With the luminous Olympic Mountains nestled beyond Puget Sound to the west, and the majestic Cascade Mountains situated in the east, the city of Seattle, Washington is surrounded by breathtaking Pacific Northwestern landscapes. If you want to skip the long lines associated with landmarks such as Space Needle and Pike Place Market, head out to lesser-known attractions including the Orient Express Restaurant and Volunteer Park. Located close to most Seattle vacation rentals are unforgettable tours, eclectic shops, pristine beaches, and lovely parks. Check out the best hidden gems in the city of Seattle.
1. Alki Beach
Alki Beach is a 2.5-mile spread of soft white sand just south of Elliot Bay in the neighborhood of West Seattle. Only a few minutes away from downtown, this scenic beach offers a panoramic view of the islands of Puget Sound, the Seattle waterfront, and the Olympic Mountains. Popular activities include splashing in the cool water, sunbathing, beachcombing, and playing beach volleyball. A pleasant walking and cycling path runs the length of the beach. At the southwestern tip is Alki Point and the still-functioning historic Alki Point Lighthouse.
2. Volunteer Park
Little-known except by nearby residents, lovely Volunteer Park lies in the neighborhood of Capitol Hill in Seattle. The park features walking paths among towering evergreens and meadow-like lawns, picnic tables, and a playground for children. Climb the water tower to the observation deck for a spectacular view of the Seattle skyline, the Space Needle, and Lake Washington. Also on the park grounds is the Volunteer Park Conservatory, which has a Victorian-style greenhouse and botanical gardens that display ferns, palms, cacti, bromeliads, and seasonal plants.
3. Ferry to Bainbridge Island
Washington State Ferries leave from the downtown Seattle waterfront for several destinations around Puget Sound. For a refreshing, scenic day trip, walk or drive aboard the ferry that takes you on a short trip to the pleasant town of Winslow on beautiful Bainbridge Island. On the way, enjoy amazing panoramic vistas of the Olympic Mountains, the Cascade Mountains, and Mount Rainier. When you arrive, explore the shops, cafes, and restaurants in Winslow’s quaint, friendly, historic downtown area.
4. Seattle Underground Tour
After the great fire of 1889, Seattle’s residents built a new city over the original old town, leaving entire blocks of subterranean ruins, storefronts, and sidewalks beneath Pioneer Square in the downtown area. Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour, which begins underneath Doc Maynard’s Public House, takes you through mysterious interconnected tunnels to view fascinating remnants of Seattle’s past. On the way, your guide regales you with stories from Seattle’s exciting and bawdy pioneer days.
5. Museum of Pop Culture
The Museum of Pop Culture, formerly the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, is located in the Seattle Center near the monorail terminal just north of downtown. Created by billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the complex features two interconnected museums. One part emphasizes the history of pop music, with iconic musical instruments, handwritten lyrics, photos, and special exhibits on Seattle area musicians Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana. The other part has displays highlighting important works from the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres.
6. Ye Olde Curiosity Shop
Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, which lies on Pier 54 in the center of the Seattle waterfront, is a unique souvenir store that’s as fascinating as any museum. Scattered throughout the spacious but cluttered interior are glassed-in displays of ancient mummies, Ecuadorian shrunken heads, Russian samovars, narwhal tusks, and Native American artwork. Other attractions include a historic slot machine called Black Bart, totem poles, jade carvings, and a purported stuffed mermaid. Among the innumerable items for sale are pieces of jewelry, movie curios, action figures, and magician’s tricks.
7. Orient Express Restaurant
The unusual Orient Express Restaurant is just a few minutes south of downtown Seattle close to vacation rentals in the SOHO neighborhood. The dining areas are housed within seven railroad cars, one of which is the private presidential car that Franklin D. Roosevelt traveled in during his 1944 reelection campaign. This historic car, which retains its original wood paneling, various photos, and some of the original fixtures, is available by special reservation. The Orient Express Restaurant offers excellent Chinese and Thai cuisine in a setting that makes you imagine that you are on an exotic adventure.
8. Discovery Park
Discovery Park, the largest public park in Seattle, lies on a scenic bluff on the westernmost tip of the neighborhood of Magnolia. The park offers almost 12 miles of walking trails through pristine forests, meadows, sand dunes, and marshes. The park is a haven for birdwatchers, and along the beach, hikers often spot harbor seals and sea lions. At West Point, which is the extreme western edge of the park and the city of Seattle, you’ll find the iconic West Point Lighthouse.
9. Washington Park Arboretum
The Washington Park Arboretum features walking trails through a flamboyant display of plants on the western shore of Lake Washington in Seattle. Trails on the north side lead to Foster Island and Marsh Island, where you can observe blue herons, Canadian geese, cormorants, and many other bird species along the lovely shorelines. Other popular walking trails lead through Rhododendron Glen and Azalea Way. On the south end of the arboretum is the breathtakingly beautiful Japanese Garden, which features ponds, bridges, and benches amidst carefully sculpted colorful landscapes.
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