things to Do in Tacoma, Washington

Looking for things to do in Tacoma, WA?! We’ve found a ton of free events, museums, and activities that you can enjoy in this area. As Tacoma locals, this is one of our very favorite things to research. Maybe we’ll even see you on one of our adventures!

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There are so many awesome outdoor things to do in Tacoma! From beaches to parks to spraygrounds to the zoo, Tacoma is full of endless adventure.

Museums & Cultural Sites

Tacoma is a place full of fun museums and cultural spots that everyone can enjoy. In fact, many of these destinations are on my all-time favorites list. If you’re looking for free things to do in Tacoma, you definitely need to know about all of these!

Museum of Glass

Browse the museum’s extensive collections, traveling exhibitions, and educational programs. Their live glass-making demonstrations are some of the coolest things you can do in Tacoma! There are a lot of ways that you can visit the Museum of Glass for free.

The museum is free on the third Thursday of each month between 5pm and 8pm. It’s also free on Sundays for college students with valid college ID. If you’d rather visit free during other times, you can check out a free Museum of Glass pass from your local Pierce County library!

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This museum also offers free admission through Blue Star Museums, College Student Sundays, and a partnership with Tacoma high schools. All Tacoma High School students can get free admission to the Museum of Glass with a student ID, and college students can get free admission on Sundays.

Puget Sound Museum

See over 100,000 specimens from around the world. This museum showcases fossils, rocks, minerals, and all manner of animal life.

The museum is usually open by appointment only but their events are often free to the public. Keep an eye on their event page for upcoming events!

Tacoma Art Museum

The Tacoma Art Museum is free every Thursday between 5pm and 8pm. If you’d rather not go on Thursdays, you can check out a free Tacoma Art Museum pass from your local Pierce County library!

Usually in September, Tacoma Art Museum hosts their Museum Day Live, which is a national museum visiting day for participating museums. Admission is free on this day, so go and explore! Check out their even calendar to find more events just like this. 

Washington State History Museum

My kids love this place! Staring at the enormous model railroad is one of my son’s very favorite things to do in Tacoma. He would live there if they’d let him.

There are also many interactive and fascinating exhibits. If you’re bringing children, make sure you stop by the guest services desk for a scavenger hunt. Kids who complete it get a free prize!

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The Washington State History Museum is free on the third Thursday of each month between 3pm and 8pm. If you’d rather visit free during other times, you can check out a free Washington State History Museum pass from your local Pierce County library!

The Washington State History Museum is a Blue Star Museum that offers free admission to active duty military personnel and up to five family members between Memorial Day and Labor Day. 

Foss Waterway Seaport

Enjoy hands-on-activities, art, and incredible maritime exhibits for all ages at Foss Waterway Seaport. They offer free admission every third Thursday of the month from 4pm to 8pm.

Foss Waterway Seaport also support Blue Star Families with free admission for active duty personnel and their families from Memorial Day to Labor Day. 

EBT Discounts

If you have an EBT card, you can get free and low-cost admission to some great destinations! These deals help make sure that more people can enjoy these cool spots, even if they don’t have a lot of money to spend.

Get the full list of EBT discounts in Washington here. It’s one of the best ways to find free things to do in Tacoma, because you don’t have to worry about the crowds of Third Thursday!

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Children’s Museum of Tacoma (Donation Only)

The Tacoma Children’s Museum is a fun place where kids can play and learn. The best part? This exciting children’s museum offers a generous Pay As You Will admission program. This program allows families to pay whatever they can afford to enter the museum – even if you can’t afford much (or anything) at all.

It’s a spot where children can use their imagination and explore different hands-on exhibits. This makes it a perfect place for families looking for an affordable way to spend the day together

Outdoor & Nature Activities

Tacoma is a haven for those who love the outdoors, boasting lush parks and scenic trails that showcase the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Here’s are some of my favorite free things to do in Tacoma!

Beaches

There are also numerous places to dip your toes in saltwater. Tacoma has many free beaches, including Owen Beach, Titlow Park, and Dash Point Park!

Personally, I love Dash Point State Park! Picnicking here is one of my absolute favorite things to do in Tacoma. I realize it has an entrance fee. If you think you can’t afford it, make sure to check out our guide to getting a free Discover pass!

That’s how my family visits for free. I especially love to sit in the spot where the waves overlap. If you’re able to go, see if you can find my spot!

If you don’t qualify for the free pass, make sure to pay attention to the free days throughout the year. Washington State Parks, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Department of Natural Resources offer free admission periodically, usually on holidays like Earth Day, Veteran’s Day, and Juneteenth. During these free days, you don’t need to have a Discover Pass to visit and explore. 

Point Defiance Park

Point Defiance Park is a must-visit for anyone looking to immerse themselves in nature without leaving the city. This sprawling park is home to an old-growth forest, offering stunning views of Puget Sound. Visitors can explore numerous trails, gardens, and more. Parking is free throughout Point Defiance Park.

Whether you’re up for a leisurely stroll, a more strenuous hike, or simply want to enjoy the views, Point Defiance Park has something for everyone. Just remember there is an admission charge for the Zoo & Aquarium; it’s not free except on designated free days.

