If you get off I-5 at 38th Street, just north of the Tacoma Mall, you'll find Al's. There are two other Al's, one in Federal Way, and the other in the U-District of Seattle. They all carry similar items: CDs, DVDs, Video Games, Stereo Equipment, and some musical instruments. All the items are used. I've scored some really great black metal here, but that was years ago. I was probably the only person in Tacoma looking for Les Legions Noires material at the time, and that might explain why I lucked out.
Al's has moved to a new location at 5218 South Tacoma Way. On a recent visit, the store was surrounded by medical marijuana shops.
Just north of the Tacoma Mall, is a Half Price Books. They're a chain of used book stores, based out of Texas. They carry all sorts of media, mainly books, records, CDs, DVDs, and video games. They have a tiny metal section and a few employees who know something about metal and hardcore
Update (February 2012): Stadium Video, after steadily losing money for years, is closed.
Update (March 2014): Recently, many crates of their CDs have been found at the Goodwill on 38th Street. A few have actually sold. I guess the Goodwill shoppers are not interested in Victory Records promo CDs.
The remainder of Tacoma's record shops are all clustered on one stretch of 6th Avenue.
Rocket Records is furthest to the west, located at 3843 6th Ave on the corner with Proctor. They used to have a really varied selection of rock, punk, metal, and noise. Nowadays, they have an average selection, with vary little metal. Hell's Kitchen used to be located nearby, but after they moved downtown, Rocket seemed to go downhill.
Update (Aug 2013): Rocket Records has moved down the block to 3823, just a few stores down from where they were. The new store is much cleaner, but the selection is still the same: mostly used records and CDs. The vinyl seems to be priced at the high end of 'Internet Prices', meaning the price someone saw on a crazy, heated internet auction site and might have little basis in reality.
here, if you want to peruse some of their stock. Be wary! Some of the vinyl is priced at 'Internet Prices', but there are some great deals to be found here. They have a large selection and friendly employees. Check back often, as you never know when someone will unload their Hawkwind collection here.
Turntable Treasures used to be on 6th Avenue, but recently moved here. Besides having a huge selection of records, they also sell cartridges and new & used hi-fi equipment. When it comes to turntables, this place is the only action in town!
Hell's Kitchen. Currently, this is the only place you're going to see good, live music period. The Melvins play here, as well as bands like Agent Orange, DI, and Dick Dale. They serve alcohol, so there's not many all-ages shows here. They also serve food. That's a bonus, because downtown Tacoma basically shuts down after 5 PM when the office drones leave for the suburbs. Tacoma recently started paid parking again, but it's free after 6 PM and all day Sunday and holidays, so don't come here too early!
Update (July 2012): Due to financial difficulty, Hell's Kitchen is now closed.
Update (August 2012): Hell's Kitchen will be reborn as Loch's and have a wider variety of music. It will still be located downtown.
Update (March 2014): I haven't posted in a while, but I should mention that Loch's died a quick death.