Getting restless indoors? You’re definitely not alone. That goes doubly for folks without the convenience of a car, with public transportation limited to essential trips during the coronavirus outbreak. If it feels difficult to find new things to do in your area, we wrote up a few activities across Seattle neighborhoods that are within walking distance. More distant neighbors can bike if you have one on hand.
As with any activity right now, bring a mask and wear it in accordance with Gov. Jay Inslee’s latest directives, and stay 6 feet apart from people outside your household. And hey — enjoy the fresh air.
Meditate at Meadowbrook Pond
Closest neighborhoods: Northgate, Olympic Hills, Pinehurst, Lake City, Bitter Lake
You might not expect a control area for flood and stormwater to be an ideal spot for a moment of Zen, but Meadowbrook Pond is exactly that. Fed by Thornton Creek, the 2-acre pond creates an oasis for people and wildlife alike in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Pedestrians can cross the pond on footbridges. Look for the local beavers, heron and bald eagles, among more common animals like squirrels and ducks. (Sadly, a nest of heron chicks recently became prey to the eagles, as the pond’s community Facebook page reported — sometimes the circle of life isn’t as upbeat as Elton John and friends made it sound).
On my visit, I saw almost-adult-sized ducklings swimming in groups. I also followed the sound of a saxophonist and guitarist to the Sound Mirror area, a small amphitheater where there was enough room for listeners to wander in and out at distance. The musicians, Jeremy Shaskus and Ian Hughes, told me they play most Fridays between 1 and 3 p.m., should you hope to tune in.
Practice your dance moves on Capitol Hill
Closest neighborhoods: Capitol Hill, Pike/Pine, Central District, South Lake Union
If you regularly walk down Broadway on Capitol Hill, you’ve probably spotted bronze footsteps on the ground before. But have you ever stopped to give them a try?
The public art installation is actually an accurate, step-by-step instructional for popular dances, like the tango, waltz and mambo. There are also fictional dances like the “Obeebo” and the “bus stop,” which artist Jack Mackie has described as the steps people do to avoid each other on the sidewalk and the backward-forward, “forget it I’ll just walk” move when we wait for the bus.
Eight dance routines span 12 blocks on Broadway. The rumba installation is directly in front of Rondo Japanese Kitchen at 224 Broadway E. — I’ll leave the rest for you to discover on your own. Just give plenty of space to folks who are trying to walk by.
Follow the koi at Kubota Garden
Closest neighborhoods: Rainier Beach, Lakeridge
The Seattle Japanese Garden at Washington Park Arboretum is still closed for now, but South Seattle has a delightful alternative: the Kubota Garden. The 20-acre park began in 1927 when a landscaping entrepreneur, Fujitaro Kubota, purchased the initial 5-acre plot. The garden was lovingly cared for and generously shared for years before being purchased by the city of Seattle in 1987.
The free park features plants native to the Pacific Northwest with Japanese landscaping design, including a koi pond, waterfalls, streams and open grassy areas. I was amused by a giraffe-shaped tree and really admired how tranquil the whole place felt.
Folks with bikes can easily cycle to the garden along the Chief Sealth Trail and Beacon Hill Neighborhood Greenway, which travel 4.5 miles south from Columbia City. You could even ride streets a bit farther to connect to the Mountains to Sound Greenway along Interstate 90 to go all the way to Capitol Hill.
Hike, bike and hammock in Lincoln Park
Closest neighborhoods: West Seattle, Alki, Roxhill, Fauntleroy
Located on the west side of West Seattle, 135-acre Lincoln Park was my favorite place to go when I lived in Alki. It’s usually significantly quieter than Alki Beach and it offers a nice mix of waterfront views, tidal intrigue (I once pulled a massive fiberglass box from the waves, but never quite figured out what it was for), and leisurely forest paths. A few sturdy trees are spread throughout the park, so plop down for a hammock nap when crowding isn’t an issue. Watch the ferry dart back and forth across the Puget Sound south of the park, or put your feet up among the driftwood to look out over Blake, Vashon and Bainbridge islands.
Like most places in the city, getting to the water will require a downhill hike and an uphill slog on the way back. But it’s a doable walk from many spots in West Seattle and even faster if you take a bike. The route I liked was along the flat waterfront from Alki, with only a brief uphill before descending onto the park’s north gravel path.
Get on, by, and around Lake Washington
Closest neighborhoods: Anything on the east side of Seattle, from Rainier Beach up to Olympic Hills
OK, you probably haven’t forgotten about the 22-mile long lake that rubs up against Seattle’s entire east side.
But here’s a reminder about how many ways there are to enjoy the water. Lakeside parks include Matthews Beach, Warren G. Magnuson Park, Union Bay Natural Area, Madison Park Beach, Mount Baker Beach and Seward Park, among many more smaller beaches, parks and access points.
Swimming beaches aren’t open yet — the city is targeting a July opening date at some popular areas, but keep your eyes online — but you can get in the water if you’ve got a boat, big or small. Popular boat ramps are opening up, but check seattle.gov for updates before you hitch a trailer. Get a freshwater permit and go fishing — they cost $29.50 per person for the year and can be purchased online. No boat? Make a kayak or canoe reservation at least a day in advance (rentals are now limited to seven boats every 30 minutes) at UW’s Waterfront Activities Center. Paddle through the Washington Park Arboretum or strike out on your own path. You won’t struggle keeping a 6-foot distance on the water.
Walk or bike across the I-90 bridge or the Highway 520 bridge, both of which have nonmotorized paths offering stellar views of the water, the shoreline and even Mount Rainier on a clear day. The 520 bridge is a bit wider and more pleasant for pedestrians, with pullouts to take in the views.
Of course, there’s always the Eastside, too — cyclists with a few miles on their legs can take dedicated paths across 520 or I-90 to the other side, creating a relatively flat, 30-ish mile loop by heading counterclockwise along the Sammamish River Trail and Burke-Gilman Trail. Confident riders can even circumvent the whole lake in a 60-mile loop, but expect a somewhat burly 4,000 feet of elevation gain and traffic-adjacent streets.
Discover your neighborhood parks
Big parks like Discovery, Carkeek and Golden Gardens get a lot of attention, but Seattle has 485 parks under its management. Chances are there’s one nearby that you haven’t given a proper look.
I’m up in Edmonds, and after a year of running around my neighborhood, I’ve stumbled upon four new parks within walking distance in the last month. They’re home to owls, heron, squirrels and other animals that are a delight to see — and I rarely run into more than a handful of people. (I bring a mask for exactly those occasions.)
Use an online mapping system to look for spots of green or just go out and wander. You might be surprised what you find.