Parks & Places - Not For Tourists Guide to Seattle (2016)

Not For Tourists Guide to Seattle (2016)

Parks & Places


Over the centuries, Bainbridge has seen a little of everything—Native American battlefields, logging camps, strawberry farms, artist colonies, and more. Fort Ward and Battlepoint Park were two important military outposts. Battlepoint was the first place to receive the signal that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. No longer a sleepy little bohemian enclave, Bainbridge Island’s recent growth has been tremendous, with condos sprouting like fungus and a highly affluent population flocking to live in them. Today, it’s an upscale bedroom community, with the majority of its working citizens commuting across the Puget Sound to Seattle.


In addition to a nice main street, where an excellent Fourth of July parade happens every year, Bainbridge enjoys a lively arts scene. The Island Theater produces free play readings every two months and Bainbridge Arts and Crafts ( features local artists in their gift shop (no crocheted toilet paper covers here!). Bainbridge Performing Arts ( hosts theater, dance, and musical performances with 100 percent less Guffmanesque amateurism than most communities its size. The Lynwood Theatre (206-842-3080), with its tudor facade and Art Deco style marquee, is Bainbridge’s arty movie house and has been continuously running since 1936. The strawberry farms are still around and deliver delectable fruit in the state, which can be sampled at the festival held every July. Stars are hard to come by on the mainland but Bainbridge can bring the skies back to you. Battle Point has an observatory tower that is open to the public (

The Bloedel Reserve ( is an immaculately kept wildlife and garden sanctuary. The waterfront park behind the main street offers tennis courts, a playground, and a dock for the nautical minded. Canoes and kayaks can be rented seasonally from Back of Beyond Canoe and Kayak Rentals (


Not exactly bargain territory, Bainbridge shops are upscale but casual. For the sewing crowd, Churchmouse Yarns and Teas (118 Madrone Ln; carries the finest yarns available, and Esther’s Fabrics (181 Winslow Wy E; stocks cloth that is expensive and worth every cent. With peaceful surroundings, frequent readings, and a fine selection, Eagle Harbor Books (157 Winslow Wy E; is everything a bookstore should be.


Oddly enough for an island, there aren’t many restaurants with a water view. Worth noting, however, is the Harbour Public House (231 Parfitt Wy SW; with exceptional pub grub and a bar stocked with choice Washington State wines and beers. Cafe Nola (101 Winslow Wy E; is a European style cafe with an excellent, reasonably priced menu. For a casual breakfast or lunch, try Streamliner Diner (397 Winslow Wy E;, or check out Pegasus Coffee (131 Parfitt Wy; for great java in a rustic, ivy-covered brick structure.


The Island’s two hotels, Best Western and Island Country Inn, which can be found next to the Safeway strip mall, both provide reasonably priced lodging. A better choice is selecting from one of the many bed-and-breakfast establishments on the Island, where all the amenities of home make an extended visit to Bainbridge a lot more inviting; the Bainbridge Island Lodging Association is a good place to start (

How to Get There


Washington State Ferries leave from Coleman Dock at Pier 52 on Alaskan Way every 50 minutes or so, but make sure to double check the schedule ( One-way fare is $8 for adults, $4 for youth ages 6-18 (children under 6 ride free). Cars are $13.65 or $17.30 depending on length of vehicle; each passenger is additional. Kitsap Transit buses meet the boats during commuter hours (


Driving to Bainbridge Island from Seattle without using the ferry is inconvenient, but not impossible. Take I-5 through Tacoma, then follow Highway 16 north through Bremerton. From there take Highway 3 to 305 and cross the Agate Pass Bridge. Depending on traffic, the whole trip takes about an hour and forty-five minutes and is recommended only for those desperate to get to or from the airport when the ferries aren’t running.

Parks & Places ✵ Cal Anderson Park

General Information

NFT Map: 4

Address: 1635 11th Ave Seattle, WA 98102

Phone: 206-684-4075

Cal Anderson Park Alliance: or @CalAndersonPark

Hours: 4 am-11:30 pm


The 7.37 acre Cal Anderson Park, named after Washington’s first openly gay state legislator, is located in the heart of Capitol Hill and includes the Lincoln Reservoir and the Bobby Morris Playfield. Formerly Lincoln Park, Cal Anderson has had numerous, and regrettably appropriate, nicknames over the years such as “Hobo Park” and “Heroin Park.” However, in 2005, Cal Anderson was the recipient of a major overhaul that transformed the strung-out little duckling into a beautiful countercultural swan.

Many doubted the renovations would do any good, but the success was undeniable when the park reopened. The makeover included lush, manicured grass, new paths and benches, a wading pool, a reflecting pool, a fountain, a giant chess board, and a small playground. Most impressively, not a hint remains of its former desolate state. Cal Anderson is now a joyful, welcoming place where people from all walks of life come to relax and partake in their favorite outdoor activities, from dog walking to sunbathing, Live Action Role Playing to chillin’ with their didgeridoo. It is a glimpse into a utopian society wherein hipsters, yuppies, and punks can all come together on a warm summer day and play kickball.


Between the wading pool, the reflecting pool, the fountain, and the reservoir, water features abound. And luckily, Cal Anderson is a park for the people, so none of these enticing fixtures are off limits. Adults climb to the top of the volcanoesque fountain. Kids splash each other in the reflecting pool or play on the jungle gym. It’s also one of the best places to people-watch in Capitol Hill. Where else can you see a goth couple read under matching black parasols whilst a group of hippies fly their homemade kites several yards away? The Shelterhouse, a 900-square-foot venue accommodating up to 45 people, has reasonable rates for small gatherings (206-684-7254).


Bobby Morris Playfield is mostly used for soccer, baseball, tennis, and the occasional kickball practice. The Underdog Sports League ( also uses it for their amateur league games which include a dodgeball division. In other parts of the park, the word “sports” is used a bit more loosely. There are always joggers, skaters, and cyclists, but you can also find such alternative sports as lawn bowling, urban golf, Frisbee golf, kung fu, tai chi, and hula hooping. Capitol Hillites are nothing if not creative about their means for exercise.

Parks & Places ✵ Freeway Park

General Information

NFT Map: 3

Address: 700 Seneca St Seattle, WA 98101

Freeway Park Association:

Hours: 6 am-10:00 pm daily


The 5.2 acre Freeway Park, the first park to be built over a freeway, links First Hill and downtown between 6th and 9th Avenues in a series of boxy concrete plazas surrounded by lush vegetation. The park’s fountains, when they are on, are visually stunning: geometric waterfalls, almost like a pixelated form of nature. The park makes for a great spot to escape downtown during lunch, and the various trails and paths that wind through it pad out a longer visit.

The idea to cover the freeway dated back to the 1960s, when the Seattle portion of Interstate 5 was completed. The park is the work of landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, who also designed the similarly sprawling FDR Memorial in Washington DC. When Freeway Park opened in 1976 it was deemed a triumph of urban landscaping, deftly combining city and nature in a kind of urban topography.

The evocative design also created many maze-like and shadowy areas that seemed to call out to criminals, “Come! Do your evil deeds here!” Which they did. An endless stream of seedy and downright scary events went down in Freeway’s dark nooks and zigzagging pathways, culminating in the violent murder of a deaf and mute woman in 2002, which finally got people talking about redesigning the park. The Freeway Park Association sprung up to lead the cause, advocating for better lighting, increased security, and the removal of particularly obscuring trees and shrubbery. In addition, regular programming has increased usership. Crime rates, in turn, went down. The renovations also created more sun-filled spots, nice when the weather gets good. The summer months (July-August) usher in some fun Freeway events, like free lunchtime music concerts, public theater performances, and “intergenerational” activities that are geared toward children and seniors.

How to Get There

Tons of Metro buses will take you almost directly to the park; routes 16, 255, and 358 are a few from downtown. Somewhat ironically, given the park’s name, driving is best avoided; there is no designated parking lot for the park; try your luck on the street or pay for a parking garage.

Parks & Places ✵ Gas Works Park

General Information

NFT Map: 25

Address: 2101 N Northlake Wy, Seattle, WA 98103

Hours: 6 am-10:00 pm daily


If ever you feel disenchanted with Seattle, head directly to Gas Works Park and stand at the top of the kite-flying hill. Even on a dreary day, the vista of water, sky, and rusted metal is dramatic, and the juxtaposition of natural beauty and industrial rust is lyrical in ways only Sir Mix-a-Lot can touch. The 19.1 acre park juts out into the north shore of Lake Union, creating a panoramic view of the downtown skyline framed by the hills of Queen Anne and Eastlake. On the water, seaplanes launch at regular intervals over a serene flotilla of kayaks, sailboats, and yachts. On a quiet afternoon, the proclamations of those dreadful Ride the Ducks tour guides are clearly audible from shore, but at least they don’t wave at you from that distance.

The city first cleared this land in 1906 for use by the Seattle Gas Light Company. The Lake Station Plant, as it was then known, converted coal into methane gas until 1956, when natural gas became available via interstate pipeline. The City of Seattle purchased the gas works six years later and opened the public park in 1975. The gargantuan ruins of the plant have been left standing, now fenced off and scrubbed of decades of graffiti. Exhauster-compressor machinery has been converted into a children’s play area. The former boiler house now houses picnic tables, barbecue grills, and a concession stand that operates sporadically during the summer months.

For some Seattle residents, the large quantities of benzene and other goodies left behind by the gasification plant raise the question, “Will picnicking at Gas Works shave precious years off of my life?” According to the Washington State Department of Ecology, no. The site underwent a massive, $3 million cleanup project in 2001 to remove contaminants from the soil, and chemical levels remain under constant observation. Nevertheless, visitors are still advised not to eat the dirt. Swimming, wading, and fishing are prohibited.


Conveniently located along the Burke-Gilman Trail, Gas Works Park receives its share of bicycle traffic, though trails within the park are relatively few. The park’s abundance of concrete and freestanding metal is a draw for skateboarders. Yoga and tai chi classes are also known to congregate on the lawns. However, the most numerous enthusiasts at the park seem to be the kite flyers that flock to the landscaped hill, faces tilted to the sky, fists holding tight to the strings of their kites.

