SMK Meetup Seattle Tour Guide
Seattle is pretty far west, but it isn’t actually on the ocean! The huge body of water to our west is actually Puget Sound. A sound is a large sea or ocean inlet larger than a bay, deeper than a bight, and wider than a fjord. If you look west across the sound (on a clear day, anyway) you will see a mountain range. These are the Olympic Mountains, situated across the sound on the Olympic Peninsula. On the other side of those mountains you would be able to see the ocean.
To the East, there is another fairly large body of water: Lake Washington. East of lake Washington are the cities of Bellevue and Redmond, as well as lots of suburbs that slowly trickle down into smaller farming communities.Looking further East (and North East, and North, and South East…) you may see some more mountains; These are the Cascades. The Cascades run from northern California all the way up into southern British Columbia. This range is also volcanic! Some fairly well-known volcanoes in this range include Mount St. Helens, Mount Baker, and Mount Rainier. Speaking of Mount Rainier, you may be able to see it to the southeast on a clear enough day.
Connecting Lake Washington through Lake Union over to Puget Sound (and eventually open ocean) are the canals. Originally natural, these canals were widened over time to accommodate various shipping industries (mostly lumber). In order to control water levels, ships entering and exiting the canals must pass through the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks. To avoid disturbing the salmon population that swim up into Lake Union from Puget Sound to spawn, the locks also feature a salmon ladder
The Lay of the Land
The meetup takes place at Seattle Pacific University on the North end of a neighborhood known as Queen Anne.
If you walk about 25 minutes south (up the hill) or hop on south-bound busses on the 3, 4, or 13 routes you will be in the main portion of Queen Anne with a few dozen restaurants around, notably including 5-Spot, a really great upscale diner-style restaurant featuring a weekly rotating themed menu. A few blocks further South and you will hit Kerry Park. It’s not a huge park, but it does have some iconic views of the city and the sound, and if the mountain is out this is one of the only spots in the city where you can get a clear picture of both the Space Needle and Mt. Rainier.
If you walk north, you’ll likely notice that you aren’t gonna make it very far! Seattle Pacific University sits basically right on the canals that I mentioned earlier.
West of Queen Anne in an area called Interbay, which is a low-lying area between Queen Anne Hill and Magnolia. There are lots of train tracks here that are used to haul goods that come in with the fishing boats out away from the docks. Across Interbay is another large hilly area: Magnolia. Magnolia is primarily a residential area, but it features Discovery Park, the largest park in the city of Seattle with a massive 534-acres of wilderness. It has some old barracks from when the area was Fort Lawton, a lighthouse way down on the beach, Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, some seriously tall cliffs with a great view of Puget Sound, and several miles of trails zig-zagging around the park.
Getting out to Magnolia can be something of a pain as there are only a few bridges that cross interbay. Your best bet for getting over there from SPU will be to catch a 31 bus. If you are continuing up to Discovery Park, you will then need to transfer to a 33 bus.
Unlike the west, Seattle isn’t really bounded to the north, but I will focus on the two main areas that will be the easiest to get to from SPU campus on the northern edge of Queen Anne. As I mentioned before, if you opt to walk straight north you are probably going to get a little wet when you try to cross the canals on foot, so you have to head to one of the bridges.
The closest bridge is going to be the Fremont bridge, about a 20 minute walk east of campus. This bridge sits pretty close to the water, so it has to open fairly frequently to let boats through, but you won’t have to wait very long to cross. Crossing the bridge drops you basically right into “downtown” Fremont.
Fremont, dubbed the Center of the Universe, is a pretty young neighborhood, so it has a lot of weird quirks and interesting features including a huge troll under the Aurora bridge, a statue of Vladimir Lenin, a rocket ship, and a Chocolatier. Fremont also hosts a large number of restaurants and bars. Heading east of that downtown area will bring you down to Gasworks Park. Formerly an oil plant, this 20-acre park now has the best view of the Seattle skyline from across Lake Union.
The easiest way to get up to Fremont from SPU campus will be to catch the 31 or 32 bus, which should make it about a 10 minute bus each way instead of a 20 minute walk.
