Weekend Guide

The Best In-Person Things to Do in Seattle This Weekend: Kentucky Derby, a Peony Festival, and More

April 30-May 2, 2021 Edition
April 29, 2021
Celebrate May Day and Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month in one go at the Seattle Chinese Garden's Peony Festival this weekend. (Seattle Chinese Garden via Facebook)

A new month clocks in this weekend, and with it a new batch of COVID-safe things to do beyond your four walls. Read our picks below, from ways to celebrate International Workers' Day (have you been to Left Bank Books lately?) to a county-spanning City Nature Challenge, and from Seattle Bike 'n' Brews (a fine way to kick off Bike Everywhere Month) to Black-owned barbecue spots to try (like the award-winning Lil Red's Takeout and Catering). For even more options, read our guides to the best online events this week, the best movies to watch this week, and our complete guide to in-person things to do in Seattle.


Jump to: Holidays | Food & Drink | Sports & Outdoors | Arts


HOLIDAYS

Learn about the labor movement on International Workers' Day this Saturday. Having nothing to do with the May Day you probably learned about in grade school (which largely consists of dancing around a Maypole Midsommar-style and handing out flowers—more on that later), Workers' Day began in 1889 as a rally led by the Marxist International Socialist Congress demanding an eight-hour workday and other basic rights for workers. In Seattle, participate by checking out Red May, which offers a monthlong intellectual "vacation from capitalism" in the form of online talks with Marxist and socialist scholars like Naomi Klein, Lisa Adkins, Warren Montag, Asad Haider, Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, and Michael Heinrich. The Stranger's resident philosopher and noted Marxist Charles Mudede calls the annual event "one of the most important radical left festivals in the US." Off screen, you can pick up some tomes on the workers' rights movement at Pike Place's own anarchist bookstore, Left Bank Books, which is open for curbside pickup and in-person shopping from 12-5 pm on Wednesday-Sunday. 

Give away flowers for the other May Day, which simply marks the beginning of spring. Back in the 19th and 20th centuries, it was common for people to place baskets of flowers on each other's doorsteps before yelling "May basket!" (natch) and frolicking merrily away. But if you'd like to celebrate without drawing confused looks from passerby, pick up a small bouquet or a single-stemmed flower to give to a friend (or, better yet, your favorite Marxist). For last-minute options, the tulips and daffodils at the new-and-improved Capitol Hill Farmers Market are perfect, as are the blooms at Pike Place and the Flower Lady.  

Celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. As a city known in part for its bookishness, it makes sense to start any heritage-based holiday with some new TBR additions. On the new-release front, we're excited for Michelle Zauner's memoir Crying in H Mart (hear her talk about it online with E.J. Koh on Monday!), in which the Japanese Breakfast frontwoman details her Korean American upbringing in Eugene, Oregon, losing her mother to terminal pancreatic cancer, and finding connection through food. Going back a few years, you really can't go wrong with Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club, which follows the friendship of four women who immigrate from China to San Francisco in the 1940s, or with John Okada's canonical, Seattle-set No-No Boy, which centers a young Japanese American man who, still very much affected by the generational trauma of Japanese American incarceration during World War II, refuses to serve in the US army. The Seattle Public Library also has a list of fiction picks for the occasion, including Alexandra Chong's Days of Distraction and Chang-rae Lee's My Year Abroad. Once you've secured your new reading material, get takeout from an AAPI-owned restaurant (like Kamonengi or Hood Famous Bakery), visit AAPI-owned businesses (like Kinokuniya Bookstore or Sairen), and get ideas for things to do from our interviews with local Asian American celebs Tomo Nakayama, Lauren Ko, E.J. Koh, and Melissa Miranda.

FOOD & DRINK

Try Black-owned barbecue spots. The local spot Lil Red's Takeout and Catering recently earned a spot on a list of the top 20 Black-owned barbecue spots in the nation, compiled by James Beard Award-winning author and barbecue expert Adrian Miller in his new book Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of BarbecueConsidering that Miller sampled barbecue at over 200 restaurants across the country to research his book, this is no faint praise. The restaurant is run by husband-and-wife team Erasto “Red” Jackson, who specializes in soul food and a style of barbecue that incorporates influences from Texas, Memphis, and Kansas City, and Lelieth Jackson, who is of Jamaican descent and is the mastermind behind the restaurant's Jamaican dishes. Fans love the ribs, the mac and cheese, the jerk chicken, the brisket, the rum cake, and the banana pudding, and you owe it to yourself to get some takeout from there this weekend if you're a barbecue aficionado. Though they didn't make the list, some other also-excellent Black-owned barbecue favorites in Seattle well worth your time include Emma's BBQ, Jones BBQ, and Carolina Smoke BBQ.

