Summer in the Emerald City

Madison RutherfordJuly 14, 2021
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Sunset over Mount Rainier and Lake Washington; Photo courtesy stock.adobe.com
Sunset over Mount Rainier and Lake Washington; Photo courtesy stock.adobe.com

If you’re itching for an escape from the Valley’s heat and hubbub this summer, enjoy mellow merriment in Seattle’s backyard.

Heading up north is a common solution for escaping the triple-digit temps that consume the summer months in the Valley. This typically means a day trip to Sedona or Flagstaff, but why not keep heading north – to the Pacific Northwest, where daily temperatures in July and August rarely exceed 70 degrees?

Phoenicians also frequently travel northward to flee the hustle and bustle of the city. While the concrete jungle of downtown Seattle isn’t quite the relaxing respite these visitors might be seeking, the city’s outskirts provide a peaceful alternative.

About 15 miles south of downtown Seattle is a region comprising several smaller communities, where lakes, mountains and woodlands abound. Dubbed Seattle Southside and often referred to as “Seattle’s backyard,” this idyllic district boasts a bounty of things to see and do, while still being within convenient proximity to the city center. Here’s where to eat, drink, stay and play in several of Seattle Southside’s burgeoning burgs.

DES MOINES

Unlike Iowa’s land-locked capital city, the Des Moines in Washington is situated on the eastern shore of the Puget Sound. What this means for you: beaches, waterfront parks, fishing piers and, perhaps most importantly, stellar seafood.

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One-of-a-Kind Airbnbs

Airbnb is your best bet for unique overnight accommodations in Des Moines. A search for nearby options turned up an eco-friendly tiny home, a beachfront studio and a houseboat. airbnb.com

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Wally’s Chowder House

If you’re looking for a life-changing cup (or oven-baked bread bowl) of New England clam chowder, plus hulking fish fillets and bottomless chips, Wally’s is what’s up. Cocktails served in buckets and homemade blackberry pie round out the menu. wallysrestaurants.com

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Des Moines Creek Trail

In Phoenix, hiking in July is a death sentence. In Des Moines, it’s magical. This 2-mile paved trail winds through Des Moines Beach Park, canopied by impossibly green trees and flecked with ferns and moss. Follow a calming creek down to the city’s marina or veer off onto a shared-road bike route to Saltwater State Park. wta.org

RENTON

Nestled on the southeast shore of Lake Washington, this tranquil suburb is known for its beautiful beaches, including Kennydale Beach Park – where famed film titan Clint Eastwood was a lifeguard in the early ’50s.

Suite view at Hyatt Regency Lake Washington; Photo by Madison Rutherford
Suite view at Hyatt Regency Lake Washington; Photo by Madison Rutherford
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Hyatt Regency Lake Washington

Each of Hyatt Regency Lake Washington’s 347 rooms boasts beautiful views of the lake and the city beyond. The hotel was created with the northwest’s natural beauty in mind, while mixing in modern creature comforts. Watch the sun set over Lake Washington via the wide windows in your room, or while lounging in an Adirondack chair perched on the hotel’s private deck. hyatt.com

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Dock & Drink

Want to drink in more than the sunset? Drop your anchor at Dock & Drink, Hyatt Regency Lake Washington’s lakefront dining destination where you can order from a trio of tantalizing food vendors from your phone and have eclectic entrees such as fish tacos, short rib sliders or poutine brought right to your table. Spicy-sweet cocktails are the bar’s specialty – the Mexican Candy (tequila, Watermelon Pucker, watermelon Red Bull, a dash of Tabasco and a Tajín rim) and the Waterfront Bloody Mary with pineapple-jalapeño whiskey both pack a pleasant, tangy punch. dockanddrink.com

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Jimi Hendrix Memorial

Guitar legend Jimi Hendrix died in 1970 and was buried in a modest plot in Greenwood Memorial Park in Renton. Though the simple sepulture seemed to be incongruous with the beloved musician’s legendary life, Hendrix’s humble headstone drew droves of devotees to the site. It wasn’t until 1995 that his father, Al, began the plans to expand his memorial – a more suitable marble monument featuring a steel sculpture of a guitar, portraits and etchings of some of his lyrics, with his original tombstone remounted in stone. greenwoodmemorial.com

SEATAC

Though SeaTac (a portmanteau of Seattle and Tacoma) wasn’t incorporated until 1989, it has a rich history. In 1990, two Native American canoes – one estimated to be nearly 300 years old – were discovered at the bottom of nearby Angle Lake, which provided a fascinating frame of reference for the city’s roots.

