Summer

Seattle Summer Bucket List: 11 Things Everyone Should Do At Least Once

Berry Picking, Boating, and More Ways to Kick It
July 21, 2022
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Row, row, row your boat (from UW’s Waterfront Activities Center). (UW Waterfront Activities Center)

To anyone who says it’s mid-July and summer’s almost over—no. Look outside. It has barely begun. That’s not how we do things here in the PNW, where summer hits its stride in late July and keeps rolling through September. That said, summer is short here: The Rainy Season starts pretty promptly and completely around the Autumn Equinox on September 22, so you’ve got about two months left to check all this stuff off your list. From good blackberry pickin’ spots to secret beaches, you’ve got your work cut out for you, so get crackin'. 

Go for a beautiful swim at Fauntleroy’s historic Colman Pool
There’s a city-wide shortage of staffing at Seattle’s public pools this year. But Colman Pool Add to a List is one of a few that are both fully staffed and open for biz seven days a week! This historic landmark is only swimmable in the summers, so don’t miss your chance to visit. It’s also one of the scarce outdoor pools in these parts. And it’s heated. AND it’s in Lincoln Park and therefore comes equipped with a stunning view of the Salish Sea. If all that isn’t enough, the park provides biking and hiking trails, picnicking spots, sports fields, and beach access. What else could you want in a swim? Nothing, that’s right. It’s good that you know.

Go signal crayfishing at Lake Sammamish or Lake Washington or dozens of other lakes
Okay, no one ever talks about this, but it’s such a special regional thing. The Pacific Northwest is home to the six-inch signal crayfish, almost double the size of the red swamp crayfish in the American South, and with gigantolor claws in comparison. These brown, meaty mini-lobsters inhabit many lakes around here, and although they’re legal to catch without a license and delicious to eat, people just, like, don’t do it, mystifyingly. This could not be more simple. Buy a crayfish trap or learn how to make one out of a milk jug or water bottle. Then read the rules on p. 138 of the Washington Sport Fishing Rules, choose a lake from the “Locations” section of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website, and go to it. Bring a can of tuna or cat food with a pop top and open it slightly, put the can in the trap, and leave it in one of these lakes for an hour or so. You don’t even need a boat—you can just hang out on the shore. Then haul it out to receive your bounty, and prepare your belly for a PNW crawdad boil. The restrictions are few—you need a floatation device on your trap, you gotta throw females back, you gotta kill them humanely, and your daily limit is a staggering ten pounds of crayfish. Holy shit. You have to do this. 

Pick some blackberries, for godsake
You’ve probably noticed that Seattle is fully saturated with wild blackberry vines, and yes, it’s perfectly safe to eat this sumptuous free food from nature. You may wanna soak ‘em for ten minutes first to get all the fruit fly larvae out (unless you’re into that), although it’s more of an issue later in the summer. If it’s your first time, we find that yogurt or sour cream tubs work best for blackberry hunting, and you’ll wanna wear long pants and sleeves but not flowing ones. As for best picks (heh), Discovery Park Add to a List is absolutely teeming with berries in every direction, the east end of Carkeek Park Add to a List behind Viewlands Elementary has a loopy path lined with 12-foot-high blackberry hedges, and there’s a massive block-long patch on Fourth Avenue North on the edge of Queen Anne Hill, on the steep slope just above (west of) the Fremont Bridge and that giant billboard. Perhaps the most appropriate place to pick them is Mercer Island’s Luther Burbank Park Add to a List —botanist and horticulturist Luther Burbank, inventor of the plumcot, is the reason the entire Puget Sound region is inundated with Himalayan blackberries. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

Go to a secret beach that isn’t Secret Beach
Don’t go to Secret Beach Add to a List in Ballard; the secret’s been out. Per Eli Sanders in The Stranger a few years ago, Seattle has 149 other secret beaches, hiding at the ends of public roads and dirt paths and seemingly private driveways, and they belong to you. So use them. Might we suggest the one at the dead end of East Highland Drive on the western shore of Lake Washington, just south of Madison Park? Or the one just north of Myrtle Edwards Park on Elliott Bay, about a mile outside of the tourist core of the waterfront, all full of starfish and sea anemones? Or the unadorned strip of blonde sand on Beach Drive Southwest at Jacobsen, snuggled between the mansions? Go to Google Maps and punch in “seattle beaches,” then take your pick. Hint: look for ones with “street end” in the map location. If it has a name, it’s probably not very secret.  

Stroll through Gas Works Park on a non-festival day
Forget about Gas Works Park Add to a List when it’s chockablock with fireworks people Add to a List —nothing rules harder than when it’s just a normal day and you can walk around and enjoy being alive. If you don’t know, Gas Works is the remnants of an old gasification plant, and the site was rehabbed into one of the weirdest parks in the world. Sometimes overlooked as a crowded venue spot, GWP is still cool as all shit. You got postcard-grade views of Lake Union and downtown, a kite hill straight out of the Teletubbies set, the woo-woo astrological sundial on top that uses your body to tell time, a lush forest trail over by the houseboats, a boiler house that’s been converted into a picnic shelter with tables and grills. An exhauster-compressor building that’s now a play barn, full of brightly painted industrial archaeology for kids to climb on. Tons of little hidey nooks for making out with people. A bunch of hundred-foot, rusted-out, post-apocalyptic-looking machinery looming over you while you make out. This place has everything.  

