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Hanging out on the Ave

Exploring Tacoma’s 6th Ave neighborhood

Photo credit: 6th Ave Tacoma/Facebook

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No one goes to Tacoma's 6th Avenue neighborhood to explore the outdoors or catch a glimpse of the sweet waters of the Puget Sound. They go there to experience the funky Tacoma vibe -- the one the gritty city is -- and has been -- known for over the last few decades. When people visit 6th Ave they dip into pinball bars for a cool beer and a shot at the high score, while away the afternoon browsing thrift and record shops, or get a tattoo (why not?) if they're feeling spontaneous. Exploring 6th Ave is all about catching the Tacoma vibe.  

How to Get There

To get to 6th Ave, visitors should head west (uphill) from downtown Tacoma. The 6th Ave neighborhood is loosely defined as the commercial area of 6th Avenue between North Union and Sprague. The one-mile strip is packed with bars, restaurants and quirky shopping venues not found anywhere else in the city. Walking and cycling are both great ways to move through the area, as parking will get tight as the day slips into evening.

Shopping & Entertainment

Start your afternoon on the Ave by popping into one of Tacoma's signature storefronts. High-Voltage Records is a guaranteed good time, as you can browse used and new records to your heart's content there. The small but hip record store is packed with music and swag, as any good record store should be.

Once you've had your fill, head to Nearsighted Narwhal, a teensy specialty store selling local, hand-crafted arts, jewelry, trinkets and books. Narwhal is a delightfully odd venue selling delightfully odd things, but visitors beware: the venue seems to open and close at random hours and may be closed when you're in the area. 

Fans of all-things-vintage should head to Scorpio Rising, a vintage thrift store in the center of 6th Ave.  With a floor-to-ceiling selection of clothing and accessories, Scorpio Rising is a favorite among locals looking for the perfect vintage tee or bag.  

But if browsing isn't your jam, head to Triple Knock. This pinball bar has delicious hard-slushies for adults and enough pinball machines to keep your thumbs whirring all afternoon. Although it only graced the 6th Ave scene in 2016, Triple Knock is now as permanent a fixture in the neighborhood as Jazzbones, a two-story music venue with shows almost every night. Entertainment here ranges from live DJs to local blues bands to touring punk rockers. The venue has two full bars and a solid menu of just-what-you-want-when-you're-tipsy fare.

Food & Drink

Speaking of food and drink, we'd be remis if we didn't dive into the world of restaurants and bars on 6th Ave. Many bars in the neighborhood have stepped up their dining game and can go toe-to-toe with some of the best restaurants in town. Dirty Oscars Annex, a 21+ venue with gourmet food and handcrafted cocktails, has a reputation for some of the best brunch options in town.

Brewery and restaurant Engine House No. 9 is another top-notch option for dinner and drinks. Here, you can sip award-winning beer in a historic building, or on the tree-covered patio outside.

If you're in the mood for a gourmet hot dog with all the fixins' (and a beer to go with it, of course), head to The Red Hot, where you'll find an extensive selection of both. The Red Hot rotates beers on tap daily, so you're almost guaranteed to find something you'll like. The bar has vegetarian and vegan hot dog options, as well.

Sweet desserts can be found at Ice Cream Social. This ice cream shop makes homemade, all-natural ice cream with local ingredients. Ice cream flavors rotate often here, and include interesting combinations like Fresh Fig & Honey, Roasted Banana, Salted Caramel w/ Candied Bacon, and Mad Hat Early Grey. Those who prefer their treats earlier in the day can grab a big -- and we mean really big -- doughnut at Legendary Doughnuts.

And don't forget, you can wash your treats down with a steaming cup of joe from Bluebeard Coffee Roasters throughout the day. The coffee shop has a large, open lounge where you can rest your feet from walking 6th Ave, if need be, and roasts its coffee in-house.

Where to Stay

Whether you're ultimately defeated by the abundance of food, drink or entertainment on the Ave at the end of the day, you'll need somewhere to rest your weary head. While there aren't any hotels on 6th Ave, the neighborhood is only a five-minute drive from downtown Tacoma, where you can find affordable lodging at Hotel Murano, Courtyard Marriott, or Holiday Inn Express & Suites. All three options are close enough to 6th Ave to get you off the pavement and into a soft bed before it's too late. Then, when you awake from your slumbers in the morning, you'll be rested enough for round two on 6th Ave. Just make sure to get some coffee first, you're probably going to need it.

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