With summer around the corner, do some fun Seattle-area staycations with your family. Don’t miss these amazing things to do in Tacoma, WA with kids.
This post about things to do in Tacoma with kids was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.
It’s really been hitting me that my oldest is going to start kindergarten this fall. So, I’m planning on spending as much one-on-one time with him as I can.
Since our family bonds the most while traveling, I’ve decided that having some mother/son trips are the way to go for us.
Now, these trips don’t have to be far from home.
We recently partnered with Travel Tacoma for a few jam-packed days full of cool things to do with kids in Tacoma this summer.
Top 10 Fun Things to do with Kids in Tacoma, WA in Summer
1. POINT DEFIANCE ZOO & AQUARIUM
I feel like I have to put this at the top of my list because not only is it one of the most popular things to do in Tacoma with kids, but they’ve done some recent updates.
If you’re heading to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium this summer, be sure to watch international sand artists constructing an art piece featuring endangered animals.
Kids can play in the sand near them while they watch them work.
And don’t miss the new Pacific Seas Aquarium, with eagle rays, hammerhead sharks, and sea turtles.
There’s also a cool indoor play area there with an old-school phone that plays animal sounds when you put the receiver to your ear!
For kids who want more hands-on animal experiences, you can feed goats by hand. They also have camel rides available for kids.
This Tacoma zoo is also fun for kids who don’t really enjoy animals. They have 2 large playgrounds where kids can climb all over and go down fun slides.
And we usually save time to ride their beautiful carousel!
Read my full blog post about Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.
2. PRETTY GRITTY TOURS
If your kids like candy AND trains, you’re in for a real treat (pun intended!)
The Pretty Gritty Sweets Tour starts off at the Tacoma Dome Link Station (where there is free parking.)
Then, you hop on the Link Light Rail into the heart of Tacoma and you’ll get to sample treats from historic businesses as well as the newest sweet shops!
On our tour, we got to try candy from OCD Candy Company, incredible donuts from the Original House of Donuts, chocolate from Johnson Candy Company, artisan cupcakes from Hello, Cupcake, and lots of Almond Roca samples from Brown & Haley.
But, I think the coolest part of the tour was hearing about why Tacoma is such a hotspot for candy makers and how the U.S. military put Almond Roca on the map!
Oh, and if you are worried about your kids getting too much of a sugar rush, they give kids smaller portions of donuts and cupcakes.
3. LUNCH AT FARRELLI’S
Eating out with kids can be really stressful for me. So, I’m always on the lookout for restaurants that make eating out with kids fun!
I was so impressed with Farrelli’s Pizza at Point Ruston.
I ordered a yummy margarita pizza with a balsamic drizzle. It hit the spot!
However, the hero of this restaurant is its kids menu!
Each kids’ meal comes with a snack plate and pizza dough for kids to play with while they wait for their personal pizza. The pizza is large enough for two little kids to share.
Plus, their menu doubles as a coloring page with crayons, which is still such a novelty for my son.
But, if you still want something else to buy a few minutes, there are a few arcade games near the restrooms.
They even have an upstairs area and place out front where you can sit outside with a view of the water on a nice, summer day.
Insider tip: Remember your license plate and validate your parking at the machine near the bar at Farrelli’s.
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4. CHILDREN’S MUSEUM OF TACOMA
My kids LOVE playing at children’s museums when we travel. We love seeing how each one is different.
The Children’s Museum of Tacoma is the only pay-as-you-will children’s museum in the country. That means it’s accessible to all kids, regardless of their ability to pay.
The exhibits that really stand out to me include the woodworking area (with real tools, nails, wood, and safety goggles,) their project area featuring recycled materials, and the large water play area.
There’s also a cool area where you can draw with lasers on the wall. My son and I played Pictionary on in for quite awhile!
They also have a large outdoor area with tons of activities.
Insider tip: They have a special Summer Play Pass for $40 where families can get membership benefits this summer without investing in a full membership.
Read my full post about the Children’s Museum of Tacoma.
5. OWEN BEACH
Warms days are just begging to be spent at the beach! If you want to know what to do in Tacoma that won’t cost a penny, head to the beach.
My family loves Owen Beach, which is located in Point Defiance Park (named best park in Washington State!)
While we were there, a dad found a jellyfish and a bunch of kids ran up to get a closer look.
But, most of our time was spent searching for special rocks and throwing not-so-special rocks in the water. And watching the ferry go back and forth.
We also watched some families kayaking near the shore and it looked really fun!
And it’s also a gorgeous spot to take family photos year-round.