Splashpads

Tacoma in Washington state has some of the state’s coolest spraygrounds. Spraygrounds, also known as splash parks or splash pads, are recreational areas designed for water play that have little to no standing water. This makes them a safe and fun environment for children to run around and play in.

Tacoma features many free splash pads throughout the city. They can be found at:

  • Wright Park Sprayground
  • SERA Campus Sprayground
  • Grand Plaza at Point Ruston
  • Franklin Park Sprayground
  • Jefferson Park Sprayground
  • Kandle Park Sprayground
  • Norpoint Park Sprayground
  • Verlo Playfield (formerly McKinley Playfield)
  • South Park Sprayground
  • Wapato Hills Park
  • Titlow Park
  • Point Ruston Children’s Spray Park

Wright Park

Wright Park is a vibrant 27-acre arboretum located in the heart of Tacoma, offering a peaceful retreat from the urban environment. This well-loved park is known for its impressive collection of over 600 species of trees, providing a lush canopy and serene atmosphere for visitors.

The large pond at the center of the park adds to its charm, inviting guests to relax beside the water or enjoy a leisurely walk along its shores. Wright Park is an ideal spot for nature lovers, families, and anyone looking to unwind in a beautiful, green setting.

W.W. Seymore Botanical Conservatory

Adjacent to Wright Park, the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory is a gem within Tacoma’s urban landscape, featuring a stunning collection of exotic plants housed in a historic glass conservatory. This indoor oasis showcases hundreds of species, including rare and endangered plants, in a meticulously maintained environment.

The conservatory’s vibrant displays of orchids, ferns, and seasonal floral arrangements offer a year-round exploration of the world’s botanical wonders. It’s a perfect destination for those interested in horticulture, photography, or simply looking for a tranquil spot to enjoy the beauty of nature indoors​

Art & Public Installations

Tacoma’s vibrant art scene and commitment to public art installations make it a fascinating city to explore for art lovers and casual observers alike. Two standout features in this realm are the Chihuly Bridge of Glass and the city’s broad array of public art projects.

Chihuly Bridge of Glass

The Chihuly Bridge of Glass is a mesmerizing outdoor gallery that showcases the glass artwork of world-renowned artist Dale Chihuly.

Spanning 500 feet, this bridge connects the Museum of Glass to downtown Tacoma, creating a stunning visual experience for pedestrians. Visitors can wander through at no cost, enjoying the Seaform Pavilion, the Crystal Towers, and the Venetian Wall, which collectively display hundreds of Chihuly’s glass art pieces. This bridge is not just a passage from one place to another; it’s an immersive art experience that celebrates Tacoma’s rich glass art culture.

Public Art Exploration

Tacoma’s public art scene is dynamic and accessible, thanks to initiatives like the One Percent for Art Project, Spaceworks Tacoma, and more. These programs ensure that art is a visible and vital part of the city’s landscape.

Together, these projects make art an integral part of Tacoma’s identity, encouraging residents and visitors to discover and engage with art in everyday settings​.

Historical Sites & Landmarks

Tacoma, Washington, is a city steeped in history, with numerous sites and landmarks that offer a glimpse into its past. From its industrial beginnings to its role in the Pacific Northwest’s development, Tacoma’s historical sites are as diverse as they are engaging. Here are three significant historical landmarks in Tacoma that are worth exploring:

Stadium High School

Originally designed to be a luxury hotel, Stadium High School’s unique chateau-like architecture makes it one of Tacoma’s most iconic landmarks. Converted into a high school in 1906, this historic building has also been a popular filming location, most notably for the 1999 film “10 Things I Hate About You.” Its picturesque setting and architectural beauty make it a must-visit for architecture enthusiasts and film buffs alike.

Old City Hall

Tacoma’s Old City Hall, built in 1893, is a testament to the city’s rich architectural and civic history. With its distinctive clock tower and Italian Renaissance style, Old City Hall has played various roles throughout its history, from serving as the center of city government to housing offices and businesses. Its recent efforts towards preservation and redevelopment reflect Tacoma’s commitment to maintaining its historical landmarks.

Union Station

Once a bustling railway station, Union Station is now a federal courthouse that stands as a symbol of Tacoma’s transportation history. Its Beaux-Arts architecture, complete with a grand rotunda and a massive, leaded glass dome, is a sight to behold.

The station also features several glass art installations by Dale Chihuly, blending Tacoma’s history with its modern identity as a center for glass art. Union Station’s transformation from a railway hub to a courthouse showcases the adaptability and resilience of Tacoma’s historic buildings.

Relief Recap

There are many free things to do in Tacoma, Washington! This is a city that beautifully melds its rich history, vibrant art scene, and natural beauty, offering a plethora of activities that cater to every interest. Whether you’re drawn to the serene landscapes of its parks and waterfronts, fascinated by the creative expressions found in its museums and public installations, or captivated by the stories embedded in its historical sites and landmarks, Tacoma has something you’re sure to enjoy.