37 Summery Things to Do in Seattle You Didn’t Know Existed

The best in-city adventures for a picture-perfect warm-weather season

By Brangien Davis, Ali Brownrigg, Rachel Hart, Elsy Pawelak, Allison Scheff, Niki Stojnic & Lisa Wogan


June 15, 2015

This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of Seattle Magazine.

Let’s be honest, having a good summer in Seattle doesn’t take a lot of ingenuity. It’s sunny and warm: Get outside!

Marveling at the blue skies and the novelty of not wearing a jacket offers sufficient stimulation for most of us locals. But for those who seek to push the fun a bit further, we offer a collection of lesser known city spots that will help take your summer into the stratosphere.

1. Woodinville’s Adventura Aerial Adventure Park

Learn the ropes at Adventura aerial adventure park in Woodinville; photo: Andrew Smith

Face your fears and feel like a champ at this “aerial adventure park” in Woodinville, where you can don a helmet and harness and traverse ropes through the tree tops. While it’s situated a stone’s throw from Redhook Brewery and many local wineries, we recommend imbibing after you complete the ropes route. In fact, the park partners with several spots for post-play tastings. Book 30 days in advance; kids ages 7–12 are welcome under adult supervision. 14300 NE 145th St., Woodinville; 866.981.8665; adventuraplay.com

2. Artisanal Painted Paddles

Photo: Scott Meleskie

If you like the idea of paddling a canoe even more than actually getting out on the water, consider the artisanal painted paddles at recently opened Artifact Gallery in Pioneer Square. Made by Norquay Co. (in northern Ontario) and Sanborn Canoe Company (in Minnesota), the wooden paddles are hand-finished in bold colors and varnished for durability (though hard-core usage is not recommended). Dare we call them goargeous? 313 First Ave. S; 206.619.2122; artifact-gallery.com

3. The Hideout
The Hideout on First Hill
People and art commingle at The Hideout on First Hill; photo: Hayley Young
A multitude of native Seattleites prefer it when the city is socked in with gray weather. During our spectacular summers, these sun-sensitive folks can take solace at The Hideout, the subtly signed, dark and subdued First Hill watering hole, which opened 10 years ago as an art experiment/bar.

The cocktails are stellar; order an Andy Warhol and the barkeep will snap a Polaroid of you. Spend some time taking in the local art hung salon style up to the top of the 16-foot-high ceiling, and don’t miss the Earl 3.0 Robotic Art Dispenser, a vending machine packed with art and awaiting your dollars. 1005 Boren Ave.; 206.903.8480; hideoutseattle.com

4. Cinema Books
Cinema Books on Roosevelt Way
Film fanatics love Cinema Books; photo: Easton Richmond
Chat with Cinema Books owner Stephanie Ogle—sole proprietor since 1979—for a few minutes and you’ll soon realize the incredible depth of her film knowledge. The archive in her brain is reflected in the immense collection of books jam-packed into her tiny shop, which is housed in a small, slightly leaky room under the Seven Gables movie theater.
Offerings include popular, rare and collectible titles, from coffee table books to scholarly tomes to screenplays. Any self-respecting cinephile must stop by. 4753 Roosevelt Way NE; 206.547.7667; cinemabooks.net

5. Portage Bay Grange Feed & Mercantile
Portage Bay
Portage Bay Grain’s Meredith Salas with a big puddle of cute; photo: Hayley Young
Urban homesteaders need go no farther than the U District to meet their feed (for poultry as well as other pets) and seed needs. This surprising spot stocks everything from supplies for your veggie garden to local honey to live critters, including chickens, ducks and geese. New to urban farming? Check the class schedule and amp up your ag know-how. 4110 Roosevelt Way NE; 206.434.1445; portagebaygrange.com

6. The Comedy Womb
Two years ago, dismayed by the lack of women performing on local comedy stages, Seattle comedian Danielle Gregoire started a weekly show called “The Comedy Womb” at The Rendezvous in Belltown. The open-mic show has been running (and selling out) ever since, with guidelines that prohibit racism, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia (Surprise: You can be hate-free and funny at the same time!). In the spirit of inclusiveness, the bills welcome men, too, but half of the spots are always reserved for women. Tuesday nights, 7 and 9 p.m. $5. The Grotto at The Rendezvous, 2322 Second Ave.; comedywomb.com 

7. Ellenos Greek Yogurt
Ellenos yogurt
Scoop up the sweetness at the Ellenos tasting room in Georgetown; photo: Easton Richmond
You’ve probably tasted thick, tart, addictive Ellenos Greek yogurt at the local company’s Pike Place stall, but now you can see where the magic happens at its new Georgetown location, which is open to the public Wednesday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.Working in a concrete building that belies the creamy goodness within, owner Alex Apostolopoulos and his crew make all the yogurt and toppings, including some limited-edition specialty flavors.

