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10 Best Things to do in West Seattle, Washington

10 Best Things to do in West Seattle, Washington

If you’re visiting Seattle, Washington, you should spend some time in West Seattle.

West Seattle is a part of Seattle proper, but it’s really more like a suburb of the larger city. It’s mostly residential and few tourists bother to even check out this area, but it’s a great place to see and stay while visiting the Emerald City.

Only about 80,000 Seattleites reside in this neighborhood and its location on its own, separate peninsula, southwest of the busier and more bustling downtown Seattle, makes it a great and quiet little getaway spot that’s a bit separated from all the action of the larger city itself, yet is close enough to offer easy access to everything you want to do.

West Seattle is laid-back and quieter than the big city but there are still a lot of things to do within this neighborhood. Alki Beach is a popular area and offers beautiful views of the city skyline.

There’s also a commercial area – West Seattle Junction – that is full of shops and restaurants, and several great parks that you’ll love.

If you’re planning a trip to Seattle, don’t overlook West Seattle. You may even find that it’s your favorite part of this great city. Read on to learn more about it.

TLDR

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Best & Fun Things to do in West Seattle, Washington

Alki Beach

Alki Beach
Image by Cherieblehm used under Pixabay License

1702 Alki Avenue SW; Seattle, WA

The most popular and fun thing to do in West Seattle, for most people, is visiting Alki Beach. Although the water in Puget Sound is cold even in the summer, locals and visitors flock to Alki Beach to enjoy its views, walking and running paths, and other activities.

Many people from the neighborhood and even from other areas in and around Seattle come here to run on the trails and paths, go rollerblading, or enjoy the views of Bainbridge Island and of boat traffic on the sound. There’s always something happening and something to do in this park.

There aren’t too many major cities in the United States that have sand beaches for their residents and visitors to enjoy, and West Seattle’s Alki Beach is certainly one of the northernmost American cities to offer this sort of perfect little slice of nature to its citizens.

In the summer, you’ll find people sunbathing and swimming here. Year-round, you’ll find dozens of people playing beach volleyball and some may be willing to let you join in their game.

For those who want to get out on the water here, Alki Kayak Tours offers kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals, but you’ll need to book online before you go.

If you’ve never tried these sports before, they offer beginner’s classes (and advanced ones, too, when you’re ready!). If you’d rather go out with a group, you can sign up for a guided kayak tour as well.

However, if active sports aren’t your thing, you can still enjoy Alki Beach. You can bring a picnic breakfast, lunch, or dinner and set it up at the picnic tables for a special meal you won’t soon forget. Beach bonfires are permitted and you and your friends might also enjoy gathering around a fire for s’mores and great conversation. This beach park is open until 11:30 pm nightly.

Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park
Image by Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz used under Creative Commons

Lincoln Park offers even more opportunities to enjoy nature in Seattle and people from all over love this park. It’s south of Alki Beach so you won’t be able to see the Seattle skyline from here but you can look out on the water and across it to the Kitsap Peninsula. This park is full of trails, playgrounds, and picnic areas and you can spend time in the woods or enjoy a relaxing day on the park’s sandy beach if you prefer.

One of the biggest and best attractions in Lincoln Park is the Colman Pool. It’s situated right on the shore so you can enjoy great views of Puget Sound while you swim.

Colman Pool is a large, heated, saltwater pool that has a 10′ deep end and a waterslide, so it’s great for families, but keep in mind that anyone under the age of eighteen will have to pass a simple swim test before heading out into the deeper waters.

At the north end of the park, you might enjoy a walk in the park’s Driftwood Sculpture Park. There are a few permanent driftwood sculptures here and other temporary structures made by park visitors.

You’ll also likely find enough driftwood here to try your hand at constructing your own. This part of the park is quiet and serene and is popular with dog owners. Most clean up after their dogs but also be aware and watch your step.

Alki Point Lighthouse

Alki Point Lighthouse
Image by Laurie Littlefield-Wells used under Creative Commons

3201 Alki Ave SW; Seattle, Washington

There’s something beautiful and special about lighthouses that’s hard to put a finger on but there are few people out there who don’t appreciate these structures and their important place in maritime history.

The Alki Point Lighthouse is on a point just south of Alki Beach and was built in 1913. It’s still active today and is used as a navigational aid for large ships and small boats traveling between Seattle and Tacoma or Olympia.

This lighthouse is rather small compared to other lighthouses but it’s still worth a visit. Free tours are available in the summertime and it’s a great subject and spot for photos year-round.

Hamilton Viewpoint Park

Hamilton Viewpoint Park
Image by Orange Suede Sofa used under Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

If you want a fantastic view of the Seattle skyline including the Space Needle, this park is it. It’s an absolutely beautiful location that the whole family will love and you can spend an afternoon here just enjoying the view and watching boats go by.

It’s also great at sunset as the sun setting in the west reflects impressively off the skyscrapers of downtown Seattle. There’s lots of free parking and plenty of benches to relax on, too.

