Explore Tacoma’s Museum scene
By KATHRYN STUTZ
For those of you new to Tacoma—or even those of you who have simply been a bit stuck in the Puget Sound bubble, or those who need a place to tour around visiting parents and relatives—our town is home to a number of excellent museums you can explore during your time here.
From the world-famous Museum of Glass and the other five major museums of the Tacoma Museum District to Puget Sound’s very own Slater Natural History Museum, the range and quality of museums is one of the best things about our “City of Destiny.”
The Tacoma Museum of Glass
The flagship of Tacoma’s Museum District, the Museum of Glass routinely plays host to talented glass artists in their stage-like Live Glassmaking “Hot Shop.” Numerous glass sculptures surround the museum’s distinctive cone shape.
The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday throughout the fall and winter season, with the exception of holidays.
Student admission is $10, and college students can get in for free every Sunday with valid student ID.
Tacoma Art Museum
Also in downtown Tacoma, the Art Museum has excellent rotating exhibits and permanent installations that complement the city’s thriving artistic life.
The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, and admission is $8 for students.
Washington State History Museum
Another of the main features of the Tacoma Museum District, the Washington State History Museum has one of the best collections of historical artifacts in the state.
The museum is open Thursdays through Sundays, for $10.
On Thursday evenings, admission is free.
Chihuly Glass Bridge
A free-to-all public art exhibit, you can find the Chihuly Bridge of Glass stretching over the downtown railroad tracks between the Museum of Glass and the Washington State History Museum plaza.
Three installations of glass art by Tacoma native and former Puget Sound student Dale Chihuly span the bridge: the Seaform Pavilion, a ceiling of lit glass objects suspended in an enclosed section of the walkway, and the Venetian Wall, a series of tall shelves with fantastical glass vases—some of the largest ever created in the glass medium—and the Crystal Towers, two columns of deep blue glass with the look of long-frozen ice, which glow at night with illumination from below.
As Chihuly said, “The bridge is the gateway that welcomes people to Tacoma. We wanted something unique in the world, something that is full of color and offers a joyous experience to passersby both night and day.”
A preview of Chihuly’s work a bit closer to home can be found in Lowry Wyatt Hall; he created the glass art that hangs in the hall’s enormous west-facing windows.
The Chihuly Bridge of Glass is free and accessible every day, year-round.
Fort Nisqually Living History Museum
On the site of the first European settlement in the Puget Sound area stands Fort Nisqually, now a piece of living history.
Reconstructions of life during the eras of colonization and Western migration are on permanent display and events like candlelight tours and bonfires run throughout the month of October.
A full calendar of events can be found on the museum’s website, metroparkstacoma.org.
The fort is open Thursdays through Sundays in the fall and winter, and student admission is $5.
Slater Natural History Museum
Right here on the University campus, the Slater Natural History Museum holds numerous biological specimens and unusual animals.
Though the museum doesn’t have regular open hours, events like last week’s Owl Night, where docents showed off and discussed Slater’s dozens of owl species, occur often.
A series of upcoming events, Nights at the Museum, will be advertised across campus.
You can also swing by the windows into the museum’s front rooms on the second floor of Thompson to catch a glimpse of professional skinners and students working on preparing samples.
Foss Waterway Seaport
Located in the dock neighborhood of Tacoma, the Foss Seaport has a comprehensive collection of the region’s maritime history.
With displays on the shipping trade based in Tacoma since the days of early colonial settlement, the seaport is a must-see, open Thursday through Sunday, and student admission is $4.
Point Defiance Zoo
Located in Tacoma’s beautiful Point Defiance Park, our local zoo has a wide variety of animals and interactive exhibits.
The zoo is open daily, and admission is $17.
On a budget, but still want to visit the Museum District? You can buy a 7-day, 1-time-per museum access pass to the Tacoma Art Museum, the Museum of Glass and the Washington State History Museum, for $20.