Yesterday's afternoon rain nearly cleared the place out, when we got there around 4:00. The ticket seller simultaneously tried to upsell me: "Would you like a PREMIUM ticket or a regular ticket?" And downsell me: "you DO realize that ALL of THESE ships are out on cruises, and that only those are available for boarding right now? alsoboardingclosesatfive." I gave her my best "look, I just paid more than I should have for parking, we're definitely doing this" look and forked over the $10 for the regular boarding pass. (Kids under 10 are free - and there's plentiful free/inexpensive parking near the Tacoma Dome.)
Despite that less than promising beginning, we soldiered on.
We tried out a couple of the ships, with the eldest announcing on our way down the dock that she was sure I had said we'd be going sailing, not just touring them. (If you'd like to do that, it's another $40) Fortunately, that storm dissipated when we stepped aboard and started looking around. As advertised, only a few of the smaller ships were available. The kids were interested at first but quickly decided they'd rather check out the vendors on dry land.
Fortified with a couple of ice cream bars, we ran into a friend from Metro Parks, who tipped us off that there was a Kids Cove just around the bend.
Pirates of Puget Sound and a few other local piratical organizations had been brought in by Metro Parks to set up kids activities, including a series of games like "bat a rat" and "load the cannon" that kids can play for free, or to solve the puzzle of a $1 treasure map and win a special prize.
I was proud of Littlest for falling and skinning her shin, then getting right up and finishing this game, which some of the little kids found too overwhelming. Captain Jack gave her an extra prize, for valor. After that, we used the Pirate First Aid Kit and continued on toward the Foss Waterway Seaport Museum. Unfortunately, they closed just before we reached the builiding. The festival went on until 8 pm, but apparently the museum closed at 5 or 6.
The kids were tired of walking, so we grabbed a shuttle bus back to the Tacoma Dome, retrieved the car from Ye Olde Far Flung Expensive Lot, and sailed home.
Bottom Line: It's really not all that crowded, so if memories of the last Tall Ships are keeping you away, don't let that stop you. We walked right on the two vessels we managed to tour. Boarding Passes? Eh, maybe. Check which ships are available for boarding first, and make sure the kids know what you will and won't be doing before you get there. Food: expensive, festival-esque. Hold out for Johnny's Seafood, Woody's or Dock St Sandwich Co. Getting Around: the shuttle buses don't just run to parking lots, they'll actually take you from one end of the festival to to the other. (one way) Next time, I'd take one right off the bat to get to the museum before it closed.