During the three glorious months of summer in Seattle, the best place to be is outside. Seattleites spend a good nine months indoors plotting their attack on summer so that when it arrives, not a minute of fun is missed. With an average of sixteen hours of daylight in the summer, there’s plenty of time to get in a lot of action. It feels like every summer brings new adventures to be had in this exciting, progressive, ever-changing city. Even the most well-explored citizen of the Emerald City could happen upon something new and undiscovered. These are just a few of my favorite neighborhoods to find adventure, culture, and urban delights in Seattle.
The U-District (University District for non-Seattleites)
Often overlooked due to the massive amounts of University of Washington students, don’t underestimate the opportunity this neighborhood provides. Rent bikes at Recycled Cycles and then ride the Burke-Gilman trail. Since the Burke is rather flat, it’s an easy twenty miles to Red Hook Brewery or Chateau Ste Michelle Winery directly across the street. There are plenty of food options at both places, so eat and drink as much as you want before you cruise on home. Another awesome way to work up an appetite is to rent kayaks at Agua Verde Paddle Club. Get there when they open at 10 a.m., take a jaunt through the Montlake cut or west through the Ballard locks, then enjoy an afternoon on the deck at Agua Verde with shrimp and mango quesadillas and a margarita.
Here is the center of the universe, or so residents would like to think. There’s nothing like a stroll through the Sunday Market to inspire your vintage, crafty side. Clothes, collectibles, homemade soaps, and jewelry—it’s an urban scavenger’s dream. Take a mouthwatering tour through Theo Chocolate Factory. The incredibly beautiful, artisanal chocolates are almost too pretty to eat … almost. Any day is a perfect day to spend in Gasworks Park. Seattleites are lucky to have such an amazing park that sits on Lake Union with the city skyline in the distance. Have a picnic and watch the boats, kayakers, and seaplanes all afternoon from the comfort of a nice blanket on the lawn.
By far the largest and most eclectic neighborhood in Seattle, I never have trouble finding something new to do here. Maybe my favorite outing on The Hill is taking in a movie at the Harvard Exit Theater and then having wine and crepes across the street at Joe Bar. It feels very European, tucked into a tree-lined street off busy Broadway Avenue. To mix outdoors and art, I spend time in Volunteer Park, walking around and making my way to the Asian Art Museum. It’s free on the first Thursday of the month, otherwise it’s $5. Or, I walk through the endless trails of the Arboretum and go to the Japanese Gardens for tea. It’s easy to spend and entire day exploring both of the parks.
There’s an odd mix of old and new that somehow works in perfect harmony. With its Norwegian influence and a museum, festival, or some visual cue on nearly every street, it’s easy to fall in love with this place. By far the greatest way to end a day in Seattle is grabbing fish and chips at Totem House Fish & Chips and watching the sunset over the Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains at Golden Gardens. It reminds me of why I loved living in Seattle. Because of its proximity to the shipping and fishing canal, Ballard is also the greatest place to get fresh seafood. Skip the tourist-laden market and go to the Fisherman’s Terminal. Prove you’re a local and buy fish straight off the boat or at the Wild Salmon Seafood Market.
Being the heart of Seattle, here it’s all about being social. Try after hours at SAM on Thursday and Friday nights, featuring lectures, spoken word, and DJs ($20 adult fee). Escape to Paris, if only for a few hours, at Le Pichet where they have free music every Sunday in August. Or check out contemporary, progressive, alternative art at Roq La Rue. If you fancy a night away from home, check into modernist heaven at the Ace Hotel for a mere $99 a night.
ID (International District)
The ID is brimming with undiscovered gems. For instance, did you know that you can rent karaoke rooms? Yep. At Venus Karaoke rent by the hour, bring your own booze, along with a liquor license purchased conveniently at the liquor store. Or, join the sing-a-long at Bush Gardens which has karaoke every night—and also strong drinks, but don’t eat the food. Take a long walk up South Jackson Street and explore the markets along the way. The food is less expensive, but the markets are also a little seedier. In any case, it’s incredibly authentic. I once happened upon one of the best Vietnamese sandwiches I’ve ever had.
Perhaps the greatest in-city getaway is taking the twenty-five-minute ferry to Bainbridge Island and walking a mile to the Harbour Public House on the marina. They have the greatest fish and chips on planet earth, an extraordinary view of the Sound and the city skyline, along with perfectly refreshing local beers on tap.
Escape the tourists and their fanny packs and hit these local treasures this season. You’ll feel like you got away without getting in the car or packing a bag. Being a visitor in Seattle just might charm you into staying a while longer.