Six fun, amazing, sometimes secret things to do in Seattle

Every now and then I do a post on something fun and non-science related, and today it’s all about Seattle.

Since it’s Friday, don’t you wish you were on vacation in Seattle?

If you can ever imagine visiting Seattle in the near future, bookmark this page because I give suggestions for great things (some that you won’t find in a tour book) to do and eat in Seattle after growing up there and having lived there a good portion of my life.

It’s my favorite city, with Portland, La Jolla, and San Francisco tied for 2nd.

What to do in Seattle?

Take a ferry somewhere

It almost doesn’t matter where you go, but the Kitsap Peninsula (Bremerton) or Bainbridge Island are good places to start as a destination. You can take the ferry from Seattle to many different places. It can get a little windy up on top of the ferry but that is where you want to go (just hold on tight as 2 of my girls were doing years ago in the picture below on the right because it can be a little windy).  The water, the mountains, the sky…you can’t get better than that.

I grew up spending a lot of time visiting my grandma, aunts, uncles, and cousins in a small town call Poulsbo.  Poulsbo means “Paul’s town” and I sure felt at home there. We almost always took the ferry to get across Puget Sound (pronounced Pew-jet not Pug-get) on our way to Poulsbo.

The Washington State Ferry System is the largest in the world and it is wonderful.  You can even check out the status of the ferries using their cool webcam option.

Especially in summer, this part of the world is gorgeous and there’s nothing like going across Puget Sound on a ferry.  Poulsbo is a lot more touristy than it used to be but it is still a very fun place to visit. If nothing else swing by Sluy’s Bakery in Poulsbo for the largest donut you will ever eat in your life (see picture at left below of my 3 daughters ready to attack chocolate versions of these donuts). This bakery is also home to world famous “Poulsbo Bread”.

Washington Park Arboretum

Explore on foot and go canoeing in Washington Park Arboretum. It may be a no-brainer, but this is generally a late Spring-Summer activity in Seattle. This arboretum is beautiful even on foot, but slip out in a canoe and paddle around Lake Washington. Enjoy the sun shimmering off the water and if it’s clear, you can look to the East to see the very snowy Cascade Mountains.  Don’t paddle all the way across the lake to the Eastside or you might find yourself too near Bill and Melinda Gates’ house and get a visit from their security.

Seattle Center including the Space Needle

food in Seattle
Me enjoying a giant homemade ice cream sandwich.

The Space Needle, Science Center, and Experience Music Project. OK, this is THE most touristy thing to do in Seattle, but there’s a reason.  The view on a non-rainy/foggy day is stunning. If you have time and money, have brunch up there and you’ll realize the restaurant rotates 360 degrees so you can see all of Seattle and the Cascade and Olympic Mountains and Lake Washington and Puget Sound. You’ll see ferries coming and going. The Space Needle is so cool that even natives go there every few years. As long as you are in the neighborhood, consider visiting the Pacific Science Center and the Experience Music Project too!

Eat great food!

Seattle has some really good food, especially fish. One thing I miss in Davis is really fresh seafood. You’d think being within 90 min. drive of the ocean or less that there’d be lots of good seafood restaurants around here, but there aren’t. It’s not just seafood, but more generally Seattle has some wonderful restaurants. One of my favorite restaurants in the Seattle area is Trellis, which is located across Lake Washington in Kirkland.  They have great food of all kinds including seafood and desserts. I enjoyed their homemade pistachio ice cream sandwich (see picture above right), which they give you wrapped in paper and you eat it with a huge steak knife. Yum!

Another great place to go, but one that is very different is right in downtown Seattle called Lola, one of the Tom Douglas restaurants.

Lola serves great breakfasts as well as other meals, but they are famous for their homemade mini-donuts with dipping sauce (see picture above left). Giada De Laurentis of the Food Network picked Lola’s donuts as the best fried thing she had ever eaten. That says something!

Finally, if you want fresh, incredible seafood you have many choices, but a favorite place in Seattle is Flying Fish (see picture to the right). My family really likes this restaurant and so do a lot of people in Seattle. The fish is just amazing and served in many creative ways.

Go Take a Hike

One of my favorite things to do in Seattle is to take advantage of its proximity to not just one, but two mountain ranges and take a hike.

If you head west (hey you can even take the Ferry) there is a ton of hiking that can be done in and around the Olympic Mountain Range. Just one beautiful spot is Hurricane Ridge where you have a spectacular view of the Olympic Mountains spread right out in front of you. You can also hike around there and you are pretty much 100% sure to see deer including in spring fawns that are super cute and tame.

If you head east, you have even more choices in the Cascade Mountain Range. Many hikes are just an hour or two’s drive from Seattle and the surrounding area. Name what you like about hiking in general and you can experience it in the Cascades. Real deep forest, snowy mountains (up close), alpine meadows, in the winter you can go skiing or snow shoeing, rivers, volcanoes (Mt. Rainier and even more dramatic, Mt. St. Helens), wild life, etc.

One much closer, secret place to take an amazing hike is right in Seattle itself at an often-missed place called Carkeek Park. This place is simply stunning with its wonderful grassy area surrounded by forest where you can hike, but then you can also walk over a bridge over train tracks to the beach as well and walk right along Puget Sound and go beach combing at low tide.

This is an unusually good place for beach combing with great tide pools and tons of wildlife. If you time it right you can get a naturalist guide for your tide pool exploration as well. Kids love the one-of-a-kind salmon slide (see picture below) as well as the frequent passing of trains (which you can look down on from the bridge to the beach), the beach, the woods, the playground.

Carkeek Park, things to do in Seattle
Fun things to do in Seattle include going to Carkeek Park.

What a lot of people come to Carkeek for is the amazing view of Puget Sound with the Olympic Mountains looming right in front of you. It’s basically heaven on Earth.

The Market

Go visit Pike Place Market. Like the Space Needle, this is a touristy thing to do, but even so everyone loves Pike Place Market (note it is not “Pike’s Place Market”), even native Seattleites. I know when I have lived in Seattle I often go “The Market” as we call it.  The Market is the oldest (104 years old) continually running public farmer’s market in America. You can get all kinds of cool foods and crafts there, although it is pricey. Great people watching.

Final general note. Don’t let rain deter you from doing things in Seattle. If you really must, pull out your umbrella, but with or without, brave the rain and do stuff.

That’s the Seattle way!

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