Stop by for a sample or to purchase to-go containers.Prices are the same as those at its Pike Place store, but there’s a special 24-ounce size ($8.50) that might, just might, be enough to share. 5707 Airport Way S; ellenos.com 

8. Neukom Vivarium
In 2006, when artist Mark Dion installed a fallen 60-foot western hemlock at the then-new Olympic Sculpture Park, he compared the nurse log’s glassed home to a “Sleeping Beauty coffin.” Since then, the grand log lady has spawned a whole microsystem of moss, ferns and creepy crawlies, which makes walking through the glowing green space feel and smell like a jaunt through a Northwest forest in the midst of Seattle’s busy downtown streets. Times vary. Free. Olympic Sculpture Park, 2901 Western Ave.; 206.654.3100; seattleartmuseum.org

9. Pacific Bonsai Museum
Pacific Bonsai Museum
The Pacific Bonsai Museum forgoes walls in favor of pint-sized plants; photo: Pacific Bonsai Museum
This world-renowned bonsai collection is an outdoor array of 100 rotating specimens revealing the many different techniques in the ancient art of bonsai. Most trees are decades old, including the hoary Domoto trident maple, which was brought to the U.S. 100 years ago. Tip: The annual Bonsai Rising solstice celebration on June 21 will include a showing of bonsai-fan favorite The Karate Kid and a bid to set the record for the most yogis doing Tree Pose in a bonsai museum. Times vary. Free. Federal Way, 2515 S 336th St.; 253.353.7345; pacificbonsaimuseum.org

10. Nine Spaces, Nine Trees
If you’ve ever walked by the Henry Art Gallery and wondered what that fenced-in tennis-court-looking thing is next door, here’s your answer: It’s art. And yes, you can go inside and eat your lunch on a bench under a hawthorn tree in one of the nine square “rooms.” Built by artist Robert Irwin, and previously installed at the Public Safety Building downtown, the artwork was revived at the University of Washington in 2006 and has been mystifying students ever since. Free and open to the public at all times. University of Washington campus.

11. Le Caviste
Le Caviste in Denny Triangle
Relax with an after-work pour at Le Caviste; photo: Easton Richmond
Improvising a light dinner from a charcuterie board and French wines listed on a chalkboard menu—is there a better way to spend a lazy summer evening? Try doing so at this Denny Triangle retreat. With a nice bar and, now, a few tables set up on the sidewalk, an after-work hour spent at Le Caviste feels even more like an evening out in Paris. 1919 Seventh Ave.; 206.728.2657; lecavisteseattle.com 

12. The Back Room at Liberty
The back room at Liberty
Imagine: A room of your own at Liberty Bar; photo: Sarah Pitts Robinson
Locals know that Liberty, the friendly destination cocktail bar on east Capitol Hill, serves perfectly delicious sushi from a teeny-tiny counter at the back of the bar. (Try the Sonic Boom scallop roll, which goes particularly well with a black walnut old fashioned.) But it’s even more fun to rent the chill back room, so you and a couple dozen of your friends can consume cocktails and sushi while lounging in your own private hideaway. 517 15th Ave. E; 206.323.9898; libertybars.com

13. Fran’s Georgetown
Fran's Chocolates
Plenty of room for chocolate chomping at Fran’s lofty new space; photo: Easton Richmond
Fran Bigelow, Seattle’s most beloved chocolatier, moved her entire production facility to Georgetown last September, setting up shop in The Brew House, part of the historic Rainier Brewery. The confectionary powerhouse added 25,000 square feet of manufacturing space, as well as a café (featuring drinking chocolate and espresso) and a viewing area so guests can enjoy fine chocolates as they watch them being made.

