Green Lake Park. Photo by TIA International Photography/Seattle Parks & Recreation

Green Lake Park. Photo by TIA International Photography/Seattle Parks & Recreation

Best of Seattle 2018: Out & About

Best Park

Green Lake Park

With its almost-three-mile concrete path snaking around the lake’s entire edge, always-active basketball and tennis courts, a sports field, boat rentals, numerous docks, and a wealth of idyllic grassy pockets shaded by a lush tree canopy, Green Lake has something to offer everyone. On any given day you may run into the expected joggers and dog-walkers, but also highly skilled painters crafting scenes on canvases, casual longboarders cruising along, live music, old men fishing on the lake’s edge (for what specimens, exactly, is unknown), and young Seattleites trying to soak up some sun. And the park is big enough that everyone can find their own nook if they long for solitude. Pretty good for an urban park jammed between I-5 and Highway 99.

Sure, the lake itself gets its share of flack from misinformed members of the public. People see the flotillas of ducks and murky brown waters, hear its history of algae blooms and seasonal stench, and assume it’s a toxic cesspool that can’t possibly be safe. But the fear-mongering is unwarranted. According to The Seattle Times, experts say that Green Lake is safe to swim in—actually cleaner than Lake Washington and Lake Union because, unlike those two, there is no sewage input. Swimming in Lake Union is banned entirely, as a matter of fact. The water has also undergone treatments in recent years that have reduced the algae growth—algae that originally garnered the body of water its name from surveyor David Phillips, who came across it back in 1855 and allegedly scribbled “Green Lake” into his notebook.

Despite the misconceptions, the park remains ever-popular. On a sunny weekend day, the lake itself will be dotted with people floating inflatable donuts or unicorns or traversing the water in assorted boats and paddleboards. The paved path can also get a little crowded. But somehow, despite the chaos, it all works like clockwork; joggers and walkers mostly stick to the left (officially designated for those activities), while everyone on wheels stays right. Revelers indulging in mind-altering substances on sunny summer afternoons are never obnoxious to the point of discomfiting their fellow patrons, such as families. Everyone respects everyone else’s right to enjoy the space without taking up too much of it for themselves—the ideal usage outcome of any public good.

But the best things about Green Lake are its versatility and ability to instantly transport a city dweller out of the urban environment into a pleasant natural one without having to go too far or totally abandon everything we love about Seattle (i.e., the quirky societal vibrancy and eclectic activity). At Green Lake you can exercise, enjoy a long podcast during a walk, take a quick dip in the lake, catch up with a friend, attend a cookout, or just stew in your own thoughts. One suggested activity is to stare across the water at the small island in the lake’s northwest corner and wonder how in the hell a group of ambitious Seattle skaters managed to haul rebar, wood, concrete mix, and tools out there to build a now-closed illicit skatepark. The park’s attributes are significantly enhanced in summer, during which swimming actually seems appealing—but Green Lake offers an ideal setting for reflection, cardio, cultural stimulation, communal gatherings (don’t miss the annual Pathway of Lights), and general respite year-round. Check it out. | JOSH KELETY

#2 Discovery Park | #3 Olympia Park

Alki Beach. Photo by Laurel Mercury/Seattle Parks & Recreation

Alki Beach. Photo by Laurel Mercury/Seattle Parks & Recreation

Best Beach + Best View

Alki Beach

The natural beauty that surrounds Seattle is often framed in terms of woodsy places ideal for hiking, but for those of us who like our outdoors a bit more relaxed, there’s West Seattle’s Alki Beach Park. Outsiders might not associate beaches with our fair city, but this 2.5-mile stretch of sandy coastline delivers everything one could want from an urban shore: plenty of space for sunbathing and sandcastle construction, tide pools to explore, opportunities to kayak or standup-paddleboard, volleyball nets prepped for bumps, sets, and spikes, areas for nighttime bonfires, and plenty of nearby spots to grab some choice grub. Alki also delivers photo-ready, pristine views of the Seattle skyline, Elliott Bay, and Bainbridge Island. Sub Pop’s SPF30 recently showed it’s an ideal spot for a citywide party, and hopefully will spur future events. No matter how you choose to enjoy it, Alki Beach manages to feel simultaneously part of Seattle and a true escape from the city. | SETH SOMMERFELD

Beach: #2 Golden Gardens Park | #3 Madison Park Beach

View: #2 Gas Works Park | #3 Kerry Park

Burke-Gilman Trail. Photo by TIA International Photography/Seattle Parks & Recreation

Burke-Gilman Trail. Photo by TIA International Photography/Seattle Parks & Recreation

Best Path

Burke-Gilman Trail

The Burke-Gilman Trail is so extensive and has so much to offer that it’s best to approach the beloved Emerald City path system with a plan. But remember: When you’re on the Burke-Gilman, it’s not the destination that’s important (though there are many along the way). Enjoying the journey is what matters most.

The nearly 20-mile trail starts in Golden Garden Park and traces the waterline along the long-abandoned Seattle, Lake Shore, and Eastern Railway before ending in Bothell (where it becomes the Sammamish River Trail and extends another 10 miles to Marymoor Park). If you want to avoid the “missing link” in Ballard that currently separates the Golden Gardens stretch from the rest of the trail, we suggest beginning down by the water in the University District in the early morning.

If you lack a bike, rent one at Recycled Cycles and start the journey north. Say goodbye to the waters of Lake Washington and the tacos of Agua Verde and pedal up the winding, multi-use trail where you’ll come across joggers, podcast-listening power-walkers, and other cyclists. Along the journey, follow your urge for spontaneity and stretch out in the grass for a few selifies with the dandelions. Play your own version of Nature Bingo and try to spot an owl in the trees or a rabbit darting through the bushes. If you’re thirsty from your efforts, pop in for a fresh pint at the bike-friendly Burke-Gilman Brewing Company.