Schmitz Preserve Park

Schmitz Preserve Park
Image by Joe Mabel used under Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Yet another excellent park in West Seattle is Schmitz Preserve Park. Unlike the other parks listed here, this one is inland and in the middle of the neighborhood. You won’t know it when you’re there, though – this 53.1-acre park is full of old-growth forest.

There’s no official parking for this park so you’ll have to park on the street in the surrounding neighborhoods, but it shouldn’t be too challenging to find a spot.

Once you hike in a little bit, you’ll be amazed at the beauty of this park. It’s like a little piece of Olympic National Park right in Seattle, with old-growth conifers that are gigantic and are many hundreds of years old.

The land the park stands on was donated by Emma and Ferdinand Schmitz in 1908; even then, the couple was concerned about how rapidly the Seattle area was developing and they wanted to save a piece of it in its natural state for posterity.

In 1949, a “preservation policy” was enacted that called for the removal of all signs and structures within the park, so today you can enjoy its 1.7 miles of foot trails with absolutely no distractions, but you might want to print a map to bring with you in advance so you don’t get lost.

Seattle Chinese Garden

Seattle Chinese Garden
Image by brewbooks used under Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

6000 16th Ave SW; Seattle, Washington

The Seattle Chinese Garden is something you absolutely should not miss. Not only is this 4.6-acre garden a celebration of the countless Chinese immigrants who have come to live in Seattle over the years, but it also offers beautiful landscaping throughout and an incredible panoramic view of downtown Seattle and the Cascade Mountains that will take your breath away.

It’s at the north end of the campus of the South Seattle Community College and was built as a monument to the sister city relationship forged in 1983 between Seattle and Chongqing, China.

This garden is open to the public and even though it’s not a very large botanical garden, it’s one of the largest Chinese gardens outside of China, and you can get lost in it for hours admiring all the plants, flowers, and water features within.

Admission is free, although donations are appreciated, and it’s open daily from dawn until dusk.

Alaska Junction (aka West Seattle Junction)

Alaska Junction
Image by Leon petrosyan used under Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

Alaska St & California Ave

Alaska Junction is a neighborhood within this neighborhood and is the hip and happening part of town. The junction referred to here is the crossing of Alaska St and California Ave, but for a few blocks in all directions from there, you’ll find cool shops and bars, and restaurants to fill your afternoon or a weekend evening.

Easy Street Records will be a hit with any audiophiles at your party, and they’ll probably want to stop into Thunder Road Guitars as well.

The West Seattle Farmer’s Market is here too; it happens on Sundays from 10-2 all year and is full of local vendors offering their wares which include many of the best organic and local products Washington state has to offer.

Almost every restaurant on this strip is well-rated so you can take your pick, but you might enjoy Lady Jaye, which serves meats smoked on the establishment’s giant outdoor fire pit, or Talarico’s Pizza for some very high-quality west coast pizza.

Stop into A la Mode Pies on the corner of the junction for dessert – you won’t be sorry.

Brunch at Salty’s

Salty
Image by Salty’s Seafood

1936 Harbor Avenue SW; Seattle, Washington

Speaking of good food, people travel from miles around to go to Salty’s Waterfront Seafood Grill on Alki for weekend brunch. This is not your average brunch buffet and you will leave this meal several pounds heavier than when you arrived. Salty’s is in the northwestern part of West Seattle and offers great views of the Puget Sound but you’ll probably be too focused on the food to care.

This brunch includes custom omelets, a salad bar, made-to-order pasta and crepes stations, meat carving stations, crab legs, a chocolate fountain, and so much more. Wear pants with an elastic waistband to this meal if you’re wise.

Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center

Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center
Image by Joe Mabel used under Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

4705 W Marginal Way SW; Seattle, Washington

If you’re interested in learning about the Native American history and culture in this area, then you’ll love this relatively new attraction. Chief Si’ahi, also known as Chief Sealth, Seattle’s namesake, was an important leader for the Duwamish Tribe and you’ll learn about him and his people during your visit here.

The longhouse is a traditional cedar post and beam building that you can enter and view, and there are tribe members on hand to answer your questions about the exhibits inside. There’s also a gift shop with native crafts and art; you’ll likely leave with something beautiful and memorable.

West Seattle Water Taxi

Water Taxi
Image by Scottslm used under Pixabay License

Are you sick and tired of watching the boats on Puget Sound go by while you stand stationary on the shore?

There are many charter boats you can take out on the water but none are as affordable as this water taxi that runs between West Seattle and downtown.

It’s only a ten-minute ride but the views are amazing all the way and you can walk around downtown a bit before hopping back on to ride back. It’s only $5.75 each way and it runs over a dozen times every day of the year except major holidays when it doesn’t run at all.

Where to stay in West Seattle, Washington

Rentals in West Seattle

There aren’t any hotels in the West Seattle neighborhood; again, this is a residential area and one that is not often visited by tourists just passing through.

However, you’ll find dozens of vacation rentals here which is probably a better choice anyway. Vacation rentals in a residential neighborhood like West Seattle give visitors the opportunity to truly live like a local and in this neighborhood, you’ll soon feel like you fit right in even after just a few days.

