Cheap swills

Seattle's best outdoor drinking spots.

JUST OFF THE CORNER of First and Wall, under a tree, two triangle-shaped blocks of concrete in front of a Metro stop serve as bar stools for several tough homeless vagrants—and some of the nice ones, too. It’s quiet, the benches themselves are thoughtful and semi-artistic, and if you can get over the smell of urine, it’s one of the nicer outdoor drinking spots in town. (It’s also conveniently located kitty-corner from the Belltown Mini-Mart, where giant jugs of Thunderbird are available for $3.)

You might wonder, “Why sit outside and swill malt liquor on the sidewalk when I can duck into Marco’s Supper Club or cross the street and have a cultivated cocktail poured for me at El Gaucho?” And it’s a good question, albeit one that shows your lack of imagination.

Canteens have been around since the Pharaoh’s slaves figured out how to pour the mold, and we drink in the commons today for the same reasons they did in yestermillennium: fresh air, mobility, warmth under the night sky, and the feeling that we’re being “bad.” But we’re not 14 years old (and if you are, you should put this paper down and get back to your homework, you little slackers!)—we can improvise in a responsible manner and should do so as often as possible. This is especially true when it comes to venues that aren’t willing to pour us the hard stuff (concerts at the Pier, M’s games, First Thursday gallery walks in Pioneer Square, Seafair, the Heart Walk/Run, etc.). Take charge and take it along.

The art of public cocktailing requires very little equipment: A flask or small bottle of booze is the main apparatus. The 200 ml size works well, if you can find your favorite liquor being distributed in that quantity. More likely you’ll find the 375 ml—often conveniently flask-shaped to fit snugly against one’s thigh or ass cheek. In a pinch, airline bottles will work—but then you’re walking around with a bunch of clattering glass in your pocket. If you want some smokes to stave off the cold, bring them (along with a last will and testament) and some matches or—more efficacious—a fat joint for pondering the stars. For longer parties, a blanket’s not a bad idea (or better yet a babe). Once you’ve filled your flask to the brim, head on out to one of the following fabulous spots to enjoy the true night life.

Victor Steinbrueck Park (2001 Western Ave): Stand among the beautiful carved totems, gaze out toward West Seattle, and smell the sea breeze. (This will also give you a great view of Highway 99, gorgeously riveted and making its beeline to Alaska.) If the Native Americans intimidate you, remember—they were here first. If you must, walk one block north, past the Nature Company, and take in the view from the small courtyard next to the crappy art galleries.

Lake Union Houseboats: I know, I know: “How’d you like it if someone broke into your yard and drank in your garden?” Screw that. The lake is public property, and those who build on top of it are leasing their docks from us, the taxpaying populace. Certain docks have great end-caps that allow you to sit and gaze back at the big city, watch boat traffic, and commune with nature. If you don’t want to disturb the houseboat people, cocktail at Terry Pettus Park (Fairview Ave/E Newton, right across from Pete’s Grocery/Wine Shop) or head to Gasworks (2101 N Northlake Wy) for even more spectacular views.

Broadway: Lean on an aluminum countertop at Dick’s or sit on the steps of QFC, the stoop at Cornish, or the benches in front of the library. This’ll be way more entertaining than any movie you could be seeing. In between sips, grab a Ben & Jerry’s or—better yet—go to Vivace for your own Irish Coffee concoction.

Waterfall Garden Park (219 Second S): This is my favorite public spot for peaceful drunken pondering. Tiny and gorgeous, this Japanese stone garden has a 22-foot waterfall, is hidden from the street, and is full of grand ginkgo trees. Come to think of it, stay away from here, you drunk bastards!

Seattle Center: Not fun just during Bumbershoot and basketball, this World’s Fair wonder’s open 24/7, year round. Sit under the tree canopy by Intiman, play outdoor games at the Pacific Science Center (not just for kids anymore!), or belly up to the fountain for loads of free fun. (The new and improved water display really is quite spectacular!)

Rooftops: The Space Needle’s not the only observation lounge in town; The Cloud Room has a great terrace for outdoor cocktailing (no need to buy one of their drinks, just look like you know what you’re doing, walk to the far end of the room and exit the south-east door). Another “rooftop” of sorts is Freeway Park. The platform at the top of the Pier 66 elevator is also a nice place to toast and take in the Sound sunsets and boat traffic.

Washington State Ferries: Walk on board with your best snuggle-buddy, head to the lido deck, and cheer the world from your very own yacht. Beware: The last Bainbridge ferry leaves from Seattle at 12:50am.

SeaTac Airport: Sure, you can cocktail in the airport itself, but lying on your back near the runway and watching those suckers scream overhead is a rush even without the booze. For best views, drive down Highway 509, take the Burien/SeaTac (518 East) exit, cruise left on Des Moines Memorial Drive, and park the rig when you see the red cranelike towers above you. Climb the hill and duck!

Lincoln Park: Out of the way for many—this is the nice part. Quiet, giant trees serve as your ceiling, and there’s a fabulous beach walk if you hike all the way down to the water. Don’t drink and swim. Park-drinking can also be enjoyed at Discovery Park, Golden Gardens, the Arboretum, and the Montlake area in general (anything to ruffle the feathers of this anti-mass transit neighborhood). Finally, Kerry Park (211 W Highland Dr), high on Queen Anne, has one of those postcard shots of the city perfect for toasts and proposals.

Stay away from crack alley (Third and Wall), Occidental Park in Pioneer Square (a gorgeous commons built in 1817, but now so full of drunks who read this paper, you can’t sit peacefully), and the Ave in the University District, as cops regularly patrol the area for, well, public drunkenness. Go figure.

Of course, no list of public bingeing hotspots would be complete without a mention of Alki cruisin’: Sweet-ass lowriders, Harley hogs fresh from their Thursday HD nites at the Alki Tavern, and even a few hippie VW buses puttering in from a recent road trip to the Oregon Country Fair make the visit to our gorgeous Alki By-and-By. Bring your giant bottles of Rumpleminz, your 48 ounces of malt, your dad’s silver flask full of tequila—hell, set up a full bar in front of the blazing campfire and watch the glimmer of the city and those romantic, glittering white ferries gliding past your little bit of heaven.