But before your adventure concludes, do make sure to take a moment and reflect on how far you’ve come—both on this day and in the great voyage of life. Give your bike a rest as you cross one of the wooden bridges near the modest homes along the river north of Lake Forest Park and pat yourself on the back for a day well spent. | JACOB UITTI

#2 Alki Beach | #3 Green Lake

Gregg’s Cycle in Green Lake.

Gregg’s Cycle in Green Lake.

Best Bike Shop

Gregg’s Cycle

Entering Gregg’s Cycle is the cyclist’s equivalent of a kid walking into a candy store—it’s hard not to get wide-eyed by gazing at all the goodies the shop has to offer. Occupying an entire block, the massive Green Lake location delivers a true one-stop shopping experience for all your cycling needs. (Gregg’s also has locations in Bellevue and Lynnwood.) Whether you’re a casual rider, day commuter, BMX hotshot, off-road trail adventurer, wannabe Tour de France performance ace, kid learning to ride (Gregg’s offers a buy-back program for growing youths), weekend pedaler looking for a rental, or seeker of stationary training, Gregg’s has everyone covered. Multiple showrooms are filled with hundreds of bikes (from basic to electric) on the floor or hanging overhead, and wall after wall is adorned with gear both necessary (helmets, locks, pumps, tires) and specialized (clothing, shoes, snacks). The floor is always bustling with a knowledgeable staff, and the service and parts shops are there to help anytime things go awry with your bike. If you enjoy two-wheeled transportation and haven’t stopped in at Gregg’s, you’re doing it wrong. | greggscyles.com | SS

#2 20/20 | #3 Back Alley Bike Repair

West Seattle’s Alki Point Lighthouse. Photo by Robert Lanier/Coast Guard News

West Seattle’s Alki Point Lighthouse. Photo by Robert Lanier/Coast Guard News

Best Neighborhood

West Seattle

When you’re smack-dab in the center of West Seattle, it feels like you’re a million miles from the Emerald City. Well, until you look across the water and see the downtown cityscape … but let’s indulge this idea! In many ways, West Seattle feels like its own beach town, rich with tasty food options, impromptu volleyball games, and actual sand.

West Seattle is also more than just a single neighborhood. It’s like an island just outside of what many would consider to be the central city—almost like Seattle’s version of Brooklyn, with pocket neighborhoods packed within it. While many areas can be considered part of the area, downtown West Seattle, Alki Beach, and North Admiral form its core. And it’s a community that has, perhaps more than any other, helped define Seattle’s identity over the past 50 years.

In West Seattle you can have it all (especially if you’re hungry). You can stroll from Salty’s for seafood (Best Resturant and Best Brunch) to Bakery Nouveau for croissants to popular Hawaiian spot Marination Ma Kai for kimchi fried rice and a glorious view of Elliott Bay. And after all that eating, you can burn some of those calories digging for local music finds at Easy Street Records (Best Record Store) or taking in nature at the verdant Schmitz Preserve Park, a maze of felled tree trunks, moss, lush low-hanging branches, and beaten paths.

But maybe the best aspect of expansive West Seattle is strolling on the honest-to-goodness sandy beaches along Alki (Best Beach and Best View), perhaps popping in for a cone at Homefront Smoothies & Ice Cream or even summoning the gumption to get your feet wet in the waves. You may ask yourself, “Wait, am I still in Seattle?” before remembering “It’s not Seattle. It’s West Seattle! It’s different here.” | JU

#2 Ballard | #3 Capitol Hill

Seattle Central Library. Photo courtesy The Seattle Public Library

Seattle Central Library. Photo courtesy The Seattle Public Library

Best Building

Seattle Central Library

Sure, you love the Seattle Public Library—but what do you love about the library? Take Seattle Weekly’s Best of the Seattle Public Library Readers’ Poll 2018! Check all that apply:

_____ The accessible main-floor “living room.”

_____ The get-away-from-it-all 10th- floor reading room.

_____ The Microsoft Auditorium and its lectures and performances.

_____ The sharp angles of the architectural design.

_____ The art exhibits.

_____ The children’s book room.

_____ The diamond “netting” all over the outside.

_____ The 10th-floor overlook spot around the corner from the elevators.

_____ The elevators.

_____ The Dewey Decimal numbers in the floor.

_____ All the chartreuse.

_____ That super-creepy faces-on-eggs video installation in the escalator (aka Braincast by Tony Oursler).

_____ The Chocolati stand.

_____ You people are nuts—MoPOP is Seattle’s best building!

_____ Other

spl.org | GAVIN BORCHERT

#2 Smith Tower | #3 St. James Cathedral

Leavenworth. Photo courtesy Icicle TV

Leavenworth. Photo courtesy Icicle TV

Best Day Trip

Leavenworth

In Chelan County, just about two hours east of Seattle (a perfect duration to let the city’s stress melt away along a drive or train trip), the Bavarian town of Leavenworth offers a variety of options for visitors, from boutique shopping to homemade ice cream, wine tasting to beer sampling, German-style restaurants (sausages and spaetzle!) to goat-manicured mini-golf courses and pristine outdoors activities. And while many might think Leavenworth—wtih its German Alpine appeal—would be worth visiting only in snow-covered winter, the town beneath the majestic Tumwater Mountain is also sunny and inviting in summer. So if you’re visiting in toasty August or September, bring your swimsuit for tubing adventures! And who knows? Maybe your day trip will turn into a memorable long-weekend getaway. | leavenworth.org | JU

#2 Mt. Rainier| #3 Whidbey Island

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