Tacoma is the second-most populous city in Washington State and the second part of the name for the SeaTac airport. I’ve lived here and know many people who also have. While it has many awesome things about it, it’s not perfect.
It has a long and storied history of losing to Seattle for no reason other than bad luck and poor marketing. This has led to there being all sorts of reasons to not move here.
17. It’s Rainy
Any discussion of a city in the Pacific Northwest will always begin with a discussion of the weather, and yes, the rain is exactly as ubiquitous as it is made to seem.
Growing up in the area around Tacoma, there were some years where it would rain every day all the way into July. This can get pretty depressing if you aren’t prepared for it.
On the bright side, the summers hardly get any higher than 80 degrees, so if you like to be cold and wet all year and only a little bit warmer in the summer then you’re probably already from the Pacific Northwest and you don’t need me to tell me what it’s like.
This is actually a bigger deal than you might expect if you aren’t from Western Washington.
The constant cloud cover for three-quarters of the year can be absolutely soul-crushing for some people. If you think that might be you, maybe don’t come here.
16. It’s Divided
Back about thirty years ago, Tacoma was known mostly for its crime. The city has largely cleaned up its act since then, but it is still very much a city in two halves. In the north of the city and in the west of the city, most people are in the white-collar class.
However, there’s a particular dividing line along the sixth avenue, and crossing that you arrive in a part of town where nearly everyone is some form of working class.
If you’re looking for a town that universally looks nice, you’ll have to look elsewhere. People of all different stripes live in Tacoma, and if that isn’t something you can deal with you won’t like this city.
As a side note, Tacoma has a similar homeless problem to the one that can be seen in Seattle.
This is only a bad thing in that it is bad that anyone should need to go homeless, but if for some reason you have an aversion to poverty you may want to move elsewhere.
15. It’s Politically Boring
Despite what recent events may have you believe, all of the exciting political stuff happens in Seattle.
Literally, if there’s going to be a big protest then all the Tacoma people will usually just go to the one in Seattle. That makes the city pretty boring for people who like to feel like they’re getting something done.
14. It’s Second-Best to Seattle
For the past two hundred years or so (give or take a couple of decades) Tacoma has been in a bizarre rivalry with Seattle, the only city on earth built in a worse place than Pompeii. Allow me to explain why this rivalry should never have existed.
Tacoma’s port is both safer for ships and easier to leave the Pudget Sound from. Tacoma is situated on a river, which connects it to one of the most fertile regions in the United States.
Tacoma is the end of the line for one of the historic American East-West train lines, and for this, it has been called the City of Destiny (dope nickname, way better than a silly Wizard of Oz reference)
Seattle, on the other hand, was literally built on top of a beach, meaning that for the first several decades of its existence the town would flood every single day.
Another result of this was that toilets didn’t work in the city until the city, which had been filling its potholes with sawdust for years, exploded because somebody thought it was a good idea to put a match factory next to a sawmill and it turned out exactly how you would have expected.
When Seattle burned down, rather than pack up and move like ordinary people, the idiots who were living there decided to just build a new city on top of the old one, but it took them several years and a good number of lives to finish.
By all accounts, the city should have been dead.
Unfortunately for Earth, in 1920 Congress amended the American constitution to make alcohol illegal, and suddenly Seattle’s proximity to Canada was a huge draw.
In a matter of a few decades, Seattle went from a stupid logging town that had a problem with exploding toilets to a stupid logging town where it was easy to smuggle booze, and gangsters from Tacoma fled the city en masse to become Seattlites.
By the time anyone could figure out what was happening, Seattle was doing a World’s Fair and building the world’s least useful needle, and by that time it was pretty much over for the City of Destiny.
What are the modern ramifications?
Seattle has all the cool stuff and all the prestige. Most people don’t even know where Tacoma is, and if you’re going to live there you have to live with the knowledge that you do not live in the city’s perennial lucky northerly neighbor.
13. The Tacoma Dome
You may think that it would be fun to be living right down the street from one of the biggest event venues in the state.
If you think that, you clearly have never seen a usually empty street suddenly become some kind of twisted redneck version of Shibuya crossing, which is to say, entirely too full of both cars and people.
It causes major traffic all of the time.
12. I-5 is Always Jammed
The most commonly used route out of Tacoma is I-5. It takes you to the airport, to Seattle, and, most importantly, out of the country. However, the I-5 going north towards the better parts of the world are almost always congested, especially right next to the Tacoma Dome.
I’m not sure how many hours I’ve spent staring at that big blue dome and it gets old pretty quick.
Of course, the I-5 is often jammed in other places as well. I’m more surprised when I don’t end up trapped for hours in a stopped car going from Tacoma to Seattle than when I do.