Festivals & Events

Gas Works Park leads Seattle in events for naked people. The annual Solstice Parade, featuring the famous (and fabulous) naked cyclists, pedals its way from Fremont to Gas Works where the pageant continues into the evening. The park has also served as the starting point of Seattle’s World Naked Bike Ride, an event that protests oil dependency and suggests better living through nudity.

The Independence Day festivities at Gas Works are an all-day affair, complete with food vendors, a beer garden, and loud music. Though the fireworks over Lake Union are spectacular, sitting in the squalor beneath a giant inflatable Statue of Liberty head is likely to make you feel like a huddled mass.

How to Get There


From I-5, take the 45th Street exit and go west on NE 45th Street. Turn left on Meridian Avenue N and continue to the end of the street. Turn right on N Northlake Way and turn into the parking lot.

Public Transportation

Take Metro bus 26 and get off at 35th and Wallingford. It’s only a two block walk south until you’re relaxing and flying your kite at Gas Works.

Parks & Places ✵ Golden Gardens

General Information

NFT Map: 33

Address: 8498 Seaview Pl NW, Seattle, WA 98117

Hours: 4 am-11:30 pm


Originally designed as a destination at the end of an electric car line for folks to escape hectic city life, Golden Gardens is just that, minus the electric car line. Hidden from (or hiding) the city behind immense bluffs, Golden Gardens is Puget Sound at its finest and then some—romantic vistas of the Olympics, tranquil waters, barking sea lions locked in a floating cage, an occasional thundering train, and heaps of hippies drumming randomly around bonfires. On any given day you’ll find a black-tie wedding, a Mexican barbecue, Chinese karaoke, beach volleyball, the ubiquitous drum circle, a pick-up soccer game, and young lovers smooching in the tall grass.

The park is divided by train tracks into lower and upper sections. The lower section features sandy beaches, picnic areas, fire pits, restored wetlands, a renovated bathhouse (available for events), beached logs, and lots and lots of bonfires. The upper portion is a maze of trails zigzagging up the bluffs, a 2.2 acre off-leash dog area, and tons of blackberry bushes.

The park has overcome “problems” of the past—namely, excessive drinking, loud music, and out-of-control bonfires. The city took efforts to get things under control (you’d think that people would know not to burn things like futons and wooden crates, but alas the police had to intervene to reinforce that rule). Now sentries are present on the summer weekends to make sure you’re burning firewood and that you don’t have any alcohol (try keeping a straight face when you say “no,” and they’ll try to believe you). Also long gone are the days when you could cavort with friends around a toasty fire late into the evening. Park officials promptly come by at 10:30 pm and without saying a word, douse all bonfires with a large bucket of water. At 11:30 pm the park closes and the gates are locked.

How to Get There


Take Market Street through Ballard and beyond the locks, where it turns into Shilshole Avenue. Another mile past the marina sits the entrance to the park; a public boat launch is at the south end (next to Coney’s, a burger/shake/fish joint), and the first of several parking lots. The road turns right and winds up the bluffs to 85th Street. There is parking at the south end of the park, in the middle of the park, and just across under the railroad tracks.

Public Transportation

Transfer from major north-south routes to the 48 bus, which travels along NW 85th from the U District via Green Lake.


Golden Gardens should be the natural end of the Burke-Gilman Trail, though planners haven’t yet put those pieces together.

Parks & Places ✵ Discovery Park


General Information

NFT Map: 11

Address: 3801 Discovery Park Blvd,
Seattle, WA 98199

Phone: 206-386-4236

Hours: 4 am-11:30 pm


Discovery Park is by far Seattle’s largest park, covering 534 acres. Located on the Magnolia bluffs, the park occupies most of the former Fort Lawton military base. Discovery offers the most extensive hiking trails within the city, just under 12 miles worth of trails, making it the perfect destination for those times when you’ve just had enough of the city, but don’t want to go too far away.

You will find that Discovery has an amazing amount of natural diversity. On a single trail you will encounter meadows, sea cliffs (don’t get too close!), forested areas, thickets, streams, and even an active sand dune. There is a short hike down to two miles of protected tidal beaches with tree houses along the way for scenic views of the Puget Sound and a resting place for the brutal hike back. All of the trails are well marked, but be sure to remember which parking lot you left your car in, because it’s easy to get lost. You can print out a map of the trails from the Discovery Park website.

The views you’ll find at Discovery are phenomenal. You can see Puget Sound spread out before you, framed by the majestic Olympic Mountains. On a clear day, there is also the opportunity to gaze upon Mt Rainier, which Seattleites never get sick of seeing. Stroll by the Coast Guard Lighthouse or look for the enormous West Point Treatment Facility located just next to Discovery Park.

Park History

Discovery’s history is an interesting one. The city of Seattle originally donated this land to the Federal Government to use as a military base. In 1938 the US Army offered to give all of Fort Lawton back to Seattle for the bargain price of one dollar. The city actually refused this sweet deal because they weren’t sure they could afford the upkeep. Then in 1964, the US Secretary of Defense decided that 85% of Fort Lawton was to be surplus and Seattle would have to cough up 50% of fair market value (whoops). Luckily, in 1965, legislation was passed that said Seattle could have it for free because it was given as a donation in the first place (phew). Then the United Indians of All Tribes jumped into the mix in 1970, claiming that all lands might be declared surplus, so they were allowed to lease 17 acres. You can now find the Daybreak Star Cultural-Education Center on those 17 acres.

How to Get There


Discovery is huge, and if you stray from the main path, it is easy to get lost in the maze of homes surrounding the park. When all else fails, just keep heading west. However, if you follow these directions, you can’t miss it.

From I-5 take the 45th Street exit and head west. 45th Street becomes 46th Street then turns into Market Street. From Market, turn left onto 15th Avenue NW and take the first right after the bridge onto Emerson Street. Turn right onto West Gilman, which becomes West Government Way. Follow that until you come to the east entrance of the park. Go straight and you will find the Visitor Center to your left. Once you get to the east entrance of the park from West Government Way, you can go straight to find several parking lots or turn left and head towards the south parking lot.

Public Transportation

If you don’t mind a long bus ride, the 33 and 24 will take you to Discovery Park. The 33 lets you off at the North Parking Lot while the 24 stops at the South Parking Lot.

Parks & Places ✵ Green Lake


General Information

NFT Map: 30 & 31

Address: 7201 E Green Lake Dr N, Seattle, WA 98103

Hours: Open 24 hours a day


For over a century, Seattleites have enjoyed the cool tranquility of Green Lake Park, a popular destination for joggers, dog walkers, bikers, roller skaters, and what have you. This is one of Seattle’s loveliest parks, which guarantees crowds on pleasant weekends, but the calming vibe of the water and the woods tends to ease everyone’s need for personal space. A paved 2.8-mile trail circles the lake, providing two separate tracks for those on foot and those on wheels, and another unpaved trail for joggers meanders a bit longer at 3.2 miles. A stroll around Green Lake is a painless way to grab some exercise in the city without an overdose of auto exhaust or having to dodge panhandlers.

As for wildlife, waterfowl abound, from ducks to Canadian Geese to majestic herons, and they’re not only unafraid of the constant human traffic, they’re nearly confrontational about it. Don’t feed these birds, no matter how adorable they seem—it’s not allowed. New visitors to Green Lake will remark on the robust rabbit population, the result of certain short-sighted folks letting their domesticated pet bunnies free in the foliage by the water. Many generations hence, great fat rabbits infest the area, breeding and burrowing and wreaking havoc on native plant life. As with the waterfowl, do not feed these cuddly-yet-feral beasts.


The lake’s moniker stems from its susceptibility to algae blooms, a picturesque affliction that the city has fought often during the park’s history, leading to a number of beach closures throughout the years. While some brazen water-worshipers insist that Green Lake is the best swimming hole in Seattle, the city’s official website warns of the possibility of contracting swimmer’s itch. Consider dipping instead into the chlorinated safety of Evans Pool, a large indoor swimming facility on the lakeshore, or take the kids to the outdoor wading pool, which writhes every summer with the kinetic energy of splashing toddlers.

Green Lake’s Small Craft Center offers classes for young and old alike in the arts of kayaking, canoeing, sweep rowing, and sculling (don’t forget to pass your “float test” first—it’s required). For private paddleboat rentals, the Green Lake Boat Rental company is at your service, and there’s no nicer way to share the lake with someone special. Three annual rowing regattas invade the lake each year for exhibition-style water sports, sponsored by the local Rowing Advisory Council.

Or you could ignore the water altogether. Work out on one of the park’s tennis courts, try a few holes of mild golfing at the Green Lake Pitch & Putt, or just laze beneath a shady pine and take in some people-watching. The park draws groups of tai chi and martial arts devotees, novice tightrope walkers, and even medieval faire types practicing their swordplay in full costume. Meanwhile, the strains of bagpipes and plaintive guitar strummers float among the Frisbee tossers and sunbathers. Indeed, the whole thing is rather idyllic, an open space Xanax of sorts.

How to Get There


If coming by Aurora Avenue, take the Green Lake Way exit and follow it until you’re circling the lake. If coming by I-5 southbound, take exit 171 toward NE 71st Street/NE 65th Street, merge onto 6th Avenue NE, turn right on NE 71st Street and follow it to East Green Lake Drive N. If coming by I-5 northbound, take exit 170 toward NE 65th Street, merge onto NE Ravenna Boulevard and follow it to E Green Lake Drive N.

Public Transportation

The 48 rolls past Green Lake frequently during the day, serving the University District, Montlake, Greenwood, and Loyal Heights among other neighborhoods. The 16 stops along the east side of the lake and will cart you up from downtown or down from the Northgate Mall. The 26 is slightly less frequent and a longer ride, starting off downtown, threading up through Fremont and Wallingford until reaching the end of the line on Green Lake Way.

Parks & Places ✵ Magnuson Park


General Information

NFT Map: 27

Address: 7400 Sand Point Wy NE, Seattle, WA 98115

Phone: 206-684-4946

Hours: 4 am-11:30 pm


There are parks, and then there are parks. With 350 acres on the shores of Lake Washington, Warren G. Magnuson Park, Seattle’s second-largest park, is a recreational wonderland. It wasn’t always so. The park was purchased by the government at the turn of the century and given to the federal government to turn into a naval base. Over the years, parts of the park were relinquished to the public and became Warren G. Magnuson Park, so named for the community-friendly senator who advocated for public use of the land, in lieu of a noisy airfield. The Navy continued to use part of the park all the way until 1990, when it was officially closed for military purposes and handed over to the city.

