Located on Commencement Bay, at the southern edge of Puget Sound, Tacoma is the third-largest city in Washington and serves as the seat of Pierce County. The city's name comes from its proximity to Mount Rainier, which was originally called Mount Tacoma (from a Puyallup native word tacobet, meaning "mother of waters"). In 1864, land developer Morton McCarver purchased the land, which had already been settled and abandoned once during the Indian War of 1855-56. He established a new settlement, which was laid out in 1868 as Tacoma City. McCarver then went to work attracting settlers and lobbying the railroad to bring its line west to Commencement Bay. The Northern Pacific Railroad did select Commencement Bay as their western terminus but, much to the chagrin of McCarver, opted to build their depot two miles south of Tacoma City. In 1873, the railroad founded the separate community of New Tacoma.
Although McCarver never lived to see his "City of Destiny", New Tacoma and Tacoma City had merged by the time the transcontinental rail line came through in 1884. The railroad, coupled with Commencement Bay's natural deep-water harbor, made Tacoma a major port of commerce. The abundance of timber in the region, coupled with the city's newfound shipping capabilities, gave rise to the massive lumber, plywood, and paper industries that still bolster Tacoma's economy today.
Beginning in 1990, Tacoma underwent a renaissance of sorts, striving to distance itself from the blue-collar, industrial image it had held for so long. The downtown area has since been revitalized, with the restoration of Union Station and the opening of the impressive Tacoma Convention and Trade Center. The Cultural District houses a number of museums and galleries showcasing Tacoma's heritage and culture, including the Washington State History Museum, the Museum of Glass, and the Tacoma Art Museum. The city also boasts a vibrant theater scene, with the Rialto and Pantages, as well as the state-of-the-art Theatre on the Square.
But for most people, the appeal of the Pacific Northwest is its natural beauty. From Tacoma, visitors have access to Mount Ranier National Park and Puget Sound, as well as the old growth forest and formal gardens of Point Defiance Park.