Many original architectural elements have been retained in the soaring space, including steel columns, a grand central staircase and an ornate spiral staircase to nowhere, which helps the new Fran’s feel right at home in the 112-year-old building. Café hours are 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Mon.–Sat.; come before 1 p.m. for the best viewing experience. 5900 Airport Way S.; 206.508.4535; franschocolates.com

14. Moore Coffee
Latte art at Moore Coffee
Photo: Sarah Pitts Robinson
Latte art seems to have fallen on hard times; the most you can hope for these days is a lackluster swirl, or a heart, or maybe a wilting leaf. But all is not lost for those who seek some fleeting beauty with their caffeine. At the petite Moore Coffee in Belltown, monkeys, bulldogs, lions and other critters captured in foam are almost too precious to swill. For true fans, a close-up view of the creative process via the Moore’s espresso-shot cam is streamed live to a screen on the wall. Another bonus at this charming, family-owned café: crispy waffles! 1930 Second Ave.; 206.883.7044; moorecoffeeshop.com

15. Plum Street Poetry
poetty on Plum St.
Photo: Lisa Wogan
From a distance, the little wooden box with a peaked roof mounted on a post on South Plum Street is easily mistaken for yet another one of those ubiquitous little libraries. But step up, pull the yellow latch and you’ll find a sheaf of white papers, each printed with a verse. Works by poets such as Mary Oliver, W.S. Merwin and Ted Kooser, selected and stocked by an invisible hand (a laminated “New Poem” sign announces a re-supply), add the spark of discovery to a simple walk through the neighborhood. Mount Baker, between 31st and 32nd streets

16. Bubble Soccer
Bubble soccer at Volunteer Park
Bubbling up at Volunteer Park; photo: Joshua Lewis/Seattle Refined
The latest athletic craze is as hilarious to observe as it is to play. Bubble soccer, in which competitors sport giant, inflated plastic spheres, feels like playing fútbol while encased in a beach ball. You can rent bubbles for a group of friends from local purveyor Bumble Soccer, and after everyone has signed the not terribly surprising waivers, prepare to do bubble battle. $452–$672 per one and a half hours, depending on number of people. bumblesoccer.com

17. The Center for Wooden Boats
A wooden boat floats on Lake Union
Sign up for a free Sunday Public Sail at the Center for Wooden Boats; photo: Stephanie Mennella-O’Neill
The Center for Wooden Boats has been helping newbie sailors get their sea legs for more than 25 years, by way of all types of boat rentals and, even better, the free (yes, free!) Sunday Public Sail program. These rain-or-shine, skipper-led voyages take passengers around Lake Union on various vessels; select a waterborne journey powered by sail, steam, electricity, oars or paddles. The sign-up sheet is first come, first served, so arrive early to snag a spot. 1010 Valley St.; 206.382.2628; cwb.org/events/cast-off

18. Mardi Gras Donuts
donuts from Mardi Gras donuts
Sugar central at Mardi Gras donuts; photo: Easton Richmond
Don’t expect any artisanal trappings at this doughnut shop. New Orleans native Michael Williams is too busy churning out pillows of crunchy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside beignets (3 for $2.25), made fresh to order, as well as racks of delicious doughnuts. He opened the shop in late February, adding to the slowly emerging, eclectic avenue of tasty spots in White Center. Pro tip: cash only! 9828 16th SW; Facebook: Mardi Gras Donuts

19. Marigold & Mint
Marigold & Mint at Melrose Market
Photo: Easton Richmond
This sweet little stall at the back of Melrose Market is a study in the beauty of organic, local flora. The cut flowers, herbs and edible flowers come from Marigold & Mint’s own farm along the Snoqualmie River, so buying a bouquet is a show of Northwest pride. Top it off with a vintage vase or locally made pottery and a lovely letterpress card. Capitol Hill, 1531 Melrose Ave.; 206.682.3111; marigoldandmint.com

20. Madrona Wine Merchants
This tiny neighborhood wine shop packs a fruitful punch with a huge variety of bottles from wineries both far-flung and nearby. Proprietors Mark Souder and Jim Maloney are careful but affable curators, providing helpful info without being pushy, including during the Saturday tastings (2–4 p.m.; free). 1127 34th Ave.; 206.860.6017; madronawinemerchants.com

21. Rainworks

Rain reveals secret messages on city sidewalks; photo: Rainworks

Since 2014, Seattle artist Peregrine Church has been adding moist marvels to local sidewalks with rain-activated street art, which he calls Rainworks. Using a stencil and hydrophobic, nontoxic spray, he creates sunny messages (“The Rain Is Shining,” “Proud to Be Rainy,” “I Love Seattle”) that only appear when wet. Want a Rainwork on your property? Church can make it happen (prices range according to size, $100–$5,000), so long as you aren’t looking to advertise a brand or event. rain.works

