Best of Seattle

The City’s Top Attractions, Destinations, and Diversions

Seattle Weekly readers weigh in on the sites and activities that make the city great.

Best Beach

Alki Beach Take a water taxi from downtown to Alki Beach to find an entire beach universe complete with volleyball tournaments almost every weekend, kayak and paddleboard rentals, restaurants of all types, and firepits (first come, first served) for your own private bonfire. Activities include scuba diving, salsa dancing every Friday night during the summer, and Fit4Mom exercise classes. There’s also, you know, swimming and relaxing on the sand. First Runner-Up: Golden Gardens Park Second Runner-Up: Madison Park Beach

Best Bicycle Shop

Gregg’s Greenlake Cycle When it comes to bike shops, the truth is that location matters a lot more than quality, for the simple and obvious reason that it’s hard to travel when your vehicle is broken. A mediocre mechanic three blocks away is infinitely more valuable to a limping bicycle than a genius blackfinger on the other side of the city. Fortunately, Gregg not only has location down, but also employs a squadron of very competent bike mechanics. 7007 Woodlawn Ave. N.E., 523-1822. First Runner-Up: 20/20 Cycle Second Runner-Up: Back Alley Bike Repair

Best Bike Ride

The Burke-Gilman Trail Seattle’s premiere bike trail stretches between Golden Gardens and Kenmore. It follows the waterfront from Puget Sound to the northern shore of Lake Union and the ship canal, then traces the edge of Lake Washington before terminating near its northern tip. It also connects with the U District light-rail station via a brand-spanking-new pedestrian and cyclist bridge—a massive improvement over navigating the snarling five-way intersection below. First Runner-Up: Sammamish River Trail Second Runner-Up: Elliott Bay Trail

Best Structure

Central Library Whatever your opinion of the floating faces that greet you on the Central Library’s lime-green escalator, there’s no denying that the library itself is a structural and imaginative feat. As Seattle faces rapid growth and challenges to create new and welcoming public spaces, the library stands strong as a place for all to gather. 1000 Fourth Ave. First Runner-Up: Smith Tower Second Runner-Up: Amazon Biosphere

Best Bus Line

70 Line 70 connects UW with downtown via Eastlake, and western-facing riders are treated to views of Lake Union along Eastlake Avenue and the University Bridge. Still, things are not all rosy for riders of the 70. In recent years, summer ridership has gone through the roof with Amazon interns commuting from UW residence halls. The city acted quickly this year to save waiting riders from being passed by packed buses by adding service and forgoing the public process usually required. Still, more needs to be done for this popular line. First Runner-Up: 5 Second Runner-Up: 48

Best Car/Ride Share

Lyft Read Sara Bernard’s report, in which she interviews drivers about why they are over Uber. First Runner-Up: Uber Second Runner-Up: Car2Go

Best City Tour

Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour Our Seattle is literally built atop the ruins of old Seattle, and as crazy and extreme as city life seems today, we’ve got nothing on the mad pioneers who preceded us. Example: Drunks used to routinely fall off the edge of the street to their death, because during reconstruction after the Great Fire of 1889, streets were elevated 22 feet in the air and pedestrians had to remember to climb down a ladder when reaching the edge. Also, at high tide during early plumbing in Seattle, sewage would sometimes jet up out of toilets. Learn more delightfully unsettling trivia and relive those golden days of yore with Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour. 614 First Ave., 682-4646. First Runner-Up: Argosy Cruises Second Runner-Up: Ride the Ducks

Best Day Trip

Mount Rainier National Park A couple hours’ drive from our fair city, the this park has it all: waterfalls, forests, flower-filled meadows, snow-capped rock, and some two dozen glaciers—even bourbon bison meatloaf at the Paradise Inn. And urbanites have taken note. This spring, the Park received 5,900 climbing and camping permit requests—more than double the number of 2015 (the advance-reservation system wasn’t working in 2016)—and visitor congestion got so bad by late June that the Park issued a news release reminding people that things will go more smoothly if they visit on a weekday. First Runner-Up: Orcas Island Second Runner-Up: Whidbey Island

Best Hiking Trail

Discovery Park The best thing about Discovery Park, some say, is simply how huge it is. Formerly Fort Lawton, an army base at its most active during World War II, the land was returned to the city of Seattle as a green space in 1972. Now it’s full of joggers, dog-walkers, and cyclists taking advantage of the biggest swath of green Seattleites can find without leaving town. The 2.8-mile Loop Trail gives visitors a breath of verdant air: Forest gives way to meadow, which gives way to forest again, then the trail connects to stairways that head down bluffs to the beach, the lighthouse, the Sound, and a view of Mount Rainier. The West Point treatment plant’s disaster this winter left quite a stench in the air near the beach for a while, but it doesn’t seem to have damaged the trails’ reputation all that much. First Runner-Up: Mount Si Trail Second Runner-Up: Hurricane Ridge

