1. Seward Park
Few urban areas can boast an old-growth forest within city limits, but Seattle has that in Seward Park, a 121-hectare thumb of land jutting into Lake Washington, south of downtown. It’s a local favourite, especially on sunny days, when visitors flock here for a stroll, bike ride, or to take a dip in the lake. There’s a paved path ringing the park’s outer boundary, plus a network of both standard and primitive trails threading through the interior forest. The expansive green space also boasts a kids’ play area, amphitheater, art studio and plenty of shoreline access. You might even spot bald eagles here.
Seattle is surrounded by water, and one of the best places to enjoy this is at the Center for Wooden Boats. This non-profit boat centre is a living museum, with an impressive collection of usable antiques. The docks are a lovely spot to take in the view of Lake Union and the Seattle skyline, but visitors can also rent rowboats or canoes and explore the lake. On Sundays, it runs a free public sail programme open to anyone with a sense of adventure. During this weekly event, volunteer skippers and crew take passengers out on wooden sailboats, steamboats, schooners and yachts. Be sure to come early, though, because the free sails are popular, especially when the weather is nice.
Walk or drive onto the ferry from downtown Seattle and glide across Puget Sound to bucolic Bainbridge Island. The 35-minute ferry ride is incredibly scenic – keep an eye out for orcas and Mount Rainier in the background as you sail. Once you disembark, the island’s town centre of Winslow is just a short walk away. Here, you’ll find a charming collection of shops and restaurants, plus Alehouse and three wine tasting rooms where you can sample the boutique creations of the island’s award-winning wineries. There’s also a waterfront walking trail, an art museum with works by local artists and a Kids Discovery Museum. In all, Bainbridge makes for a laidback diversion from the bustle of Seattle.
Whether or not you think of pinball machines as “interactive art” – as the Seattle Pinball Museum’s founders do – you’ll love cutting loose in this museum. All of the 60-odd machines here are in full working condition, and visitors can play unlimited games for a flat fee of USD$15 (about S$20). The collection ranges from modern to vintage machines, with the oldest dating back to the 1960s. The place can fill up on weekends, but you can head down and put your name on the waiting list, and then explore the surrounding neighbourhood, the Chinatown–International District. It’s home to scores of great restaurants including the James Beard Foundation Award-winning Maneki.
This diverse south Seattle neighbourhood tends to fly under the radar as the tourist attractions downtown are usually more popular. While the nightclubs are in Capitol Hill, and the celebrated restaurants closer to the city centre, Columbia City is still worth a visit. The neighbourhood’s core, a collection of storefronts on Rainier Avenue South, has several gems, including Columbia City Bakery, Columbia City Theater, Ark Lodge Cinemas, the Royal Room, La Medusa and Geraldine’s Counter. Just off the strip, Super Six serves outstanding Hawaiian food and cocktails. On Wednesdays from May to October, the Columbia City Neighborhood Farmers Market is a great place to buy an array of local products.
Rain or shine, Volunteer Park dresses to impress. The 19-hectare park was designed by the famous Olmsted Brothers, renowned for their landscaping work around the country. Notable elements of the park include the Volunteer Park Conservatory, a glasshouse of orchids, ferns, cacti and more; the Seattle Asian Art Museum; a summer wading pool; views of the Space Needle; and the Water Tower, which boasts a 360-degree vantage point of the city. There are also expansive picnic areas and walking paths weaving through groves of massive trees. From July until the start of winter, dahlias bloom through the park thanks to the efforts of the Puget Sound Dahlia Association, which has been planting these flowers every year since 1984.