When it comes to weather, Seattle suffers from a bad reputation. It’s not exactly incorrect that it rains a lot here—we usually get more than 150 wet days each year—but folks often overlook the fact that when summer hits, our long, dry days offer a glorious opportunity to do everything outside for two or three full months. Come July, we can basically move our lives outdoors, taking in the music for which Seattle is so famous under the stars, experiencing art and cultural events outside, and of course finding sun on Seattle’s lakes and beaches. Read on and you just might find something new and fun for yourself to enjoy in the greater Seattle area.
Enjoy an Outdoor Concert
Turn up the music! The east side’s Marymoor Park has an outdoor concert area that’s as dreamy as it gets: local beer and food trucks provide ample opportunity for sipping and snacking, strategically-built rolling hills make it easy to get a good view of the stage, and twinkling lights add a bit of a fairytale vibe. For music the whole family can love, try a performance at Woodland Park Zoo, which offers kid-friendly show times and family activities. A bit further from home, book a show and a camping spot at the Gorge Amphitheater, a music venue perched over the Columbia River about two and half hours east of Seattle. The Gorge is a legendary rite of passage for any Seattle music lover, for the concert experience and typical blue-sky weather, but also because camping out nearby with friends after listening to tunes under the stars is just fun.
Take an Urban Hike
Celebrate Seattle’s abundant green space by taking a hike right in town. Botanical buffs will enjoy the Arboretum, which technically includes both the University of Washington Botanic Gardens and the Seattle Japanese Garden. Mosey down paths to discover their world-class maples, oaks, hollies, magnolias, and camelias, or pop into the Center for Urban Horticulture for more in-depth learning. If working up a sweat is more your style, head to hilly Discovery Park, which has well-marked trails of varying lengths for hiking and gorgeous views of Puget Sound. (The park is also home to West Point Lighthouse, which is almost 150 years old.) Families should visit Carkeek Park, which has both hilly and flatter hiking trails, a great playground, and access to the beach. Don some rubber boots at low tide, take the bridge over the train tracks that leads to the water, and you’ll discover your own private aquarium.
Hike a Bit Further
If you’re up for more of a drive, practically all roads east of Seattle lead to good hiking. For family-friendly trails with a very exciting water feature, lace up for Wallace Falls State Park, off route 2. The namesake cascade falls 265 feet down three tiers, and the area also offers accessible trails and a longer lake loop. Little Mount Si, near North Bend off I-90, winds through forest, then ends with a steep rocky pitch that leads to a glorious view of everything between North Bend and the Puget Sound. For trekkers looking for more of a big-mountain experience, Noble Knob is a five-mile roundtrip hike (or thereabout, depending on which approach you take) up to a former fire lookout site that on a clear day has spectacular views of Mount Rainier.
Go for a Picnic
Plan a picnic around parks with great views. Try Kubota Garden in Rainier Beach, a well-manicured urban gem known for its hydrangeas. There are no longer tables, so bring a blanket for flower gazing. Mercer Island’s Luther Burbank Park, on the shores of Lake Washington, is a great place for picnicking when you need activity space afterward. There’s a marina, tennis courts, walking trails, a swimming beach, meadows for play, and an off-leash dog area. For a calmer, more artistic vibe, pack your basket for Volunteer Park, in Capitol Hill, and pair your meal with a visit to the Seattle Asian Art Museum.
Plan a Day Trip
Seattle’s not the only town that appreciates our clear summer days. Try a day trip about an hour north to La Conner, a quaint seaside town with great local shopping and lovely bistros. (Don’t miss the sticky buns at Calico Cupboard Café.) To the south, Enumclaw has a revitalized downtown and a trio of breweries worth exploring: Headworks Brewing, Cole Street Brewery, and Griffin Brewing. Just over two hours east, Leavenworth, the Bavarian mountain town, is always a good destination for a hike near Icicle Creek, local wine tasting, and a sausage at München Haus.
Take the Ferry to Bainbridge
From downtown Seattle, the ferry to Bainbridge Island takes about 35 minutes—and on the other end, there’s a bucolic rural vibe with excellent opportunities for tasty meals, cultural pauses, and beautiful scenery. Start with a walk in the Grand Forest, where firs, cedars, and maples offer shady canopy for mellow hiking trails, or explore the more manicured Bloedel Reserve, a public botanical garden. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, stop for stunning ribeye pho at Ba Sa or Neapolitan-style pizza at Bruciato, then ice cream at Mora. Before you leave, make sure there’s time to take in the impressive collection of contemporary local art at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art.
