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Summer Seattle Sunshine: Perfect to Explore Off the Beaten Path!

Summer Seattle Sunshine: Perfect to Explore Off the Beaten Path!


avatar   Scott
Trip Date 06/25/2013
Posted On 04/27/2020 14:30:00

Destinations | Washington | Seattle | Anacortes | Bainbridge Island | Boeing | Snoqualmie Falls | San Juan Islands | Victoria



Seattle, Washington is known for a number of iconic tourist attractions, all within walking distance of each other. Downtown attractions such as Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, Seattle Great Wheel or even the original location of Starbucks are easily explored while on foot. For those who have more time to explore, venturing further away from the downtown area allows you to really get to know Seattle and its surroundings.

The larger-than-life Fremont Troll is fun for all ages and definitely not to be missed. Amenities at Gas Works Park and Volunteer Park are unique and each park is worth exploring. You can even make learning fun with a visit to the Ballard Locks and Fish Ladder!

Day trips to see airplane manufacturing at Boeing or Snoqualmie Falls, the state's most popular waterfall, are both short and easy. Right from the heart of the city, you can catch ferries that will take you to Bainbridge Island for the day or to Victoria, Canada for an overnight excursion. If you are willing to drive the 90 minutes to Anacortes, you'll also find ferry service to the San Juan Islands.

Following a brief introduction to getting around Seattle plus what to expect weather wise, we'll share 9 diverse off the beaten path experiences from which visitors to this Pacific Northwest city may choose. You'll find ideas perfect for a morning or afternoon, day trips and even some overnight excursions. The list includes nature and history, tours and even adventure travel - some guided and others perfect for do-it-yourselfers. We've also included plenty of pictures to whet your appetite as you plan your perfect getaway!

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Getting to Seattle's Off the Beaten Path Sites

Rental cars are readily available at an offsite facility near Seattle's Sea-Tac Airport. If you plan to limit your driving, there's also several car sharing options. Visitors can rent by the hour through Zipcar or by the minute through Car2Go and Lime. (Prefer to pedal around Seattle? Look into bike sharing through Jump and Lime.) Of course, taxis and ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft are available as well.

If you plan to rely on public transportation, it's easy to get from the airport to downtown via Sound Transit's Link Light Rail. Public bus service is provided by King County Metro Transit. There's even Streetcar service between some points within Seattle.

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Weather in Seattle

Seattle's high season is during the months of June, July and August. That's when you'll find great weather (with not much rain), but also large crowds and higher hotel and attraction prices. By visiting just before or after high season during the city's shoulder season, you should be able to avoid the biggest crowds yet still enjoy relatively nice weather. Most seasonal attractions will be fully operational and the rain will be limited during May, early June, September and October. (Seattle's heaviest rainfalls come between November and March.)

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Now that you know when to go and how you can get around, it's time for our list of 9 of the best "off the beaten path" places to visit when vacationing in Seattle:

Fremont Troll

The Troll Monument

3405 Troll Avenue North, Seattle, WA 98103

Seattle's Aurora Bridge was built in 1932. It wasn't until 1990 that the Fremont Troll moved into his "residence" under the bridge's north end. Standing at almost 20 feet tall, the concrete sculpture with its shiny silver-eye has been popular since day one! The grip on the Volkswagen Beetle that the troll holds in his left hand may make you think he is a mean one. In reality, the troll began willingly sharing space with the The Troll's Knoll P-Patch in 2016. The P-Patch is a community garden. Several of the garden plots even donate to the local food bank!


Fremont Troll

Fremont Troll

Other than possibly paying to park, there's no charge to pay a visit to see the troll in his home under the bridge.

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Gas Works Park

Gas Works Park

2101 N. Northlake Way, Seattle, WA 98103

Built atop the grounds of a former coal gasification plant, Gas Works Park opened to the public in 1975. Located on the north shores of Lake Union, much of the plant's original structure including towers and pipelines is still standing. The former boiler house is now a large covered picnic area. Today's children's "play barn" was most recently a building with machinery owned by Seattle Gas Company.


Gas Works Park

Gas Works Park

Play Barn

Play Barn

There is no admission charge for entrance to the park. In addition to free concerts and other gatherings, the park is known for its awesome panoramic views of the Seattle skyline as well is the earth mound popular for kite flying.

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Volunteer Park

Volunteer Park

1247 15th Avenue E, Seattle, WA 98112

Surrounded by the beautiful homes of Capitol Hill, Volunteer Park is located northeast of downtown Seattle. In addition to the park's wonderful walking trails, you'll find the Volunteer Park Conservatory, Seattle Asian Art Museum and a water tower all within the park's perimeter. Anyone willing to climb the tower will be rewarded with a free 360 degree view of the entire area.


Volunteer Park Water Tower

Volunteer Park Water Tower

The plants within the Conservatory's display houses (bromeliads, ferns, palms and cactus/succulents) are enticing year round. The Art Deco building that is the current home of the Asian art collection reopened in February 2020 upon the completion of the first phase of an extensive renovation project.

