What do Seattleites Think Tacoma is Like? We Ask, They Answer

For decades Tacoma has been seen by many as a redheaded stepchild compared to the shiny glory of Seattle. But as the housing market skyrockets in the Emerald City (median Seattle house value in 2017 was over $700,000, compared to Tacoma at $264,000), the appeal of our gritty city is on the rise.

Is Tacoma’s image also on the way up?

To get a feel for what outsiders think of Tacoma I asked a few Seattleites for their thoughts. In no particular order, here’s what they said…

Semper_0FP: “It smells like shit and traffic sucks. It’s a scaled down version of Seattle from the 90’s.”

seattletotems: “Love it. It’s definitely come a long way in the last 20 years but it now feels like what Seattle used to but on a much smaller scale.”

itsbecomingathing: “I’ve lived in Seattle for over a decade now, and I was surprised at how dead [Tacoma’s] downtown felt on a Sunday afternoon. Where were the weekend shoppers?

“Actually, having grown up in Oakland, I feel like Tacoma is the Oakland and Seattle is San Francisco. You can’t go shopping in Oakland, you have to go to Emeryville for the big retailers, and the hill (I believe it’s named Hilltop) behind Tacoma’s downtown felt a lot like Central, West, and South Oakland. This was about 6 years ago when we took a day trip, but it did not entice me to return.”

RubiksSugarCubeBanned: “9 times out of 10 it’s a pain in the ass to get to, and there’s not too many good reasons to go outside of the occasional event at the [Tacoma] Dome.”

everysinglehoetrife: “The job situation in Tacoma is just not even comparable to Seattle despite the city in general feeling similar.”

SeatownCooks: “It smells bad. Also, the Tacoma Dome needs to be condemned.”

hellofellowstudents: “I’ve been a few times, and though its transit/walkability are pretty severely lacking, overall it’s pretty cool. It’s what I’d have imagined Seattle before Amazon to have been like.”

perestroika12: “Tacoma is rad, a very different vibe/feel. Kinda feels like a mix between small town Washington and grungy old Seattle. Lots of artists, working class folks etc. Bar/music scene is pretty warm, in stark contrast to Seattle. Lots of the interesting Seattle is moving to Tacoma because of housing prices. Give it 20 years and it will be the hip place to be. Biggest problem is lack of jobs, Seattle commands the lions share of high paying positions. Many people actually commute from Tacoma area into Seattle daily which is absolutely brutal.”

zoeyversustheraccoon: “In 5 years everyone will be talking about how it’s gentrifying.”

tuskvarner: “If I had to live in a larger city in Western Washington but not Seattle, I’d definitely live there. Right after Olympia. And Bellingham. And Bellevue.

I guess what I’m saying is if I was forced to, I’d rather live there than Everett.”

Hougie: “With companies Like Weyerhaeuser abandoning the Tacoma area for Seattle…I just don’t think Tacoma will ever be an economic powerhouse.”

What did they get wrong? Anything right? Let’s hear it.

Illustrations by Nina Hartman

  1. I lived in Seattle in the early 90’s and Tacoma is more like late 80’s seattle…just starting to come around. for the record, the smell is in the tideflats which technically might be Fife, either way it’s not the city.
    and don’t even talk about traffic. yes, it sucks. but you can’t even drive across town in seattle anymore, it is one giant pulsing parking lot. You can actually drive pretty much anywhere here (as long as you stay off I-5.

  2. Nearly anywhere south of I-90 north of 100th east of 108th and west of Elliot bay is full of uneducated people and criminals, Tacoma is no exception. Why do you think no major businesses exist there? It’s not the place itself, it’s the crappy people and their awful content of character.

    1. Oh no watch out for the elite of the elite. Smell your own shit please. I guarantee it stinks worse than Tacoma…

  3. We have lived in Federal Way, Madison Park (Seattle), Northgate (Seattle), Everett, Mt Vernon and now Tacoma. We have now found our home with a mix of jobs, affordable housing, parks and access to outdoors. It has been exhausting and we are so happy to be here.

    1. I used to drive to Seattle in the late ‘80s and ‘90s for much of my recreation. Now I hang in Tacoma – it has become so much better ! And I laugh at the comments about smell and traffic – what smell (unless you actually work on the tideflats) and I’ll take Tacoma traffic (just avoid the I5 / SR16 interchange) over the Seattle gridlock any day !

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