EDITOR’S NOTE: With much of Washington in Phase 2 or beyond, limited non-essential travel is now allowed. However, keep public-health guidelines in mind when deciding whether to travel. Before you go anywhere, it’s always a good idea to check https://doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/Coronavirus for updates on coronavirus in Washington state. This collection of stories is meant to help you plan getaways based on current coronavirus conditions in the state and the region. But if new restrictions are enacted, tuck it away for later!
Kayak guide Steve Wooten has the most amazing view outside his tent flaps on Blake Island, and there’s no reason why you can’t share it.
“On a clear day you can see Mount Rainier over here and Mount Baker over here,” Wooten said, sweeping his arm across the horizon and hundreds of miles from south to north, “and everything in between.”
That everything in between is our glorious home. And it’s time to get to know it.
We understand you’re probably bummed. Your summer vacation plans likely have been tossed in the trash or severely curtailed. It’s probably not a great idea to venture too far from home just yet, and many people are still trying to avoid crowded contained spaces such as airplanes and buses. Also, should you decide to take a road trip, businesses in some communities may not yet be open and the locals may not be that excited to see you.
What to do? We suggest you take that energy and a little bit of that money you were going to spend, and invest it in a lovely staycation in your own community.
There’s no better time to get to know your home here in the stunning Pacific Northwest. There is infinite variety and a little something for everyone. So try something new or revisit an attraction with a new eye. You live in a land of endless summer recreation options. Take advantage of it.
But first, a quick note: We’re making suggestions here in phases, mirroring Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan to reopen the state safely. We’ll start with some light-contact options you can do in the next few weeks while we’re still fairly restricted, then suggest some ideas you might try toward the end of summer if the reopening of the state continues on its current trajectory.
And we can’t stress this enough: Call ahead and consult websites. Business owners are making decisions on the fly — so should you.
Now, let’s get back to that view of Wooten’s …
Beautiful Blake Island
The Blake Island Marine State Park is a jewel hidden in plain sight, nestled right there in the middle of Puget Sound between Bainbridge and Vashon islands.
Reachable only by boat, you’ll need assistance getting to the island (unless you’re one of those fortunate souls who owns a boat). But once you get there, it’s a little bit of paradise. The wildlife is front and center with deer roaming the jetty area, raccoons foraging the shoreline at low tide and gulls and crows dropping clams from 10 feet in the air, trying to crack them open on rocks.
You could spend your whole visit exploring the jetty area that includes a Tillicum longhouse, a long shoreline and basic campsites. Or you can pack a tent to more secluded campsites peppered around the island.
The easiest way to go is to buy a ticket for Argosy Cruises’ Evergreen Excursion. The trip includes a ride to and from the island on a large vessel, a meal, cultural and historical tours, and a little time to roam.
You can also rent a kayak from Vashon Adventures. That’s where Wooten comes in. He sleeps in a tent three nights a week — waking up to that amazing view each morning — and helps tourists explore the coastline.
There’s room at the next campsite over from his, by the way.
Walk the waterfront
Tourists love the waterfront, from iconic Pike Place Market to the Great Wheel to the scores of quirky local shops. But locals are known to grumble about the area thanks to overcrowding and high prices.
Here’s some good news: There aren’t very many people there right now. There’s no better time to get to know the waterfront again, especially if you head down on a weekday.
We suggest you start your day around lunchtime with a light meal at one of Pike Place Market’s many restaurants. Some are doing limited dine-in in accordance with Phase 2 regulations, but you can also choose to grab takeout and find a quiet spot on a bench overlooking the water from which to enjoy your lunch and the view. Then spend your afternoon exploring the market’s fruit and food vendors and the subterranean levels, where there are retail stores of an endless variety — especially if you love art and books.
Move down to the piers in the late afternoon for more shopping, have yourself a fancy crab dinner and a few drinks, and finish off the evening with a ride on The Great Wheel around sunset.
And if you’re so inclined, spend the night in a room overlooking the ocean. Many hotels are open, lightly occupied and looking to make a deal.
Critters, critters everywhere
The animals missed you. No kidding.
The folks who tend zoo and aquarium creatures are saying they’re getting excited for when people return. The always-happy seals at Seattle Aquarium should be ecstatic then as that waterfront staple and the Woodland Park Zoo reopen after months of enforced solitude.
Guests will be limited until Inslee further opens King County, but that’s a good thing when it comes to leisurely viewing.