The park is crammed full of things to do. The historic Art Deco and Colonial Revival buildings are now home to a variety of nonprofit community groups, ranging from sailing enthusiasts to an organization dedicated to protecting bats (nocturnal, not wooden). There’s a boat launch, playground, basketball courts, tennis courts, picnic facilities, trails, windsurfing areas, and a huge off-leash dog park. Then there’s the public art. And the community garden. And the butterfly garden. And, well, a million other things. The south end of the park was transformed in the mid-2000s by a major wetlands restoration project; the park is home to dozens of species of birds and is a great spot for birdwatching. The 20,000-square-foot Junior League of Seattle Children’s Playground is the largest in Seattle. If you’ve exhausted all the possibilities of the park’s resident features, there are a multitude of events throughout the year, like the Puget Sound Mycological Society’s Wild Mushroom Show in the fall (

Magnuson Community Center

7110 62nd Ave NE, 206-684-7026

The Community Center has always been a recreational hub and meeting ground, even during its military years, during which there was a library, swimming pool, and a bowling alley, all integral to Navy training exercises. Nowadays, one may find amenities no less entertaining, such as a 560-seat auditorium, gymnasium, racquetball court, and meeting room. Still, bringing back the bowling alley would be pretty cool.

The Brig

6344 NE 74th St

The Brig is another community center that’s had a colorful past, from its original purpose as a jail for holding military prisoners and somewhat more recently as a set for several episodes of the X-Files. It’s adjacent to the community garden and features large, wood-floored activity spaces and meeting rooms.

Warren G. Magnuson Off-Leash Dog Area

The largest off-leash area in Seattle, this dog heaven stretches out over nine acres and includes several varied environments such as dirt hills, flat gravel for fetch, tall brush, and a mud pit. The highlight is the accessible shoreline on Lake Washington—dogs go crazy for it, and Magnuson boasts the only dog park with water access within city limits. To get to the shore, there’s a winding fenced-in trail so you can get some walking in while Rover is permitted to roam and sniff off-leash alongside. Small and shy dogs will appreciate their own separate and spacious pen. As always, be sure your pooch is properly vaccinated and that you clean up after him. The Magnuson Off Leash Group ( helps maintain the site.

Magnuson Community Garden

This former parking lot has been converted into a thriving garden with the purpose of serving the community of Seattle. There’s the outdoor amphitheater, which hosts various performances and events during the year, a garden tailored to gardeners with disabilities, and orchards and P-patches growing food for local food banks. It’s a nice little oasis that just warms your heart.

NOAA Art Walk and Sound Garden, 206-526-6163

Right in the park’s backyard is a bunch of outdoor art installations made by some well-known artists (at least in the outdoor art installation crowd). The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) campus is located at the northern end of the Sand Point Peninsula. Though it’s not technically included in the park, its close proximity invites a lot of park visitors to come check out the half-mile trail that passes by six outdoor artworks. The most popular is the Sound Garden (from which a certain 1990s grunge powerhouse got its name). Per its self-descriptive title, the installation is composed of pipes that generate different tones that vary with the changing wind. The site is only open Monday-Friday 9 am to 5 pm; stop at the security gate for access.

Sail Sand Point

7777 62nd Ave NE #107, 206-525-8782;

Sail Sand Point is Seattle’s new community sailing center. It’s located on the north shore of the park on Lake Washington. There are programs and classes for both youth and adults.

How to Get There


From I-5 you can exit at either NE 45th Street (Exit 169) or NE 65th Street (Exit 171). From the NE 45th Street exit, go east on 45th, past the UW campus, and down the 45th Street ramp. Continue east past University Village Shopping Center. Bear left and continue about 2 miles. From the I-5 NE 65th Street exit, head east approximately four miles on 65th (stay on the arterial!) until you have crossed Sand Point Way NE into the NE 65th Street entrance. Parking is free and ample. There are two lots—one on 65th and a larger lot on 77th.

Public Transportation

Metro bus routes 30 and 75 serve the park along Sand Point Way NE. Connections are in the University District (Route 30) and Northgate (Route 75).


The Burke-Gilman Trail is approximately 1/4 mile west of Warren G. Magnuson Park. With a traffi c signal and crosswalks, the NE 65th Street crossing is the safest point to enter the park. Once on the east side of Sand Point Way NE bicyclists can continue either east along NE 65th Street, or north along 62nd Avenue NE. Note that bicycle riding is limited to paved surfaces within Warren G. Magnuson Park. There are no designated bike trails in the park.

Parks & Places ✵ Lake Union


Plopped between Puget Sound and Lake Washington, Lake Union is the baby bear of the Seattle waterways. On the east, it has a watery arm that stretches to Lake Washington—Portage Bay—and another to the west that connects it to Puget Sound.

Lake Union itself is riddled with marinas and a vibrant, eclectic houseboat community (eclectic in this instance means high-end homes as well as scows). The area around the lake was fairly neglected and somewhat industrial until the 2000s. It’s got a rapidly growing biotechnology corridor along the east side; the south side underwent rapid development—condos, coffee shops, spas, and tons of upside for developers. The north side has Gas Works Park, the site of an old gas manufacturing plant that features a playground, trails, and stellar views of the Seattle skyline and Lake Union. The Seattle Streetcar connects South Lake Union to downtown ( And then there’s Lake Union Park, whose 12 acres reconnect the lake to the surrounding booming neighborhood. The Museum of History and Industry ( chronicles the growth of Seattle using interactive and hands-on exhibits.

As you’d expect for a lake, most of the attractions have at least something to do with water. At the south end of Lake Union, located at Valley Street and Fairview Avenue North, is The Center for Wooden Boats ( There is a small museum, of sorts, and you can rent both sailboats and rowboats. Moving up the west side of the lake, on aptly named Westlake Avenue N, catch a scenic tour of Seattle in a seaplane for about $100 with Kenmore Air. (866-435-9524 or It’s also possible to fly to Vancouver, Victoria, or the San Juan Islands from here. Unless you’re in the market for a yacht, there’s not much shopping around the lake. One notable exception is the flagship store of REI (222 Yale Ave N,, which satisfies all your outdoor needs (and which in Seattle, can be considerable).

What Lake Union does have plenty of, other than water, is restaurants. There’s Daniel’s Broiler, a steak house with a view (809 Fairview N, 206-621-8262). Nearby is Chandler’s Crabhouse (901 Fairview N, 206-223-2722), which relies heavily on fresh fish dishes. While we’re on fresh fish, there’s I Love Sushi (1001 Fairview N, 206-625-9604). Try to overlook the silly name; it’s a great sushi place with more spectacular views. For great happy hour hooch and hot, handmade soft pretzels with dipping sauces perfect for soaking up the drink, head to the Brave Horse Tavern (310 Terry Ave N, 206-971-0717), owned by superstar chef and restaurateur Tom Douglas. If you want to spend big money (and here you actually do get what you pay for), try Canlis (2576 Aurora Ave N, 206-283-3313). It features the absolute best of Northwest cuisine.

How to Get There


Lake Union is immediately off I-5 at exit 167. Turn right off the exit onto Fairview Avenue N, then left on Valley Street. Lake Union is bound by Valley Street on the south, Westlake Avenue N on the west, N Northlake Way on the north, and on the east is Eastlake and Fairview Avenue N. You can pretty much circumnavigate it in roughly 20 minutes. On a good traffic day. With no construction anywhere. This, of course, never happens.

Public Transportation

The South Lake Union Streetcar stops at Lake Union Park and Fairview & Campus Drive. Metro bus routes 70, 71, 72, and 73 will all deliver you to the south end of the lake, and continue up the east side of the lake. The 40 runs up the west side toward Ballard.

Parks & Places ✵ Olympic Sculpture Park

General Information

NFT Map: 1

Address: 2901 Western Ave, Seattle WA, 98121

Phone: 206-654-3100


Hours: Daily, 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset


Seattle Art Museum’s magnificent 8.5-acre waterfront sculpture park opened in 2007 in a former industrial parcel, a rare spot of open space in the downtown area. The world-class collection—free admission 365 days a year—includes a massive piece by Richard Serra, Wake, as well as pieces by Claes Oldenburg, Alexander Calder, and Louise Bourgeois. There’s also a Vivarium by Mark Dion featuring a nurse log and its attendant nurslings—all told, some phenomenal works. (If you like a little controversy with your art, check out Father and Son. A popular target for those whose mantra is “Think of the children!”, it depicts a man and a boy, both nude, facing each other with arms outstretched as water from a fountain rises and falls around them.)

Art is only part of the attraction. As well as monumental sculpture, the park has meadows, forests, and stunning views. The other reason to visit the park is the setting. Walking on the z-path from the Pavilion, as you come through a recreated Northwest native trees forest, the view is, well, OK, breathtaking…an unobstructed view of the Olympics and Puget Sound. Seattle’s chronic rainfall can’t mess with that. Even if you hate museums, maybe especially if you hate museums, this place will afford you an entirely different experience of art—art like it’s s’posed to be.

How to Get There


The park occupies 8.5 acres between Western Avenue and Elliott Avenue at Eagle and Broad Streets. Take exit 167 at Mercer Street, turn right on Fairview, left on Valley. Valley becomes Broad Street. (The Space Needle should appear on your right.) Turn right on Western Avenue. There is parking under the Pavilion at the park.

Public Transportation

Metro routes 1, 2, 8, 13, and RapidRide D head north from downtown stop close to Olympic Sculpture Park.