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Cedarbrook Lodge

Spanning 11 lush acres and surrounded by seven additional acres of natural wetlands, this urban oasis is surprisingly just a five-minute drive from an international airport and a 20-minute drive to the PNW’s largest city. Everything at Cedarbrook Lodge is inspired by nature – even its meeting spaces have floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the property’s verdant thickets. Guestrooms supply stunning views of the hotel’s community gardens and sprawling lawns. The Spa at Cedarbrook also borrows from the elements, utilizing healing properties provided by natural ingredients such as petrified wood. cedarbrooklodge.com

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Copperleaf Restaurant

The farm-to-fork fare at Cedarbrook’s on-site restaurant focuses on seasonality and sustainability, and uses only foods that flourish in the Pacific Northwest. To wit, the new summer dinner menu features a mouthwatering mushroom soup with fungi foraged in the forests surrounding Seattle. Executive chef Adam Stevenson is also a skilled apiarist, implementing honey harvested from a pair of beehives on the hotel’s premises into Copperleaf’s dishes and drinks. cedarbrooklodge.com/dining

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Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden

The garden opened to the public in 2003, but its seeds were planted nearly six decades ago when Elda Behm began growing rhododendrons, azaleas and an array of other flora in her backyard. In 1997, the Port of Seattle was due to demolish her home and garden to make room for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport’s third runway. The SeaTac community came to the rescue, relocating thousands of Behm’s blooming perennials to what is now the Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden. Today, visitors can stroll through nearly a dozen acres of flowers, greenery and water features for free. highlinegarden.org

Elda Behm’s Paradise Garden at Highline SeaTac Botanical Gardens; Photo by Madison Rutherford
Elda Behm’s Paradise Garden at Highline SeaTac Botanical Gardens; Photo by Madison Rutherford

TUKWILA

The Duwamish first discovered the land that is now Tukwila, which means “nut” in Chinook and is a reference to the abundance of hazelnut trees that grow in the region. Tukwila is now home to Washington state’s largest shopping mall and is a growing tech hub.

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Hotel Interurban

One of Tukwila’s newest hotels is named after the Interurban Railroad, a 20th-century commuter line that made it possible to travel from Tacoma to Seattle in under an hour. At 19 stories, it is the tallest building in Tukwila and offers unparalleled views of the majestic, snow-capped Mount Rainier. The sleek, modern lobby features a colorful installation from local glassblower Bryan Rubino and the guestrooms are contemporary and cozy, featuring calming sage green and azure accents. hotelinterurban.com

grilled strawberry cake at Waterleaf Restaurant & Bar; Photo by Madison Rutherford
grilled strawberry cake at Waterleaf Restaurant & Bar; Photo by Madison Rutherford
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Waterleaf Restaurant & Bar

Can’t choose between smoked salmon blanketed in a melt-in-your-mouth caper-dill gratin and herbed cavatelli with grilled caponata? A word to the wise: Get both at Hotel Interurban’s lounge-like restaurant.  Also, don’t sleep on the fresh-baked sweet and savory fruit and nut bread with hand-churned fennel butter. On the sweet side, the grilled strawberry cake is an edible work of art – adorned with dollops of light-as-a-feather rhubarb Chantilly, dabs of tart lemon gel and marinated strawberries, all placed on your plate like a scrumptious sculpture. Cocktails like the gin sour with fresh lemon and mint are bright and thoughtful, as is the attentive and amiable waitstaff. hotelinterurban.com/dining

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Seattle Chocolate Factory

You don’t need a golden ticket to explore the Seattle Chocolate Factory, where daily tours take visitors through the process of truffle and chocolate bar creation. In the factory’s flagship store, you can customize your own assortment of truffles made with innovative ingredients like Pop Rocks  or pick up a pack of chocolate bars with creative flavors such as orange blossom-espresso. Each truffle is individually wrapped in colorful, fully compostable foil, and each bar’s packaging is designed by local, independent artists. You won’t find that in Northern Arizona. seattlechocolate.com

Downtown Diamonds in the Rough

If you decide to venture to Seattle proper, be sure to check out these hidden gems.

♦ The Doctor’s Office

Make an “appointment” for a two-hour experience at this intimate, 12-seat speakeasy in Capitol Hill, which is co-owned by an actual doctor and boasts a dizzying array of exotic spirits. tdosea.com

♦ Sound View Café

Pike Place may be trite and touristy, but this tucked-away café perched above the public market slings the best seafood this side of the Sound. soundviewatpike.com

♦ Scarecrow Video

Bet you didn’t know Seattle lays claim to the largest independent video rental store in the world. Since the early ’80s, Scarecrow has stocked its shelves with hundreds of thousands of films for rent. It’s a refreshing story of survival – Scarecrow not only persisted through a pandemic, but managed to stay afloat through the rise of streaming services. scarecrow.com

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