Visiting Tacoma’s Point Ruston Way

Point Ruston and the surrounding waterfront have come a long way from a place of mills, boatyards, warehouses and an infamous copper smelting plant.

As a child I’d beg my mom to drive under the looming smelter tower via a 325-foot tunnel that had such a curve before the north entrance, drivers were directed to honk before entering, not being able to see the driver coming from the other side. Mom never wanted to. Already being a nervous driver, hauling our huge car through the dark narrow tunnel full of honking vehicles wasn’t her idea of fun.

But the dramatic demolition of the 562-foot copper smelter in 1993 was my dad’s idea of fun. Being a Tacoma native, seeing the tower come down in a sensational explosion amazed him. He loved to show his snapshots of the event. Many years later the subsequent mass cleanup of toxicity from the smelter plant left a blank slate for a marvelous family-friendly destination to live in or to visit. This became Point Ruston.

Point Ruston Way

Point Ruston tucks into north Tacoma on Commencement Bay and is an easy drive from I-5. A visit to Point Ruston is enjoyable any time of year. Most prefer summer and sunshine, but in the winter, intrepid Northwesterners are still in action acting like our local saying, “Live like the mountain is out.” “The mountain” is Mount Rainier, and it was indeed out on my last January visit.

Mount Rainier

Point Ruston Walking Paths

Walking is a year-round activity here, and Tacoma’s Ruston contains part of a path that connects a 4.5-mile walking trail from Chinese Reconciliation Park’s Fuzhou Ting and Jack Hyde Park to Owen Beach in Point Defiance Park. These many miles of trails along the water have beautiful views of Mount Rainier, the Cascade foothills and the Olympic Mountains.


The walk from Point Ruston north allows access to Metro Parks’ Dune Peninsula with an outdoor concert area, dunes to ascend and fantastic panoramic views. A lower path passes Breakwater Marina, a boat launch, the ferry terminal to Vashon Island and Anthony’s Restaurant. An ascending path allows the choice to head into the Point Defiance Park via the beautiful Wilson Way Bridge or instead of the bridge, head back down to the water by using slides or stairs. I’ve tried the slides and they are indeed, fun!

Wheel Fun Rentals offers ways to explore the area from eight-passenger surrey cycles to an assortment of two-wheel bicycles, accommodating adults and children. The walkway is wide, allowing room for bikes, scooters and pedestrians alike. The Grand Plaza has a water spray park available in the warm weather and an ice rink open from November through early January. Beautiful unexpected tile work rests in the walkway as well, showing off native marine life in beautiful colors. Artwork is located all around the property. Benches and tables allow a rest to take in the scenic views of Commencement Bay and surrounding areas.

fish art
Point Ruston theatre

Indoor Activities

The Century Theatre sits as the anchor of the village and features reserved reclining seating and leading technology at their nine-screen movie house.

Point Ruston offers a variety of stores, restaurants and shops. Go to South Sound Running and gear up for your Waterwalk excursion. Once you’ve worked up an appetite visit one of the many restaurants. Farrelli’s Pizza has been a local favorite since 1995. WildFin offers seafood with a view and a walk-up window for fish and chips during the summer. Ice Cream Social sells fantastic homemade all-natural local ice cream. There’s a smattering of fun shops to explore as well. 


The Public Market at Point Ruston is open June through September Sundays from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and promises to be a giant among markets.

What if you love the area and want to stay, but not for good? A 4-star Silver Cloud Hotel is being built at Point Ruston and is due to open in 2020 according to the hotel’s website. It will include a rooftop pool, spa and a conference center featuring a 5,400-square-foot ballroom.

Parking at Point Ruston

The public bus system stops at the Vashon Island ferry terminal where you can walk to the Point Ruston area. And the all-important question… what about parking? The popular destination has been adding parking to keep up with the demand. If you plan to shop, dine or see a movie, give your license plate number to the business within the first hour of arriving and parking is free. If you’re not going to a business within the first hour you must pay at a pay station or on an app. The first hour is free, and it’s $2 an hour after that.

Point Ruston sign
Point Ruston

Family-friendly Activities

Rent kids’ bikes, kid trailers and tag-a-longs at Wheel Fun Rentals during a sunny day.

Public restrooms are located in the Copperline Building. Enter in the Franciscan entrance between NW Fitness and Two Town Pub. Port-a-potties are located at the Octopus at the east end of the Waterwalk, and a portable public restroom & changing station is located on the northwest side of the Grand Plaza.

Twenty-eight pieces of art are distributed throughout the area. How about downloading a map with the art locations and have the kids go on an art scavenger hunt?

For teens: Point Ruston Way Waterfront offers a safe and great place for teenagers to meet, walk, shop and eat. Our daughters’ personal favorite is the Jewel Box Cafe to hang out with their friends.

Visit Point Ruston

Point Ruston in Tacoma, WA is a slag to riches story that Pierce County residents can be proud of. It’s truly a magnificent transformation. Growing up in Tacoma I often lamented, “There’s nothing to do!” Point Ruston certainly offers plenty of things to do for all ages in beautiful Pacific Northwest style. So, go explore!

Avatar photo

Marsha Perry

Marsha Perry grew up in Tacoma working with words in her family’s business and has carried her craft into adulthood. An editor and author, she also enjoys time with her husband and three kids, music and ministry work. Having lived in six states, Marsha is delighted to write about Washington, her favorite state.


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  4. Avatar photo Janet Mayer on June 5, 2024 at 11:15 am

    That’s it! You’ve convinced me! I’ve heard so much about Point Ruston ever since we moved to Washington. We’ve been pretty busy over the last few months with home renovations, but now that we finally finished the last thing on our to-do list, refinishing our cabinets, I’m ready to get outside and it looks like I need to get over to Point Ruston! Thanks for sharing!

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