10 things to do in the South Sound before the end of summer

Lava Canyon hike at Mount St. Helens
Lava Canyon hike at Mount St. Helens Staff writer

Labor Day weekend is upon us, offering one last chance to enjoy some summer fun. With sunny skies and warm temperatures in the forecast, the three-day weekend is allowing South Sound residents one last hurrah before our lives are consumed with school, work, Saturday youth sports and whatever else fills your days.

To help you make the most of the end of summer, we have 10 suggestions on places to go and things to do:


Get drenched from above, below and sidewise — and we’re not talking a Pacific Northwest rain storm. Hit a fun sprayground with the kids before the close of summer. In Tacoma, 10 spraygrounds operated by Metro Parks will be open daily through Monday, but will open only on a weekend-only basis Sept. 12-27. That means your days of running through fields of water shooting out of gigantic metal flowers are dwindling.

Where: Franklin, Jefferson, Kandle, Norpoint, SERA Campus, South Park, Titlow, Verlo Playfield, Wapato Hills Park and Wright parks. Puyallup, Fircrest and other communities also have spraygrounds.

Cost: Free.

Information: Find Tacoma’s 10 sprayparks listed at metroparkstacoma.org/spraygrounds.


From Federal Way to Steilacoom to Olympia, there are public beaches with room to roam, and plenty of spaces for alfresco dining. Don’t forget to pick up lunch and bring it with you.

Where: Dash Point State Park in Federal Way, Owen Beach at Point Defiance Park, Titlow Park and Sunnyside Beach in Steilacoom, and Tolmie State Park and Burfoot Park in Olympia.

Cost: Free, except for those with parking fees; State parks require a Discovery Pass ($10 daily/$30 a year).

Information: Dash Point, parks.wa.gov/496/Dash-Point; Owen Beach, metroparkstacoma.org/point-d-owen-beach; Titlow Park, metroparkstacoma.org/titlow-park; Sunnyside, townofsteilacoom.org/264/Sunnyside-Beach; Tolmie State Park, parks.wa.gov/297/Tolmie; and Burfoot, co.thurston.wa.us/parks/parks-burfoot.htm.


Ruston Way and the Foss Waterway are lined with restaurants with waterside patios or decks for cocktail sipping.

Where: Order a Pimm’s Cup at Lobster Shop; a Ruston Manhattan at C.I. Shenanigans, a cucumber mojito at Duke’s Chowder House, a cold brew at Katie Downs or The Ram Restaurant and Brewery, a Moscow mule at Social Bar and Grill, a glass of wine at the Fish Peddler and you’d be remiss if you skipped the stellar martini at Johnny’s Dock.

Cost: The view is free, but the cocktails aren’t. Prices range from $7-$12.

Information: wp.lobstershop.com; cishenanigans.com; dukeschowderhouse.com; katiedowns.com; theram.com; thesocialbarandgrill.com; facebook.com/fishpeddlertacoma; johnnysdock.com.


School may be starting, but the South Sound’s lakes, rivers and beaches are still there, and still inviting. Pack a picnic, towels and bathing suit and head to one of these cool dipping spots while the sun still shines. Note: The ever-popular Tenino Quarry Pool is only open through Sunday.

Where: Try Dash Point State Park (beach), Federal Way; Tenino Quarry Pool, Tenino; Kenneydell Park (lake), Olympia; Rainbow Falls State Park (river), Chehalis; Twanoh State Park (beach), Union; Allan Yorke Park (lake), Bonney Lake; Madison Beach Park (lake), Seattle; Lowell Johnson Park (lake), Anderson Island.

When: Dawn til dusk (Tenino pool open noon-7 p.m.).

Cost: Most are free (Tenino $2 resident/$4 non-resident; state parks require a Discovery Pass).

Information: All swimming holes are listed at thenewstribune.com/outdoors/article29868760.html.


This summer may have been hot and dry, but that just means bigger and better blooms for some of the well-tended gardens around the South Sound — and you may even catch some early leaf color before the season shuts down.

