Washington’s third-largest city is a community actively reinventing itself. Once a drab paper-mill town 30 miles south of Seattle , Tacoma is becoming a vibrant, charming metropolis with clean air, a University of Washington  campus, and an eye on the future.
Most of the smelly mills have closed, and Tacoma’s downtown is enjoying an urban renaissance that includes the presence of the Washington State History Museum , the International Museum of Glass , and the Tacoma Art Museum , all under the backdrop of majestic Mount Rainier.
Along with this fresh crop of visual wonders, old warehouses are becoming artists’ lofts, a thriving theater district has been created, and a downtown plaza occupies the fountain-flowing, stroller-friendly heart of the city. Add to this a diverse 700-acre city park with a world-class zoo, a rambling public market, top-quality hotels and waterfront restaurants, and a spruced up shoreline.
Pierce Transit (253/581-8000 or 800/562-8109, www.piercetransit.org ) has daily service to Puyallup , Gig Harbor , Lakewood, Steilacoom , Spanaway, Fife, Buckley, and every other town in Pierce country, along with commuter service to Seattle  and Olympia . The bus station is located at 1319 Pacific Avenue. The Tacoma Link (www.soundtransit.org ) connects downtown with the transit hub at the Tacoma Dome Station. The trains run every 10 minutes, Monday through Saturday, and every 10 to 20 minutes on Sunday.
Greyhound (253/383-4621 or 800/231-2222, www.greyhound.com ) runs service along the I-5 corridor, connecting Tacoma with Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver . Northwestern Trailways (800/366-6975, www.northwesterntrailways.com ) also connects Tacoma with Seattle and Everett .
Amtrak (800/872-7245, www.amtrak.com ) serves Tacoma from its passenger station at 1001 Puyallup Ave., between the tide flat area and I-5 in the eastern part of the city. The Coast Starlight train provides four-times-a-day service to the Puget Sound area from Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
The Washington State Ferry (425/355-7308 or 888/808-7977, 800/843-3779 for automated information, www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries  system) is a heavily used method of everyday transportation around the Puget Sound region. From Tacoma, however, it can only get you to Tahlequah on Vashon Island . Ferries depart from Point Defiance; summer fares are $2.90 round-trip for passengers and walk-ons, $13 round-trip for car and driver. Fares are collected only on the way to Vashon, not when you return.
If you're flying into Tacoma, you'll arrive at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (better known as Sea-Tac). As the name suggests, it’s about halfway between Seattle  and Tacoma. Capital Aeroporter (800/962-3579, www.capair.com ) offers door-to-airport service to Tacoma.