This is an especially attractive way for parents to spend some time. So why not plan a wildlife weekend with a stop at each? Or knock down one of those endless string of weekdays you’ve got in front of you this summer with a field trip?
Pick a pack of parks
Seattle may not have the most municipal parks among U.S. cities, but it might just have the most beautiful. And best of all, 96% of Seattle residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park, according to The Trust for Public Land, which rates our city No. 14 on its list of top municipal parklands.
You’re probably tired of that nearby park, though, given the last few months. So we suggest you take one day a week to explore a new city park. There are so many to choose from, it will be fall before you know it. And each has its own character and features.
We suggest you start at a destination park like Washington Park Arboretum (perhaps at sunrise) or the Seattle Art Museum Sculpture Park (sunset would be perfect here). Discovery and Magnuson parks, the city’s two largest, are so big you can get lost on the grounds.
We’d put Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill up against any park in America for breathtaking views. Gas Works Park isn’t far behind. And did you know that Green Lake Park has a par-3 golf course (among many other amenities)?
Good times await.
Ride the rails
The light-rail system is a bonanza for city residents, and we’re not just talking about commuters and fans of public transportation.
Fill a backpack with snacks, water and essentials and take a little time to explore each stop. You’ll find the very reasonable light-rail ticket is something like a passport to the world. (And if the idea of public transportation during a pandemic makes you feel queasy, mask up, put on gloves, throw hand sanitizer in that backpack and sit by yourself; buses and trains that were once packed all day long are virtually empty at times).
The best stop, without a doubt, is the Chinatown International District, which overflows with food, color and culture. Keep riding south and you’ll see spectacular views, a string of gorgeous Buddhist temples and statues, and something you didn’t expect.
This is one of those suggestions that will get better as the governor allows businesses to reopen. For instance, tours have mostly been shut down because of the need for social distancing. When we reach Phase 3 and Phase 4, you could maybe stop in the Chinatown ID and take a Bruce Lee tour at the Wing Luke Museum. Or you could, perhaps later in the summer, hop off in Pioneer Square and take the delightful Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour, packed full of more potty jokes than you can count.
A day at the beach
OK, we will admit this is not Cancún. But nothing beats a socially distanced beach day in July and August.
Beaches are not only relaxing and easy to spread out on, but they offer a glimpse at the menagerie of life that exists almost completely unseen in the Puget Sound. You’re going to freak out when you happen upon a sea slug or combative crab, and marvel at the infinite variety of shells and driftwood left behind at low tide.
If you head to a beach without concessions, we suggest you take a picnic basket and a small cooler with locally sourced food and drink. If you head out to Alki or another park with restaurants in easy reach, consider topping off the day with takeout or dinner on the patio.
Go jump in a lake, Part 1
Light and airy, cold and crisp, Seattle has some of the tastiest tap water you’ll find.
Ever wonder where that water comes from? If you have, you’re probably a science nerd, so own it and take a trip to the Cedar River Watershed about 35 miles from town in North Bend where the pristine Cedar and South Fork Tolt rivers flow undisturbed.
Things are still scaled back, so you’ll be limited to hanging out at Rattlesnake Lake for now. The nearby Rattlesnake Ledge Trail is closed due to overuse early in the pandemic, though there are other hiking trails in the area. Later this summer as (or if) we move into Phases 3 and 4, the city will reopen its education center, tours of the watershed and the hiking trail.
And to answer the question: Our water comes from the Cedar (68%) and the South Fork Tolt (32%) rivers, according to the city. The Cedar River Watershed is kept free of development and residential activity to ensure the purity of our water.
Go jump in a lake, Part 2
We have one of the most beautiful urban lakes in the world in Lake Union. Most of us probably take it for granted as we speed past on Interstate 5 or state Route 99. But if you slow down and take a day to explore the area, you won’t regret it.
Pack in your own kayak or paddleboard and launch from a number of places. Or better yet, rent a craft from The Center for Wooden Boats, billed as a “living museum” and located at the south end of the lake.
You can pack your own lunch or dinner and eat it just off shore at Gas Works, where the view of downtown Seattle and the Space Needle is unparalleled. Or paddle over to White Swan Public House, Ivar’s Salmon House on the north side or any of the many restaurants in between.
OK, there you go, no excuses. Get out there and do something.
Oh, and don’t forget: Wear a mask!