Just 45 minutes south of Seattle and 20 minutes south of Sea-Tac International Airport, Tacoma offers a wealth of museum and cultural attractions. Start your tour in the city center – the heart of Tacoma’s growing “museum mecca.” The Washington State History Museum features interactive and multimedia exhibits, plus the largest collection of pioneer, Indian and Alaskan artifacts on the Pacific Coast. Adjacent is the 1911 Union Station, designed by the architects of New York’s Grand Central Station; today it displays glass sculpture by renowned artist and Tacoma native Dale Chihuly. Free admission. Opened in July 2002, the Museum of Glass: International Center for Contemporary Art is a wonderful attraction, linked to the History Museum plaza by the 500 foot (150 meter) pedestrian Chihuly Bridge of Glass. The dramatic bridge showcases Chihuly’s glass art worth $9 million. The Museum of Glass features a working “hot shop” where visitors can watch glass artists at work, then browse through the museum’s additional exhibits. The Tacoma Art Museum opened in May 2003, housing among many other galleries a permanent display of the world’s largest collections of Chihuly’s early work.

Pause for lunch at the Harmon Pub and Brewery, and sample wine at the Hoodsport Winery tasting room next door. Browse the antique shops and boutiques along that block, then head for Antique Row on Broadway for more collectibles. Visit the free Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum to see original letters and documents handwritten by some of history’s most famous people. The W. W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory is a 1908 Victorian glass marvel housing 200 exotic species of plants and colorful seasonal displays. Free admission.

Drive to Point Defiance Park to see Fort Nisqually and Camp 6 Logging Exhibit. The reconstructed fort recreates life in a Hudson Bay trading post, circa 1855, with docents in period garb. Camp 6 illustrates the history of steam logging in Washington from the 1880’s to the 1940’s when “loggers were boss and steam was king!” Free admission.

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