The Fremont Troll
The next closest bridge will be the Ballard Bridge. This will be about a 25 minute walk, and not much faster bussing, unfortunately, but your patience will be richly rewarded (##totallynotbiased)! Ballard was originally a very working-class neighborhood that at one point was the world’s #1 producer of shingles. Many Scandinavian immigrants settled in the Ballard area, at times representing as much as ⅓ of the region’s population. The area is now known more for the vibrant food and drink scene as well as hosting a few truly great parks.
The quickest way to get up to Ballard from SPU is actually usually to go through Fremont. If you take the 31 or 32 across the bridge into Fremont you can then transfer onto a 40 to take you the rest of the way. If you manage to find a 29, though (I think it only runs during commute hours) it will cut your travel time in half.
The Hi-Life (American and Bar)
Billy Beach Sushi (Sushi, Japanese)
Bastile (French bistro and bar)
Hattie’s Hat (American and Bar)
Other neighborhoods worth noting north of the canals include Wallingford, Phinney Ridge, Greenlake, and University District. Trying to get to any of these neighborhoods on foot is going to be quite a hike, but you should be able to get to any of them by bus fairly easily.
If you are going to make a trip out to any of these areas, my top recommendation would be to head up to Beth’s Cafe for way more brunch than you could ever want, walking a few laps around Green Lake to work all that off, and then climbing up to Phinney Ridge for some dinner at Ridge Pizza, Wing Dome, or El Chupacabra, and then then chasing that down with some pie from A la Mode Pies. For a late night meal and drink, check out Issian, an authentic Japanese izakaya (bar) with incredible food and cheap drinks. Their late night happy hour (9pm-11pm) features juicy beef skewers, takoyaki, and rolls.
You might also want to check out the core of the University of Washington main campus, known for its beautiful Red Square, Quad, Drumheller Fountain with a view of Mount Rainier, as well as the iconic Harry Potter-style Suzzallo Library. From Husky Stadium, you can also take the Light Rail to Downtown Seattle.
A la Mode Pies
Issian (Japanese, grill, bar)
Woodland Park Zoo
University of Washington campus
Most of the city is south of Queen Anne, so you’re going to be heading this way to do most of the more “touristy” Seattle things.
Immediately south of Queen Anne is Seattle Center, which hosts the Space Needle, MoPop, and the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum. There are several large lawns and a huge fountain that can be nice to just relax on. Honestly the Space Needle is worth seeing up close, but it isn’t really worth the price of admission to go up in it, and the restaurant up top definitely isn’t worth the price. For great views, Kerry Park, Gasworks Park, and the Seattle Great Wheel are often nicer, cheaper, and you can actually get the needle in the picture, which you can’t really do from the needle itself.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Continuing south from Seattle Center the next neighborhood you will come across is Belltown. First and Second avenue from about Wall to Lenora have a bunch of bars and restaurants, plus the corner of 2nd and Blanchard is the home of my personal favorite music venue in the city, The Crocodile. On Sunday the 29th, the day after the meetup, Vacationer and Sego are playing there, which should be a great show if that is your kind of jam, and I’m hoping to make it down to that myself!
Umi Sake House
Olympic Sculpture Park
Much like Seattle Center, Pike Place is a touristy enough area to get its own section. Pike Place Market is one of the “must visit” Seattle spots. The Market is home to Pike Place Fish Market (where they throw the fish around), the original Starbucks, Beecher’s Cheese, and hundred of other vendors selling local produce, arts and crafts, clothes, chocolate, hot sauce, pasta, flowers, and so much more. If you are there, definitely check out Beecher’s, wait in line to get a sampler from the award-winning Pike Place Chowder, and take some photos in front of the original Starbucks (but I wouldn’t bother waiting in the line) For a more unique Starbucks experience, walk just a few blocks up Pike street to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, which offers different coffee and a more luxurious ambience. .
Pike Place Brewing
Pike Place Chowder
Pike Place Market
If you head west down the hill from Pike Place you will quickly come up on the waterfront. This is a really nice area to just walk along the water. If you walk northwest along the waterfront you will hit the Olympic Sculpture Park, which becomes Myrtle Edwards Park, that then turns into Centennial Park, which is essentially one continuous ~1.5 mile walking trail right along the water.