Parks & Places ✵ Pike Place Market


General Information

NFT Map: 3

Location: 1st Ave and Pike St

Phone: 206-682-7453

Website: or @pike_place

Hours: 9 am-6 pm daily (5 pm Sun); fish and produce open 7 am; closed Thanksgiving and Christmas


While it doesn’t share the Space Needle’s phallic elegance, Pike Place Market matches the monument’s importance as a symbol of Seattle. The oldest farmers market in the country has experienced myriad changes over its past century of operation, but still exists primarily for the purpose of bringing farmers and consumers together without the sticky fingers of the middleman. Early on a weekday morning is the best time to hit the Market if sustenance-shopping is the goal. Perusing the bounty of ripe fruit, crisp root vegetables, and tender greens while contending with the bovine rush of tourists isn’t always an attractive option for the average city dweller. But sometimes the Pike Place Market is worth a little hassle—supporting local farmers is easy when the produce is this fresh and priced better than the average supermarket.

A project funded by a $75 million property tax levy to renovate Pike Place’s aging innards was completed in 2012. More recently, the mixed-use MarketFront project reclaims the parcel formerly used as the Municipal Market Building, which was demolished in 1974 after a fire. The project, undertaken in concert with the demolition of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, will add low-income housing, space for social services, more retail and parking (replacing parking lost with the elimination of the viaduct).

Fresh Fish

A Seattle-centric trope as strong as coffee, rain, and dot-coms, the flashy flying fish of the imaginatively-named Pike Place Fish Market pack in gawking yokels from around the world every day with their zany antics. A crew of handsome (but smelly) fishmongers engage their shoppers in boisterous banter and throw fish corpses to each other (and potential buyers) all day long, usually with uncanny accuracy. Other fishmongers at the market feel obliged to compete with such flamboyance, so you’ll find most white-smocked fin-handlers at Pure Food Fish and City Fish to be fairly gregarious, handing out samples, and gladhanding their prey. For a no-nonsense retail experience, Jack’s Fish Spot isn’t trying to impress anybody; they’re good for fresh flounder, live crabs, or a quick snack of fried salmon at Pike Place Market without all the jive.

Fresh Meat

The old-school butcher shop is quickly disappearing in Seattle (and everywhere else for that matter). Even at Pike Place there used to be dozens of great little meat markets back in the day. Luckily, there are still a few high quality shops left. Don & Joe’s prides itself on good quality and personal service. Don’t see it? They’ll order it for you. For your next Oktoberfest party, head to Bavarian Meats for all kinds of brats and wursts. And for the best sausage in Seattle, Uli’s Famous Sausage will hook you up.

Specialty Shops

The lower levels and hidden corners of the market hold plenty of weird little shops that vary from straight-up tourist fleecing joints to truly eccentric stands that couldn’t exist anywhere else. Choose Market Magic when shopping for the professional magician, clown, or ventriloquist in your life—card tricks, collapsible canes, juggling clubs, and vintage magic ephemera. The Polish Pottery Place sells very pretty, traditionally patterned tableware and kitchenware, sourced from an artisan pottery collective in Poland. A handful of shops offer upscale kitchen equipment, including national chain Sur La Table, and there’s a plethora of unique boutiques dedicated to eclectic fashions for all.

One could spend hours sifting through the vintage posters, advertisements, and postcards available at Old Seattle Paperworks. Readers can peruse used books at Lamplight Books or BLMF Literary Saloon, grab specialty magazines at First and Pike News, or study rabble-rousing political screeds from Left Bank Books. Imported art, clothing, and products from Africa, Mexico, China, and other exotic climes can also be had. And if you just happen to need a haircut, head straight to Sergio’s Barber Shop in the Stewart House.

Restaurants & Bars

Pike Place is an eating and drinking wonderland. Hungry shoppers can grab a quick snack of French pastries from Le Panier, Italian gelato at Bottega Italiana, Russian fare at Piroshky-Piroshky, piping hot dunkers at The Daily Dozen, free cheese samples at Beecher’s, Greek food from Mr. D’s, and almost anything else you can think of. If you have more time, grab a seat at Matt’s in the Market or Le Pichet. Gluttons for punishment are welcome to visit the “first” Starbucks store—actually the beast was born on Western Avenue in 1971 and didn’t relocate to the market until 1976, but no matter.

Say, who needs a drink? Lowell’s is a homely three-floor operation that still looks as scruffy as it probably did when it opened in 1957. But the food is cheap and plentiful, and you’ll get a fine eyeful of the Puget Sound. The Athenian is the requisite old-school hang-out complete with great views and colorful locals. Head there for the latest Market gossip. If the Alibi Room is too cool for school, head to Zig Zag for a classic drink or to Copacabana for a Bolivian beer on the deck to check out the real scenery at the market—the people.

Arts & Crafts

Buskers can apply for a performer’s badge, which allows them to entertain the shopping throng for up to an hour at a time at one of twelve designated points. A variety of music flows forth as a result, from ham-fingered folk strummers to electrifying doo-wop vocalists. Remember the Spoonman of Soundgarden fame? He’s there too. It’s not just music—puppeteers, dancers, and sleight-of-hand artists pass the hat at Pike Place Market, as well as the “cat guy” who wears modified cat suits and brings his feline pets along as visual aids as he solicits funds for a local animal shelter.

Most of the art hawked on the upper level of the market falls into the tie-dyed, air-brushed, pastel-colored variety, of interest only to those who feel compelled to buy something to commemorate their dream vacation in Seattle. Want a generic pink or teal souvenir t-shirt festooned with a cartoon salmon or the Space Needle? You got it, along with wind chimes, dream catchers, belt buckles, incense burners, and “specialty pipes.” But if you look hard and long enough, you’ll find some good and interesting art hidden amongst the kitsch. Plenty of Mother Nature’s art is on hand too, in the form of gorgeous fresh floral bouquets available for very reasonable prices every few steps, so take your time when picking out that perfect arrangement.

How to Get There


Parking at Pike Place Market can be a pain. People expect to drive right down the ever packed Pike Place and find a spot right next to Rachel the Pig. It’s not gonna happen. And if it does, you’ll probably get a ticket. Try your luck on the metered spots downtown or head to the main parking garage at 1531 Western Avenue for the best deals.

From I-5 northbound, take exit #165, turn left on Madison Street and follow to Western Avenue. Turn right on Western, follow for five blocks to the parking garage

From I-5 southbound, take exit #166 toward Stewart Street, follow to 1st Avenue and turn right. After two blocks turn left onto Lenora Street, then left onto Western Avenue, follow three blocks to the parking garage.

Public Transportation

Many metro bus routes stop along First Avenue or Pine Street, including RapidRide routes C, D, and E. The Westlake Sound Transit Link Light Rail station is located only four blocks away from the Market.

Parks & Places ✵ San Juan Islands


General Information

San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau: or @visitSJIslands

Washington State Ferries: or @wsferries


Only 80 miles northwest of Seattle, the San Juan Islands provide an idyllic weekend escape from the city and a memorable excursion into pristine wilderness. Situated in the San Juan Channel between the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Georgia Strait, there are more than 400 islands in the archipelago (and more than 700 at low tide); of those, 172 have been named, and most are uninhabited. The main four are San Juan Island, Orcas Island, Lopez Island, and Shaw Island. If your mind immediately conjured images of Free Willy when you heard “Orcas Island,” you’re on the right track: killer whales are common in these parts, and whale watching is a big business.

Coast Salish tribes originally inhabited these islands, taking advantage of the plentiful aquaculture. The Spanish landed in this area in the late-1700s, lending Spanish place names, like “San Juan,” for one. And the islands’ proximity to British Columbia (Victoria, B.C. is actually south of most of the islands) is a reminder of the decades-long boundary dispute between the United States and United Kingdom, originally set off by a pig digging up a farmer’s potatoes (no, seriously), that began in 1859 and basically lasted until 1874, when both nations’ troops eventually exited the island.

Lopez Island

City slickers might find themselves questioning whether they’ve got long lost relatives here, as nearly every person who passes waves at visitors. It’s a bit like the Twilight Zone until one realizes that inhabitants of this small, exceedingly friendly island are just genuinely nice.

Lopez Village

This street is the meeting place for island folk, filled with cafes, antique shops, a bookstore, and small grocery store. Take a stroll along the nearby hiking trail on a weekend morning, and don’t miss the summer farmers market.

Shark Reef Recreation Area

A popular hiking spot noted for its beautiful bluff, Shark Reef will delight any nature enthusiast.

Orcas Island

The largest of the islands, Orcas Island maintains a tranquil balance of creature comforts and natural outdoor adventures.


The epitome of quaint, Eastsound is a place to lose yourself in the many restaurants, spa services, and bookstores bordering the water. Stock up on essentials at the natural food store or the larger supermarket, or catch a performance at Orcas Center (917 Mt. Baker Rd, Eastsound, 360-376-2281; Don’t miss the Orcas Island Historical Museum (181 N Beach Rd, Eastsound, 360-376-4849; for a recreated glimpse into the island’s past.


Catkin Cafe (11 Point Lawrence Rd, Olga, 360-376-3242, is a homey place with good food and a local art gallery. The last commercial business in the bend in the road which is the tiny town of Olga, the cafe is located within an old strawberry packing plant. It’s definitely worth the drive and the perfect place for a quiet lunch or brunch away from the more populous Eastsound and Orcas Village. Be cautious when driving its winding roads, since many deer graze close to the roadsides.

Orcas Village

This tourist trap is the central hub of activity as passengers load and depart the ferries at the harbor. The elegant Orcas Hotel (360-376-4300;, overlooking the waterfront, is a nice place for a relaxing beverage on the wrap-around porch while waiting for the ferry.

Cascade Lake

Family fun abounds at this wilderness lake, located between Eastsound and Olga. Swimming, paddle boats, a nature trail, and a wooded picnic area are just some of the ways to enjoy this day use area situated at the base of Mt. Moran.

Moran State Park/Mt. Constitution

Moran State Park is a nature lover’s dream, with camping and 30 miles of hiking trails. Those who challenge themselves to climb from base to summit of Mt. Constitution, the highest point in the San Juan Islands, should come well-equipped with a compass, plenty of water, good hiking shoes, and a cell phone for emergencies. Look across to distant Vancouver, BC from atop the stone observation tower at the peak of the mountain.

San Juan Island

San Juan Island is the most commercial and the second-largest of all the islands. It was originally inhabited by Native Americans before sailors arrived in the 1850s and transformed the area into a busy seaport by the end of the century.

