Tacoma  is home to the impressive Washington State History Museum (1911 Pacific Ave., 253/593-2830 or 888/238-4373, www.wshs.org/wshm , 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Sat., until 8 p.m. Thurs., noon–5 p.m. Sun., $7 adults, $6.50 seniors, $5 ages 6–18, free for kids under 6). This 100,000-square-foot building sits next to historic Union Station  and repeats its rounded design in a series of three gracefully vaulted arches.
Visitors walk through a maze of exhibits that include a Salish plank house and Native basket collection, dioramas of mining and logging towns, exhibits on the arrival of the railroad and the effect of Depression and World War II, and a theater with an educational video about the Columbia River.
Given the importance of high-tech industries in Washington, it comes as no surprise to find lots of interactive displays. Upstairs are galleries with temporary exhibits.
Washington State History Museum is joined to the restored Union Station by a scenic courtyard and amphitheater, a fine place for a lunch break. Also inside is a café and museum store.