Tacoma

Travel Guide North America USA Western United States Washington Tacoma

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Introduction

Tacoma in the state of Washington, is the state's second-largest city, with just under 200,000 residents. Tacoma often gets a negative description reminiscent of the one given to Oakland, California. These negative vibes are equally unrealistic and often come from those who have never lived in or even visited the city. While it has neither the tourist amenities of its neighbor Seattle to the north nor the suburban safety of Olympia to the south, you can certainly spend a few pleasant days in Tacoma and see the city's dynamic art scene and its great ballet.

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Sights and Activities

Point Defiance Park

Point Defiance is a 700-acre city park featuring old growth forests, gardens, the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, Owen Beach, Fort Nisqually Living History Museum, as well as a playground, picnic areas and countless hiking trails. It is the north end of Tacoma and is accessible from I-5 by following I-705 past downtown to Schuster Pkwy which goes along the Ruston Way waterfront to N 51st & Pearl. Go north on Pearl (right turn from N 51st coming from Ruston Way) into the main entrance of the park. From Hwy 16 go north on N Pearl (WA-163) into the park. By bus the #11 goes from downtown (10th & Commerce) to the park. From the Tacoma Dome station take the #41 bus going into downtown which becomes the #11 bus so no transferring of buses needed.

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Events and Festivals

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.

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Getting There

By Plane

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (IATA: SEA, ICAO: KSEA) serves the cities of Seattle and Tacoma. Also known as Seattle-Tacoma Airport, it is located south of Seattle, about 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometres) from Interstate 5. The major airlines using this airport are Alaska Airlines, Horizon Air, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and Northwest Airlines. In total, there are about 25 airlines serving the airport, with main destinations being Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Amsterdam, Paris, Atlanta, Anchorage, Boston, Chicago, Cancun, Dallas, Houston, Denver, Honolulu, Miami, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Washington, D.C., San Diego, New York City, Seoul, London, Beijing, Tokyo, Memphis, Detroit, Osaka, Salt Lake City, Taipei, Reykjavik, Frankfurt, Seoul, Albuquerque, Baltimore, Nashville, St. Louis, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Charlotte.

To/from the airport

  • Car: The drive to downtown Seattle from Seattle-Tacoma Airport will take 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the traffic. If you are driving yourself, from the airport to downtown Seattle, start going towards the AIRPORT EXIT on NORTH EXIT WAY, take the WA-518 EAST ramp, merge on WA-518 EAST, take the I-5 NORTH EXIT, merge on I-5 NORTH and head north for 10 miles (16 kilometres). You will see the Seattle skyline approaching as you near downtown. There are several downtown exits; exit 165 will take you to Seneca Street in the heart of downtown Seattle; if you take exit 167 and follow the SEATTLE CENTER signs, this will take you to the Seattle Center and the Space Needle.
  • A trip to downtown Seattle from the airport on public transportation takes 30 to 40 minutes. King Couny Metro buses and and Sound Transit regional express buses offer services.
  • There is also a scheduled bus service to downtown Vancouver, Canada through Quick Shuttle, with other pick up stops at downtown Seattle, Bellingham International Airport, and drop off stops just inside the Canadian-U.S. boundary and at Vancouver International Airport.
  • Rail: There is also now a light rail option for getting to Downtown Seattle from Sea-Tac Airport. This Central Link is operated by Sound Transit.
  • Taxis, rental cars and door-to-door shuttle service are available. Rental car options include companies like Hertz, Avis, Budget, Thrifty, Enterprise and Alamo/National.

By Train

Two Amtrak train stop in Tacoma:

By Car

Tacoma is along Interstate 5 (I-5), approximately 35 mi south of Seattle (35 min), 293 mi (5 hr) southwest of Spokane, and 143 mi (2.5 hr) north of Portland.
From Interstate 5 (I-5) Tacoma is accessed from exits #136 ("Port of Tacoma") through #127 ("S Tacoma Way/WA-512 to Puyallup") along I-5. To get to downtown, exit off at the Interstate 705 off ramp at Exit 133, just beyond the Tacoma dome if going south from I-5, or continue along I-705 past downtown to Schuster Pkwy to get to old town, north Tacoma and the Ruston Way waterfront. Continue to the next exit along I-5 to 132B to get to WA-16 going west towards Gig Harbor, Bremerton and for additional access to other parts of town. To get to Joint Base Lewis McChord continue south past WA-512 to exits #125 ("Bridgeport Way/McChord Field"), #123 ("Thorne Ln"), 122 ("Berkely Ave nearest access to Madigan Hospital and Camp Murray"), 120 ("Joint Base Lewis-McChord") which is the location of the main gate & visitors center into the base, or 119 (Dupont-Steilacoom Rd). Access to the military base is controlled and a valid Dept. of Defense (DoD) ID and vehicle decal are required to be allowed through. Otherwise see the visitors center off of exit 120. Exits 119-125 will come first before getting into Tacoma if going north on I-5 from Olympia.
From Interstate 90 (I-90) coming from eastern Washington exit off at WA-Hwy 18 at Exit # 25. Go south on WA Hwy 18 through Tiger Mountain, Convington, Maple Valley and Auburn to Federal Way where WA-18 merges into I-5. Follow signs to I-5 south to Tacoma.
From Kitsap Peninsula Go south on Hwy 3 and follow signs for "WA-16 EAST to Port Orchard - Tacoma". Continue south along WA-16 through Gig Harbor and across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge into Tacoma. There's a toll to cross the Narrows Bridge into Tacoma but no toll coming the other way into Gig Harbor. There are 5 exits into town from along WA-16 between the bridge and where the highway ends at I-5. Follows signs for I-5 "To Seattle" and exit at the next exit to I-705 to get downtown otherwise follow signs for I-5 south "To Portland" to get to the south or east part of town.

By Bus

The bus station for Greyhound, Northwestern Trailways, Sound Transit, Intercity Transit, Pierce Transit & Link Light Rail is at the Tacoma Dome Station Parking Garage Buildings at 510 - 610 E Puyallup Ave (facing E Puyallup Ave), between East E St and East G St, one block north of Freighthouse Square (2501 East D St). Greyhound, NW Trailways and a taxi stand are at the west building while Sound Transit, Intercity & Pierce Transit buses are next door in front of the east building. The Link Light Rail to downtown Tacoma is at the opposite side of the parking buildings along E 25th, between the E Parking Garage Building and the Freighthouse Square building.

By Boat

  • Washington State Ferries, 5810 N Pearl St (North end of Pearl St in Point Defiance Park.), ☏ +1 206 464-6400, toll-free: +1-800-843-3779. There is a ferry connecting from Point Defiance Park in North Tacoma and Talehquah in the south end of Vashon Island. Don't plan on walking anywhere when you get to Vashon Island; you'll need a car to get anywhere worth seeing. Some people bike around the island, but be prepared for major hills. You can continue to Seattle or Port Orchard by crossing the island to the other ferry on the north end of the island.
  • Pierce County Ferries, 56 Union Ave; Steilacoom (.). The county also operates a small car ferry across from Steilacoom (at south end of town) to Anderson and Ketron Islands.
  • Tote Martime (Totem), (port terminal) 500 E Alexander, ☏ +1 253 238-8400. Operates more as a private shipping company than a "ferry" for shipping of personal vehicles and/or personal household goods up to Anchorage AK for those moving between the lower 48 and Alaska. They offer twice weekly sailings up to Alaska.

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Getting Around

By Car

The area's roads are designed more or less around a grid system, where most roads are numbered based on their distance from the city center. Addresses also conform to the numbering of the roads around them. Nearly all streets run with the compass directions. "A" Street, one block east of Pacific Ave (SR-7), divides east from south while Orchard Street divides south from west. 6th Avenue and Division Avenue divide north from south. The numbered roads run east-west, parallel to 6th Avenue, while the named roads run north-south (except for one corner in the North End where everything is rotated by 60°). The addresses on the opposite side of Commencement Bay towards Federal Way between the bay and the King/Pierce County line are in the northeast (NE) part of town. The addresses in Gig Harbor & Key Peninsula all have northwest (NW) designations and Lakewood and Steilacoom are in the Southwest part of town with SW addresses. This also applies to much of the extended areas of unincorporated Pierce County, though the addresses in places like Fife, Milton, Puyallup & Sumner have their own numbering system and are not based on Tacoma's numbering system. Some of the same streets will change names when it crosses from one city/municipality to the next.

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

By Public Transport

Tacoma LINK - A light rail/streetcar line that runs between Freighthouse Square (near the Tacoma Dome and the train station) and downtown, with a stop that serves the Washington State History Museum / University of Washington, Tacoma area. Trains runs every 10-20 minutes, and the fares are free.
Pierce Transit operates local buses in and around Tacoma, Lakewood (200s, Rt #2, 3 & 594 from downtown), Puyallup (400s, Rt #402 from Tacoma Dome), Steilacoom (Rt #214 from Lakewood); Federal Way (Rt #500, 501, 574, 578), University Place (Rt #2 & 53) and to Lewis-McChord from Lakewood Towncenter (Rt #206). They operate limited services to Gig Harbor, Sumner and Bonney Lake and no service to Mt Rainier or anywhere in rural Pierce County.