6. METRO PARKS
I’m a total park geek. I’ve worked for the Parks Department in two cities and my family loves discovering new ones!
We didn’t have time to visit all the Metro Parks in Tacoma, but here are a few that stand out:
If you’re looking for a park that looks like it belongs in NYC, Wright Park has it all!
It’s a vast 27-acre green space with walking/running trails, fountains, a pond, and even an adorable conservatory (where they offer yoga classes!)
But, kids will love it for their cool playground and spray park. And they will want to race down all the grassy hills!
And don’t miss their new bridge that weighs almost 22,000 pounds!
For an awesome neighborhood park, head to Kandle Park.
It’s quite large and has a huge field for people to play soccer or just run around.
Plus, they have a newish playground (with items we haven’t seen before) as well as a nice spray park. And they have the newest outdoor pool in Tacoma and it has a wave pool!
Parents will appreciate all the seating they have surrounding the playground areas.
We were there in the late afternoon and we saw a ton of families doing a big picnic dinner and I wish I would have thought about that!
Charlotte’s Blueberry Park
We didn’t actually make it here this trip, but it’s on our list for later this summer.
Charlotte’s Blueberry Park is 23 acres of free u-pick blueberries. They don’t use any fertilizers or pesticides, so you really can’t beat this deal!
They are working on adding a playground this summer, too!
Insider tip: Plan to come July-September for blueberry season.
Summertime in the Seattle-area can be iffy (our June gloom is totally real!)
That’s why I always like to have some rainy day options. Out of all the places we visited, my son would proclaim Tinkertopia as the coolest thing to do in Tacoma, WA.
It’s almost hard to describe. It’s like a craft store filled with all kinds of recycled/upcycled/repurposed items.
If your kids love crafts as much as mine do, they will beg to spend hours here going through all the buttons, fabric, stamps, drawing pads, model airplanes, shells, pieces of glass, etc.
What’s really cool is that they have lots of DIY kits for people who like clear instructions for a specific product and all the materials.
My son chose a DIY UFO kit that he built as soon as we got home!
If you have lots of time, sign up for their project time, where you can use their backroom that’s fully stocked with supplies to create just about anything your brain can come up with!
Also, they had “real” LEGO minifigures mystery bags near the counter. We got some sort of bad guy and my son was thrilled!
Visiting some of the unique shops are cool Tacoma activities you might not think about.
8. LEMAY — AMERICA’S CAR MUSEUM
People are always shocked when I tell them I’ve never been to LeMay — America’s Car Museum. Now I understand why!
With more than 300 vehicles on display, LeMay — America’s Car Museum is the largest car museum in North America.
I’m not really a “car person” but I found the whole museum fascinating. There’s so much more than just cars.
In fact, I’d almost classify it as a cultural museum because there are huge displays about what was happening in America during the time each car was having it’s heyday.
One of the exhibits that I loved the most was all about British cars. I’ve been binge-watching a ton of British shows set in post-WWII and it was incredible to see some of these cars close up!
For kids, there’s actually lots of areas they will enjoy.
Halfway through the museum, there’s a place to race slot cars and drive a virtual race car. These require additional tickets you can purchase at the admissions desk.
On the bottom floor of the museum is their Family Zone, which is pretty amazing!
Kids can assemble wooden cars using different weights and race them down a huge ramp. My son played with the cars for a good 30 minutes before I had to drag him out of there!
There’s also a vintage car kids can climb in and pretend to drive among other hands-on areas.
And there’s a neat photo op where you can wear old timey hats and sit in a vintage car. The photos are free and they will print you a copy and you can have a digital copy sent to your email.
It’s definitely one of the most unique things to do in Tacoma that is a HUGE hit with kids of all ages.
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9. POINT RUSTON
If you are looking for super fun places to visit in Tacoma, head straight for Point Ruston. I’m not kidding.
Point Ruston is Tacoma’s newest destination and you’ll find a luxury movie theater, boutique shops, restaurants, cafes, ice cream spots and more!
I love trying new things, so my son and I rented a two-person surrey from Wheel Fun Rentals.
We drove the surrey up and down the waterfront. One person can do all the pedaling and only one of the steering wheels works (the other is just for kids!) But, it’s easier if two people pedal!
They also have an awesome splash pad on a large concrete space with tons of seating around for parents.
Plus, restrooms and changing areas. And a cool rock climbing structure that also has water bubbling and shooting out of the spigots
They also have a playground (with swings) that faces the water.
We actually went here twice because we had such a fun time! It’s definitely one of the most fun things to do in Tacoma as a family!
