19 Things to Know About Living in Tacoma

Ryan Nickum

Nov 13

City Profiles

Located on Commencement Bay in the south Puget Sound, Tacoma is the third most populated city in Washington state, and an increasingly popular city to call home. Less expensive and congested than Seattle, Tacoma has a lot going for it, but is it right for you? Consider these 19 things before making Tacoma home.

1. Locally-Sourced Celebs

Hollywood isn’t crawling with self-absorbed celebs from Tacoma, but the city has produced a number of icons, most notably singer and songwriter Neko Case, glass artist Dale Chihuly, author Frank Herbert (Dune), cartoonist Gary Larson (The Far Side), actress Pamela Reed (Parks and Recreation) and MLB pitcher Jon Lester. The city is the birthplace of Olympian Bruce Bennet, actor Blair Underwood, pro bowler Earl Anthony, singer/actor Bing Crosby, and NFL coach/player Ray Horton. Local boy, and former NFL quarterback, Jon Kitna recently returned to his hometown of Tacoma to teach high school math.

2. Liberal or Conservative?

Located in Pierce County (outlined on the map in black), a majority of Tacoma voted for Barrack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Like most of western Washington, the city leans Democrat, but not as heavily as neighboring King County, which is home to Seattle.

3. Tom Tuttle from Tacoma, Washington

In the 1985 comedy film Volunteers, John Candy plays a Peace Corps volunteer named Tom Tuttle from Tacoma, Washington. It’s rumored that even to this day, if you want to get into any Tacoma speakeasy, private club, or secret society, all you have to do is introduce yourself as “Tom Tuttle from Tacoma, Washington.” It’s like a golden key that opens any door in Tacoma.

4. Sports

The nearest NFL, MLB, MLS, and WNBA teams are 33 miles up the road in Seattle, and the nearest NBA team is 142 miles south in Portland, but there are still plenty of sports options within the Tacoma city limits. The Tacoma Rainiers (AAA Mariners affiliate) play at Cheney Stadium, and if baseball isn’t your thing Tacoma is also home to the Dockyard Derby Dames, an all-women flat-track roller derby league.

5. ¿Dónde está la biblioteca?

In Tacoma, the libraries are plentiful. In fact, the city has the most per capita of any large city in Washington state.

6. The Splendor of Mt. Rainier

Tacoma is named after the nearby volcano Mt. Rainier, which was originally named—Tahoma (mother of waters). Located 59 miles from Tacoma, the 14,411 mountain is easy to view from many parts of the city, and it’s the most topographically prominent mountain in the lower 48 states. The mountain and surrounding National Forest and National Parklands provides a variety of recreation options—climbing, fishing, skiing, snowboarding, hunting, camping, etc.

7. The Horror of Mt. Rainier

The downside of living in the shadow of an active volcano is that these mountains sometimes go boom (every 500 years or so). The mountain is covered in glaciers so if hot lava pours out and melts the ice the result is massive lahars (mudflows) that would rush down the river valleys and could reach parts of Tacoma (see map).

8. Crime

Out of the 20 largest cities in Washington state, Tacoma has the highest crime rate. While crime varies depending on the neighborhood you live in, and it has gotten progressively better in recent years, it does exist.

9. Quality of Local Schools

The quality of local schools varies, but according to GreatSchools.org overall Tacoma has the fifth-lowest public school ratings out of the 20 largest Washington state cities. You can search for homes by school zone and see their scores on Estately here.

10. Tacoma’s Nicknames

Tacoma is a fine name for a city, and there is no reason to change it, but that hasn’t stopped people from giving the city nicknames over the years. Here are a sampling: City of Destiny, America’s #1 Wired City, Grit City, The Coma, Tac Town, Tacompton, T-Town, Lil’ Tacky, Gateway to Puyallup, and Dusty Old Jewel In The South Puget Sound.

11. Food Trucks

Tacoma might not be world famous for its food trucks, but it does have a growing fleet of chuck wagons offering meals on wheels. Taco trucks are king in Tacoma, but there is a wide variety of others cuisines offered, particularly delicious Filipino food. Lumpia World (pictured above) is a popular one.

12. Popular Community Events

Tacoma doesn’t sit still, and there is always some event taking place. Popular ones include The Daffodil Festival, Norwegian Heritage Festival, Sound to Narrows 12K Run, Tacoma Highland Games, Taste of Tacoma, Tacoma Freedom Air Show and Fireworks Extravaganza, Pioneer Days Festival, Ethnic Fest, Tacoma Maritime Fest, Tacoma Greek Festival, Holiday Torchlight Parade & Tree Lighting, Snowball Express Christmas Train, as well as a handful of jazz and bluegrass festivals, classic car shows, art and theater festivals, and plenty more.

13. Bridges

It’s been almost 75 years since Tacoma’s last bridge collapse. No people were hurt and engineers learned a lot about how wind affects suspension bridges because of it. So there’s nothing to fear about the bridge except the toll ($5.00 for cars headed eastbound).

14. Urban Chicken Ranching

Tacoma law allows residents to own up to six chickens, provided none of them are roosters. If you want to get wild and try to substitute ostriches or peacocks you’re probably going to need some kind of permit from the city.

15. Walkability

Depending on where in Tacoma you live, getting around without a car poses a challenge. The city has a WalkScore of 51, which is somewhat walkable, and comparable to Detroit, Cincinnati, and Anaheim. The city’s most walkable neighborhoods are New Tacoma, Central, and the North End.

16. Women Outnumber Men

Women make up 50.6% of Tacoma’s population so it’s a tough town for those who are afraid of girls. However, it is a pretty good town for lonely tugboat captains looking for love, and there are many lonely tugboat captains looking for love in Tacoma.

17. Point Defiance Park

One of the best urban parks in America, Point Defiance Park is a sprawling 702-acre park that contains miles of trails, wild deer, long stretches of beach, a world-class zoo and aquarium (nice penguins), numerous gardens, and more.

18. Commute Time

The average commute (mean travel time to work) for Tacoma residents is 25.4 minutes, which is just 18 seconds longer than the average commute for Seattle residents. However, over a year that adds up to 81 more minutes listening to soft rock classics in that 1992 Ford Taurus station wagon.

19. Buying a Home in Tacoma

Ready to call Tacoma home? Whether you’re looking for a modern condo, or shingled cottage overlooking the beach, you’ll find Estately.com.

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