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Eat

Downtown Tacoma has a wide range of restaurants, from fine dining to casual. Most of the downtown restaurants suggested in the below are in the immediate areas surrounding the University of Washington Tacoma campus, Tacoma Convention Center and Union Station which are along the Link Light Rail route. They could also be located elsewhere such as towards the Stadium District north of downtown such as Maxwell's (one of the suggested venues).

  • El Gaucho, 2119 Pacific Ave (in Downtown Tacoma southeast of S 21st Street and Pacific Avenue intersection. Next to the Melting Pot), ☏ +1 253 272-1510. Su-Th 4PM-10PM; F Sa 4PM-midnight. Pricey, steaks & chops, dinner.
  • Melting Pot, 2121 Pacific Ave (in Downtown Tacoma southeast of S 21st Street and Pacific Avenue intersection. Next to El Guacho.), ☏ +1 253 535-3939. M-F 5PM-10PM; Sa 4PM-10:30PM, Su 4PM-10PM. Pricey, fondue, dinner.
  • Pacific Grill, 1502 Pacific Ave (S 15th & Pacific in the NE part of the Courtyard Hotel Building), ☏ +1 253 627-3535. New American. Steaks & seafood, lunch & dinner. Known for Tacoma's Best Happy Hour. Celebrity Chef Gordon Naccarato.
  • Indochine Asian Dining Lounge, 1924 Pacific Ave (near the University of Washington, Tacoma is on 19th and Pacific), ☏ +1 253 272-8200. Tu-Th 11AM-9PM; F 11AM-10PM; Sa noon-10PM; Su noon-9PM. Not pricey (and rather enjoyable), pan-Asian, lunch & dinner.
  • Maxwell's, 454 St Helens (S 6th Ave & St. Helens), ☏ +1 253 683-4115. Moderately priced, dinner & cocktails, Northwest small plates.
  • Johnny's Dock, 1900 East D St (right across Thea Foss Waterway from Pacific Avenue on D St), ☏ +1 253 627-3186. M-Th 11:30AM-10PM; F 11:30AM-11PM; Sa 9:30AM-11PM; Su 9:30PM-8PM. Steak and seafood, great views of downtown and the Museum of Glass.
  • The Rock, Wood Fire Kitchen, 1920 Jefferson Ave (in downtown Tacoma along Jefferson Ave south of S 19th, west of the UW Tacoma campus), ☏ +1 253 272-1221. Daily 11:30AM to midnight. It offers a great lunch or dinner, with inexpensive pizza and pasta.

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Drink

  • 1022 South, 1022 South J St (NW of S 11th & J St in the Hilltop neighborhood.), ☏ +1 253 627-8588. Su W Th 4PM-midnight; F Sa 4PM-2AM. Around the corner from where the Tempest used to be is 1022 South. Featuring a huge list of traditional, and some very non-traditional, cocktails, they turn out some astonishing flavors.
  • Engine House 9 or 'E9', 611 N Pine St (in an old firehouse building up on N Pine from 6th Ave), ☏ +1 253 272-3435. M-W 11AM-midnight; Th 11AM-1AM; F 11AM-2AM; Sa 8:30AM-2AM; Su 8:30PM-10PM. In the trendy 6th Avenue area. A great beer list and karaoke on Thursdays make this bar very popular with college students from the local University of Puget Sound.
  • Johnny's Dock, 1900 East D St (right across Thea Foss Waterway from Pacific Avenue on D St), ☏ +1 253 627-3186. M-Th 11:30AM-10PM; F 11:30AM-11PM; Sa 9:30AM-11PM; Su 9:30PM-8PM. Old-school, straight-out-of-the-1970s flava from the Naugahyde swivel chairs to the odd touches of brass. They serve workmanlike drinks, but they've got a great deck and happy hour prices apply during any televised sporting event.
  • The Mix, 635 St Helens Ave (NE corner of S 7th & St Helens Ave). Daily 2PM-2AM. In Downtown's St. Helens Neighborhood caters to a mostly gay crowd. On weekend nights The Mix is packed with 20- and 30-somethings having a good time.
  • Club Silverstone, 739 St Helens Ave (SE of St Helens Ave & Court C), ☏ +1 253 404-0273. Daily 11AM-2AM. Tacoma's largest gay nightclub, in the Theater District in Downtown Tacoma. During the week the club is low-key but on the weekends the club gets busy with dancing all night long.
  • The Hub, 203 Tacoma Ave S (2nd & Tacoma Ave S), ☏ +1 253 683-4606. M-Th 11AM-11PM; F 11AM-1AM; Sa 9AM-1AM; Su 9AM-11PM. Excellent Mediterranean-themed fare. One of the hot spots in the popular Stadium district.
  • Tacoma Wine Merchants, 21 N Tacoma Ave, ☏ +1 253 779-8258. Located in the Stadium District, this cozy, European-style wine bar offers over thirty wines by the glass. Cheese plates, panini, soups and salads available.

