Get Outdoors in Seattle This Summer (Updated July 9, 2020)
May 27, 2020
Practice Healthy Habits and Get Outdoors
This will be a unique summer in Seattle, as we gradually re-open businesses and resume more normal life during the Covid-19 era. We anticipate that August and September will be the best times to visit this summer. Those who choose to travel can look forward to cheaper airfares and fewer crowds because most conventions and cruise ship sailings will not be happening this year.
What can healthy travelers do to have fun in Seattle this summer, while maintaining safe practices like social distancing, wearing a mask when spending time in close spaces with others, and frequent handwashing? We know that being outdoors is generally safer than being inside, so our recommendation is to focus on outdoor activities this year. Enjoy mild weather, many hours of daylight, and stunning outdoor scenery that is typical for summer in our corner of the world.
We anticipate that most Seattle leisure activities will be available in a few weeks. Restaurants are open and offering limited indoor and patio dining at 50% capacity now. Non-essential travel and most leisure activities (except for large sporting events and conventions) will be opening up in our area during Phase 3, hopefully in late July. For more details on Washington’s planned re-opening, see https://www.governor.wa.gov/news-media/chart-washingtons-phased-approach
Here are our top picks on what to do in Seattle this Summer!
Local City & State Parks
Over 100 years ago, Seattle city planners created an ambitious plan to create a park or playground within one half mile of every home in Seattle. There are nearly 500 parks in Seattle. Here are just three of our favorites for exploring this summer:
Green Lake Park offers 2.8 miles of walking and jogging trails around the lake, staffed beaches in summer, non-motorized boat rentals, tennis courts, and a community swimming pool. It’s located right across the street from our B&B.
Discovery Park is the largest park in the city. It offers numerous hiking trails and access to Puget Sound shoreline.
Volunteer Park & Conservatory is located a few minutes away on north Capitol Hill neighborhood. This beautiful park offers an observation deck as well as the historic conservatory and is home to the Seattle Asian Art Museum. It’s also fun to walk around the nearby mansions just north of the park on Seattle’s historic Millionaire Row.
Outdoor Attractions & Gardens
Seattle is fortunate to have a number of outdoor attractions open year-round that are perfect for spending time outside and allowing more distance from others.
The Olympic Sculpture Park is located on the waterfront in downtown Seattle and was created by the Seattle Art Museum back in 2007. This 9-acre, free public space offers a number of large art installations as well as access to Puget Sound and the beach at Myrtle Edwards Park.
We also love spending time at the Hiram Chittenden Ballard Locks & Botanical Garden, especially in the summertime. It’s fun to watch the boats coming and going through the historic locks and walk through the lush garden and go under the water to the viewing window for the fish ladder. One of our favorite summertime activities is to bring a picnic to enjoy at dinner and watch the sunset in the distance to the west. Although the Locks are currently open to boats, the grounds and visitors center remain closed until Phase 3.
University of Washington’s Arboretum & Japanese Garden is located just a few minutes’ drive southeast of Greenlake Guest House, on the shores of Lake Washington. This 200-acre park offers several gardens with extensive plantings and walking trails. Its 3.5-acre Japanese garden is a gem within the park and is considered one the oldest and most authentic Japanese Gardens in the United States. While currently closed due to the pandemic, the Japanese Garden is normally open March -November and has a small entrance fee. We expect it will re-open soon.
Finally, the Woodland Park Zoo & Rose Garden is located inside Woodland Park, just 2 miles south of Greenlake Guest House, and adjacent to Green Lake Park. The large, award winning zoo is known for its natural looking and humane exhibits and spectacular plantings. The Rose Garden is located on the south side of the zoo and is the site of numerous small weddings in the summer. The zoo is currently open at limited capacity, but reservations are required.
Boat Tours & Rentals
Seattle has many bodies of water within the city: Puget Sound, Lake Washington, Lake Union, and Green Lake, to name just a few. We tell guests that you can’t really experience the true Seattle without getting outside on the water. Here are a few of our favorite options.
Ballard Kayak is located at Shilshole Bay Marina in the nearby Ballard neighborhood and offers kayak and stand up paddleboard rentals, as well as guided tours. Highly recommended for all ages and abilities. Ballard Kayak is currently open for tours and rentals by reservation only.