Seattle Great Wheel
Pioneer Square was one of the original “downtown” areas of Seattle and is one of the oldest neighborhoods. After it burned down in the Great Seattle Fire, all of the streets were raised by about 10’, which leaves us with the remnants of the Seattle Underground, which you can still tour today! There isn’t much to see here however, and it is not recommended to hang out here at night.
Hole in the Wall BBQ
Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour
Seattle’s International District is actually made up of a few asian communities including Chinatown, Japantown, and Little Saigon.
Dough Zone (soup dumplings)
Jade Garden (Chinese, dimsum)
Uwajimaya (modern Asian supermarket)
Bordering Pioneer Square to the south, SoDo is mostly an industrial area, but it also hosts our sports stadiums and our friends at the Living Computer museum (and our former venue)!
Living Computer Museum
Just because most of the downtown area is south of Queen Anne and the meetup doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything worth seeing to the East!
South Lake Union
South Lake Union over the last decade or so has become known as the land of Amazon, but there are other things worth seeing here as well, including a really pretty park right on the southern tip of Lake Union and the Museum of History and Industry.
I Love Sushi
Museum of History and Industry
Capitol Hill and Pike/Pine
Seattle’s “gayborhood”, Capitol Hill, is a pretty hip and trendy area with lots of bars, restaurants, and clubs. If you are looking for somewhere to head out for a night on the town, this is probably the place to be. Some people consider Pike/Pine to be a separate neighborhood, but I am going to lump them both in together in this case.
Rainbow crosswalks (hard to miss!)
Cal Anderson Park
Getting Out of the City (arranged by distance)
A little under an hour from downtown Seattle, just outside of the town of the sleepy town of Snoqualmie, sits a 268 foot tall single drop waterfall. If you’re familiar with the show “Twin Peaks,” you may even recognize it, as shots of the falls and the hotel at the top of it were featured fairly prominently in the the show’s opening. There isn’t tons of hiking around the falls, sadly, but you can park up at the top and walk down to the bottom for a different view.
If that isn’t enough Twin Peaks for you, you can follow it up by heading down into the town of North Bend where you can get a –excuse me– damn fine cup of coffee, and I hear they make a cherry pie that’ll kill ya.
Ok, ok, I know, “the olympic peninsula is a big place, you can’t just throw it all under one bullet like that!” Yeah, sure, I hear you. I’ll try to break it up.
If you want to spend a little time outdoors, the Hoodsport area is a pretty great choice. At just a bit over an hour and a half drive from downtown, it is one of the closer destinations on the peninsula. It is a really popular area for kayaking, both on the Hood Canal, and up the hill a bit to the east at Lake Cushman. Lake Cushman also has a fair amount of hiking along the rivers and streams that flow down from the mountains into the river.
The Northeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula has the greatest variety of fun things to do, in my opinion. It’s roughly a two hour drive up here if you loop around the southern tip of Puget Sound, but you can also drive north to Edmonds and then take the ferry across to Kingston. This will still take about two hours, but the ferry ride is about half of that trip.
If you are just coming out for an afternoon, There are two great options: visit Port Townsend, a small little town at the very north-eastern corner of the peninsula with a lot of Victorian architecture and historic buildings, Fort Worden State Park, and miles of waterfront to explore; or head down to Mt Walker, where you can drive right up to the viewpoint at the summit.
If you want another stop in the northeast of the peninsula and you are of legal drinking age, check out the Finnriver cider garden! They have a few different types of food on site and a lot of very excellent cider. Definitely a nice way to unwind after a day of hiking and exploration.
Heading west across the peninsula from the northeast you will you will pass through Sequim, WA (pronounced more like skwim), known for their lavender fields. The Sequim area is the largest producer of lavender in the US, and have a large lavender festival every year (which unfortunately occurs the weekend before the meetup).
Next, you will pass through Port Angeles, where you can turn south to head up to Hurricane Ridge, which delivers a spectacular view of the olympics. On a clear day you can see dozens of peaks out in front of you. If it is a little foggy but not cloudy you can get a really cool view of the mountains rising up out of the fog as it gets trapped in the valleys between them.
