Arts & Entertainment

Locals’ guide to Tacoma’s holiday hidden gems

The up-and-coming city of Tacoma is full of hidden gems and well-known local favorites alike. But sometimes, the best way to get to know a city is being led by a local — someone who has tried and tested everything a city has to offer, and can point you in the direction of what you should check out, and what you should pass on. The holiday season is no exception. The Tacoma Ledger  asked Tacoma locals what some of the best places in Tacoma are to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year. 

Holiday Drinks at Starbucks 

If you are an otherwise busy person, college students recommend picking up a festive drink or two during the holidays to bring a little cheer into your routine. The caffeine pick-me-up is a perfect addition to studying for finals, too! As a bonus, Starbucks has a robust collection of giftable items such as premium bags of coffee, mugs, and gift cards. 

“I spend a lot of time here,” said UWT junior Abby Toomoth. “Being a busy college student and working pretty much non-stop, I love that coffee shops like Starbucks give me a chance to fit celebrating the holidays right into my super busy routine.”


This one is a Tacoma classic. Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium puts on a show every year of thousands of lights, and this has become a tradition for locals to check out every holiday season.

“In my opinion, Zoolights is a great place and well known place for some fun sight seeing. Not only do you get to see some animals, you also get to see some pretty cool light displays,” said UWT sophomore Jasmin Randhawa. 

The zoo offers different types of tickets — one option for Zoolights alone, one for visiting the zoo during the day, and another that will admit you to both. Unfortunately, the aquarium is closed during Zoolights, and most of the animals are resting, so be sure to keep this in mind while planning your visit.  

Waffle Stop

One might not imagine this whimsical breakfast restaurant as being a go-to wintertime spot for cozy eating, but that is where the locals beg to differ. 

“Waffle Stop is a hidden gem in Tacoma’s Proctor District,” Randhawa also recommends.  “Everyone there is super nice and welcoming! They have great breakfast and lunch options. My personal favorite is the Nashville chicken and waffles! If you’re looking for an aesthetically pleasing place to have a cozy breakfast, this is it!” 

Frozen Fountain at Point Ruston 

This ice skating rink is a great, festive addition to Tacoma’s holiday line-up. Open until January 5, 2020, you have the chance to visit this pop-up ice skating rink, just a few minutes away from UW Tacoma. Nestled among a lot of other vendors and fun activities, going to Point Ruston to enjoy the holidays is a great, lesser-known way to celebrate. 

Sprinker Ice Skating Rink

Two words: bumper cars. 

If you aren’t good at ice skating, but you still want to enjoy the experience, skip Frozen Fountain at Point Ruston and check out Sprinker Recreation Center. This year, Sprinker joined the only 14 places to offer ice bumper cars. They offer different prices, depending on if you would like to ride the bumper cars, or skate on the ice as well.

Fantasy Lights 

This attraction, celebrating their 25th year, is a two-mile drive through Spanaway Park where you can look at festive light displays. Being right next to Sprinker, this would make a great way to warm up, without having to stop your fun. Plus, at $15 a vehicle, Fantasy Lights would be a cost-effective way to celebrate with a group of friends. 

“Fantasy Lights is great because you can stay warm and enjoy lights, unlike Zoolights,” said Toomoth. “It’s inexpensive and low-pressure, I love going!”