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Gig Harbor, WA

Gig Harbor is a quaint waterfront village located on Washington's Kitsap Peninsula, 11 miles north of Tacoma. The area offers beautiful views of Puget Sound and Mount Rainer, while also featuring a variety of distinct shops, restaurants and festivals. Gig Harbor has a population of about 15,000.

The area got its name in 1841, when a crew of explorers sought shelter in a small bay. The crew was in a small boat, or "gig," and the name stuck. The first white settlers arrived in the late 1800s and operated commercial fishing, boat-building and saw-mill industries. In 1940, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge opened and connected Gig Harbor to Tacoma. The bridge collapsed a mere four months after completion, however, the result of a powerful windstorm. A new bridge was built and opened in 1950.

ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES

Gig Harbor's economy revolves around tourism. Small hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfasts, restaurants and shops cater to visitors who come to experience the charm of this sleepy village. In recent years, the retail industry has become more of a fixture of the town's economy, as large national retailers have begun to establish a presence in the city and its outlying area.

Major Gig Harbor employers include the Washington Corrections Center for Women, Cottesmore of Life Care, Fred Meyer, and Canterwood Golf and Country Club.

NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS

  • Downtown: This historic waterfront neighborhood is home to shops, restaurants, hotels and a marina.
  • Gig Harbor North: A growing neighborhood with plenty of open land. Large chain stores have recently emerged in the area, alongside new residential developments.
  • Olympic Village and West Side: A major commercial area with several shopping centers, restaurants, fast-food establishments and office buildings.
  • Wollochet/Pioneer/Kimball: Gig Harbor City Hall is located here, as well as residences and businesses.

BEST BETS

This tourist town has a large number of cultural activities for a city of its size. Some of the major cultural organizations are:

  • Encore! Theater: A community theater group that presents indoor performances at Burton Park Theatre in the winter, and outdoor shows at Cottesmore Theater in the summer.
  • Gig Harbor Peninsula Civic Orchestra: A group of local musicians who have been performing concerts since 2004.
  • Gig Harbor Peninsula Symphony Orchestra: A symphony that formed in 2005 in order to bring quality music to Gig Harbor. Some concerts are free to attend.
  • Harbor History Museum: A museum that teaches visitors about the diverse group of farmers, fishers and Civil War veterans who settled Gig Harbor. They can also view videos of the 1940 Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse.
  • Paradise Theater: A theater that features cabaret dinner performances in the winter and outdoor productions at The Meadow, an outdoor amphitheater, during the summer.

EVENTS

A diverse collection of annual events in Gig Harbor attracts residents and tourists. Many of the festivals are free. Some of the major events include:

  • Gig Harbor Farmers Market: Features vendors selling fresh produce, flowers, crafts and jewelry.
  • Maritime Gig Festival: A two-day event that is traditionally held every June. It includes a parade and a celebration of the city's maritime heritage.
  • Summer Art Festival: An annual July festival that showcases the work of local artists in all media.
  • Gig Harbor Folk Festival: A free event featuring folk artists and songwriters. It is held every year on Labor Day weekend.
  • Gig Harbor Quilt Festival: An October event featuring dozens of quilts that are displayed at various locations in the city. At the end of the festival, the quilts are auctioned off to benefit charity.

FOR VISITORS

Gig Harbor is known as the playground of the Key Peninsula. Water surrounds the city, and water activities dominate recreational choices. Fishing, boating and kayaking are all popular. Several marinas, a public boat dock and three boat launches make it easy to access the water.

On land, bikers and walkers head to Cushman Trail or the quiet winding roads of the Crescent Valley. Four golf courses give golf lovers something to do, and bird watchers never know what they'll see at area parks or along the waterfront. Also, several campgrounds and playgrounds make for a fun outing with kids.

Major parks in the area include:

  • Cushman Trail: A paved recreation trail that runs along Route 16 from Gig Harbor to the vicinity of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
  • Kopachuck State Park: Waterfront area with campsites, water skiing, fishing, bird watching, swimming, and boating.
  • Joemma Beach State Park: An expansive park that is a popular site for fishing, boating and crabbing.
  • Jerisich Dock/Skansie Brother's Park: In the heart of Gig Harbor's waterfront district. The park includes a pedestrian pier, picnic tables and the Fisherman's Memorial.
  • Key Peninsula Sports Complex and Fairgrounds: Called "the park" by locals, this area includes ball fields, tennis courts, walking trails, sheltered picnic tables, camping sites, horseshoe pits and a playground.
  • McCormick Forest: A popular hiking area with numerous walking and horse-riding trails, old-growth trees and wildlife.
  • Rocky Creek Conservation Area: Extensive region boasting woodlands and wetlands. The park includes hiking trails and salmon spawning grounds.
  • Sunrise Beach: An expansive stretch of beautiful shoreline. More than a beach, it also has hiking trails and views of Mount Rainier.