22. Iced Cardamom Latte
Acquire a new coffee beverage habit this summer with the iced cardamom latte at Voxx Coffee downtown. The perfectly appointed retro-mod coffee shop next to Freeway Park creates the spicy Turkish-style sensation by grinding cardamom directly into the espresso grounds before they’re pulled. (We recommend requesting “no vanilla,” so the spice shines through.) Sip slowly at one of the breezy outdoor tables and pretty soon you’ll have a new lease on life. 1200 Sixth Ave.; 206.682.1242; voxxseattle.com

23. The Hidden Door Wine Club at Alexandria Nicole Cellars
Alexandria Nicole Cellars
The secluded outdoor patio at Alexandria Nicole Cellars; photo: Sarah Pitts Robinson
Despite the fact that there are more than 100 wineries/tasting rooms in Woodinville, finding a secluded spot to sit and sip a while proves more challenging. Upgrade to a membership at Alexandria Nicole Cellars, tucked in at the base of the Hollywood Schoolhouse, for access to the medieval-chic members-only tasting room.

Commit to buying four bottles of preselected wines at a discount three times a year ($130–$150 a pop; no additional membership fee) and you and four friends (per visit) can get behind the stone door for free tastings, savory bites courtesy of Hollywood Schoolhouse and the secluded, brick-lined outdoor patio with a fire pit. 14810 NE 145th St.; 425.487.9463; alexandrianicolecellars.com 

24. Sweet Bumpas Ice Cream
Matt Bumpas worked as a pastry chef at Poppy before going into business for himself making ice cream. This summer, you can find his ice cream cart—from which he scoops 100 percent homemade exotic ice cream flavors, such as lemon-sesame, chipotle peanut brittle, cinnamon-caramel and smoked pineapple sorbet—at the Sunday Fremont Market and South Lake Union’s Saturday market, starting this month. Keep an eye on his website for more pop-ups this summer. sweetbumpas.com

25. Saltbox Designs
Saltbox Designs chicken coop
The Gothic Ark chicken coop; photo: Berg Danielson
City-dwelling chickens need to roost in appropriate style, and Saltbox Designs has all your chicken condo, er, coop, needs. Options include the Gothic Ark (barn-shaped with a corrugated metal roof), and the loft-like Island Coop (perched on stilts).

The company also designs and custom-builds plenty of garden items for those who aren’t quite ready for poultry keeping: worm composting bins that double as benches, beehives, greenhouses, cold frames, raised beds and planter boxes. Pieces are hand-built in Ballard, and a display yard in Phinney Ridge shows off the full range of goods. 6256 Third Ave. NW; 206.909.2427; saltboxdesigns.wordpress.com

26. Artist & Craftsman Supply
Arts & Crafts
Photo: iStock
Discreetly stationed behind the Petco on 45th Street in the U District, Artist & Craftsman Supply is only accessible via the alleyway. But once inside, a whole world reveals itself. Known for its crazy-amazing range of fine arts supplies (think actual marble, and the chisel and hammer to carve it with), the store also boasts countless options for summer craft projects. Grab a pack of the groovy Jacquard dye kits for an outdoor tie-dyeing party, or screen-print a killer design for your kiddo’s Little League shirts. 4350 Eighth Ave. NE; 206.545.0091; artistcraftsman.com

27. Bloedel Reserve
Blodel Reserve
The Japanese Garden at Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island; photo: Keith Brofsky
On Bainbridge Island, the massive Bloedel Reserve includes a 150-acre garden with Japanese maples, a pond and a serenity-inducing sand and stone garden. 7571 NE Dolphin Drive; 206.842.7631; bloedelreserve.org

28. Kubota Garden
Kubota Garden
Kubota Garden; photo: Joe Mabel
Kubota Garden in Rainier Beach offers 20 acres of lush landscape to wander through. Stop for a photo op on the iconic curved red bridge and don’t miss the brand-new timber pavilion at the Terrace Overlook. 9817 55th Ave. S; 206.725.4400; kubotagarden.org

29. Seattle Japanese Garden
Seattle Japanese Garden
Seattle Japanese Garden; photo: Joe Mabel
The oldest and best known of the local options, the Seattle Japanese Garden often plays second fiddle to its affiliated neighbor, the Washington Park Arboretum, but the gorgeous grounds stand on their own merits. On July 11, attend the Tanabata Festival, a celebration of love, kimonos and origami. 1075 Lake Washington Blvd. E; 206.684.4725; seattlejapanesegarden.org  

30. Bellevue Botanical Garden
Yao Garden
Yao Garden; photo: Heptazane
At the Bellevue Botanical Garden, the Yao Garden honors Bellevue’s sister city in Japan by way of traditional plantings, stone lanterns and an impressive Japanese gate. 12001 Main St.; 425.452.2750; bellevuebotanical.org