Friday Harbor

The only incorporated town in the islands, Friday Harbor has something for everyone, especially the shopping-inclined. Enjoy the Whale Museum (62 First St, Friday Harbor, 360-378-4710, for an education about the area’s native underwater inhabitants. Or, spend an afternoon browsing the local art galleries, cafes, and a multitude of specialty shops.

Roche Harbor

This resort and marina on the northwest tip of the island provides a quiet retreat from the bustling tourism of Friday Harbor. Explore the nearby English Camp on West Valley Road, part of the San Juan Island National Historical Park (

Shaw Island

If Shaw Island had a motto, it would be, fittingly, “Not For Tourists.” The least-welcoming of the four ferry-accessible islands, its residents prefer their remote isolation and have chosen to avoid the commercialism of their island sisters. Expect to find a primitive campsite and not much else.

Island Activities

There’s a plethora of things to do and see in the San Juans, and more businesses that provide sightseeing excursions, vehicle rentals, and adventure packages than there’s room to print.

Bicycling is a great way to get around. On San Juan Island, Island Bicycles (380 Argyle Ave, 360-378-4941; is located just a few blocks from the ferry in Friday Harbor. On Orcas Island, Wildlife Cycles in Eastsound (350 North Beach Rd, 360-376-4708; outfits both cyclists who want to explore the shoreline, orchards and valleys and those who wish to conquer the 2400-foot-high Mt. Constitution. And if you’re on Lopez Island, Lopez Bicycle Works (2847 Fisherman Bay Rd, 360-468-2847; is offers standard and tandem bikes, and invites walk-ins.

San Juan Island County Parks ( operates 18 parks and facilities, including camping at sites on San Juan, Lopez and Shaw Islands. During summer reservations are strongly recommended. Moran State Park offers more than 150 spaces spread across five sites in the park, including along the waterfront.

Perhaps the best way to explore the shoreline is in a kayak, and, indeed, kayaking is quite popular on the islands. Lopez Island Sea Kayak (2845 Fisherman Bay Rd, 360-468-2847; is a nice spot along the water for rentals. On San Juan Island, Outdoor Odysseys (86 Cedar St, 800-647-4621; is based in Friday Harbor and offers kayak tours and whale watching, assuming you feel comfortable hobnobbing with killer whales while bobbing around in a kayak. And Orcas Outdoors (360-376-4611; organizes overnight tours by kayak around the San Juan Islands.


The islands are only accessible by air and water. By far the most popular way to travel to there, for those without private planes and boats, is via the Washington State Ferry system. Plan to arrive in Anacortes extra early in the summer, at least two hours before your scheduled ferry departs. Bring books, playing cards, or other amusements, as a minimum of three-hour-long waits are not unusual during the busy season.

Two ways to avoid the long lines is to walk on or bring a bike rather than a car onto the ferry; there are peak and off-season parking rates if you choose to leave your car behind. Ferries from Anacortes travel to the four largest and most populated islands: Lopez, Orcas, San Juan, and Shaw.

Fares vary depending on the island destinations. During the peak season, be prepared to pay an average of $30-40 per vehicle and driver, and an additional $13 or so per passenger. Discounted rates are available for seniors and children. Bicycle surcharge rates are only $4 during the peak season.

The Anacortes Ferry Terminal in Anacortes is about two hours north of Seattle. Take I-5 North for approximately 85 miles to SR 20. Take exit 230, turn left at the light and follow the signs into downtown Anacortes. Turn left on 12th Street and follow the signs to the terminal.

Parks & Places ✵ Seattle Center


General Information

NFT Map: 15

Address: 305 Harrison St, Seattle, WA 98109

Phone: 206-684-7200

Website: or @seattlecenter


The site of the 1962 World’s Fair, Seattle Center offers 74 acres of cultural resources and entertainment amenities between Belltown to the south and Queen Anne to the north. The Space Needle, Seattle’s most famous landmark, sits in Seattle Center, and the Monorail, that quirky two-stop relic of public transportation, travels between downtown and the Seattle Center. Both the Space Needle and the Monorail were built for the Fair, as was the International Fountain in the center of the campus.

While Seattle Center may be the focal point of tourism it also serves as a destination for locals. Sure, out-of-towners flock to the Space Needle, Monorail, and EMP (or board those damned Ducks across the street), but Seattleites attend concerts or sporting events at the Key Arena, see plays at one of several theaters on the campus, and hang out at festivals like Bumbershoot, Folklife, or BeerFest. Each year on New Year’s Eve, the Space Needle is lit up by an impressive fireworks display. And then there’s the 10,000-square-foot skatepark next to Key Arena.

Seattle Center is also a destination to get your learn on. The Children’s Museum and the Pacific Science Center have interactive exhibits year-round. The IMAX Theater provides the typical educational fare as well as some new releases in 3D. And of course, each weekend you can rock out to your favorite psychedelic band at the Laser Dome.

There have been a few news-making events at Seattle Center. After his suicide in 1994, Nirvana fans came out in droves for a candlelight vigil memorializing Kurt Cobain. It has also been the site of several protests. And in 2006, the annual Gay Pride Parade was moved from Broadway in Capitol Hill to the Seattle Center.

Space Needle

When it comes to landmarks, the 520-foot-high Space Needle (400 Broad St; may be overrated and overexposed, and sure, there’s something hokey about eating on a moving platform, but there’s also something brilliant and grand about a totem to the space age. And while so much stuff from the 1960s gets demolished with barely a second thought, it’s nice that this big hulking time capsule fills up the skyline. Besides, just think of the title sequences we’d be missing out on were it not to exist.

Experience Music Project

Perhaps no one but architect Frank Gehry and owner Paul Allen thinks it actually looks like a smashed guitar—the phrase “psychedelic clown poop” comes to mind—but if you’re a music fan, the EMP (325 5th Avenue N; or @EMPmuseum) is a treat. That is, if you’re really into Jimi Hendrix and looking at famous sweaters. Where EMP surpasses being merely a big Hard Rock Cafe is in its fascinating interactive installations. And it’s not all rock music: exhibits run the gamut of popular culture, making the museum of interest to more than just superfans.


Like the Space Needle, the Monorail ( is a novelty that was built for the World’s Fair. It runs about a mile from the Seattle Center to Westlake Center Mall. One-way fare for adults is $2.25 and $1 for children 5-12. 65+ are $1 and kids 4 and under are free. If you think this seems steep for a two-minute trip, then you should take the bus. Even if no Seattle resident has ever used the Monorail as public transportation it did not prevent a serious initiative in the late 1990s/early 2000s to create an entire system of monorails across the city. That failed, in part, when people realized that then there’d be these blasted monorails all over the city. Thus, the light rail.

Children’s Museum

Located on the first floor of the Center House, the Children’s Museum (305 Harrison St, 206-441-1768; or @tcmseattle) features several child-sized environments designed for education, including a mountain forest, a global village, a mini-Seattle neighborhood, and Cog City. They also offer the typical gambit of youth programs and workshops. Admission is $8.25 for adults and children and $7.25 for grandparents. Children under 1 are free.

Cornish Playhouse

Housed in a World’s Fair-era building, the Cornish Playhouse (201 Mercer St; has a 476-seat main theater and a separate black-box theater. The space was formerly the Intiman Theatre, which won a Tony Award in 2006 for outstanding regional theater. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to keep them in the black as debts mounted, and the theater was forced to fire its entire staff and abruptly cancel a portion of its 2011 season. Subsequently, the space formerly occupied by Intiman was taken over by Cornish College and renamed The Cornish Playhouse. Since its precipitous fall, the Intiman has been reconceived as a yearly summer festival in its former home at the Seattle Center (

Seattle Children’s Theatre

Comprised of the Charlotte Martin Theatre and the Eve Alvord Theatre, the Seattle Children’s Theatre (201 Thomas St, 206-441-3322; or @SCTdotORG) offers a season of family-oriented plays as well as classes, workshops, and even birthday parties.

Seattle Repertory Theatre

The Seattle Rep (155 Mercer St, 206-443-2222; or @seattlerep) includes the Bagley Wright Theatre, the Leo Kreielsheimer Theatre, and the PONCHO Forum. Major company performing classic and contemporary plays with a commitment to original works.

Seattle Center Armory

Predating the World’s Fair, the Armory dates to 1939 and is home to the Children’s Museum, administrative offices, and an above-average food court showcasing some of the best in Seattle cuisine. The surprisingly cheap, freshly fired mini pizzas at MOD are worth the line and the vegan burgers at Plum would make even the most staunch carnivore reconsider their dietary stance. The upscale comfort food at Skillet is a fine lunch option. The food court is also a good alternative to expensive fair food during the big events.

McCaw Hall

McCaw Hall (321 Mercer St; is to home to the Pacific Northwest Ballet ( or @PNBallet) and the Seattle Opera ( or @SeattleOpera). A lecture hall and an array of meeting rooms are available for rent for your next grandiose function.

Key Arena

Since its ugly divorce with the SuperSonics in 2007, Key Arena ( or @KeyArenaSeattle) has had a hard time picking up the pieces, though it still hosts concerts and is the home court for the WNBA Seattle Storm basketball team and the home rink of the Rat City Rollergirls.

Pacific Science Center/IMAX

The Pacific Science Center (200 2nd Ave N, 206-443-2001; or @PacSci) houses a very good collection of science-related entertainment. From the dinosaur exhibit to the Butterfly House, the Insect Playground to the interactive Science Playground, adults and children alike owe it to themselves to explore the grounds at least once. Don’t miss the Planetarium. In addition to the usual documentaries and nature films at the IMAX, they also present the odd theatrical release in giant wrap-around screen splendor, and, occasionally 3D. And, of course, there’s always Laser Floyd.

SIFF Film Center

The SIFF Film Center (206-324-9996; or @SIFFnews) is a 95-seat theater with seats from the balcony of the Cinerama Theatre. Their flagship event, the Seattle International Film Festival, take place in June.

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Dale Chihuly’s glassblowing empire arrived at Seattle Center after the endearingly rickety Fun Forest amusement park finally closed in 2011. Chihuly Garden and Glass ( features Chihuly works in several settings: traditional galleries, a greenhouse-esque “glasshouse,” and a garden. Over the course of his decades-long career the Tacoma native has achieved widespread popular and critical praise, and the long-term exhibition at the Seattle Center is a must-see for fans of Chihuly.

