Alki Beach Park
1702 Alki Ave. S.W., West Seattle
In West Seattle, looking out towards Bainbridge Island (and with stunning views of Downtown Seattle in one direction, and the Olympic Mountains in the other), Alki Beach Park is a nice local hangout on warm days. There's a big wide bike path that's popular with runners and bike riders, and it's one of the only spots this close to the city where you can have beach bonfires—so long as you confine everything to one of the pre-made fire pits. Come hungry, so you can stop at Marination Ma Kai, a Korean/Hawaiian fusion restaurant that's famous for tacos and excellent shaved ice. Photo: Brian Teutsch
Bainbridge Island is a bedroom community of Seattle that makes a great day trip. The easiest way to get there is to take the ferry (locals just call it "the boat") from Colman Dock downtown across the Bay; the 35-minute ride is an attraction itself, as the route is exceptionally scenic, and it's not uncommon to see whales and other wildlife from the deck. When you arrive, walk around the quaint little downtown—make time to stop at Blackbird Bakery for lunch, or just an extremely good coffee with a side of pastry and cake. Like many spots in this region, Bainbridge is known for gorgeous gardens and greenery. There are a few great gardens to explore, but our favorite is Bloedel Reserve—gardener Prentice Bloedel (a before-his-time environmentalist with a fascinating story in his own right) was colorblind, so the visuals revolve around texture and composition rather than color. If you're traveling with littles, it's worth popping into the small-but-mighty Children's Museum before heading home.
3801 Discovery Park Blvd., Magnolia
Overlooking the Puget Sound and spanning a whopping 534 acres, Discovery Park is the kind of place that makes you forget you're in a city. There are two miles of protected coastline, meadows, and meandering hiking trails for exploring, plus plenty of viewpoints for picnics. During warm summers, you can actually forage for wild blackberries here.
Golden Gardens Park
8498 Seaview Pl. N.W., Ballard
Golden Gardens Park is one of those rare outdoor places that's enjoyable regardless of the weather (which is a huge boon in rainy Seattle). On warm days, swim off the dock or go fishing on the pier—if it's cold, bundle up for a walk along the coastline or set up a bonfire in one of the pits. The views of the Olympic Mountains from across the Puget Sounds are some of Seattle's most iconic, so this is also a popular place to get married.
Ira Spring Trail
Ira Spring Memorial Trail, Snoqualmie
This 6.5-mile loop makes for an exciting day excursion or an overnight camping trip—either way, you'll want to leave ample time for the adventure, as Mason Lake is enroute to the Ira Spring Overlook and the Snoqualmie Falls are only a short detour away. The trail itself is definitely on the challenging side (it includes a little climbing) but is well worth the effort: After a 4,320 feet elevation gain, your view spans from the expansive Alpine Lake Wilderness to Mount Rainier. Photo: Curt Smith
Lake Serene Trail
Lake Serene & Bridal Veil Falls Trailhead, Mt. Index River Rd., Gold Bar
The double feature of Bridal Veil Falls and Lake Serene make this 8.2-mile trek one of the most popular hikes in Washington (accordingly, you'll want to get there earlier in the day, as parking fills up quickly and the trail can get crowded). The trailhead itself is about an hour from Seattle—a gorgeous drive that takes you over the Evergreen Point floating bridge and along the Skykomish River. From the trailhead, on the way up to Lake Serene, you'll pass a sign for a lollipop trail that takes you out to Bridal Veil Falls. The diversion will add an extra mile to your total trek, but it shouldn't be missed, as a set of stairs allows views from both above and below the falls themselves. From there, continue climbing until the trail crosses into the basin. You'll be rewarded when you finally arrive at the stunningly clear lake itself, bordered on one side by tall pines and the other by steep grey cliffs leading up to Mt. Index. PSA: Parking requires a Northwest Forest Pass ($30, which you can purchase online). Photos: pixelgerm
Mount Si Trailhead, King County
An eight-mile round trip, Mount Si is a beautiful introduction to the Cascade Mountains—the length (plus 3,150 ft. in elevation gain) make it a challenging trek, but the scenery and views from the top are more than worth it. Make sure to purchase a discover pass in advance, so you can park at the trailhead. Arrive early, as this is one of the most popular hikes in the state.
Rattlesnake Ridge is one of a handful of classic Seattle hikes, primarily because the view from the top (which looks out over Rattlesnake Lake) shows off the photogenic Northwest in all its green, blue, and gray splendor. At 4 miles round trip, the hike itself is not particularly technical, either (though anyone traveling with kids or dogs should exercise caution as you get close to the top, so littles don't get too close to the steep cliffs on the ledge). On the way up, you'll wind through leafy, mossy forest to a series of switchbacks that don't feel so difficult when you're on them, but add up to a major gain in elevation. Once you make it out of the trees, you'll come to an exposed, rocky area with views in every direction. Photos: Abhinaba Basu
Seaplane Rides to San Juan Islands
950 Westlake Ave North, Lake Union
It’s just a 45-minute ride from Seattle’s Lake Union up to the San Juan Islands, but getting there is truly half of the fun. (Think: seals, whales, and orca sightings plus killer views of the Seattle skyline.) Local carrier Kenmore Air offers regular flights for those visiting the islands, as well as the option to do ride-alongs and just sightsee from the seaplane, making for a great weekend activity. (Head here for a full goop itinerary once you arrive.)
1483 Alaskan Way, Pier 59, Downtown
Seattle's aquarium isn't the biggest, but what they do have is pretty great: plenty of hands-on activities for the kids, an array of animals from otters and seals to birds (and fish of all sizes), daily mammal feedings, and an amazing underwater dome that gives you a 360-degree fish-eye perspective on the mysterious activities of the Puget Sound. It gets pretty busy during the school season, so if you’re looking to avoid the crowds, it's best to go before noon or after 3pm.
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