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New Dune Peninsula Makes Tacoma Even Better for Family Fun

Explore this new park with the fam and find slides, steps and a California vibe

Published on: July 15, 2019

Dune Peninsula

“What city are we in?” asked my 9-year-old as we pulled into the parking lot at Point Ruston in Tacoma. “It looks like California!”

I can understand why my kiddo thought we were in a different city. Metro Parks Tacoma really pulled out all the stops with the newly opened Dune Peninsula. After three years of construction, the 11-acre park boasts many features, including the new Wilson Way Bridge, connecting Point Defiance Park with Ruston Way.

I took in the scenery: a sweeping view of the water with sailboats and ships dotting the horizon; couples and families walking their dogs; electric scooters, 8-passenger bicycles and longboards cruising along the smooth paved pathway; and world-class landscaping with built-in viewpoints creating a polished look and feel.

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One of the new Dune Peninsula slides. Credit: Nikki McCoy

Slide away

During our visit, the east end of the bridge is where my family and I spent a good 30 minutes. We sampled six different slides that took us on a 50-foot journey to the marina below. Stairs were installed for those who don’t slide, but were mainly used by kids to climb up and “Go, again!” Metro Park employees affectionally dubbed this area “real-life Chutes and Ladders.”

Speaking of stairs, there are strategically placed vantage points featuring giant steps made for another fun family activity. “It’s like ancient Mayan temples!” exclaimed my son as he straddle-stepped his way to the top. His imagination was just as active as his body. For me, the steps provided a great place to take pictures of the panoramic view of the Sound.

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Climbing the new Dune Peninsula stairs. Credit: Nikki McCoy

Next we hopped on our bikes and pedaled along the Frank Herbert Trail loop. This trail links the park to Ruston Way. Admiring the view, people-and-dog-watching and talking about the name of the trail were our favorite parts of our adventure.

As science-fiction fans, my sons learned that Herbert was a famous Tacoma author who wrote the best-selling novel “Dune.” On our next visit, we’ll get to nerd out even more — medallions containing Herbert and "Dune"-derived quotations will be embedded in the path later this year.

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Credit: Nikki McCoy

This impressive new park also includes a lawn for concerts, restrooms, rentable event space, bike fix-it stations and places to refill your water bottle. My son proclaimed that we could “live here forever.” Agreed, son. (Though camping is not allowed.)

I feel so lucky to live in the Pacific Northwest. The thoughtful and forward-thinking people and beautiful landscapes that make up our corner of the world are second to none. (Even better than California, if you ask me.)

Interestingly, this particular beautiful new landscape was built on the site of many decades of pollution. The new Dune Peninsula park sits on the slag peninsula that was created when the Asarco Company's copper smelter dumped solid-waste lead and arsenic directly into Puget Sound. Metro Parks Tacoma moved 400,000 cubic yards of dirt and installed a geotextile cap over the contaminated land to create the new park. The copper smelter closed in 1985. Its famous stack was blown up in 1993.

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Dune Peninsula with ferry in the foreground and Mount Rainier in the background. Courtesy Metro Parks

If you go...

Find it: Access the Dune Peninsula area of Point Defiance Park at 5361 Yacht Club Rd. in Tacoma. From Interstate 5, navigate to Highway 16 and then Pearl St. From downtown Tacoma, follow Schuster Parkway and then Ruston Way.

Getting there: There is ample available parking. To get closest to the bridge and slides, park in the Point Ruston parking garage or in the Dune Peninsula lot. The area is also served by Pierce Transit.

Things to do nearby: Thanks to the Wilson Way Bridge, you can walk or bike along Ruston Way from Jack Hyde Park to Point Defiance Park, a distance of 4.8 miles. Or enjoy classic waterfront dining and a movie at Point Ruston. Maybe even check parasailing off your bucket list at Pacific Parasailing; kids ages 5–10 are free on weekdays. Renting a single, double or 8-person bike is easy at Wheel Fun Rentals. And if it’s a hot day, cool off at the Point Ruston spray park. 

More ideas for family fun in Tacoma:

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