Mount Rainier rises serene and snow-clad above the curve of the Tacoma Dome's gleaming white pate on a clear day, lending one of Washington's larger Puget Sound skylines - otherwise dominated by the indoor arena and the long, lean masts of sailing ships - natural shape and form. Tacoma, Seattle's near neighbor, shares an airport with the bigger city and contributes unselfishly to the traffic congestion that famously plagues this stretch of Interstate 5. Located just west of the Puget Sound's claw-like protrusion into Washington lands, Tacoma has ever-changing waterfront views in addition to a fine selection of parks and cultural offerings.
Port Defiance Park, north of Tacoma's center, sprawls out on 700 acres of land jutting into the Puget Sound. While the park's proximity to civilization limits natural wildlife spotting, a zoo and aquarium allow visitors to choose between tigers and sharks in a controlled environment. When you begin to feel like you're the one behind bars, stroll through the numerous groomed landscapes on hand -- choose from Japanese, Rhododendron, Rose, Iris, Dahlia or Northwest Gardens, then finish with a visit to Fort Nisqually, the local historic attraction.
Arts flourish in the Seattle-Tacoma area, a region known particularly for its exceptional glass pieces. Stop in at the Museum of Glass for an introduction to works by well-known artists, then cruise over to the Tacoma Art Museum or Washington State History Museum for a little variety and historical perspective.
Outdoor enthusiasts will be pleased to know that Tacoma is within easy driving distance of Mount Rainier National Park and Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument, both of which offer superb hiking possibilities and a further range of recreational opportunities.
Tacoma is just over 30 miles south of Seattle.