When you go to Tacoma, you have to visit the Museum of Glass. That’s a given. But that’s not the only glass in the city. It’s time to think outside the box a bit and take a little walking tour to explore some of the hidden glass treasures of Tacoma. The good news is, all these sites are free; and the even better news is that they are all wheelchair-accessible.
- Start your tour at Union Station, which has been converted to a Federal Courthouse. The rotunda features a Chihuly chandelier (End-of-the-Day) , and the balcony is decorated with four other Chihuly installations. There’s no admission charge, but you do have to have a government-issued ID to enter. Additionally, it’s only open on weekdays. There’s level access to the building, with elevator access up to the balcony, so you can get a close look at all the works.
Chihuly’s Bridge of Glass (which is located right next to Union Station) is also worth a look. Not only is it a quick way to get to the Museum of Glass, but it’s filled with a wide variety of Chihuly forms — from seaforms to Venetians – as well as two crystal towers. There is level access to the bridge from Pacific Avenue, and once you get across the freeway there is elevator access down to the Museum of Glass.
Cross back over the bridge and take a right on Pacific Avenue and continue on to the Tacoma Art Museum. From there head left on Jefferson Street to the Swiss Pub. The first sidewalk section has a slight incline, so manual wheelchair-users may need a bit of assistance, but it’s very doable for scooter and power wheelchair-users. There is ramp access to the pub on the left, and once you’re inside you’ll find a collection of Chihuly Venetian forms above the bar. This was a favorite watering hole for Chihuly and crew when they were doing the Union Station installation, so he left a few pieces behind as a token of appreciation for the warm hospitality he received.
After you’ve raised a pint or two, head across the street to the University of Washington Library. There’s level access through the main entrance, with a barrier-free pathway to the overcrossing. Continue over the overcrossing and take the elevator down to the second floor. From there turn right and head to the tutoring center, then turn left to the Chihuly Room. This room set aside as a “quiet room” for students, but visitors are welcome. The main attraction is the stunning Chihuly Chinook Red Chandelier.
- Last but not least, head back out to Pacific Avenue and turn right. Continue along till you get to 23rd street , turn left and continue down a block to the Tacoma Glassblowing Studio. Here you’ll find a steady stream of folks learning to blow glass, and you’ll get an up-close-and-personal look at the glassblowing process. There’s level access to the studio and they also have an accessible restroom on the premises. Best of all, there’s never a charge to watch the glassblowers.