Get Some Lake Time
Seattle’s lake scene explodes with action every summer. For great views of downtown and close-ups of our classic seaplane traffic, stick to Seattle’s Lake Union. Rent a boat from The Seattle Electric Boat Company (or if it’s too chilly for your taste, a floating spa from Hot Tub Boats), or just grab an outdoor table at Ivar’s Salmon House, a Seattle icon right on the water. For a kid-friendly play scene without the salt, visit Lake Sammamish State Park’s lakeside beach. On the hottest days, escape the city at Lake Easton, which sits just over the top of Snoqualmie Pass (and is often sunny even on grey summer days in Seattle). And if you want to spend a day picnicking on the water and window shopping, downtown Kirkland is buzzing during the summer.
Try Paddle Boarding or Kayaking
Learning to explore our local waterways by stand-up paddle board (SUP) or kayak doesn’t require a huge investment—just a daily rental fee. For beginners, the Meydenbauer Bay Park Boathouse, REI’s rental station in Bellevue, offers classes for people picking up a paddle for the first time. Greenlake Boathouse and Café, on the north end of Seattle’s Green Lake, is also a great beginner spot because Green Lake doesn’t have any motorized traffic, so the water is calmer. More experienced paddlers should launch from Tacoma’s Owen Beach at Point Defiance Park, which has expansive views of Vashon Island and Gig Harbor.
Take Culture Outdoors
Summer around the Puget Sound also means plenty of opportunity to enjoy art and culture en plain air. For incredible outdoor installations, stroll through the art at Belltown’s Olympic Sculpture Park, which has 9 acres of stunning works with a dazzling view of Puget Sound. For theater in the trees, take the ferry to Bremerton for a visit to Kitsap Forest Theater, where the sets and seating are built right into the wooded natural surroundings. For movies, try the BECU Drive-In Movies at Marymoor Park, in Redmond. At $30 per carload, it’s a bargain compared to today’s theater prices, and you’ll also find food trucks and ice cream!
Plan a Beach Day
We’re not super picky about beach weather here; Seattle’s sandy oases get busy on days anywhere above about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Take a crack at skim boarding at Federal Way’s Dash Point State Park, where the beaches are perfect for it at low tide. Go to Golden Gardens for all-day family fun, including beach volleyball spectating, hammocking in the waterside woods, playing at the kids’ park, and snacking on the tiny Dutch pancakes for sale at Miri’s. Alki Beach, in West Seattle, has incomparable views of the Seattle skyline with the Cascade mountains beyond, plus a fun, partygoing atmosphere that’s quirky in all the right ways.
Ride Your Bike
Time to dust off your ride. From Seattle, Woodinville makes a moderately challenging destination for a day of biking. Plan a route mostly up the Burke-Gilman Trail, then celebrate your arrival with a few wine tastings and find a friend willing to haul you (and your bike) back to the city. At 19 miles long, the Green River Trail, along the Green and Duwamish rivers in Seattle and Kent, is one of the longest contiguous paths in the region and a great way to see the evolution of our local waterways. For a shorter ride that feels like a big adventure, try the Snoqualmie Tunnel, atop Snoqualmie Pass, which is part of the 250-mile-long Palouse to Cascades Trail. Don’t forget a good headlamp and a few layers—each way is more than two miles in the dark under a mountain, and it’s cold in there even on the warmest days.
Cheer for the (Other) Home Teams
You know Seattle is home to the Mariners, the Seahawks, and the Sounders. Branch out by supporting some of the region’s other (and some say more exciting) sports teams. Start with an Everett AquaSox game, because minor league baseball means significantly cheaper tickets for more close-up action. Women’s soccer is stronger than ever, and with the Seattle Reign and Tacoma Defiance both playing in our region, we’ve become a soccer hotspot. Or watch a Friday night track bike race at the outdoor velodrome at Magnuson Park. The sport is sort of like speed skating on two wheels: competitors circle a 400-meter-long banked oval track made of concrete. (Spoiler: their bikes don’t have brakes, so small mistakes can get gnarly.)
What’s missing from this roundup? We’ve got two or three months of sun to soak up, and there’s a lot to do! Tag @metmarket on your summer adventures.