Continuing west you will reach a fork. Traveling north on highway 112 will take you along the coast (only twenty or so miles from the southern end of Vancouver Island!), and eventually all the way out to Cape Flattery, the most northwesterly tip of the contiguous lower 48 states. Taking the southern fork along highway 101 will take you right along Lake Crescent and within about 1000 ft of Marymere Falls. Lake Crescent is officially within the Olympic National Park, so there are lots of trails to hike around the lake.
Rounding the bend in the 101 to turn south, you will hit another fork between highway 101 and highway 110. Taking 110 will bring you out to La Push and continuing South will have you drive straight through the town of Forks. Neither of these places are particularly notable unless you are deeply invested in the Twilight series, though La Push does have some great hiking and views right along the coast.
About 13 miles south of Forks on Highway 101 you can turn onto Upper Hoh Road, which will take you into the Hoh Rain Forest. Hoh is one of the largest temperate rainforests in the US, and has a great mix of both new and old growth forest, with a nice big river carrying snowmelt and glacial sediment down from the Hoh Glacier at the top of Mount Olympus. The Hoh Rain Forest chunk of Olympic National Park has a handful of short beginner trails as well as some advance multi-day treks into the mountains. It’s definitely worth a stop if you want to do some hiking in the area.
Back on the 101 southbound, the next great stop you will pass is Ruby Beach (or if it is crowded, the next few miles will have a few other beaches that tend to be a bit less busy). There are some great views along this strip of beach, especially in the morning before the fog lifts. These are rocky beaches and can be a bit chilly in the mornings, so there is probably no need for your beach towel and swim trunks, but if you want a relaxing walk along a rocky beach, this is a great place to be.
The last spot that I would recommend stopping as you finish making your way around the peninsula would be Lake Quinault. There are some nice trails for hiking scattered around the lake, but even just driving the loop up to Brunch Falls and around the lake can be a nice way to spend an hour or so.
At just over an hour and a half drive from downtown Seattle, Deception Pass State Park makes a great day trip for hiking and kayaking.with 38 miles of hiking trails scattered in different directions all over the park you can see forests, beaches, bluffs, and cliffs, and if you stick around long enough you may even see a whale or some seals.
A trip up to Deception Pass can be combined with a tour of the northeastern corner of the peninsula as well, as you can take a ferry between Port Townsend at the tip of the peninsula and Fort Casey on Whidbey Island.
Like the Olympic Peninsula, the Mt. Rainier area probably deserves to be split up into a few smaller sections. I am going to split the park based on entrances into the park by car (there are a few more entrances not accessible by car, but I will ignore those for now.
The Nisqually Entrance is the park entrance most travelers from Seattle would use. Situated at the southwestern corner of the park, you have a small 700ft climb as you travel the first 8 miles or so to the National Park Inn, wilderness Information Center, and Longmire Museum.
After that the climb grows steeper, and the next 4-5 miles see a 2500 foot rise in elevation before you reach the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center. It is frequently 10 degrees fahrenheit cooler 5400ft high at this visitor center than it is at the lower visitor centers, so if you love hiking but don’t want to go for a hike in the mid-eighty-degree weather we are expecting for the meetup, this might be a really good pick. From the visitor center you can 1400 feet in elevation on foot to catch the views from Panorama Point, but you might need your snowshoes to get up there!
Continuing along the main park road you will drive along Reflection Lakes, Lake Louise, and Bench Lake before driving along Stevens Canyon where you can catch some spectacular views. After crossing Box Canyon and Backbone Ridge you will start to approach the Stevens Canyon entrance.
Stevens Canyon Entrance
The Stevens Canyon Entrance features the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center as well as the Grove of the Patriarchs Trail, which is a short 1.5 mile loop through ancient trees towering 3-4 stories above you. If you are looking for a bit longer of a hike, you can also check out the Silver Falls Loop Trail, which runs along the Ohanapecosh River up to Silver Falls. It’s a 3 mile loop, but you will likely want to spend a little bit of time around the waterfall at the trail midpoint just staring into the bright blue water from the glacial melt river.
White River Entrance
Continuing north from the Stevens Canyon entrance, the next big stop you will pass is the White River Entrance. Due to the high elevation, most of the White River area is only accessible from July to early October. I would probably recommend skipping this area.