Federal Way's destinations attract outsiders - and their money

By Tom Pierson, Federal Way Chamber CEO

Ask a Seattle native the last time they visited the top of the Space Needle, and you’ll probably hear “it’s been a long time.”

Ask a San Franciscan about Alcatraz or a New Yorker about the Statue of Liberty, and it’s the same story. But ask any tourist about these cities, and these very attractions are on top of their to-do lists.

The same is true for Federal Way. A visitor’s eye-view of our city is quite different than our own. On average, we are probably not spending every weekend at the Weyerhaeuser Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection or walking the BPA Trail, but throughout the year, these and many other attractions and events draw volumes of people to our city, making Federal Way a destination.

Here are some examples of what keeps our interstate off-ramps busy.

• Weyerhaeuser/King County Aquatic Center: The Aquatic Center maintains one of the most active competition schedules in the country — anyone who has driven by it on a weekend already knows that. The center packs a financial wallop with impact revenues resulting in excess of $7.5 million a year for Federal Way, according to a recent King County economic study. This month brings the NCCA 2008 Swimming and Diving Championships (March 27-29). Winning the opportunity to host this live televised event is another achievement for this famed venue whose legacy includes the 1990 Seattle Goodwill Games and Olympic Trials.

• City of Federal Way’s Celebration Park: Summer weekends find the park full with local, regional and statewide tournaments, bringing thousands of guests, and their spending money, from outside Federal Way. Celebration Park hosts the city’s largest party on the Fourth of July. The Red White and Blues Festival draws huge crowds of residents and guests alike.

• Rhododendron Gardens, the Bonsai Collections: People come to watch spring unfold before their eyes. Open all year, Buds and Blooms is just one of the garden’s many festivals. Held Mother’s Day weekend (May 10-11), it features gardening celebrities, music, children’s activities and more at low or no cost.

• West Hylebos Wetlands Park: 120 acres of wildlife refuge, ecological and hydrological conservatory and nature trail bring visitors walking along the 1-mile-long boardwalk to study nature in quiet reflection through the forested wetlands.

• Dash Point State Park: Over 397 acres, including 3,301 feet of saltwater Puget Sound shoreline draw people from all over to enjoy the camping, picnicking, fishing, hiking, beachcombing, unguarded swimming and marine life studies this spectacular park has to offer.

• Adventure: I am talking Wild Waves, Western Washington’s premier amusement and water park. The colossal primary-colored water slides inspire many an I-5 commuter’s summer dream. With more than 60 acres, Wild Waves and Enchanted Village is the hottest ticket for summer family fun. Attractions include a 24,000-square-foot wave pool, river rides, water and speed slides, the Ring of Fire, Falling Star and the Amazing Wild Thing Roller Coaster. The Chamber phones are busiest during the summer months with callers wanting information on the park, but also on where to stay, eat and shop during their visit.

We love our visitors, but we know these locations and events could not be successful without local support as well. To find out more about these locations and other great Federal Way destination spots, visit and get busy.

I’ll be an official tourist myself this week. Sixty of my closest business associates, friends and neighbors embark this week on the Federal Way Chamber’s maiden voyage to China. We’re off to learn hands-on about this emerging world player’s business climate, culture, history and future. I’ll have plenty to say when I get home, but if you cannot wait, just visit our Web site for a daily travel blog:

Tom Pierson is CEO of the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce. Contact: or (253) 838-2605. Also visit

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