There are many beach house-style properties that you can rent just blocks away from Alki Beach; you can have a true beach vacation experience in West Seattle which might be surprising to some, but you’ll love the laid-back, oceanside vibe in this part of town.

People looking for a little more action might prefer to stay in the junction area on Alaska Steet or California Avenue or on other nearby streets.

If you’re looking for hotels instead, you’ll have to cross over the Duwamish Waterway on the West Seattle Bridge past the Industrial District to the North Beacon Hill neighborhood just south of Seattle’s city center; there are plenty of hotels there that serve the Seahawks’ Lumen Field and the Mariners’ T-Mobile Park.

You’ll still be close to West Seattle in this area and you won’t be far from downtown Seattle either, but you’ll miss out on fully experiencing the charm of West Seattle if that’s the choice you make.

Alki Beach Vacation Rentals

Charming 1910 Beach Bungalow

This little beach bungalow on Alki Point is truly as charming as it sounds. It’s just 1500 square feet in size but it sleeps six in two bedrooms and has two full baths, a kitchen, a dining area, and a deck and patio. It has a lovely garden and was featured on the 2003 West Seattle Garden Tour.

There’s a hot tub on the back deck and a little fish pond in the yard, too. It’s only three blocks from Alki Beach and you can see the Olympic Mountains across the water on your walk there.

Alki Beach House

If you need a little more space or have a larger group, this recently remodeled craftsman home sleeps eight in three bedrooms and has two full bathrooms, plus decks on both the front and the back of the house for entertaining.

It’s only a block off Beach Avenue so you’ll be able to walk to the beach and back easily, but if you like to cook you’ll be especially impressed by the fully equipped and spacious kitchen.

Alaska Junction Vacation Rentals

Groovy One Bedroom Duplex Unit

This small property only has one bedroom and one bathroom but it can sleep four if you use the pullout in the living room.

There’s an outside patio space for you to enjoy also. This home is only a couple of blocks from Alaska junction so you can walk to dinner and the bars. Best of all – this rental allows up to two dogs as well.

Mid-Century Modern Contemporary Chalet

In contrast to the mostly older homes in this area, this beautiful property is contemporary on the outside with mid-century modern design and furniture inside. You can enjoy the views of the greenery that surrounds it through huge windows on all sides or step onto the outdoor terraces to admire Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains in the distance.

It sleeps eight in three bedrooms and also has two full baths. This property was featured in an issue of Seattle Homes and Lifestyle magazine.

Other West Seattle Vacation Rentals

1904 Queen Anne Style Home

This home is impressive from both the outside and the inside. It was built in 1904 but it has a modern kitchen and many other recent updates and it’s walking distance to Hamilton Viewpoint Park. The kitchen and dining room are broad and open, and there’s a bbq on the back deck. There’s plenty of street parking outside.

Hanford & Hinds Cottage

This small cottage was built in 1916 and sleeps four in two bedrooms. It’s in a great location that will give you easy access to both West Seattle and downtown Seattle. It has everything you’ll need for your stay including a fully equipped kitchen, WiFi, a gas fireplace, and a fire pit and jacuzzi in the backyard.

See Related: Most Beautiful Places in the World

Getting around West Seattle

best things to do in West Seattle

It’s easy to get around West Seattle. Much of this neighborhood is walkable, although, like the rest of Seattle, you’ll encounter some very hilly areas in some places. You can also rent bikes; most bike rental companies in West Seattle are in the Alki Beach area.

However, most people choose to travel by car in West Seattle and you’ll be happy to find relatively easy parking anywhere that you want to go. If you’re flying into the area, you can rent a car at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport from a number of providers with ease.

Since West Seattle is part of a major city, you can also travel by Uber or Lyft, or other ride-sharing services without having to wait too long for pickup. Taxis service this area as well but since it’s a bit out of the way from downtown Seattle call well in advance if you need one; you may have to wait quite a while especially at busy times or late at night.

You can get to West Seattle from downtown Seattle by bus on the RapidRide C Line, but you can’t really use it to get around within West Seattle; there are only a few stops in this neighborhood. You can also get to West Seattle from the city center via water taxi (mentioned above) which is much quicker and easier, too.

FAQ

What is the best time of year to visit West Seattle?

West Seattle is lovely year-round as is the rest of Seattle; the Pacific Northwest does not get much snow and it’s comfortable for tourism regardless of the season. However, the best time to visit West Seattle is in the summertime, as you’ll get the most enjoyment out of Alki Beach and the other parks mentioned above when the sun is shining and it’s warmer outside.

How far is West Seattle from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport?

Most points in West Seattle are around twenty to thirty minutes to the airport with no traffic, but Seattle has plenty of traffic so watch your timing. The Kings County International Airport is even closer just fifteen minutes away on a perfect day.

How far is West Seattle from the Seattle city center?

Although you can see Seattle’s downtown from many places in West Seattle, it can be harder to reach than you might think. If you’re driving, your trip might take thirty minutes or more depending on traffic. In most cases, you’re better off taking the water taxi which takes only ten minutes – it’s an excellent choice if you want to explore Pikes Place Market and other popular tourist attractions because you won’t have to worry about finding parking.

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