Art & Fountains

As you stroll through the Seattle Center, you will notice a multitude of abstract sculptures and unusual fountains. Many of them, such as the whale-esque Neototem series, and the can’t-miss-because-it’s-a-giant-ball-in-the-center-of-the-grounds International Fountain, double as jungle gyms for the kids. The Olympic Iliad, a series of orange tubes intertwined, sits on the lawn of the Pacific Science Center. Grass Blades, a row of 30-foot steel reeds, divide the walkway and parking lot outside of the EMP. And the vortex-y Encircled Stream fountain swirls between the Cornish Playhouse and McCaw Hall.

How to Get There


From I-5, take the Mercer Street/Seattle Center Exit #167. At the first light, turn right onto Fairview and follow the flow of traffic to the left, turning onto Broad Street. Take a right onto Fifth Avenue and a left onto Roy Street. From there you can find on-street parking, or use one of the lots or garages.

Public Transportation

Many buses serve the Seattle Center area. For the west side of the campus, use routes 1, 2, 8 and RapidRide D. For the east side of the campus, use routes 3 and 4. Then of course there’s the Monorail. Not the worst idea in the world, mind you.

Parks & Places ✵ Seattle Central Library

General Information

NFT Map 3

Address: 1000 Fourth Ave, Seattle, WA 98104

Phone: 206-386-4636

Website: or @SPLBuzz

Hours: Mon-Thurs: 10 am-8 pm, Fri-Sat: 10 am-6 pm, Sun: 12 pm-6 pm


The Rem Koolhaas-designed Seattle Central Library opened in 2004 to much fanfare, and helped to rescue the city from its growing reputation as an architectural vacuum. The stunning, avant-garde glass and steel structure is actually the third incarnation of the Central Library, with over 160,000 more square feet of program space than its dingy 1960s predecessor. The new building’s diamond-grid “glass skin” makes the most of Seattle’s scarcest resource—sunlight—filling the library’s vast open spaces with light and framing 360-degree views of the surrounding buildings. The interior combines striking, modern decor with more serene touches. Polished steel surfaces abut scrap wood floors; fluorescent yellow escalators lead to grass-patterned carpeting. Particularly eccentric are the blood red hallways of the Meeting Level on the fourth floor. The place is downright trippy. But unlike other starchitectural landmarks around town (sorry EMP), this gem actually lives up to the hype.

True to Seattle ideals, the building is energy efficient, earthquake safe, and unbelievably high-tech, with self-checkout terminals, an automated book-sorting system, and wireless communication devices for staff members. The library’s nonfiction stacks are housed in an innovative “books spiral,” which, much like the Guggenheim Museum in New York, allows uninterrupted progress through the collection. Other highlights include the 400-seat Betty Jane Narver Reading Room featuring views of Elliott Bay, a wall of audio booths for language study, several video art installations, and the 275-seat Microsoft Auditorium where free author events are a regular occurrence.


The Central Library, housing nearly 400 public computers, was designed with access to technology in mind. A valid library card or a temporary guest pass is required for internet use on a library PC. Free WiFi access is available throughout the building. Most seating in reading rooms and in the stacks is equipped with electrical outlets for laptops.

For the Kids

Kid-sized bookshelves and a toddler play area can be found in the cheerfully rubberized Faye G. Allen Children’s Center on Level 1. The Anne Marie Gault Story Hour Room hosts children’s activities almost every day of the week. On Level 3, recognizable by its colorful flooring, is the Starbucks Teen Center, complete with young adult books and graphic novels, a special teen reference desk, and computers and workstations exclusively for teen use.

Food and Gifts

The FriendShop on Level 3 near the Fifth Avenue entrance sells an assortment of trendy gift items and is one of the better places to buy a greeting card downtown. You can purchase espresso, pastries and sandwiches at the adjacent coffee cart. You must consume snacks in the cafe area, but feel free to roam the stacks with your lidded latte.

How to Get There


From the north take I-5 exit 165B at Union Street. Follow Union three blocks west to Fifth Avenue, then turn left and go south three blocks to Spring Street. From the south, take I-5 exit 165 at Seneca Street. Follow Seneca one block west. Turn left on Fifth Avenue and go south one block to Spring Street. From the east, drive to the end of I-90 and take the ramp toward northbound I-5. Take the second exit at Madison Street. Turn left on Madison Street and go west two blocks to Fifth Avenue.

Underground parking is accessible on Spring Street between Fourth and Fifth Avenues. Weekday rates are pricey but weekend rates are relatively reasonable. Bike racks are located at all major entrances and inside the parking garage.

Public Transportation

Most downtown buses stop within walking distance of the Central Library. The closest Sound Transit Light Rail stop is University Street Station.

Parks & Places ✵ Seward Park


General Information

NFT Map: 40

Address: 5900 Lake Washington Blvd S,
Seattle, WA 98118

Phone: 206-684-4396

Friends of Seward Park:

Seward Park Audubon Center: or @sewardaudubon

Seward Park Clay Studio:

Park Hours: 6 am-10 pm


Seward Park was purchased by the city in 1910 for $322,020, or less than a tiny home in south Seattle’s nearby neighborhoods. It is a gigantic 300-acre thumb of land jutting into the (relatively) fresh water of Lake Washington, and much of the acreage encompasses old-growth forest—one of the last remaining within Seattle city limits. Thanks to the ongoing work of Friends of Seward Park and city staff weeding out invasive non-indigenous plants, the park retains much of its splendid original habitat and native flora and fauna. On a clear day, walking around the peninsula’s 2.4-mile lakefront loop allows views of Mount Rainier to the south, the Cascade Mountain range to the east, Mount Baker to the north, and a glimpse of the Olympic Mountain range to the west. You won’t find a better walking trail in Seattle for a 360-degree vista of the glories of the Pacific Northwest. Located amid the ethnically and income-diverse neighborhoods of Mount Baker, Leschi, Seward Park, and Rainier Beach, the park hosts many community events, from running and bicycle races to charity pet walks—check the park calendar for the schedule of evening hayrides, concerts in the spacious outdoor amphitheater, and the listing of classes offered by park naturalists.


This 300-acre park packs a wallop. Stay all day and you’ll see the sun rise over Mount Rainier and set over downtown Seattle’s Columbia Tower. In between, fish off the dock, swim in the lake, study lichens and mushrooms, add diving ducks to your life list of birds, use the Art Studio to fire your pottery, overhear a half dozen different languages, and glaze over watching a tai chi class on the beach. Your Aunt Mildred can focus her binoculars on the bald eagle nests in the old-growth forest, while your nephews play tennis on the waterfront courts. After catching his day’s quota of fish, Dad can relax with a cool one in the picnic shelters overlooking the lake and he’ll enjoy the same views as Lake Washington’s multi-millionaire waterfront homeowners. There is anchorage for your uncle’s yacht in protected Andrews Bay; in the summer he can row ashore to buy a hot dog and a sno-cone from the park’s snack truck. If your family includes canine members, they are welcome, but keep them on a leash—if your rambunctious Airedale runs off you can (and will) be ticketed by park rangers intent on keeping the grebes, herons, and cormorants in the lake and the dogs out. There are hiking trails through the woods, grassy playfields for Frisbee tossing, and a small but well-used playground for the kids. Best of all, you can paddle off from the whole fam-damily in your kayak without anyone knowing you’ve slipped away.

Seward Park Environmental & Audubon Center

After years of planning, fundraising, and community input, the Seward Park Environmental & Audubon Center opened its doors in 2008. The multi-million dollar project, a joint venture of Audubon Washington and Seattle Parks & Recreation, included the renovation of the old Tudor-style brick building at the entrance to the park. The building was transformed into an environmental education center complete with an extensive library, a laboratory, and a gift shop.

How to Get There

Car, bike, bus, boat, or kayak will all get you there from here. Parking lots are plentiful and usually only crowded on summer weekends and sunny days.

Driving south along Lake Washington Boulevard is scenic—if the route is open. From May to September, the stretch of road along the lakeshore from Mount Baker to Seward Park is closed on various Sundays for bicycle use. When the road is open to car traffic, you may be tempted to cut in front of the hordes of cyclists, but bear in mind that bicycles have the right of way. If you can’t beat ‘em, hop on an expensive Klein racing bike or a beat up Schwinn, and join ‘em. Metro Bus Route 50 stops at Seward Park Avenue S and S Juneau Street.

Parks & Places ✵ University of Washington


General Information

NFT Map: 26

Address: 1410 NE Campus Parkway, Seattle, WA 98195

Phone: 206-543-2100

Website: or @UW

Enrollment: 45,213 (2015)

Budget: $6.9 billion (FY15)

Endowment: $2.8 billion (2014)


Founded November 4, 1861, the University of Washington, or UW (pronounced U-Dub) is the oldest university on the west coast and the largest in the Pacific Northwest. There are three campuses—Tacoma, Bothell, and Seattle—Seattle being the main one and largest of the three. It is a public research school of over 45,000 students with many of its programs ranked in the top ten in the country. It doesn’t hurt that UW gets a great deal of funding from—yeah, those guys again—Microsoft masterminds Paul Allen and Bill Gates. It also boasts one of the most beautiful campuses in the country, with dramatic views of Mt. Rainier. It’s well worth a stroll, even if you’re not the studious type.

The 700-plus-acre Seattle campus is home to over 200 buildings and contains a courtyard full of cherry trees that are in the shape of a W when viewed from the sky. Unfortunately, they always seem to be in bloom when school is out of session for spring break. Although UW is best known for its medical programs, including its highly-ranked medical and nursing schools, the clinical psychology, statistics, social work, and library and information sciences programs are also well regarded.


Undergraduate tuition and fees for the University of Washington are north of $12,000 for residents and $33,000 for non-residents. On campus room and board is about $11,000.


Students and Seattle citizens are extremely proud of their Huskies ( and flock to the football games at Husky Stadium. You’ll find die-hard fans tailgating on their boats on Lake Washington during games, even in miserable weather. The Huskies participate in the NCAA Division I-A and the Pac-12. The Huskies fortunes in the competitive Pac-12 come and go, but the women’s volleyball team and men’s soccer teams had some recent successes. The football team won a national championship in 1991 and finished #3 in 2000. The men’s basketball team made it to the Sweet 16 in 2010. That aside, rowing is where the Huskies really shine: UW crews have won 30 national titles and more than 15 Olympic gold medals. The Marching Band of UW is also well known, using a traditional high step, one of very few marching bands left to use this strategy of hyping up the already excited crowds. And UW can claim at least partial credit for popularizing “The Wave” during the 1981 football season.

