Friday, February 29, 2008

Tacoma Must-Sees & Standbys: Part I

I'm in the mood to reflect upon a few "must sees" for those who call Tacoma home ... or for those returning or visiting or anything in between. Sadly, some I have not been to, or not been to in awhile. These are in no particular order, and do not necessarily encompass the best of Tacoma, and I may change my list tomorrow, but on this oddity of leap-days, 10 things that leap to my mind as "must sees" or "must dos" in Tacoma include:

Stadium High School. It's where my grandma went to high school and where many, many folks call alma mater. As featured in "10 Things I Hate About You," starring Julia Stiles and the died-way-too-young Heath Ledger. This place really is a castle ... it was almost a luxury hotel, but the developer ran out of money once upon a time and it almost got demolished, only to be rescued and finished by the Tacoma School District. More recently it's turned 100 and been remodeled. It's a place I take any visitor I take on tour, because when you stand on the hill on the other side of the Stadium Bowl from the high school and look at the school and the bay on a clear day, the view is fantabulous. Take a peek at this outtake from 10 Things and you'll see what I mean about the view ....

Frisko Freeze.
Duh. Don't expect veggies on your burger, but to some folks that's a good thing. The shakes are yummy, and the experience is totally nostalgic. Not quite a T-Town Dick's, but it's our own T-town slice of the '50s drive-in burger place. And it keeps on kickin'. If you haven't tried Frisko yet, you gotta try it just to say you did. And you might just keep comin' back.

Museum of Glass
. It's one of the newer items on my list for sure, and it's been mocked as much as it's been celebrated. I choose to celebrate it. It helped bring the Foss waterfront to life. We now have the Bridge of Glass, which, love it or hate it, it's an incredible thing. I do miss the mass amounts of other outdoor art that inhabited the esplande when the museum first open, and I dream that more art (so miss the glass apples and the little red house, the wicker pitchers and the Reman Hall exhibit) will rejoin the ached-for Water Forest when it someday(?) returns. It's a place I take visitors and returnees, and it's a place my eldest daughter is obsessed with. Whenever we have a "girls' day," guess where she wants to go. And the hot shop there, where you can watch glass artists in action, is enough to win over even most tough critics.

The Spar. One half coffee shop, one half fabulous bar. The food is great, the beer well-brewed, the Americanos thick and tasty, the bands occasionally playing, and the fish and chips? They're fantabulous. I especially love the fact that parents with small children can sit in the coffee shop side and be well tended to. There are kid toys and coloring books, and you can still order all the bar food, including the beer. Plus, when my kids were small and obsessed with trains, we could hear 'em a comin' and run out to watch them between bites, whenever they came by. Plus, you're a hop, skip and a jump from the Ruston Way waterfront and all its pleasures.

The Grand.
Tacoma's fabulous indie theater. Sigh. I have not yet been there. My husband has seen both "Fahrenheit 911" and "Fast Food Nation" there. I hold out hope to still catch "Juno" there, but my joke of the moment with all the telemarketers who call hoping to survey me on movies I've seen in the last year is, well, I just laugh. Because it's not funny. I haven't been in a theater since "Shrek 3" at the Blue Mouse. And that sucked. The Blue Mouse rocked (it was my first time there), but Shrek 3 sucked. We did it for the kids, but the first two were oh so much more grownup friendly, too. This one just sucked. I had no problem following an ancy 2-year-old into the lobby. But I'm looking forward to an adult-only trek to the Grand. It's sad enough I haven't seen ANY of the Oscar nominees this year. I want to see "Juno." Badly.

My favorite coffee shops: 'Nuff said.

Freighthouse Square. Not only is this place home to Peggy's Cinnamon Rolls, but also more than a dozen restaurants and a plethora of shops ... none of them big box. This place has been here for decades, and yet I still encounter so many people who have no idea what I'm talking about. If you haven't wandered through Freighthouse Square yet, do. It's a great starting place for a Saturday out on the downtown ... head to Tosta Caffe for a cinnamon roll and some coffee, wander the many fabulous shops, then hop on the FREE Link light rail and head up and down through downtown. You can meander through the museums, around the University of Washington Tacoma, through the Theatre District, around the Convention Center ... it's all on the Link. It can be your cheapest or spendiest night on the town depending on how you play your cards. You can window shop and brown bag it, or shop 'till you drop and dine at the Melting Pot or El Gaucho, or anything in between. The sky's the limit, and there's every reason to drive yourself to Freighthouse Square and get to wandering about town without your car.

The Eastside. Wha-at? You might be sayin' that. But here are things on the Eastside. Way back when, when my husband and I first met, we had our first date at Stanley & Seafort's, which sits on the edge of the East Side overlooking Tacoma, the Puget Sound and the beautiful mountain range. It's just one small testament to the fact that the East Side is a very diverse place. Recent additions like Top of Tacoma are just the beginning of much to come.

Point Defiance Park. Need I really say more? Have you really not been? Sigh. I know you Point Defiance virgins are out there, and it scares me. So I'll just a list a few, say five, reasons to go. There are more.
Wright Park. There are so many great things about this inner-city park it's hard to mention them all, especially since it's a park in the midst of a revitalization. But it's worth a visit, whether for the inner-park playground, the lawn bowling, the botanical conservatory, the duck pond, and so much more.

Ok, there's more, but I'll start with that.

[to be continued]

What are your Tacoma must-sees and standbys?


izenmania said...

NPCC is a classic for any PLU alum. All of my senior year we'd go in every Tuesday night for $2.50 pints. Not to mention going there for coffee and a breakfast sandwich after a capstone all-nighter, or chowder lunch on Fridays.

Good, good stuff.

Nathe said...

Pints?! Phhhht.

Back in my day, it was only coffee and sandwiches.

One special that Steve (the founder) ran was buy one get another free ... or something like that. I remember ordering a 6-shot mocha and my roommate could only get a two due to his size.

I used to surprise my girlfriend with an occasional mocha (it was easy when she lived about the shop).

Ah, good times.

Lena said...

NPCC has a Tacoma zip code, so it will always be in Tacoma, just a little bit outside of downtown T-town ...

But yes, in the good ol' days it was all about the coffee and perhaps that occasional hot chocolate.