A born-and-raised local offers insider knowledge for making the best of our warmer, less-rainy months.
I’m one of those odd fish. A trout with two tails? A ratfish with a nice personality? No, I’m a native Seattleite. You don’t meet that many of us anymore. And get this: According to Google Maps, the place I work (The Seattle Times, 1000 Denny Way) is just 3,873 feet (as the pigeon flies) from the hospital where I was born (Virginia Mason, 1100 Ninth Ave.).
So I guess I qualify as a hard-core local.
But I remember being the new kid in school. The new renter in a neighborhood. The first day on a job. So I can relate to the whole human-newcomer condition.
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There are all sorts of Seattle newcomer guides if you go online. I’ve looked at none of them. What I’ve done is made a list of 10 Seattle summer do’s and don’ts based completely on my own native biases. Insider knowledge. “Seattle happiness” strategies evolved over a lifetime.
So buckle up, keep your hands inside the ferryboat at all times, and try these:
1. DO: Go to Folklife.
The Northwest Folklife Festival, though its organizers seek and deserve your donation, is still free if that’s all you can afford. Every Memorial Day weekend, it embraces music, arts and the folksy, patchouli-scented aura of Seattle’s bygone hippie days. Embrace it yourself.
DON’T: Go to Bumbershoot.
Labor Day weekend’s Bumbershoot, once a community-supported arts festival, has morphed into a corporate-run concert venue for people with very fat wallets. Should we encourage this sort of thing?
2. DO: Take a hike at Mount Rainier on a weekday.
Mount Rainier National Park holds a special place in our hearts. You can see “The Mountain” out your window on a sunny day, or on your new license plate. Wangle a weekday off and go when crowds are smaller and entry lines shorter. Take a friend (there are bears in those woods) and a knapsack with the Ten Essentials (wta.org/go-outside/basics/ten-essentials) and hike a few miles away from a visitor center until you’re on your own. Then sit on a log, eat your sack lunch and get to know that big, snowy peak.
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DON’T: Take a hike along Interstate 90 on a weekend.
The closest hiking trails are off I-90 as you head up toward Snoqualmie Pass. They’re overloved and overtrodden. If your first Northwest hike is a trek to Snow Lake (for example) on a sunny summer weekend, you’ll be in an endless parade of city folk. Unless you really love your fellow humans you might end up loathing the experience.
3. DO: Have lunch at any charming little food counter or cafe you stumble across at Pike Place Market.
The Market, despite its crazy crowds, is an old friend to many a Seattleite. Grabbing a hombow or a cup of tea and a crumpet between shopping for dinner fixings is a small pleasure worth doing.
DON’T: Stand in line among the tourists at the piroshky place or the chowder house.
A few places at the Market have been written up by some New York Times interloper or have caught on as the best place on TripAdvisor, and the lines can just be stupid. Don’t participate in line madness; you’ll have a happier day.
4. DO: Ride the Great Wheel at sunset on a clear summer evening.
This soaring, 175-foot-high Ferris wheel was a refreshing addition to our waterfront for several reasons, including that it seemed to arrive without a huge amount of community angst (wait, is this Seattle?). It’s a great way to take in the view of scuttling ferries, snowy mountains and magenta-laced sunsets.
DON’T: Ride the Ducks.
Those quackers are annoying.
5. DO: Paddle a kayak among the cattails, water lilies and blue herons at Mercer Slough Nature Park.
DON’T: Ride a Jet Ski on Lake Sammamish. Ever.
Lake Sammamish, stretching from Redmond to Issaquah, can be a peaceful place for a summer-day paddle, swim or sail. Or not.
6. DO: Watch the hydroplanes race on Lake Washington on Seafair Weekend.
It’s a uniquely Seattle summer tradition with boats that send up roostertails, and it’s only one weekend a year.
DON’T: Feel you ever have to go watch them again.
You’ll love it or you’ll hate it. You decide.
7. DO: Make up an outrageous coffee-drink order (iced triple tall soy mochaccino with cinnamon, passion-fruit syrup and goat’s milk whip, say) to challenge a barista at a locally run coffee shop.
Yes, you’re living in Coffeetown U.S.A. Have fun with that.
DON’T: Stand in line with the cruise-ship crowds to get into the “first” Starbucks.
Full disclosure: That Starbucks in Pike Place Market wasn’t really the first location. The first store was a block away and doesn’t exist anymore. And it never sold coffee drinks, just coffee beans. See above, re: “line madness.”
8. DO: Celebrate a birthday with dinner at the Space Needle on a pristine summer evening.
Here’s where mixing with the tourists is worth it. The Needle is classic Seattle, the revolving SkyCity restaurant offers the best views in the Northwest — bar none — and the last time I visited the food was outstanding (which wasn’t always the case).
Tip: Bring your platinum card.
DON’T: Forget to leave room for dessert.
The Lunar Orbiter sundae comes in a fantastic fog (from dry ice in the base of the bowl) and on your birthday they add a sparkler candle. Good, dorky fun.
Go on a weekday for a less-crowded ride. It’s all rail trail, so hills are minimal. A great way to learn the lay of the land as you skirt the north end of Lake Washington, with a cold brew at your lunch stop.
DON’T: Try to ride up and down the hills of downtown Seattle.
Seattle’s Pronto bike-sharing system flopped for a reason. (Have you tried walking up Madison Street without suffering a coronary?)
10. DO: Take a bus or water taxi to Alki Beach, go for a long stroll and gobble fish ‘n’ chips while you watch a beach volleyball game.
Sandy, wind-cooled Alki — the birthplace of Seattle — feels like you’re at the ocean, with classic views of downtown, Magnolia Bluff and Bainbridge Island.
DON’T: Drive any more than you have to. Until light rail expands a lot more, Seattle traffic just plain sucks — especially on a hot summer day.
But you didn’t need me to tell you that.