One Foot in Front of the Other
Valentine’s Day is Sunday — yes, this Sunday, fellas — and if you find the rain romantic, there’s no better place for a lovebird to be than Seattle.
No matter the forecast, couples might find themselves pressed for date ideas this year, for obvious reasons. Take it back to basics with a walk and some one-on-one time. (Or one-on-one-plus; we don’t judge.)
Surrounded by sprawling Puget Sound and snowcapped mountains in all directions, the Seattle area has no shortage of dreamy views, provided it’s clear enough to see them. Bring a coat and a mask, plus your partner, a friend (with or without benefits), your pet or just your headphones, and treat yourself to these five walks in Greater Seattle.
Sunset recommended but not required. Singles encouraged to enjoy walks while muttering curses under mask at passing couples.
Richmond Beach Saltwater Park, Shoreline
Trail distance: About 1.5 miles
A placard at the upper parking lot at Richmond Beach Saltwater Park asks visitors what makes the place special to them. The view from there stretches across Puget Sound to verdant Bainbridge Island and the Kitsap Peninsula, with the Olympic Mountains tucked under cotton ball clouds on the horizon.
As far as special goes, I’d start there.
From that upper lot, visitors can turn back up the hill to reach the southeastern edge of the park, about a half-mile away. (Keep on the trails and keep pets leashed.) The view is even more lovely from there, with sightlines down the hill to the beach, from which railroad tracks run south along the water to the tree-topped bluff at Innis Arden Reserve Park.
Enjoy the view from above or walk back down the winding path and past the playground to reach a bridge to the beach. On a recent sunny morning, traffic congested the bridge momentarily, with parents corralling little ones with rosy cheeks and runny noses. Be patient, be courteous, be safe, folks!
Driftwood lines the beach, which boasts the Golden Gardens experience without the boats, fire pits and volleyball. You can follow the shoreline north or south and be reunited with the train tracks either way. The park is a wonderful place to walk, read and/or pass the time with your significant other without spending a dime.
North 45th Street to Gas Works Park, Wallingford
One-way distance: About 1.2 miles
With a water-level view across the lake to South Lake Union, Gas Works Park is crowded many evenings at sunset. I’d suggest going in the afternoon to avoid competition with 20-somethings and Canada geese for real estate on the park’s popular Kite Hill.
For the skyline charm without the crowds, start this walk about 1 mile north of the park on Wallingford’s main drag, North 45th Street. A rainbow sprouted from the starting point on a recent walk of mine, but if the weather is less helpful for your romantic stroll, the QFC marks the spot just fine.
Walk south on Wallingford Avenue North beyond the strip of shops and restaurants. Watch for groups of children adorably connected by harnesses being shepherded around by day care workers. It’s a straight shot to the park.
By the time you reach the south side of Wallingford Playfield, the skyline is in full view on clear days. The road slowly slopes downward to the water, passing businesses and tiny fences separating cute houses where, in the spring, lush gardens bloom. There’s hardly a sniff of the stereotypically Seattle box houses until you get closer to the Wallingford Steps, which lead across North Northlake Way and into the park. Cue the Frank Sinatra and views of the skyline and marinas.
Stay 6 feet apart, watch for geese droppings and don’t make any promises you can’t keep this Valentine’s Day.
Kerry Park to Marshall Park loop, Queen Anne
Round-trip distance: About 1.2 miles
Kerry Park is one of the most popular skyline vantage points in Seattle for good reason; few places enjoy more flattering views of our famed, phallic Space Needle.
The sunset (and sunrise) hot spot is a great launching point for a short walk that offers more than Kerry Park’s splendid selfie background. Bring your boo for a spin around Queen Anne, where there are magnificent houses I’ll never afford in myriad styles: Tuscan, Spanish colonial, a bougie German farmhouse. On West Comstock Street, you’ll find Meredith Grey’s fictional residence and a brick fortress with a half-dozen palm trees in the front yard. You can feel the tension from the neighborhood’s HOA meetings from the street.
About one-third of a mile west from Kerry Park on West Highland Drive is Marshall Park, cater-corner from petite, shady Parsons Gardens. Kerry is excellent for watching ferries chug toward the Seattle waterfront; the angle at Marshall shows off more of Puget Sound and the Olympics across it, with Magnolia Bridge and Elliott Bay Marina meeting at Smith Cove, which shimmers in the sunlight.
Climb the slight slope of Seventh Avenue West northbound or follow parallel Queen Anne Boulevard, a city of Seattle landmark, for more westward views. At the intersections with West Lee and West Galer streets, trees canopy over staircases with railings that lead back up the hill. Take Galer, Lee or Comstock east to Third Avenue West and back down to Highland to complete the loop at Kerry Park.
Kubota Garden, South Seattle
Trail distance: About 1.3 miles
Kubota Garden is one of the gems of the South End, an enchanting Japanese garden that packs history, foliage and impressive architecture into 20 acres of Rainier Beach. The free park, gorgeous in every season, would be a bargain at any price; as my colleague Megan Burbank wrote in 2019, Kubota is “a place to move slowly, with your eyes open.”
It’s difficult to walk every inch of the intersecting paths at Kubota. Focus on your company and let your feet and eyes guide you along pathways that weave through ponds (look for koi!) and gardens, trails that lead up to overlooks and over the Moon Bridge, all underneath enough tree cover to keep relatively dry. The trail branches are short — if you have to backtrack, it won’t take long.
Look for information on the flora within the park, as well as the dramatic man-made and natural history of the garden, named a city landmark in 1981. This urban escape tells a story that stretches back to World War II-era Japanese incarceration camps and the Pacific Northwest of 40 million years ago; go for a walk in the rain, listen to the birds chirp their refrain, and take it all in.
Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park, Renton
One-way distance: About 1.1 miles
Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park loses romance points based on the presence of an Ivar’s and a Kidd Valley at the park, but this is a gorgeous, easy waterfront walk regardless. And the fast food means waterfowl are always around. (Do not feed the waterfowl!)
The park hugs the southeasternmost edge of Lake Washington, with views across the water to Rainier Beach and the southern tip of Mercer Island. There’s a good chance you’ll see seaplanes buzzing around or aircraft landing at or taking off from Renton Municipal Airport. Fall colors draw visitors to the park in autumn, but the haze over the water on a winter day casts a benevolent spell over the park — it’s a beautiful spot for a brisk, flat walk on an overcast day.
Wooden floating bridges extend out onto the water and sailboats float at the edge of the lake; the trail extends north to the top of the park, where walkers can pick up the Eastside’s Eastrail trail, which parallels Lake Washington Boulevard and Lake Washington itself north to Kennydale Beach Park and beyond.
No matter where you walk, make sure you start the day with flowers. Pair some roses with an hour alone with your partner and you’ve got as good of a Valentine’s date as circumstances will allow.
(There are too many romantic spots to list here — Centennial Park, Golden Gardens, Louisa Boren Lookout, Washington Park Arboretum, Lincoln Park — let us know your favorites in the comments! Be safe and happy Valentine’s Day.)