Celebrate the Kentucky Derby. This Saturday will be the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby, otherwise known as the "most exciting two minutes in sports"—and a solid excuse to don your most frivolous chapeau and down some mint juleps as you cheer on outlandishly named Thoroughbreds. The new sports bar KJ's Bar will be hosting a viewing party of the "Run for the Roses," while the Mexican restaurant Barrio, which reopened this week, will be featuring a Derby-inspired "Bourbon and the Beast" cocktail special (Noble Oak bourbon, strawberry, Ancho Reyes Chile liqueur, and lime). Appropriately, Nine Hats Wines will also be hosting a Kentucky Derby hat party, with a featured "Run for the Rosés" cocktail. You can also find mint juleps, the unofficial drink of the event, at local bars like Navy Strength, Witness, Knee High Stocking Company, King's Hardware, Bottle & Bull, and Little Red Hen.

Other notable weekend events:

2021 Market Season
Peruse offerings from local farms and vendors.
Maple Valley Farmers Market (Saturday)

Opening Day 2021 Season
Join the Redmond Saturday Market for its first market of the season in its new permanent location.
Redmond Saturday Market (Saturday)

Seattle Restaurant Week 2021
Frugal gourmands everywhere rejoice over Seattle Restaurant Week, which happens twice a year and lets diners tuck into prix-fixe menus at restaurants hoping to lure new customers with singularly slashed prices. In the wake of COVID-19's devastating impact on the restaurant industry, this year's proceedings are going to be a bit different: Businesses will not have to pay a fee to participate, food trucks and pop-ups can join in on the fun, and restaurants can sign up whenever they'd like during April. Though three-course prix-fixe meals will still be available, the participating restaurants (over 200 this year!) will also have more flexibility over what specials and deals they'd like to highlight, and takeout and delivery will be emphasized more than before. Plus, with a new "Buy One, Give One" option, diners can now choose to donate $10 to the King County nonprofit Good Food Kitchens, which provides local funds to help restaurants and community kitchens (like Musang and That Brown Girl Cooks) prepare meals for those in need. This year's lineup of participating restaurants include acclaimed spots like Salare, Kamonegi, Mamnoon, Haymaker, and more.
Various locations (Friday)

SoSo Good Seattle Pop-Up
The pop-up SoSo Good will sling New Mexican eats like green chile pork dip sandwiches and roasted vegetable tortas at Post Pike.
Post Pike, Capitol Hill (Saturday)

SPORTS & OUTDOORS

Spend an afternoon staring at ducks. If you're a frequent Volunteer Park visitor, you may have noticed that the large families of waterfowl that usually draw spectators to the lily ponds that flank the Asian Art Museum have been barred out by mesh-wire fencing, much to the delight and confusion of crows. "The two small ponds at Volunteer Park were never intended to serve as duck ponds," a parks rep told CHS, but the species' population has steadily increased over the years, causing harm to both the filtration system and to the baby ducklings, who have trouble escaping the enclosure and often die as a result. If duck-watching is a highlight of your park experience, don't fear—Seattle is home to plenty of open water areas where the creatures can be found floating in peace on any given day. Pack some wilted greens (bread pollutes the water) and head to Fremont Canal Park, Green Lake Park, Seward Park, Union Bay Natural Area, the Washington Park Arboretum, Lincoln Park, or the Fauntleroy dock and follow the sound of quacking. 