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Sleep

  • Best Western Plus Tacoma Dome, 2611 East 'E' St (E 26th & E St, between Tacoma Dome and Freighthouse Square), ☏ +1 253 272-7737. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. In between the Tacoma Dome and Freighthouse Square and in close proximity to Amtrak, the bus stations and downtown. (updated Aug 2018 | edit)
  • Hotel Murano, 1320 Broadway Plaza, ☏ +1 253 238-8000.
  • Courtyard Marriott - Tacoma Downtown, 1515 Commerce St (Across from the Great Tacoma Convention Center), ☏ +1 253-591-9100. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. The hotel is connected to the historic Waddell building. The Waddell building's ground floor features the award winning restaurant, Pacific Grill, ran by famed Chef, Gordon Naccarato. Above Pacific Grill are 2 luxury suites that are one of a kind for a Courtyard property. On the lower level of the hotel is the new Pacific Grill Events Center that host many events year round.
  • Holiday Inn Express & Suites Tacoma Downtown, 2102 South C St (C St & S 21st. Couple blocks up the Hill on S 21st from Pacific), ☏ +1 253 272-2434. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon.

The North End neighborhood is an upscale neighborhood especially those closer in and north of downtown and along the waterfront (Stadium District and Old Town). Except the Silver Cloud by the waterfront most of the accommodations in the North End are in large (historic) homes that have been permitted and converted to board guests as a Bed & Breakfast.

  • Silver Cloud, 2317 Ruston Way, ☏ +1 253 272-1300. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Waterfront hotel on a two-mile long scenic waterfront road (Ruston Way) and park.
  • The Villa B&B, 705 N 5th St (Along N 5th St between Yakima & G St in a residential area.), ☏ +1 253 272-1300. A highly rated, luxury six-room bed and breakfast hotel in the Stadium district.

The South Tacoma accommodations are near some of the large shopping complexes as well as quicker access to the Lewis McChord military reservation. The accommodations are typically lined up along S Hosmer at the 7400 block (accessed off of S 72nd at Exit #129) and more between the 8000 block and the 9200 block where S Hosmer become S Steele (accessed from Exit #128 if going north bound I-5). They're the typical national chain hotels and motels, located off of the freeway for someone needing a break from a long day of driving. They're also surrounded by several restaurants such Ihop, Burger King, Jack in the Box, Subway, etc. for a place to get a quick bite to eat as well.

  • Comfort Inn Tacoma Hotel, 8620 S Hosmer St, ☏ +1 253 538-7998. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Offers guests free wireless high-speed Internet access and a fitness center with an indoor heated pool. $80.
  • Holiday Inn Express & Suites Tacoma, 8601 S Hosmer (along S Hosmer just south of S 84th; accessed at S 84th St from the northbound lanes of I-5 and S 72nd St from the southbound lanes), ☏ +1-253 539-2020. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon.
  • Motel 6 Tacoma South, 1811 S 76th St (S 76th St & Hosmer; accessed at S 72nd St from I-5 (Exit #129)), ☏ +1 253 473-7100.
  • Holiday Inn Tacoma Mall, 8402 S Hosmer St (NW of the intersection of S Hosmer & S 84th; accessed at S 84th St from the northbound lanes of I-5 and S 72nd St from the southbound lanes), ☏ +1 253 548-1212.
  • Shilo Inn, 7414 S Hosmer (S 74th St & Hosmer; accessed at S 72nd St from I-5 (Exit #129)), ☏ +1 253 475-4020, fax: +1 253 475-1236.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

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Keep Connected

Internet

There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

Accommodation in Tacoma

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This is version 27. Last edited at 16:43 on Dec 5, 19 by CabazRios. 3 articles link to this page.

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