Best Neighborhood

West Seattle Wide, sandy Alki Beach, with its views of the Seattle skyline. Lincoln Park, with its forested bluffs and bike paths. Some of the best Hawaiian-fusion food in the city. A “chemistry-inspired” cocktail bar. A studio apartment bigger than a closet for under $1,000. There’s much to love about West Seattle—both the largest and the oldest Seattle neighborhood, so the story goes, since the Denny Party landed here first in 1851 before relocating to what’s now downtown. In 1907 Seattle annexed it, and now it’s ranked among the hottest real estate in the city—West Seattle Junction home prices have jumped 13.3 percent since 2016, for instance, a corner that is also being slated for high-rises in a proposed upzone. But despite a suite of new condos, there’s old, salty charm to this triangle on the Sound. And don’t get us started on those sunsets. First Runner-Up: Ballard Second Runner-Up: Beacon Hill

Best Outdoor Store

REI It’s hard to hold a candle to REI if we’re talking outdoor stores in Seattle—or anywhere. The 79-year-old Seattle company has become a national byword for wilderness geeks, and tends to be known in town as that place you go with one thing on your shopping list and come out with quite a few. The company came under fire last year for overpaying its CEO while underpaying its cashiers and offering them erratic hours. Then it announced it would boost wages in 37 cities, including Seattle, anywhere from 5 to 15 percent. With that, plus the boons REI offers in member dividends, nonprofit partnerships, and environmental stewardship (its stores are powered by 100 percent renewable energy, for instance), you’ve got a homegrown business to be pretty darn proud of. Various locations. First Runner-Up: Ascent Outdoors Second Runner-Up: (tie) Outdoor Research Retail Store, Mountain Hardware

Best Park

Discovery Park By far the biggest news this year to come out of the city’s largest green space—550 acres of forests, meadows, driftwood-strewn beaches, a lighthouse, and the Daybreak Star Center, a hub for indigenous heritage—is the West Point Treatment Plant disaster. In early February, under record-breaking downpours, the facility overflowed and malfunctioned, ultimately causing 235 million gallons of untreated wastewater (including 30 million gallons of straight-up raw sewage) to gush into Puget Sound. Follow-up investigations indicated that this accident, though the worst, wasn’t the only of its kind, and a report prepared for the King County Council offered half a dozen recommendations for how to avoid this kind of thing in the future. The environmental effects on the Sound are still to be determined. But visitors’ enjoyment and use of the park hasn’t suffered—the beach was closed for just a few days and the trails and views are as glorious as ever. First Runner-Up: Volunteer Park Second Runner-Up: Green Lake Park

Best Race

Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon The Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon is not unique to Seattle, as the June race is one of a number that take place throughout the world under that banner. Its genius, though, is that it absorbs the culture of the city by putting some of its best young bands onstage along the race route, where runners can stop and take in a song or push forward, fueled by the Seattle sound. This year’s race added even more of a Seattle-specific dimension with new stadium-to-stadium routes for the marathon and half-marathon, sending runners from Husky Stadium to CenturyLink Field. More than 18,000 participants ran these races, capped by a set from Mayer Hawthorne, who isn’t a Seattle act … but we’ll let that slide. First Runner-Up: Dead Baby Downhill Second Runner-Up: Beat the Blerch

Best Skatepark

Jefferson Skate Park Back in 2012, when Tony Hawk came to town, he visited one place in Seattle—the Jefferson Skate Park. There was a good reason: Far and away one of the city’s most legit spots, the Beacon Hill structure features a roomy, deep bowl, plenty of grindable rails, boxes, and spines, and a great little gap for practicing your board flips. Not surprising that it’s host to a pretty stellar community of shredders. Jefferson Park, 684-4075. First Runner-Up: All Together Skatepark Second Runner-Up: SeaSk8

Best Ski Area

Stevens Pass Mountain Resort Since 1937, visitors to Stevens Pass have enjoyed an average of more than 400 inches each year of snow that, thanks to cool air coming into the eastern slope of the Cascade Range, has a particularly dry texture. The Mountain Resort takes full advantage of this natural phenomenon, offering a wide variety of runs including bowls, freestyle terrain, and trails for all skill levels at reasonable prices. It is a no-brainer for most Seattle skiers and, in the summer, mountain bikers and disk golfers. US-2, Skykomish, 812-4510. First Runner-Up: Crystal Mountain Second Runner-Up: The Summit at Snoqualmie

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