Other notable weekend events:

Baby Animals and Blooms Days
Knock out a bundle of springtime activities in one weekend by visiting Maris Farms for its tulip field, its close-up animal encounters with fluffy farm babies, and its farmers market and beer garden.
Maris Farms, Buckley (Saturday-Sunday)

Bike Everywhere Month 2021
Whether you're a longtime cycler or a relative newbie, Bike Everywhere Month invites you to (you guessed it) ditch all other modes of transportation for your faithful two-wheeler for the entire month of May. To keep you motivated, there will be plenty of celebrations and challenges throughout the month. 
Wherever you are (Saturday-Sunday)

City Nature Challenge
Feeling cooped up? Residents of King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties are invited to safely explore the biodiverse areas of the Woodland Park Zoo, Tacoma's Point Defiance Zoo, and the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park on a nature-observation hunt using the iNaturalist app. You'll learn a lot about local species of plants and animals along the way. 
Various locations (Friday-Sunday)

Dinosaur Discovery
Twenty life-sized dino replicas will make a home at the zoo for the entire month of May. 
Woodland Park Zoo, Phinney (Saturday-Sunday)

Earth Week at the Park
The park in question is Lake Sammamish State Park, and the activities include volunteering to weed, mulch, and plant on the grounds, entering giveaways for water-saving prizes provided by the Cascade Water Alliance (kitchen faucet aerator, anyone?), scooping up free seeds, gloves, and blossom kits while supplies last, and going on self-guided hikes.  
Lake Sammamish State Park, Issaquah (Friday-Sunday)

Grays Harbor Shorebird and Nature Festival
Catch a glimpse of the hundreds of shorebirds that stop to rest and feed along the Washington Coast and in the Grays Harbor estuary during their migration northward.
Grays Harbor (Friday)

Huskies Spring Game
The Huskies will return to Alaska Airlines Arena for a spring home game limited to 9,000 fans in pods of six or fewer.
Alaska Airlines Arena, Montlake (Saturday)

2021 Peony Festival
Peonies rank high on the list of sheerly impressive flowers: Ruffle upon ruffle of gorgeous petals exploding out of a bud the size of a baby's fist. Of course, that's only one kind of peony, and the Seattle Chinese Garden will have more than 400 plants for you to admire. Plus, they'll have a traditional Chinese painting presentation by George Jiang, a Qigong demonstration, live guzheng music from the Seattle Guzheng Academy, and more. 
Seattle Chinese Garden, West Seattle (Saturday-Sunday)

Seattle Bike 'n' Brews
Pedal along the Duwamish and Green River trails from Georgetown to Tukwila, knowing that cold microbrews are waiting for you at various brewery pit stops along the way. 
Various locations (Saturday-Sunday)

Seattle Mariners vs. Los Angeles Angels
The Seattle Mariners have received approval from the State of Washington and King County to host up to 9,000 fans for the season. Tickets will be available in "small, socially distanced pods" of up to six fans, who must be from the same household. This weekend they play the Los Angeles Angels.
T-Mobile Park, Sodo (Friday-Sunday)

Seattle Sounders vs. LA Galaxy
The Seattle Sounders will continue their season with a match against LA Galaxy, welcoming fans at 25% capacity in compliance with Phase 3 guidelines.
Lumen Field, Sodo (Sunday)

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
After skipping their 2020 festival due to COVID, you can once again make the trip to Skagit Valley to see rows and rows of rainbow-gradient tulips for the entire month of April. 
Skagit Valley (Friday)

Sno-Valley Senior Center Annual Plant Sale
Boasting itself as the largest plant sale on the Eastside, this annual event brings "thousands" of annuals, perennials, shrubs, edible plants, and garden art pieces to Carnation. 
Sno-Valley Senior Center, Carnation (Friday-Saturday)

ARTS

Alonzo Bodden
Last Comic Standing's Season 3 winner, a regular guest on the Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! radio quiz show, has also appeared in Scary Movie 4, The Girl Next Door, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and more. Catch him in the U-District for two nights straight. 
Laughs Comedy Club, University District (Friday-Saturday)

RuPaul’s Drag Race at Lumber Yard
Get an eyeful of stunning wigs and death drops at this IRL viewing party of RuPaul's Drag Race.
Lumber Yard Bar, White Center (Friday)

Ruthless: A Group Show
Artists honor the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in various mediums. 
Fogue Studios & Gallery, Georgetown (Friday; closing Friday)

Sonia Rae Lujan
Check out multilayered epoxy resin collages by local artist Sonia Rae Lujan. 
Post Pike, Capitol Hill (Friday)