It’s really something you have to take into account whenever you travel.
11. High Cost of Living
Tacoma’s cost of living is about 8% higher than the national average on account of it being a mid-sized city. Compared to Seattle and Portland, this is great, but there are certainly cheaper cities to live in all over Washington State.
10. The Best Jobs are in Seattle
All the highest-paying jobs in the region are in the Seattle area.
This means that in order to benefit from Tacoma’s slightly lower cost of living you’ll need to either take a slightly less prestigious job in town or resign yourself to a commute by train, bus, or the always-crowded highway.
9. There’s a Huge Volcano Visible from Town
Mt. Rainer is currently one of the most beautiful sights in Washington State. It has even named the unique nickname of “Tacoma Fuji” across the Pacific in Japan.
However, for all its beauty, the mountain actually represents an existential threat that looms over the entire region.
I think I was maybe eight or nine years old when I first learned that the mountain had the potential to kill everyone that I’d ever known, and honestly I’ve never really recovered.
Of course, the Pacific Northwest has no shortage of doomsday volcanoes, but Mt. Rainer is the only one that scientists keep saying could erupt any day now.
It scares the heck out of me, and I really don’t know how we all drum up the courage to keep living here.
8. It’s Unknown
If you tell people that you’re from Tacoma, anyone who isn’t already from the PNW will probably just give you a blank stare.
It’s just small enough that most people don’t know about it, but it’s just large enough that it seems wrong to say you’re from Seattle.
This can make conversations about where you live inconveniently complicated.
7. The City Will Make a Hipster Out of Anyone
You almost certainly know the stereotype of the general region between Portland and Seattle: Indie bands, beards, thick glasses, Nirvana. And if you are like most Americans, you have some disdain for the people who obsess over finding the new trend before it’s cool.
In Tacoma, there are only two good radio stations. One only plays classic rock and the other only plays music for hipsters. Most people listen to the latter, and this has brought hipster culture, ironically, into the mainstream in Western Washington.
Perhaps you’re already a hipster. If this is the case, then prepare to spend even more effort looking for the new thing. If you want to be ahead of the cultural curve in Tacoma, you need to be constantly on the alert.
6. It Has Electric Scooters
I don’t know if you’ve seen those little electric scooters around wherever you live. There was a huge controversy over them in San Francisco, and let me tell you that it was absolutely justified. Those scooters are the scum of the earth.
They sit on every intersection, taking up space and making it hard to walk. But that isn’t the worst of it, no.
If anyone so much as touches them without paying them, they let out an ungodly screeching noise that can be heard for blocks. Sometimes they just start screaming for no reason and don’t stop for like ten minutes. They’re miserable.
You see enough of them and you end up wishing that someone would just ride them off to some other place so that they don’t bother you anymore, but then you actually see someone riding one and they take up the entire sidewalk moving just fast enough to terrify you but too slow to go on the road.
I’m convinced that everything about these things is designed specifically to make the quality of life in the city worse, and I wish that somebody would throw them all into the Pudget Sound.
5. Parts of Town Smell
Not all of the town smells bad. Really, most of the city is fine. But there are definitely days when some particular places have a horrible smell that I just don’t know how to explain.
I’ve only ever lived in one other place that had the same smell, and that town had an enormous pulp factory right in the middle of it.
Tacoma is also close to a paper mill, and assumedly that is the source of the stench. Fortunately, this mill isn’t situated right in the middle of town, so the smell is only a problem when the wind blows it towards us, but it can certainly still be a turn-off for some people.
4. Unreliable Trains
This is kind of a nitpick, and the trains usually run just fine, but they have problems often enough that I hate using them.
Nine times out of ten the trains work fine, but the tenth time feels just awful.
3. It’s a Growing City
This can swing either way depending on how you feel. On the one hand, if you buy property, it’s likely to increase in value over time as more and more people move into the city.
On the other hand, rent will also go up, and whether you rent or buy the city will become more and more crowded over time.
This also means that a lot of things about the city are bound to change in the next few decades. If you plan to stay here for a long time, you might want to prepare for that.
2. It Has Weed
Whether you like it or hate it, mary jane is extremely popular in Tacoma. It really hasn’t caused any real problems since it became legal, and the crime rate has continued to decrease in the city even after the measure passed.
However, some people really don’t like the smell, and it does travel quite well. If you don’t like being reminded that other people are enjoying themselves that might be a problem for you.
It also depends on your views. It might not be a great thing if you have young kids you would rather not have around the drug.
1. It Never Snows
Maybe you’ve guessed this by now, but I actually love Tacoma and I think it’s great. It is sad, however, that it rarely gets more than a centimeter of snow each year.
If you’re from the northeastern US you may consider this a benefit. It still makes me quite sad.
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