While there is no fee to explore the park or to climb the water tower, there are small entrance fees at the Conservatory and Asian Art Museum:

  • Conservatory: $4.00 per adult; children aged 12 and under are always free; free admission on first Thursday and Saturday of each month for all visitors;
  • Asian Art Museum: $14.99 per adult; children aged 14 and under are always free; free admission on first and second Thursdays and first Saturday of each month for everyone; free for seniors on first Friday of each month.

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Ballard Locks

Ballard Locks

3015 NW 54th Street, Ballard, WA 98107

The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, commonly referred to as the Ballard Locks, were constructed by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. In operation since 1917, visitors can walk along swinging walkways to watch the raising and lowering of the water level.


Ballard Locks

Ballard Locks

In addition to boats of all sizes passing through the locks, it's fun to watch Sockeye, Chinook and Coho Salmon as they swim upstream to spawn. A viewing area allows visitors to observe salmon leap (or swim) from pool to pool along a small section of the 21 step fish ladder. A newly renovated viewing room is expected to open in 2020 which will improve the experience for visitors hoping to see salmon make their way between Puget Sound and Lake Washington.


Traveling through the Fish Ladder

Traveling through the Fish Ladder

There is no charge to explore the grounds including the locks and fish ladder, as well as a botanical garden. Free one hour guided walking tours are offered between March and November on select days (no reservations required).

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Bainbridge Island

Washington State Ferry at Seattle Terminal and Ferry Dock

801 Alaskan Way, Pier 52, Seattle, WA 98104

In just 35 minutes, visitors can ride aboard a Washington State Ferry from the Seattle Ferry Terminal to Bainbridge Island. Starting with the views of the Seattle skyline during the ride, you'll find plenty to do whether you have just a few hours or a night or two to spend on the island. Whether your interest is art, beautiful scenery, beaches, biking, dessert, dining, hiking, shopping, water activities, wine tasting or even kid friendly activities, you'll find it on Bainbridge!


Aboard the Washington State Ferry

Aboard the Washington State Ferry

Wine Tasting on Bainbridge Island

Wine Tasting on Bainbridge Island

A $9.05 per adult (with no vehicle or bicycle) fare is charged for ferry service from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. Return passenger only service is free of charge.

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Boeing Factory Tour

Boeing

8415 Paine Field Blvd., Mukilteo, WA 98275

Located just 25 miles north of Seattle, the Boeing Factory Tour is a very interesting way to spend a part of a day. Guests on the tour have an opportunity to see the actual production of commercial jet airplanes in the assembly plant as well as a walk through the testing facilities. The 1 1/2 hour tour includes historical artifacts as well as evolving technology demonstrations such as a passenger cabin design mock-up as well as an up close view of airplane engines.


Boeing Factory Tour

Boeing Factory Tour

Giant Engine at Boeing

Giant Engine at Boeing

As you can imagine, the location is large - it is the largest in the world by volume. Tour buses provide transportation from one location to another within the site.

For the best experience, plan your visit on a weekday as production activity on weekends is much more limited. The $27.00 adult ticket price includes the factory tour as well as tickets to the Gallery and Sky Deck. (A $12.00 ticket allows adults to skip the factory tour and just explore the interactive exhibits and displays within the Gallery and Sky Deck.)

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Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie Falls

6501 Railroad Avenue SE, Snoqualmie, WA 98024

Snoqualmie Falls, a huge, beautiful waterfall and park recreation area, is located approximately 30 miles from downtown Seattle. Depending on recent rainfall, Snoqualmie Falls cascades over 265 feet down and can be anywhere from 50 to 150 feet in width. Although the falls are a beautiful sight year round, they are even more breathtaking when the weather is least desirable!

As the most popular waterfall and one of the favorite scenic attractions in Washington, the peaceful grounds are an excellent location for group photos. An observation deck is just a short walk from the parking area. The more adventurous can follow the short nature trail behind the powerhouse to the base of the falls.


Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie Falls

Posing by the Falls

Posing by the Falls

Parking at the two acre park which includes the viewing platform, hiking trail, gift shop and a Salish Lodge is free. If you have the time to plan a longer visit, consider packing a picnic lunch. There are a limited number of wooden picnic tables located on the grounds where you can extend your stay!

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San Juan Islands

Washington State Ferry at Anacortes

2100 Ferry Terminal Road, Anacortes, WA 98221

San Juan County is home to more than 172 islands and reefs known as the San Juan Islands. Ferry service from Anacortes (just over 90 minutes north of downtown Seattle) is available to three of the more tourist friendly islands, San Juan Island, Orcas Island and Lopez Island.