10. DINNER AT RHEIN HAUS
At first, I was skeptical about bringing my 5 year old to a German beer hall, but Rhein Haus is totally a family-friendly entertainment spot!
My son ordered chicken nuggets and french fries off their kinder menu (which had a TON of options for kids)
I ordered the Beyond burger, which is a vegetarian patty made to mimic meat and I thought it was pretty spot on!
They had run out of the Impossible patty, so this was a replacement.
And we ordered a German pretzel with chocolate ganache dipping sauce that was fantastic!
After dinner, we headed straight for the miniature golf! It’s $5 per person to play putt putt golf and they have a variety of clubs for kids of all ages (and adults!)
They also have bocce ball, Cards Against Humanity, giant wooden dice and other items to play with a big group. It’s definitely one of our top fun places to go in Tacoma for food and entertainment.
If You Go to Tacoma, WA this Summer:
WHERE TO STAY IN TACOMA, WA
For a centrally-located Tacoma hotel, you can’t go wrong with Hotel Murano. There’s a reason it’s one of the top places to stay in Tacoma.
It’s close to the free Link Light Rail system, as well as shops, restaurants and some of Tacoma’s most popular attractions.
One thing that sets Hotel Murano apart from other Tacoma, WA hotels is that they have a phenomenal glass art collection.
While there is incredible art all over the hotel each floor has a piece by an internationally known artist.
Their lobby also has a car on display from the LeMay — America’s Car Museum.
We had access to the lounge on the 25th floor, for continental breakfast and snacks throughout the day. Check the latest rates and availability.
OTHER PLACES TO EAT IN TACOMA, WA
If you are looking to experience Tacoma’s own coffee chain, hit up one of the many Anthem Coffee shops all over town.
I went to the one near Union Station and had an incredible dirty chai!
But, they also serve wine and ale!
Harmon Brewing Co.
If you’re looking for a kid-friendly place to drink beer in Tacoma, the Harmon Brewing Co. is a solid option.
There are a few locations around and they have some crazy good cajun tots!
And I like that their kids menu has steak and fries!
Cosmonaut Coffee Co.
I’m glad that my contact at Travel Tacoma recommended this spot because I don’t think I would have found it otherwise!
Cosmonaut Coffee is a small coffee shop located across from Wright Park.
They pride themselves that they don’t use GMOs or anything artificial (including flavors, colors, sweeteners or preservatives.
I had a fantastic almond vanilla latte with great customer service!
Honey By Alma Mater
Now, I didn’t have a chance to try Honey this trip, but my blogger friend Rachel from Rachel Teodoro highly recommends it!
They have an extensive list of intriguing coffee creations plus trendy brunch dishes, like duck confit and mushroom poutine and lemon ricotta stuffed ebelskivers!
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WHAT ELSE TO DO
I’ve been visiting Northwest Trek since I was a kid. It’s a wildlife park featuring animals from the Pacific Northwest.
They have a neat tram ride that takes you all over the property and you can learn about the animals.
But, they also have a fairly-new Kids Trek massive playground that will occupy kids for hours!
Museum of Glass + Bridge of Glass
One of the most famous glass artists here in the PNW is Dale Chihuly and his art is showcased all over the Seattle-area.
Now, you might not think an attraction featuring glass would be kid-friendly, but the Museum of Glass has a few good options for families.
There’s a hot shop amphitheater where kids can watch real glass artists at work.
Plus, there’s a Kids Design Glass exhibit where kids submit drawing and glass artists turn them into 3-D glass artwork.
But, you can also explore the Bridge of Glass for a budget-friendly option. You’ll see about 2,400 pieces of Chihuly glass on the bridge.
My friends keep raving about how much fun they have taking their kids to a Tacoma Rainiers game.
Tickets are affordable. You can get tickets for the Family Grass area for just $7.50.
Plus they have a state-of-the-art play structure and a regulation-sized Wiffle ball field. Cool, right?
Save Money on Top Tacoma Attractions
If you’re planning on doing several fun things in Tacoma, WA, consider getting the Mountain City Sea Attraction Pass.
It’s definitely the best way for visitors to get access to the best attractions in Tacoma and Pierce County including: Crystal Mountain, Fort Nisqually, Foss Waterway Seaport Museum, LeMay Family Collection, Museum of Glass, Tacoma Art Museum, and Washington State History Museum at a huge discount.
Thanks to Travel Tacoma and Hotel Murano for hosting my stay. As always, all opinions are my own. We can’t wait to come back!