43 Places Around Seattle We Bet You Didn't Know About

It's summer, so get out and explore with this insider's guide to our city's best-kept secrets
The Back Door at Roxy's Diner in Fremont

Seattle’s charms can be a little showy—the snow-capped mountains, the glimmering bodies of water, the bounty of locally grown food and hand-crafted goods, not to mention our rivers of high-caliber coffee. So it’s nice to know that the city holds secret wonders as well. We’ve gathered up a slew of hidden gems well worth unearthing, from under-the-radar parks to tucked away arts to back room bars that feel like your own private hideaway.

1. The Back Door at Roxy’s

Accessed through a separate entrance behind Roxy’s Diner in Fremont, The Back Door feels like a hideaway from another era. The joint has the atmosphere of a speakeasy-meets–Teatro ZinZanni tent, dripping with chandeliers, awash in red hues and surrounded with huge murals portraying cacophonous carousers living it up. Which is exactly what you should do, since the cocktails are stellar—try the staff favorite Bitter Old Coot ($11), made with bonded rye, Fernet Branca, Drambuie and bitters. Fremont, 462 N 36th St.; 206.632.7322; backdooratroxys.com

Photo by Hayley Young

2. Ping Pong Plaza in South Lake Union

BYO paddle and ball to the Ping Pong Plaza, designed by Seattle’spublic-art king Buster Simpson, and try to recognize the famousscientist silhouettes he carved into the legs. South Lake Union, at Harrison and Terry; bustersimpson.net/pingpongplaza

Photo by Matt Owens

3. Brass Tacks

If you make your way toward the restrooms of this Georgetown gastropub, you’ll see a fireplace. That fireplace, friends, is actually a facade—a facade that, if given the slightest push, opens up to uncover a hidden private room. There are only two couches and a handful of barstools (belonging to the cutest, tiniest bar you ever did see, accommodating as many as 15 people), so if you’ve got an intimate gathering in mind, this place is perfect. The room may be requested for free, but the entire party must be on one check. 6031 Airport Way S; 206.397.3821; georgetownbrass.com

4. Open Books: A Poem Emporium

(a haiku)
Wow, free verse for sale!
This tiny, mighty shop blooms
open like haiku.
Wallingford, 2414 N 45th St.; 206.633.0811; openpoetrybooks.com

Photo by Benjamin Benschneider

5. SAM Gallery

There is simply no excuse for blank walls, thanks to SAM Gallery—a little sibling to Seattle Art Museum—and its incredibly affordable art rental program. Stocked with more than 1,000 paintings, photographs, drawings and other work by Northwest artists (including Kate Protage, Junko Yamamoto and, seen here, Troy Gua), the gallery allows anyone with a SAM membership to rent artwork for three-month stints. Most pieces cost in the $100–$200 range (total for three months), and at least half of the rental price goes toward the purchase, if you decide you can’t live without it. Browse the wonderful pieces on view at the gallery’s new location at the back of the SAM gift shop, and enliven your living space with art. Downtown, 1300 First Ave.; 206.343.1101; seattleartmuseum.org

6. O.O. Denny Park

We all know the drill: As soon as the sun rears its fiery head, Seattleites flock to the nearest beachside patch of green and sprawl all over it. But if you prefer a sunshiny spot with a little less social exposure, consider O.O. Denny Park in Kirkland. Located between a woodsy grove and private waterfront properties, this public park on Lake Washington offers both real estate and ample parking—and an afternoon’s escape from the usual haunts. The western exposure promises extra hours of evening light, and the beach here is pebbled, which is a pleasant change from the mysterious underwater plants that slither across swimmers’ legs on the Seattle side of the pond. Kirkland, 12032 Holmes Point Drive NE; parksofkirkland.com/o-o-denny-park

Photo courtesy of Frolik

7. Frolik Kitchen + Cocktails

Walk south along Fourth Avenue just past Pike Street and look up: This drinking deck (you’d never know it was there!), on the fifth floor of the *Red Lion Hotel, attracts plenty of locals and tourists alike for its lengthy happy hour (2–10 p.m.) and giant, sunny patio, which offers some of the best urban vistas in the city. On a clear evening, test your skills on Frolik’s outdoor Ping-Pong table and shuffleboard court (the full-fledged, cruise-ship version), or cozy up with a glass of bubbly near the mod fireplace. Downtown, 1415 Fifth Ave.; 206.971.8015; frolik.seattleredlionfifthavenue.com 
*Red Lion Hotel became Motif after this issue went to press

8. The Upstairs

This Belltown bar is located in an old, two-story, mixed-use apartment complex, and if it wasn’t for the small sign dangling out front, you’d never know it exists. The cozy upstairs watering hole is fancified with chandeliers, old barstools, antique mirrors and artwork. There’s even a “doorbell” sound to alert the bartender when someone enters from the front door off Second Avenue. (Don’t worry, it’s more charming than annoying.) Adjoining is a pretty parlor (called “The East Gallery”) filled with furniture for lounging and lots more artwork. Craft cocktails, wine and beer are on offer, as well as small plates, courtesy of sibling Pintxo, next door (daily, 5–8 p.m.). A treat awaits restroom users: a wall awash in old rock ’n’ roll images and articles. Belltown, 2209 Second Ave.; 206.441.4013; theupstairsseattle.com

Photo by Jonathan Vanderweit

9. The Forge Lounge

A post-work, pre-home staple for Seattle’s legion of Bainbridge Island ferry commuters, The Forge Lounge is located one story above the sidewalk, just off the pedestrian bridge connecting the Colman Dock ferry terminal to Western Avenue. The small, casual space is big on charm, serving up cocktails made with local spirits (Mischief, BroVo, Temperance), local beers (Manny’s, Elysian, Diamond Knot), panini and quesadillas, and on Thursday nights, bar bingo—the last of which amps up the already tangible camaraderie. Waterfront, 65 Marion St.; 206.623.5107; theforgelounge.com

10. Holla for Friday Challah!

It’s not just about the cookies. Darling little Hello Robin bakery also makes delicious, honey-topped challah bread on Fridays so people can grab it for the evening Shabbat. (We won’t tell if you throw a few cookies in the bag as well.) Loaves come out around 1 p.m.; call ahead to be absolutely sure and to reserve a loaf. Capitol Hill, 522 19th Ave. E; 206.735.7970; hellorobincookies.com