Those who choose San Juan Island will arrive via ferry at Friday Harbor. There are plenty of options to fill a day including just walking around the harbor to explore the immediate area. More adventurous travelers may decide to hike or bike along the trails and there are also a selection of tours departing from the harbor. Venturing further from Friday Harbor by car allows island visitors to see the Cattle Point Lighthouse, Lime Kiln Point, San Juan Vineyards and even the San Juan Islands National Historic Park.

Recognized as one of the best whale watching locations anywhere, grays, humpback, minke and orca whales can reportedly be seen at Lime Kiln Point between the months of May and September. The best views from the area, also known as Whale Watch Park, are from the sea cliffs or from Lime Kiln Point Lighthouse. In addition to the whales, there is plenty of other sea life including porpoises, sea lions and seals.


Lime Kiln Lighthouse

Lime Kiln Lighthouse

On Watch at Lime Kiln Point

On Watch at Lime Kiln Point

Fares for adults without vehicles are $14.50 for service via ferry from Anacortes to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. If you're planning to take your vehicle along with you, fares for a car and driver start at $56.45 depending on the size of the vehicle. Return service is free of charge.

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Because of the popularity of the islands and the limited ferry service available, it is extremely important to plan ahead! Better yet, if you have the opportunity to stay overnight in the San Juan Islands, you can enjoy a more relaxing visit. The challenge that we had on the day of our visit was that we did not study the ferry schedule in enough detail before leaving downtown Seattle. The drive to Anacortes was very enjoyable with beautiful mountain and forest views dotted with morning fog.

When we arrived at the ferry port, we encountered a long line of cars waiting to load on the next ferry - that was over two hours in the future. Once you are in line, you can't escape with your car. We had plenty of time to leave our car in the line while we bought lunch at the cafe!

We eventually did make it on to the ferry for an enjoyable ride with more beautiful views on our way out to the island. Since our goal was to hopefully see some whales, we quickly drove to Whale Watch Park. Upon our arrival, we calculated our required departure time so as to not miss the return ferry back to the main land. We blew it as we only had about 15 minutes of potential whale viewing time! Ugh! Oh well, we did see a seal and sea lion before returning to the ferry.

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Victoria, Canada

Seattle to Victoria Clipper

2701 Alaskan Way, Pier 69, Seattle, WA 98121

At just under a three hour ferry ride each way, you can even include a visit to Victoria, Canada with your holiday in Seattle. The year round Victoria Clipper ferry service departs from downtown Seattle. There is so much to see and do in Victoria that it makes sense to spend a minimum of one or two nights in the city.


Exploring Victoria, Island

Exploring Victoria, Island

British Columbia Parliament Building Lit Up at Night

British Columbia Parliament Building Lit Up at Night

Nicknamed the City of Gardens, Victoria has many wonderful gardens and parks that can be explored year round due to the city's mild climate. The impressive Butchart Gardens started as a cement plant and today is one of the city's most well known tourist spots. It is virtually impossible to see all of the acres and acres of beautifully manicured gardens in just one day! (The entrance fee to Butchart Gardens is $34.80 CAD per adult during high season. Public bus service is available from the city center to the gardens.)


Posing in the Gardens

Posing in the Gardens

Wandering through Butchart Gardens

Wandering through Butchart Gardens

Perched atop a hill with a view of Victoria, the construction of Craigdarroch Castle was completed in 1890. It was the wealthy Robert Dunsmuir who contracted the castle's construction using his immense wealth made from coal mining in Vancouver. Unfortunately, he died before the mansion's completion so it was his wife and three unmarried daughters who first resided there. (An entrance fee of $14.85 CAD per adult is charged for a self-guided tour of the castle.)


Craigdarroch Castle

Craigdarroch Castle

Open since 1908, the Fairmont Empress (formerly the Empress Hotel) is one of Victoria's oldest and most historic hotels. Best known for Tea at the Empress, visitors from all over the world reserve their seat for the traditional afternoon tea served with scones and pastries. Even non-tea drinkers will be impressed by the hotel's location, awesome harbor view, beautiful grounds and wonderfully appointed lobby area.


The Fairmont Empress

The Fairmont Empress

Round-trip ferry service from Seattle to Victoria ranges from $115.00 to $160.00 per person depending on the season. Due to available discounts, it's best to purchase ferry tickets in advance. We also recommend that you check for festivals and events that are scheduled during your planned visit. You might end up being in Victoria during Canada Day or another celebration!


Celebrating Canada Day in Victoria

Celebrating Canada Day in Victoria

Cruising Alaska from Seattle

Since 1999, Seattle has been a popular embarkation port for cruise ships sailing through Alaska's Inside Passage. If you are considering a future Alaskan cruise with ports of call in Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan and/or Victoria, be sure to stop by in the next couple of weeks. We'll be sharing lots of helpful information from our sailing including links and contact information for some awesome tours!

Seattle - Off the Beaten Path

What are your favorite "off the beaten path" experiences in Seattle?


Summer Seattle Sunshine: Perfect to Explore Off the Beaten Path!







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