Culture on Campus

The University of Washington’s Seattle campus has no shortage of culture. If you’re into museums, try the Burke ( or @burkemuseum), which is the state museum of natural and cultural history. There is also the Henry Art Gallery ( or @henryartgallery), the first public art museum in the state of Washington, which features contemporary art (including the trippy Skyspace by James Turrell). Meany Hall is the place for performing arts and is home to the performances of UW’s School of Drama, often ranked as one of the top theater programs in the country. They put on at least seven shows per year, but you can also catch performances from the Schools of Dance and Music, and Digital Arts and Experimental Media Program (DXARTS). If you’re more into the outdoors, head over to the Botanic Gardens, otherwise known as the arboretum. You will run out of time and energy before you run out of land to explore. The university also runs the Rainy Dawg Radio ( or @RainyDawgRadio), a student-run internet radio station and UWTV ( or @UWTV) which is broadcast state-wide and is available to cable television viewers.


Visitors & Information Center: 206-543-9198

Undergraduate Admissions and Campus Tours: 206-543-9686

Graduate School: 206-543-5929

UW Medical Center: 206-598-3300

University Bookstore: 206-634-3400

University Libraries: 206-543-0242

Husky Ticket Office: 206-543-2200

Registrar: 206-543-5378

Parks & Places ✵ Vashon Island



Vashon Island plays the role of that forgotten, oddball, isolated community populated with eccentric characters and legendary landmarks only locals can appreciate (a bike in a tree, a strawberry festival without strawberries, and so on). Vashon is less a destination than Bainbridge or the San Juans. In fact, with no hotels, only a couple dozen B &Bs or guest houses, and virtually no camping allowed anywhere on the island, Vashon doesn’t exactly encourage tourism.

Roughly the same size as Seattle, but with only about 10,000 inhabitants, Vashon is rural and decentralized—perfect for the organic farmers and lovable lefties who call it home (these guys make Seattle look like a Young Republican convention). Vashon is great for a short visit, especially if you have friends on the island.

Lacking any stoplights, “Downtown Vashon” at Vashon Highway and Bank Road lies two miles from the ferry. There you’ll find independent cafes, bookshops, art galleries, and restaurants. Red Bicycle Bistro is the center of nightlife (and that’s not a snotty “the,” but a singular “the” as in the only place). The locals go to Thriftway to hobnob and gossip. The Hardware Store was just that for over 100 years until 2005, when it was turned into a happening eatery.

The rural, getaway nature of Vashon has attracted a flock of artists and galleries. A few of them have banded together for the First Friday Gallery Cruise. Also, twice a year (May, December) over 40 artists open their studios to the public ( The famed Vashon Island Strawberry Festival happens every July. It’s much like small town fairs all over the country—elephant ears, nauseating rides, creepy carnies—but oddly, no strawberries. A highlight for car enthusiasts is the classic car parade which attracts gear heads from all over the state to show off their retro beauties that spend the rest of the year hiding under tarps.

As for landmarks, nothing beats the bicycle-eating tree near the intersection of Vashon Highway and SW 204th Street. The rusty old bicycle was abandoned in the 1950s and the tree began growing around it, in effect “eating” the bike.

Where to Eat and Drink

The Hardware Store, 17601 Vashon Hwy SW, 206-463-1800. Serving lunch and dinner, plus breakfast on Sundays, the menu features straightforward cafe fare that includes buttermilk fried chicken and a nice selection of salads. Don’t miss the bar area, a perfect perch for watching the ferry traffic stream into town while you sip some good vino from their wine list.

Rock Island Pub & Pizza, 17322 Vashon Hwy SW, 206-463-6813. A good range of pies and pastas. Take it outside to the patio with a pitcher of beer on a nice day or sidle up to the stone fireplace in the winter.

Cafe Luna, 9924 SW Bank Rd, 206-463-0777. Serves up the best mocha on the island and offers a range of teas, baked goods, and grilled paninis.

Red Bicycle Bistro & Sushi, 17618 Vashon Hwy SW, 206-463-5959. The local restaurant/bar that frequently has live music on the weekends.

How to Get There

By car, take I-5 south to the West Seattle Bridge, keep to your left toward Alaska Junction to Fauntleroy and follow the signs to the ferry.

Ferries leave from the Fauntleroy terminal in West Seattle seven days a week. On weekdays, you can take a passenger-only ferry from Pier 50 in Seattle. The RapidRide C line will take you directly to the Fauntleroy ferry terminal from downtown. To get to Fauntleroy by car, take I-5 to exit 163 to the West Seattle bridge to Fauntleroy Way SW. Follow Fauntleroy Way SW to the end, and look for signs for the ferry.

Where to Stay

The Vashon Island Chamber of Commerce ( has an extensive list of B &Bs and guest houses on the island. AYH Ranch Hostel (, although no longer affiliated with AYH and no longer a hostel, is still a good budget option and allows camping on its grounds, the only such facility on the island (reservation required).

Parks & Places ✵ Volunteer Park

General Information

NFT Map: 17 & 20

Address 1247 15th Ave E, Seattle, WA 98112

Volunteer Park Conservatory:

Asian Art Museum:

Hours: 6 am-10 pm daily


Volunteer Park, so named in 1901 to honor Spanish-American War recruits, is yet another jewel in Seattle’s crown of gorgeous public spaces. The 48.3-acre park features a museum, a conservatory, many fine public art pieces, and a reputation for public sex. That said, Volunteer Park suffers not a whit from purported nocturnal dalliances—it’s still a peaceful place to stroll away from the city with assorted trails and paths that allow one to gently meander or stretch the legs in a vigorous jog. A children’s wading pool draws countless tykes all summer long, a quartet of tennis courts welcomes the net set, and the bandstand provides a stage for regular outdoor music performances.

Volunteer Park has long been a popular destination for lovers of art and botany. Abstract sculptures and statues honoring local pioneers, military heroes, and public servants distinguish the grounds. The park is also home to the Seattle Asian Art Museum, an extensive collection of historical and modern art with ever-changing exhibits. The nearby Volunteer Park Conservatory has been here since 1912, featuring five different habitats for a wild assortment of exotic plants from around the world.

The water tower on the south side of Volunteer Park is a popular landmark for those planning to meet up for a little Frisbee golf or friendly dogwalking. If you can handle 106 steps, you can visit the tower’s observation deck, which automatically puts you at the highest point of Capitol Hill and affords a beautiful view. While there, take the time to peruse the historical exhibit that celebrates the Olmsted brothers, early-20th-century pioneers in establishing the park system in Seattle, including Volunteer Park.

Volunteer Park borders the Lake View Cemetery, a historical spot filled with graves of the many founding fathers and mothers of Seattle. Those who know names like Denny, Mercer, and Yesler only from street signs will come face to face with the resting places of the fabled men themselves. Lake View also boasts the graves of the mighty Bruce Lee and his son Brandon, both charismatic martial arts action heroes who died under mysterious circumstances. Sorry Mr. Mercer, but being in the eternal presence of Kato and the Crow is a bigger thrill, even if you did clear the trees to make way for the University of Washington.

How to Get There


From I-5 northbound, take exit 166 and turn right on E Olive Way, following until it merges with E John Street. Turn left on 15th Avenue E, then enter Volunteer Park after 3/4 mile.

From I-5 southbound, take exit 168A and turn left on E Roanoke Street. Turn right at 10th Avenue E, turn left onto E Boston Street until it becomes 15th Avenue E. Volunteer Park will be on the left.

Public Transportation

The 10 bus hits Volunteer Park frequently (every 10-20 minutes) with service from downtown.

Parks & Places ✵ Washington Park Arboretum

General Information

NFT Map: 22 & 19

Address: 2300 Arboretum Dr E, Seattle, WA 98122

Phone: 206-543-8800

Website: or @uwbotanicgarden

Arboretum Foundation: or @ArboretumFound


The Washington Park Arboretum is 230 acres of sprawling beauty that contains more than 5,000 different plant species. You will find a large collection of mountain ash and maple as well as an abundance of wildlife. The Arboretum is huge. It is difficult to see it all in one day, but definitely fun to try. There are many meandering trails with few hills, so it’s perfect for jogging (just look out for people taking pictures!). You will find a strange combination of the beauty and serenity in the view in front of you and the constant din of traffic from the nearby freeway. However, once you push that out of your head, it is a wonderful place to get away from it all. And speaking of traffic, it can be pretty bad surrounding the park, so give yourself extra time to navigate it. Once there, take a stroll to Foster Island, where the floating bridges provide extra fun when boats go by and create a wake. Here especially, keep your eye out for birds and turtles. But don’t go too quickly! The fragile earth under your feet wishes you to walk, not run. If you really love the plants and desperately want to take them home with you, seedlings are available for purchase at the Arboretum Shop.

Japanese Gardens

Address: 1075 Lake Washington Blvd E, Seattle, WA 98122

Phone: 206-684-4725


Hours: Apr-Sept: Daily, 10 am-7 pm (shoulder seasons generally until 5 pm and closed Mon)

Admission: $6; youths 6-17, seniors 65+, college students with ID, and disabled $4; children 0-5 free.

This 3.5-acre, formal garden was dreamed up by world-renowned Japanese garden designer Juki Iiada in 1960. He oversaw all construction of this garden, which includes a koi pond and a traditional tea house. The Garden is exceptionally beautiful and unique as it incorporates both plants traditionally found in a Japanese garden and plants native to the Northwest. It can be a welcome sanctuary from busy city life and well worth the admission fee. Try to catch a tea ceremony, which is periodically offered in the tea house.

Guided Tours

To better appreciate the diversity of the different plant species at the arboretum, take a free guided tour on Sundays, January through November. Guides expertly highlight the plant collections, different seasonal displays of beauty, and the history of the arboretum in 60-90 minutes. Tours start at the Graham Visitor Center (2300 Arboretum Drive E); check schedule online. Free self-guided tours and maps are also available online, as are downloadable audio guides.