Where/when/cost: Lakewold Gardens, 12317 Gravelly Lake Drive SW, Lakewood (10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday, $9/$6/free for 11 and younger, lakewoldgardens.org); Powellswood, 430 S. Dash Point Road, Federal Way (10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, $5/free for 11 and younger, powellswood.org), Bloedel Reserve, 9415 Miller Road NE, Bainbridge Island (10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday — ’til 6 p.m. through Sunday — $15/$10/$8/$5/free for 4 and younger, bloedelreserve.org).

Information: Find more local gardens at southsoundgardens.com.


It’s the perfect time to plant your own garden, now that you’ll get some natural irrigation. Try cool-weather greens like lettuce, kale, arugula and spinach, or winter-harvest root veggies like carrots, turnips, parsnips, beets and radishes. It’s also a great time to pick up faded perennials on sale, which will look beautiful next spring; and to plant anything with a bigger root system (trees, shrubs, berries) that will appreciate the upcoming rainy season.

Where and when: Find plants at farmers’ markets through October, seeds and plants at local nurseries.

Cost: Seeds start at $1.50 a packet, starts around $3 each.

Information: Find more garden tips from columnist Marianne Binetti at plantersplace.com; tacomafarmersmarket.com, proctorfarmersmarket.com.


Make good use of this last month of long, dry days by doing that paint job you’ve been putting off. Makeover a chair or desk, recoat your front door, get splashy with a garden wall or even paint a mural. For inspiration, check out Tacoma’s many public art murals — and if you don’t feel like painting yourself, at least take a selfie.

Where: Tacoma has murals around downtown and outer neighborhoods: the “Alice” mural and the Spaceworks murals on opposite corners at South Ninth and Market streets, the “Madam Butterfly” mural on Opera Alley and the birds mural at St. Helens and Sixth avenues are within three blocks of each other.

When: Dawn ’til dusk.

Cost: Seeing murals is free; paint costs around $10 for a small can.

Information: Find Tacoma’s murals online at tacomaculture.org (the public art tour).


August left on a wet note, a subtle reminder that those gorgeous high-elevation trails soon will be less comfortable to hike, and perhaps even covered with snow. Mount Rainier National Park offers easy access to a number of those trails, such as Burroughs Mountain in the Sunrise area. Most visitors travel only as far as Second Burroughs, but a little extra effort will put you on top of Third Burroughs. Here you will enjoy one of the closest views of Mount Rainier you can hike to. Listen long enough and you’re bound to hear rocks fall on the slopes of the mountain. It’s a roughly 8.6-mile hike with 2,500 feet of climbing.

Where: Start from Sunrise on the northeast side of the mountain.

When: Through mid-October, but check with the White River Wilderness Information Center (360-569-6670) for current conditions.

Cost: Entry to Mount Rainier National Park is $20 per vehicle.

Information: nps.gov/mora.


Toward the end of summer, Metro Parks Tacoma and the City of Tacoma close almost 7 miles of downtown streets for a morning, then turn those roads over to walkers, cyclists, skaters, runners and others. During Downtown to Defiance, the roads closed between the Tacoma Dome and Point Defiance Park are meant to give users a feel for what it will be like when a proposed trail links the two areas. The event visits five parks and there will be activities such as kayaking, skateboarding and obstacle courses along the way.

Where: Seven streets between the Tacoma Dome and Point Defiance. Five Mile Drive also is closed to vehicle traffic during the event.

When: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sept. 13.

Cost: Free. (The $41,000 event is underwritten by sponsors.)

Information: downtowntodefiance.com.


Sure, if you have good gear, bicycling is an activity you can do all year in the Northwest. But it’s much more enjoyable on nice days. The South Sound is loaded with cycling routes perfect for squeezing in your final miles of the summer. And if you want to steer clear of the roads, there are plenty of paved trails offering safer passage. Link Tacoma’s Scott Pierson and Gig Harbor’s Cushman trails if you want a little incline and sweeping views from the new Narrows Bridge. Link Orting’s Foothills and Sumner’s Link trails for hours of relatively flat riding. Or link Thurston County’s Yelm-Tenino and Chehalis Western trails if you want a ride that covers more than 70 miles.

Where: South Sound multiuse trails.

When: Trails are available year-round.

Cost: No fee.

Information: co.thurston.wa.us/parks, ci.sumner.wa.us, piercecountywa.org, cityofgigharbor.net/cushman-trail.