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Tacoma Museums
  Washington State Travel Tale

by Lorry Patton

Museums are plentiful in Tacoma, insuring that even on the rainiest day, there is never an excuse of "there's nothing to do". Even those you have (surely) visited, like the Washington State History Museum and Karpeles Manuscript Museum ought to be revisited.

tacoma_face.jpg The Washington State History Museum (800-238-4373) on 1911 Pacific Avenue, is an excellent museum. You can participate with the exhibits or you can wander about (or even stand still) and simple absorb them. Spanning pre- Europeans arrival to the middle of the twentieth century, displays include a plank house, frontier towns, coal mines, railroad exhibits and elaborate life-size sets of timely events, like the meeting between Lewis and Clark and Chief Twisted Hair. Using the latest in technological wizardry, figures speak and move and grab your attention. Even stationary displays compel you to pause, such as the series of revealing masks describing the effect the arrival of Europeans had on the Indian Nation. Hours: 10:00 A.M. - 5:00 P.M. Tues.-Sat, Thurs. till 8:00 P.M.; 11:00 A.M. - 5:00 P.M. Sun. Admission charged

Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum (253-383-2575), on 407 South G Street, offers an insight to how some of the rules we live by came to be. My hat is off to creators and collectors David and Marsha Karpeles. Imagine collecting and preserving over a million historical documents and displaying them to us for free. Founded in 1983, handwritten letters and other material (some by very famous people), are on view in seven libraries across the nation. Tacoma is fortunate to be the location of one. It's not a place to hurry, since you'll want to ponder the words that you read. Hours: 10:00 A.M. - 4:00 P.M. Tues. - Sun. Free admission

Tacoma Art Museum (253-272-4258) on 1123 Pacific Avenue, offers award-winning programs to students, at-risk youth, adults, seniors, and the physically challenged and is linked to public schools. This is one museum I've never been to, however, I understand that over 68,000 people walked through the doors during the ten week "Catalan Masters of the 20th Century" exhibition when works by artists like Picasso and Dal¡ hung on the walls. Such tremendous interest confirmed the decision that the time was right for an expansion. The new facility, scheduled for a 2002 opening, will be located just north of Union Station and will double in size to 50,000 square feet. But don't wait until then to explore the many treasures of this museum. Hours: 10:00 AM - 5:00 P.M. Tues.- Sun. 10:00 A.M. - 8:00 P.M. on Thurs. Admission Charged except on third Thursdays.

If you are traveling with children, I suggest you visit the Children's Museum of Tacoma (253) 627-6031) on 936 Broadway. I was there a couple of years ago, and one of my favorite displays was an African village, complete with appropriate food and clothing artifacts. This constantly changing museum teaches in such an entertaining way, children forget they are learning. Certainly proves to me that museums do more than entertain and keep us dry on rainy days. They teach, preserve and allow us to experience a lifestyle that would otherwise be just a page in a history book or a pretty picture in a magazine. Hours: 10:00 A.M. - 5:00 P.M. Tues. - Fri.; 10:00 A.M. - 4:00 P.M. Sat.; 12:00 - 4:00 P.M. Sun. Admission charged

tacoma_rialto.jpg While you're going from one museum to another, take a look at Tacoma's facade. If you haven't been for a few years, you'll agree, downtown is acquiring a personality. Twenty walls of old brick buildings within a fifteen-block radius are attractively embellished with unique bronze plaques; the copper-topped Union Station (designed by the same architect that designed Grand Central Station in New York), glistens with Dale Chihuly glass art and both the Pantages and Rialto theaters look exactly like they did when they were first constructed in 1918. Fine entertainment takes place in these vintage theaters, as well as in the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts (253-848-4523) next door.

Buildings that have lost their original usefulness have been transformed into funky shopping malls, much to the delight of nearby office workers who "do lunch" at the various ethnic eateries within, like the ones at the Freighthouse Square Public Market (253-272-2011) at 430-25th Street. Visitors like me find the old railroad warehouse a colorful and festive place to shop for creative gifts. Hours: Mon. - 10 AM.-7 PM Sat; Noon to 5:00 P.M. Sun.

For a list of all of Tacoma's museums go to www.tcptourism.org on the web or call 800-272-2662 and ask them to send you a copy of the Tacoma Pierce County Visitor Guide.

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