The arboretum now includes three public, non-motorized boat-launching sites and is a part of the Lakes to Locks Water Trail which starts in Lake Sammamish and ends at Puget Sound. Since it used to be illegal to land your boat at a public park, it’s a welcome addition. If you don’t own a boat or kayak, you can rent one from the Washington Activities Center (206-543-9433) just across the lake from the park. Once you’re on the water, paddle around the water lilies and under the famous “ramp to nowhere” as you head over to Foster Island to explore its watery corridors. You will be treated to excellent bird watching, and the chance to see otters, turtles, or perhaps even a beaver dam. Once again, you’ll come face to face with a thriving eco-system next to a busy freeway, giving you renewed hope for the future of planet Earth.

How to Get There


From Downtown: Go east on Madison Street to Lake Washington Boulevard E then turn left into the arboretum.

From I-5: Take exit 168 onto highway 520. Take the first exit to Lake Washington Boulevard E and follow it into the arboretum.

Public Transportation

Bus routes 43 and 48 run near the arboretum (McGraw Street stop). Route 11 is another option; stop at Lake Washington Boulevard East and walk north.

Parks & Places ✵ Whidbey Island


General Information

Whidbey and Camano Islands Tourism: or @GoWhidbeyCamano


One of Seattle’s biggest perks is its proximity to an endless variety of retreats and getaways. Just miles from the hustle and bustle lay idyllic islands that can wipe away any memory of hellish downtown traffic. One of the prettiest and closest of these is Whidbey Island, known for its scenic shores, quaint island communities, and increasingly precious real estate.

As with most of the territory in North America, Whidbey was once occupied by several local Native American tribes until those pesky Europeans came over. A guy named Joseph Whidbey came along and circumnavigated the whole island, which apparently was impressive enough for it to be named after him. Full colonization of the island took its sweet time, though. The first permanent arrival was murdered and beheaded by some unhappy natives, and understandably there was a bit of healthy skepticism on the part of would-be immigrants. Nowadays Whidbey is a thriving agricultural community as well as home to a naval station, a healthy tourism industry, and the most visited state park in Washington. Despite all that Whidbey’s got goin’ on, it remains an extremely laid-back kind of place.


Though the island’s one-time marketing campaign featuring the joyously ambiguous phrase “Do Nothing Here” might imply a lazy sort of attitude on the part of Whidbey residents, that’s certainly not the case. If you feel compelled to do more than skipping rocks on the bay or snuggling in your cottage (both more-than-acceptable activities), the island teems with things to do for all tastes and energy levels. There are no fewer than ten public beaches on the island where you can go clamming, watch gray whales in season, or, if you’re brave, go swimming. A few favorites include Ala Spit (popular with birdwatchers) and Double Bluff (with an off-leash area for your pup).

Adults can check out the different wineries and pubs, like the Whidbey Island Winery (5237 Langley Rd, Langley;, or go treasure-hunting at the scores of antique shops. There are also several farmers markets during the peak of the season where you can buy local loganberries and homemade ice cream. And if you really want to do something instead of nothing, there are sites for almost every type of outdoorsy activity, from hiking to fishing to kayaking. Basically, Whidbey’s got it all.


One of the biggest draws is the quaint postcard towns scattered across the island. Visitors and residents alike enjoy spending an entire day strolling and soaking up the charm. Towards the south and only a few miles from the Clinton ferry dock is Langley, an artists’ village with the highest concentration of boutique lodgings in the state. Farther north, historic Coupeville is situated on Penn Cove (home to the famously delectable mussels of the same name) and is the second oldest town in the entire state. It’s loved for its charming shops and B &Bs, the Historical Society Museum, and the town ice cream parlor (yum).


The Whidbey Island Garden Tour ( is an extremely popular once-yearly event. Tickets are limited, so reserve well in advance in early summer. Also fun, is the annual Whidbey Island Farm Tour, held in September (, when you can explore the island’s crops and critters for free!

Deception Pass State Park

Deception Pass State Park is a 4,134-acre marine and camping park just north of Oak Harbor with amazing stretches of saltwater shoreline, as well as freshwater shoreline on three lakes. The park is the most popular in the state, and for good reason. There are breath-taking views, rugged cliffs, old-growth forests, and abundant wildlife. The park is open year-round for camping and day use, although select campgrounds are closed during the winter.

How to Get There


There’s only one way to go if you’re choosing to drive all the way to Whidbey—the breathtaking entrance to the north end of the island otherwise known as Deception Pass Bridge. Take the Anacortes exit off I-5, just north of Mt. Vernon. There are pull-outs and several points along the way where you can get out and take it all in. Trust us, it’s stunning.


Ferries are probably the most popular way to get to the island and the easiest from Seattle. The Mukilteo-Clinton ferry departs every 30 minutes from Mukilteo. Take I-5 north from Seattle and follow the Mukilteo/Whidbey Island exit (#189), which will take you straight to the ferry dock. At peak times there can be a significant wait, so check the current wait times before you go ( The ride takes about 20 minutes and will take you to the town of Clinton on the southern end of the island.

The Pt. Townsend-Keystone ferry also takes about 30 minutes and connects the Olympic Peninsula to Keystone Landing in Ebey’s National Historical Reserve on the island. From the Peninsula, head east on Highway 101 and take the SR20 East exit. The highway will turn into Sims Way and then Water Street, which will take you to the ferry dock.


Seaplanes are a fun and incredibly scenic way to go, departing from Lake Union. If you want to bypass the whole ferry trip (which, on a bad day, can take hours), Kenmore Air ( features charter flights to Whidbey for up to ten passengers.

Public Transportation

If you’re up farther north, the Island Transit system will take you on and off and the island for absolutely nothing. Check out the schedules at

Parks & Places ✵ Woodland Park Zoo


General Information

NFT Map: 24 & 30

Address: 5500 Phinney Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103

Phone: 206-548-2500

Website: or @woodlandparkzoo

Hours: Open every day of the year, except Dec 25;
May 1-Sep 30: 9:30 am-6 pm,

Oct 1-April 30: 9:30 am-4 pm

Admission: May 1-Sep 30 $19.95 adults, $12.25 kids age 3-12; Oct 1-April 30 $13.75 adults, $9.25 kids (3-12); $2 discount off regular admission prices for seniors (65+) and disabled; kids 0-2 are free.


It may not be the biggest, it may not have the rarest animals, but what the Woodlawn Park Zoo lacks in size, it makes up for in style. There is a strong focus on education and conservation and the exhibits themselves will not leave you feeling depressed like some other zoos can. It’s easy to tell why this zoo is world renowned for its animal exhibits and education programs.

Geared to kids eight and younger, the all-weather Zoomazium facility is the coolest indoor playground ever. You will find a stage, a project place, and an active space where parents let their kids loose to tire them out before the drive home. It’s a great place for kids to learn as they play. There is a 20-foot tree to climb, caves to explore, and a watering hole that reflects an animal face when you look into it.

The zoo’s Jaguar Cove exhibit contains a large pool and waterfall as jaguars are the only large cat willing to get their tootsies wet. Even more impressive, this is the only zoo to boast a cross-section for underwater viewing of an enormous hungry jaguar coming right at you.

Other interesting zoo offerings include the fun summer concert series ZooTunes and the Zoo Overnight Adventure, where small groups can reserve overnight accommodations that include private tours and breakfast (approximately $50 per person). And even though it’s technically located outside of the zoo, the free Rose Garden offers a pleasant (quick) stroll through its 2.5-acre garden. This is a popular and affordable spot for weddings, especially owing to its 280 varieties of roses and over 5,000 individual plants, one of only 24 All American Rose Selections Test Gardens in the US. You can smell it before you even walk in.

Eating at the Zoo

When you get hungry like the wolf, there are a couple options: the Rain Forest Food Pavilion has various light fare and Caffe Vita-roasted coffee at Zoo Java. The Pacific Blue Chowder House has heartier fare to take away, and specializes in local seafood, along with above-average burgers. And then of course there are the requisite seasonal kiosks serving up zoo classics like Dippin’ Dots and lemonade.

How to Get There


From I-5 take the 50th Street exit (#169) west for 1.3 miles to the south gate located on N 50th Street and Fremont Avenue N. Parking is $5.25 for cars, but try snagging a free spot on the street first.

Public Transportation

From downtown take the 5 from 3rd Avenue and Pine Street to the west gate at N 55th Street & Phinney Avenue N.

Sports ✵ Biking

Come the weekend, Seattleites don’t mess around with their bicycle recreation. This usually means snapping their expensive Trek mountain bike to their Subaru and hitting the nearby off-roading trails. But for a growing number of city slickers, Saturday means grabbing their bike out of their living room and hitting the urban trails. The granddaddy of them all is the The Burke-Gilman Trail, a 27-mile route along a former railway corridor that stretches from Redmond all the way to Ballard. Other car-free escapes include Green Lake Trail, Ship Canal Trail, and Alki Beach Trail in West Seattle. Wherever you ride, you can’t miss the hills. But luckily, they work both ways. They can be a pain in the butt to climb (especially early in the morning on your way to a coffee shop), but for those willing to conquer them, you are rewarded with picture perfect views usually reserved for postcards. Unless of course it’s raining. Again. The Seattle Department of Transportation has a good bike map (; check out the handy interactive feature on the SDOT website.

Bicycle Sundays is becoming an annual tradition when sections of Lake Washington Boulevard are completely shut down to vehicle traffic on select weekends in the spring and summer from Mount Baker Beach to Seward Park. Cruise along this beautiful stretch of Seattle without the stress of a giant SUV racing to cut you off. If only biking in Seattle were like this everyday. Check out the website for more information and specific dates:

There’s still a lot of work to be done to eclipse Northwest rival and biking utopia Portland. If you find yourself frustrated with the Emerald City’s progress, sign up for the annual Seattle to Portland Classic. Over 10,000 riders join in this summer tradition (sponsored by the Cascade Bicycle Alliance) for a 200-mile journey by bike to Puddletown. While you’re there, cruise around America’s most bike-friendly city and hope that Seattle can follow in their impressive bikesteps.