Explore the South Seattle College Arboretum and Seattle Chinese Garden
From the street, South Seattle College just looks like an endless Walmart parking lot, but did you know they’ve got a whole arboretum stashed away back there? One of the city’s greatest summer delights, the SSC Arboretum Add to a List and adjacent Seattle Chinese Garden Add to a List are just bursting with curated trees, rare plants, edible berries and herbs, streams, foot bridges, serene vistas, and little gazebos to picnic or converse or think about stuff inside of. Also, right now, there’s this one magnolia (we think?) tree in the Chinese garden that has a single pristine white flower that’s, like, the size of your face. It’s the biggest and most perfect flower and does not seem real. You’ll gasp when you see it. Hurry.

Watch a movie except outdoors
They have this now. You know how you usually watch movies…inside of a building? Imagine: Cordless, hands-free movies that you can watch outside, when you’re on the go. Just kidding—most of these movie nights have been happening for ages, but seriously, you should utilize them. Movies at Marymoor Park Add to a List is still going strong after 16 years—this one is a drive-in, so it requires a car and money. Out in West Seattle, there’s free movies in the courtyard of Hotwire Coffeehouse Add to a List —the event’s back after a four-year hiatus, due not to the pandemic but lack of a sponsor. As of this summer, the dear old Mural Amphitheatre Add to a List , in the skinny shadow of the Space Needle, has been showing free films for two dang decades. The freshman here is U-District Summer Movies by the Bay Add to a List , hosted by Scarecrow Video and the U District Partnership at the spankin’-new Fritz Hedges Park overlooking Portage Bay. It’s free, there’s live music before the movie plus a sunset view of the bay, and all the film picks are water-themed, adorably.

Buy some cheap local fruit from an indie produce stand and eat it
Guys, Washington State does stone fruit best (apples as a close second, but it’s not time yet!), and it's the height of the season. Go buy up all the local stone fruit right now. Lenny’s Produce Add to a List at 105th and Greenwood has these black plums that are like cupcakes, just deliriously sweet, while MacPherson’s Add to a List in Jefferson Park is touting their Rainier cherries lately—an absolute Seattle Summer must. Top Banana Add to a List in Ballard has fabulously juicy nectarines, as well as locally produced milk, eggs, and honey (there’s always honey in the banana stand). It actually doesn’t matter which stand you pick, though, as long as it’s not a supermarket. Ask the grocers what’s good this week, then load up, find an outdoor spot, and go to town. There is perhaps no greater summer-in-Seattle joy than getting a bag of seasonal froot and walking around the city while eating it, preferably while wearing something skimpy, and letting the juice run down your chin. Then eating the rest over yogurt or ice cream when you get home. 

Forage for free food all over the place
Not only are there several designated public food gardens in town, there’s also a shitload of wild fruit and veg growing all over Seattle, and it’s the exact time to forage it starting now. From downy serviceberries in Woodland Park to feral cherries in Laurelhurst, from high-yield blueberries on the UW Campus to not-just-decorative strawberry trees (that’s arbutus unedo, which are edible but aren’t actual strawberries!) on East Pike Street, everything’s literally ripe for the pickin’. Consult the map at fallingfruit.org to go produce-shopping for free in your own neighborhood! Meanwhile, the seven-acre Beacon Food Forest Add to a List has plums, persimmons, lingonberries, figs, kiwis, and tons more, while the Puget Ridge Edible Park Add to a List in Delridge has all manner of salad greens, brassicas, tomatoes, peas, green beans, and so on. We’re sure you can find some real strawberries too. Most of the squashes and tree fruit—especially apples and pears, hell yeah—in these gardens will be ready in a month or two, so stay tuned.

Dine on local salmon from Coho Willy on A-Dock in Shilshole
For at least a decade, “Coho Willy” Pratt has set up shop on A-Dock at Shilshole Bay Marina Add to a List to sell the freshest possible whole salmon out of a giant cooler, with his name spelled out in hot pink tape on the side. Last we checked, a fish ran around $20, with an additional fee to clean it, although the price may have changed this year. Biz starts up in late August or early September. These days, it’s usually Willy’s (adult) nephews who do the fishmonging; they’re all tribal members and bring in salmon from Suquamish waters on the Kitsap Peninsula, directly west of the marina. Fun fact: The Point Elliot Treaty of 1855, signed 167 years ago by Chief Seattle himself on behalf of the Suquamish Tribe, is the reason Willy and co. are legally able to do business this way!

Row, row, row your boat under the highway–and beyond to Lake Washington
For only 14 or 16 bucks an hour, the UW’s Waterfront Activities Center (WAC) Add to a List will rent you a canoe or kayak, respectively, with which to row through the cattail-framed canals in and around the Washington Park Arboretum and the lake beyond. This optionally involves paddling under the SR-520 floating bridge and the surging trafic upon it, which is kinda thrilling and bizarre. If you’re new to this self-propelled boating thing, we recommend going the canoe route, because you can put a couple extra people in it for the same price, and at least one of them might be good at rowing. Plus there’s room to bring your stuff (which should include a picnic lunch). A caveat: They’re doing construction on the bridge itself this summer and there are bumpers to keep boaters out of that zone, but it’s not really where you and your canoe wanna be anyhow–the lilypadded water trails in and around Marsh Island and Foster Island are what you’re looking for. It’s all straight out of a Waterhouse painting. Life is but a dream.

☀️ Check out our complete Seattle summer guide for even more things to do. ☀️

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