Sometimes the unplanned part of travel turns out to be the best. That’s what happened to me this week. I went looking for a hotel somewhere between Portland, Oregon and Bellingham, Washington for two nights. I knew I wanted a hotel that was near water and within easy walking distance of many restaurants. The map showed that the Courtyard Tacoma Downtown in Tacoma, Washington met my criteria. With a great rate of $152 a night, we booked it.
I am traveling with two power chair users (myself included) and a driver/attendant who has significant environmental illnesses. We’re on our way to the Alaska ferry in Bellingham, Washington and decided to take the leisurely pace of 10 days from San Francisco to Bellingham. We’ve mostly had negative hotel experiences on this trip so the Courtyard’s great access and staff were especially appreciated.
Tacoma is a great small city. It has major art museums, a wide variety of excellent restaurants and million dollar views. The Courtyard is located two blocks from the Thea Foss Waterway. Strolling along the western bank you find wide walkways, restaurants, sculptures, the Museum of Glass and many boats – all bathed in the reflection of Mount Rainier, which looms large over Tacoma.
The famous glass artist Dale Chihuly was born in Tacoma and has donated lots of work to his home city. So everywhere you go, there is a celebration of glass art work. The most innovative is the Chihuly Bridge of Glass, a 500 foot pedestrian overpass, that goes over the freeway from Pacific Ave to the Museum of Glass. There are three main sections: the Seaform Platform is basically a ‘ceiling’ of individual glass objects (2,364 of them); the Venetian Wall, 150 feet of display cases on the south wall (light streams through the 109 glass sculptures); and the Crystal Towers which rise 40 feet in the air
When we visited, the Museum of Glass exhibits included “Reimagining Irish Glass” by Irish glass artists and a related exhibit of Chihuly’s really early work (before he lost one eye) of “Irish Cylinders” many of which are based on James Joyce’s famous novel Ulysses.
The nearby Tacoma Art Museum has an open courtyard of large glass spheres that reflect off the mirrored museum walls. Makita Wilbur, an American Indian photographer, is doing photos and videos of people from all 562+ federally recognized Tribal Nations in an exhibit titled Project 562.
Dale Chihuly’s exhibit (I told you he is everywhere in Tacoma) showed parts of his Pendelton Blankets glass works. While the exhibit Ink This! Contemporary Print Arts in the Northwest contained works that explored slavery, rodeo, and immigration in printmaking.
Food choices are equally innovative. The Harmon Brewing Company on Pacific Avenue redefines the sports bar with tasty food combinations such as the Chipolte Sirloin Spinach Salad, Smoked Salmon Penne, and a Chickpea Burger. We loved breakfast at the Savory Tacoma Creperie on Pacific Avenue where local berries and cheeses provided many tasty options. Sunset brought us to Johnny Seafood on the Thea Foss Waterway where the Mount Rainier’s reflection dominated the eastern skyline while the western setting sun cast red-orange hues on the water.
The Courtyard Tacoma Downtown hotel on Commerce Street (it backs up onto Pacific Avenue) provided the biggest surprise of our western travel adventure. By far the best hotel we encountered it had two queen beds as well as two desks and a roll-in shower (that did not leak). Disabled pool lifts were quickly set up upon our request for both the pool and hot tub. All staff greeted us with big smiles and provided quick solutions to all our needs. The large digital lobby display gave us touch screen access to weather, local events, restaurants and news and even had on-off open captioning (mysteriously with a blue wheelchair icon).
If you are looking for a great town and hotel, I highly recommend Tacoma.