31. The Cougar Room at Vito’s on First Hill

Photo: Hayley Young
Deep inside the dark, swanky Vito’s scene slinks The Cougar Room, so named for the taxidermy big cat that instructs all comers in the art of lounging elegantly. Reserve it for a party and be the coolest kid in your clique. 927 Ninth Ave.; 206.397.4053;

32. Seattle Seed Company

Seeds, soaps and garden gifts at  Seattle Seed Company; Photo:  Daniel Spils
Seattle Seed Company didn’t plan on opening a retail outlet—the online biz has been happily selling organic, non-GMO and heirloom seeds online since 2010. But when the proprietors put a sign up in the window of their new fulfillment center in Madrona, located in a cute brown house behind Red Cow restaurant, people started knocking on the door in search of seeds. Although the hours of operation are still being worked out, the tiny new retail space is bursting with seed packets, handmade herbal soaps, letterpress cards and other garden goodies. 1423 34th Ave.; 206.395.4769; seattleseed.com

33. Vashon Golf and Swim Club
Sequestered at the Maury Island end of Vashon Island, this surprisingly tricky nine-hole golf course is pretty much off every mainlander’s radar. (There aren’t even any Yelp reviews—even prisons have Yelp reviews!) But it’s precisely that old-fangled feeling and the killer views of Quartermaster Harbor and the Olympic Mountains that make this low-key, kid- and duffer-friendly course more than worth the ferry ride. Daily and weekly passes for non-residents of the island give entry to the clubhouse restaurant and swimming pool. 24615 75th Ave. SW; 206.463.9410; vashongolfandswim.com

34. Swift Industries

Photo: Nathan Kane
The pleasures of a visit to Swift Industries’ south Ballard workshop begin with the joy of discovery. In a bland, unmarked industrial building (bike cognoscenti know: Look for the cargo bike out front), Swift hand-makes colorful, durable and stylish packs that are the envy of all bike commuters. But on a few days of the week, the workshop is also a retail shop. Among the worktables and sewing machines, bolts of cloth and bicycles, sits a tiny pop-up stocked with Swift’s cheerful packs—ready-made for purchase or as inspiration for your custom order—as well as bike camping and touring gear, cycling maps and regional guides. Thu.–Fri. 4–7 p.m., Sat. noon–5 p.m. 1415 NW 49th St.; 415.608.8227; builtbyswift.com

35. Starbucks Reserve Coffee Library Room

Photo: Courtesy of Starbucks
By now, you’ve likely ooh-ed and ahh-ed your way through the Wonka-esque coffee wonderland that is the new Starbucks Roastery on Capitol Hill. But you can still impress friends and colleagues by reserving the Coffee Library Room for your next meeting, small party or luncheon, especially since Serious Pie contributes to the menu. Located just off the extra-fancy coffee bar on the lower level (with those burbling beakers), the 360-square-foot glass-walled room is a sleek, aromatic space that feels both clubby (thanks to the more than 200 books about coffee) and in the thick of things. 1124 Pike St.; 206.624.0173; roastery.starbucks.com

36. Polar Bar

Photo: Hayley Young
The Gold Rush produced a lot of Seattle fat cats who liked to hang out and talk about their spoils, so they started The Arctic Club. Then they poured a small fortune into building a beautiful Beaux Arts headquarters for reminiscing about the Klondike (and receiving lady guests via a discreet back entrance off the valet’s closet). Today, the club’s Polar Bar retains that stately, Old World vibe, but with essential updates in the cocktails department. (The Moscow mule in a copper mug captures the spirit of the place.) It’s an ideal spot for drinks with friends, if you want to hear what they are saying, and for a game or two of pool. (The table is often available.) Downtown, 700 Third Ave.; 206.340.0340; thearcticclubseattle.com

37. Dahlia Bakery
Sure, we’ve all swooned over the sweets at Dahlia Bakery (the triple coconut cream pie, those peanut butter cookies with actual peanut butter smeared inside), but what about the other food groups? The itty-bitty Belltown bakery (with outdoor seating) also does a healthy takeout business in soups (tomato, plus a daily special) ready-to-go salads and freshly made sandwiches that rotate daily. It’s the best way to get a dose of Tom Douglas fare during the day. And if a chocolate truffle cookie happens to fall into your lunch sack in the process, what’s the harm? Lunch served Mon.–Fri., 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. 2001 Fourth Ave.; 206.441.4540; tomdouglas.com


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