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Hyper Local Seattle

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If you’re one of the many thousands of newly transplanted residents of the Seattle area, welcome! Everything people said you’d love about Seattle ended up being true - there’s great food, a vibrant culture and you’re positively surrounded by amazing natural beauty. However, it’s likely that you’ve moved here, loved the city and the surroundings but have yet to find time to seek out some of Seattle’s hyper-local experiences that make life in the Emerald City so darn magical. 

You’re one of us now, so let’s visit some of our favorite tucked-beyond-the-obvious experiences that nearly all tourists, and some residents, don’t even know exist. 

Canoe from the University of Washington to the Arboretum

photo credit: Curtis Cronn

On the northern flanks of Lake Union, a thin band of water called the Montlake Cut (which is the easternmost portion of the Lake Washington Ship Canal) separates Lower Montlake from the University District and Portage Bay from Union Bay. Across the Montlake Cut from the University of Washington Stadium, there’s a green smudge. Well, it’s a smudge if you’re looking on Google Maps, but from the ground, it’s a vast, varied, and beautiful public green space called the Washington Park Arboretum. This 230-acre swath of waterfront land is a local favorite for picnics, walks and nature viewing. Here large lawns, Japanese ponds, and manicured gardens mix with marshes, reedy waterways, and wild woods.

Perhaps the best way of experiencing the Arboretum is from the water by renting a canoe from the University of Washington Waterfront Activities Center and paddling across into the labyrinth of channels. Ducks, turtles, cranes, and bald eagles are all easily seen in a single outing and the paddling is easy and peaceful. Canoes are first-come-first-serve and are $12 an hour to rent. 

Do a Georgetown Brewery Hop

photo credit: Morgan Davis

Georgetown is an industrial neighborhood a few miles south of downtown Seattle. The aesthetic is aging brick and crisscrossing railcar lines accompanied by the overhead screams of airplanes descending into Boeing field and SeaTac airport. Aside from the gritty industrial vibe, Georgetown is also known for its beer - casks, and kegs of delicious craft brew from the small army of breweries that have set up shop in the area. If you’re a beer lover you’ll want to eventually hop on over to Georgetown to pay tribute to some of the city’s finest local suds. 

  • Schooner Exact Brewing Co: Family-friendly restaurant, weekend brunch from 10am-2pm.
  • Two Beers Brewing Co: Seattle Magazine’s Best Brewery, 2014 (Readers’ Choice).
  • Georgetown Brewing Company: They brew Washington’s favorite beer, Manny’s Pale Ale. No brewpub at Georgetown, but you can fill growlers and get kegs.
  • Machine House Brewery: Between two big old brick buildings and under a smokestack is Machine House, brewer of English-style ales. They have a tasting room and they let you bring in outside food.

Swim out to the Madison Beach Floating Dock

When summer heats up, the place to be is Madison Park. This popular lakefront park is tiny, so you may have to hunt to find a patch of sunshine to lay your towel in and take advantage of the best summer swimming experience Seattle has to offer. After a short swim, you’ll emerge at the floating dock which is complete with two diving boards and a killer view of the Cascade mountain range. Climb the ladder and brave the high dive, just don’t belly flop!

Ride Your Bike Across the I-90 Bridge

photo credit: Jean-Pierre Chamberland

Seattle is a great city to bike in and if you love a two-wheeled adventure you’ll want to make your way just south of the Lake Washington neighborhood of Leschi to the East Portal Viewport Park. The park commands a huge view of Lake Washington and looks directly down the barrel of the Interstate 90 bridge - a ruler-straight floating highway over a mile long (the 5th longest floating bridge in the world). East Portal Viewpoint is easily reached via several bike-friendly roads and once you’re there you’ll likely see other cyclists and pedestrians coming and going from the floating bridge. The I-90 bridge has a protected bike/pedestrian lane popular with cyclists and the East Portal Viewpoint park has a paved bike/pedestrian trail that feeds easily into it, making getting on and off the bridge is a snap. 

Once you’re actually on the bridge and pedaling you’ll be close to the water and side-by-side (albeit protected by a concrete barrier) with steady traffic whooshing past. Be aware of cyclists and joggers coming the opposite direction and enjoy the mile+ ride across one of Seattle’s biggest bodies of water. If you want to keep going there are plenty of bike paths and bike-friendly options on Mercer Island and beyond. 

Pay Your Respects at Lake View Cemetery

photo credit: Tim Evanson

Founded in 1872, the monuments of Lake View Cemetery evoke a bygone era of funerary opulence. Many visitors come to see Bruce Lee’s grave, but there’s so much more if you have the patience to walk the grounds. You can see the impressive resting places of Seattle’s founding families and Princess Angeline, Chief Seattle’s daughter. Lake View Cemetery is the kind of place you walk through slowly and spend way more time in than you originally intended. Please visit quietly and respectfully. 

Test Your Mountain Bike Skills at the Colonnade Bicycle Park Under I-5

Underneath the giant swath of concrete that makes up I-5 is perhaps the best urban mountain-bike skills course in the US. The I-5 Colonnade is a Seattle city park, but it was funded and built by the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance. Elevated wooden jumps, technical single track, dramatic drops, winding trails, and a pump track are just a few of the features of the giant, seemingly subterranean bike park.

The Colonnade is so named because it’s built around enormous pillars of concrete that support the freeway above. The effect is not unlike that of a soaring gothic cathedral. The Colonnade isn’t all death-defying jumps, there’s a novice area and a dog park, too. Show up on the weekend and watch the more skilled fly through the air as they clear tabletops, but don’t think of trying the same unless you have a helmet, pads and some serious skills…and health insurance. 

Go Thrift Store Shopping on Capitol Hill

 

photo credit: Sparklingdawg from Wikimedia Commons

Perhaps you’re guilty of singing the ridiculously catchy chorus of Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” at full volume in the car — many people are. Well, if you’re trying to grab a vintage t-shirt, a pair of used ski boots, or some well-loved bell-bottoms, and you “only got $20 in your pocket,” we suggest you make like Macklemore and gravitate to one of Capitol Hill’s many thrift and consignment shops.

When you’re in the market for Halloween costume ideas and leather jackets from the ‘70s, head to Capitol Hill thrift spots like Lifelong, Crossroads Trading Co., Revival and Goodwill. You can also score your next polyester disco shirt from Red Light or Buffalo Exchange in the U District.

Get a Cocktail at the Top of Smith Tower

photo credit: Tiffany Von Arnim

A Seattle resident in 1914 would look at the 38 story Smith Tower with a sense of awe. It was Seattle’s first ‘Sky Scraper’ and the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. In 1976 Ivar set his sights on the Smith Tower and purchased it for a cool $1.8 million dollars. Today the stately white building is diminutive by modern office building standards, but the Smith Tower retains all of its previous power and charm. Visitors can head to the top of the tower, which has been transformed into a newly renovated and completely gorgeous speakeasy-style bar that has a full food menu as well. Drink in the view and the history and enjoy an old fashion in classic Seattle style.