Day Trip to Tacoma’s Museum District

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With three museums all within walking distance, The Tacoma museum district is a fun family day trip from Seattle. The Museum of Glass, The Tacoma Art Museum, and the Washington State History Museum are all within one block of each other, and downtown Tacoma is just a short walk over the pedestrian-only Bridge of Glass.

Go: Year-round, and it’s a great rainy day activity, since it’s mostly indoors.

Approximate travel time: A 40 minute drive from downtown Seattle or take Sound Transit’s Seattle Express bus (route 594).

What to see: In addition to the exhibits, the big attraction at The Museum of Glass is the Hot Shop Amphitheater, where live glass blowing is on display. Outside on the main plaza, you can walk through the Water Forest, “a forest of vertical elements with clear acrylic and bronze tubing through which water rises and falls.” The Chihuly Bridge of Glass connects the museum to downtown Tacoma. Kids will love walking through this 500-foot-long pedestrian overpass surrounded by colorful Chihuly glass.

Creative types will enjoy the Open Art Studio at the Tacoma Art Museum. There are five stations of structured activities, or you can create anything you like with the wide selection of art materials. Check out their calendar of events (search under children and family) for monthly story times and family-related events and activities.

Train enthusiasts won’t want to miss the PSMRE Model Railroad at the Washington State History Museum. The Puget Sound Model Railroad Engineers club is building an 1,800 square foot layout of the rail lines from Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park to the Stampede Pass tunnel in the Cascades. Be sure to visit the museum’s History Lab Learning Center, where visitors can  explore the lab to solve a Washington State “history mystery.”

Possible lunch spots:Gallucci’s Glass Cafe at the Museum of Glass has a good selection of soups, salads, and sandwiches. The Rock Wood Fired Pizza has a kid’s menu and a popular lunchtime buffet.

Need to know: Visit on a Wednesday and take advantage of “midweek at the museums” – admission to all three museums for one discounted price. Also, you can park for free near the Tacoma Dome and take the free Tacoma Link light rail to 19th and Pacific to the bridge of glass to the museums. The museums are just across the bridge.

Bonus: If you want to see some spectacular Chihuly glass without having to pay for museum tickets (or if you just can’t get enough glass), visit Union Station. This former train station is just across from the History Museum and features a 20-foot Chihuly chandelier suspended from the domed ceiling over the rotunda. With marble walls and Terazzo floors, this historic building is quite grand. Free and open to the public Monday-Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Cost of trip: Moderate

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—Heidi Unruh