We’ve also rented boats at the Electric Boat Company on Lake Union several times with friends and family. These private rentals are quiet and easy to drive and can accommodate up to 10 people. Lake Union is a working lake with lots to see, including houseboats and seaplanes. Stop and pick up dinner at the boat dock at Ivar’s Fish Bar or bring a picnic with you on the boat. It’s a great way to see Seattle. The Electric Boat Company is currently open.
The Greenlake Boathouse is located across the street from us on the north side of the lake. They rent stand up paddleboards, kayaks, canoes, sailboats, water bikes, and paddleboats. We have some beach towels and chairs available for guests to borrow at the lake. The boathouse is currently closed, but we anticipate that it will be opening soon.
Argosy Cruises are another great option for getting out on the water that is less active and more relaxing. They offer 7 narrated cruises on Puget Sound, Lake Union, the Locks, and Lake Washington. Our personal favorite is the 2-hour Locks Cruise. We appreciate this tour for the variety of the scenery and the fun experience of actually going through the locks. There is both indoor and outdoor seating available on these spacious boats. In the past, the boats have offered snacks and cocktails for purchase. Argosy Cruises is open and offering a limited number of itineraries from their primary location on Elliot Bay on the Seattle waterfront (the Lake Union marina and Locks and Lake Washington cruises are not yet operating).
Outdoor Dining with a View
Seattleites love the opportunity to eat outside when the sun comes out. This summer is the perfect time to eat under a patio umbrella or directly under the stars. With our northern latitude, it stays light until well after 9pm for most of the summer. This year, restaurants in Seattle will look a little different. Expect tables at least 6 feet apart, and servers that are wearing masks and maybe gloves. To promote social distancing, you might be ordering your meal at the counter or from an app on your phone. Even so, expect great food and warm hospitality from this “foodie” city. Many restaurants are also offering takeout. Here are a few of our tried and true favorites for outside patio dining with great food and a view. All of the restaurants listed below are open.
Duke’s Greenlake is located just a few blocks away from our B&B and has a lively patio with a view of the lake and park and really fresh seafood. Casual and friendly.
Ray’s Boathouse & Café is located on Shilshole Bay in the nearby Ballard neighborhood. The view of Puget Sound and the Olympic mountains never gets old. The upstairs deck at the casual café is a personal favorite of ours for enjoying fresh seafood, burgers, or cocktails, especially at happy hour. The sunsets are incredible too!
Westward is located on the shores of nearby Lake Union. The outside deck and “beach” with a fire pit and Adirondack chairs is a lovely way to spend an hour or two. The view of downtown cityscape beyond the lake is stunning too. The food is mediterranean with an emphasis on seafood. It gets very busy, especially on weekends.
Ivar’s Salmon House & Fish Bar is practically an institution in Seattle. It sits on the north side of Lake Union and has a great view of downtown Seattle and all the marine traffic on Lake Union. Watch the sailboats, seaplanes taking off and landing, and kayakers as you enjoy unpretentious salmon or fish and chips from the deck of either the extremely casual fish bar or the less casual Salmon House.
Terra Plata is located on the east side of downtown next to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, on the edge of Capitol Hill. We love the fresh and innovative farm to table menu and the magical atmosphere of the rooftop garden overlooking the city neighborhood. More expensive than some of the other options but well worth it if you want to splurge a little.
Want to eplore further? Try one of our recommended day trips to Mt. Rainier National Park, Whidbey Island, or the Bloedel Reserve on Whidbey Island. We’ll be happy to share the insider tips on how to make the most of your time.
Stay at Greenlake Guest House
When you are ready to travel again, we hope to see you in Seattle at the Greenlake Guest House. We are located in a residential neighborhood across from beautiful, spacious Green Lake Park and are just a few blocks away from a number of restaurants. Downtown Seattle is an easy 10-15 minute drive away. We have free on-street parking. With our small size, flexible low-contact check in and breakfast options, and meticulous houskeeping standards, we believe we are a great option compared to a large, impersonal downtown hotel.