1. W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory
Located in Wright Park, you can enjoy tropical plants and beautiful floral displays at the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory.
This conservatory is made out of 3000 panes of glass and features a twelve-sided central dome. It’s definitely one of the best free things to do in Tacoma! Similar to the orangerie in Paris, this smaller scaled version is a true gem for Tacoma and really is one of the best places to go to. Over 100 years old, it takes you back to a world of yesteryear and delights from young to old.
2. Chihuly Artwork
Dale Chihuly is an American glass sculptor and spent many years of his life in Tacoma. His blown glasswork will appeal to art aficionados and art newbies alike.
Best of all, you can see five exquisite artworks including a huge sculpture for free in the old Union Station in downtown on Pacific Ave. This location is now the federal courthouse so you will have to show ID to get in.
In the lower level of the building, you can explore historical photographs and artifacts from the train station era.
You can see many more Chihuly art in downtown Tacoma, and take a self-guided audio tour for free. Stops include the Bridge of Glass, the Foss Waterway and more. There is even a piece of artwork along Tacoma Ave at a McDonald’s restaurant! Pick up the tour at the Tacoma Art Museum and while you’re there, check out some of their wonderful art, though not free.
3. Free Things to do on the Tacoma Waterfront
Without a doubt, one of the funnest things to do in Tacoma is to stroll along the Waterfront on Ruston Way from old town Tacoma all the way to Point Ruston.
The paved path is great for biking, rollerblading, jogging and walking. There are dozens of small parks along the way where you can enjoy the view of boats in port and maybe even spot a sea lion. At the far end of Ruston Way is the newly developed Point Ruston, with their million dollar condos and outdoor mall. It’s a great place for the kids to play, ride bikes, enjoy and ice cream or have dinner. And for those who love art, Tacoma is full of it. Especially along Ruston Way.
4. Free to Ride the LINK Lightrail in Tacoma
Did you know that several iconic movies were filmed right here in Tacoma? Ride the LINK and see some of the sites you might recognize from films.
The LINK is Tacoma’s free train and arrives every 10-30 minutes depending on the time of day.
It’s a great family-friendly activity, especially if you are new to the area and want to get a sense of what Tacoma is all about.
The LINK route travels between 10th and Commerce on the west end of downtown to the Tacoma Dome. As you ride, you can see the Tacoma Dome Station, Union Station, the Washington State History Museum, the Tacoma Trade and Convention Center and the Theater District. If you hop off at the Tacoma Art Museum downtown, you can easily stroll through U of W Tacoma and their newly built master campus. The ever evolving campus is built along the rail-line that used to dissect downtown Tacoma. The art displayed along the mall is a nod to the original rail-line. It’s a great place for kids to climb and play and is totally free! Plus the way-finding maps and history placards tout the true history of Tacoma.
5. Free to visit the Tacoma Museums
Museums in Tacoma are plentiful. But they usually cost money to get in. But on the third Thursday of each month, Tacoma museums offer free admission and if you plan your trip around it, you can really see a lot.
Check each website to find out what hours offer free entry at the Washington State History Museum, the Tacoma Art Museum and the Museum of Glass.
Downtown art galleries stay open late this day every month as well, and occasionally you can meet local artists. A must see is the live glassblowing at the Museum of Glass. Just look for the giant slanted pyramid downtown, the glassblowing happens inside that beautiful sculpture.
6. Free Things to do in Tacoma – Point Defiance Park
Situated on 700-acres, Point Defiance Park has a lot of fun things on offer for the outdoor enthusiast. There’s something for everyone. From a Japanese garden, to the Rhododendron Forest, to Owen Beach’s sandy shores and boardwalk.
Five Mile Drive and trails are great for hiking or biking. The outer loop is closed to cars before 10 am each weekday and until 1 pm on the weekends for pedestrians to enjoy without worrying about cars. You’re guaranteed to see deer and other wild animals in the park. It is also known as the largest urban park in America, only behind central park in NYC.
7. Port of Tacoma is FREE to Visit
At the top of the Port of Tacoma’s observation tower, you can enjoy panoramic views of the waterfront and an up close view of some of the world’s largest ships. You can watch the loading and unloading of massive cargo ships.
There are free, guided bus tours of port operations nearly every month. Once a year, the Port of Tacoma offers free boat tours and if you’ve never done it, it is a real treat to see. Even if you’re not into ships, the port tour and the views from the platform are really worth seeing in Tacoma.
8. Free Farmers Market in Tacoma
There are various farmer’s markets to enjoy in Tacoma all year long.
The Broadway Farmer’s Market takes place every Thursday in downtown Tacoma and with all of the low-cost parking in downtown, it’s easy to park nearby or ride the free lightrail train.
Our favorite is the Point Ruston farmer’s market, which has lots of fresh flowers, wine tasting and lots of parking. There are plenty of lunch spots and fresh produce. Lastly, the proctor farmers market in the proctor district is always great. This quaint little district in Tacoma has everything from fresh honey to handmade goods and plenty of fresh produce.
There’s always something to see and do at any of the Tacoma farmer’s markets.
Final Thoughts on Free Things to do in Tacoma
As you can see there are loads of free things to do in Tacoma.
After your busy day of checking out the local sites, it’s time to grab a bite to eat.
For some of our best recommendations, check out the best Tacoma restaurants.