Westside story: Exploring West Seattle’s hidden gems
If you’re looking for a fun and inexpensive afternoon out, look no further than Seattle’s oldest and largest neighborhood: West Seattle. Located just three miles from downtown, it’s easy to get there by boat, bike, bus, or car. Its natural scenery, combined with great food, unique shops, and easy access are just some of the reasons why Seattle Pacific University graduate, Emily Dean ’03 now calls West Seattle home. “I love that there’s a beach in our backyard, and a variety of beautiful parks. But for all the amenities West Seattle offers, it still feels like a small town in a big city,” Dean said.
Now that the West Seattle bridge is open again, getting to West Seattle’s main business area, dubbed, “The Junction” is easy! It’s a 12-minute drive by car, or 30 minutes by bus.
But if you are looking for a refreshing and easy way to start your adventure, jump on the West Seattle water taxi. The 10-minute ride across Elliot Bay is a literal breath of fresh air.
The water taxi picks up at Pier 50 on the downtown waterfront. Service runs once an hour between 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays; And 8:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. on the weekends, barring extremely windy weather. You will need to buy a ticket from the kiosk or online before boarding unless you have an ORCA card. Fares are one-way, but bikes are free. Find more information and double check the schedule here.
FREE SHUTTLE BUS
If you take the water taxi to West Seattle, there are free shuttle buses to take you further into West Seattle or West Seattle’s Alki beach. DART shuttle 773 usually arrives a few minutes after the water taxi disembarks. Feel free to jump on and load up your bike if you have it. Next stop, “The Junction.”
If West Seattle has a downtown, this is it. This intersection of Alaska and California Avenue is where you will find two square blocks of cute retail shops, eateries, and coffee spots.
HUSKY DELI & ICE CREAM
Husky Deli is a West Seattle classic. First opened in 1932, this family run, third-generation business is a year-round favorite with the locals. With a huge variety of cold cuts, and cheeses, it’s a great place for lunch.
You can have them create your perfect deli sandwich, then add one of their freshly made pasta salads with chips and drink, and you have a picnic to go. Seating is available indoors, if you prefer, but be sure to save room for ice cream. Made in-house, they have 40 different flavors to choose from… some — like their seasonal Girl Scout cookie ice cream — are only around for a short time. Hours: 7 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (Later in the summer)
EASY STREET RECORDS
Music envelopes you as you walk through the door at Easy Street Records, on the NW corner of California and Alaska Avenue. Think vinyl records are a thing of the past? Think again. Since 1988, this iconic locale has been one of the largest resellers of used and new vinyl records in the area. They buy and sell thousands of records, as well as CDs and even cassettes.
Feel free to peruse old favorites, learn about new artists, or just enjoy their featured album on the turntable while sipping a cup of coffee at the attached café. And you never know who you might run into at Easy Street since they often host free in-store performances by national and local musicians. Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and later for special events.
PEGASUS BOOK EXCHANGE
Two doors down from Easy Street Records, you will find Pegasus Book Exchange. At a time when most used bookstores are closing their doors, Pegasus is going strong in its fourth decade. Its small space is filled with floor-to-ceiling new and used books.
The store has everything from obscure and rare books to children’s literature. And if they don’t have what you are looking for in stock, they will happily order it for you. Gently used books you’d like to get rid of can provide credits to be used toward your purchases. Open 7 days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
LET’S GO TO THE BEACH:
From the West Seattle Junction, it is only two miles down to the beach and a great way to spend the rest of your day. To get there by bus, take Bus 50 and then transfer to the free DART Shuttle 775.
If you are walking or riding your bike, it’s an easy downhill journey. If you have time, take a local detour through one of the last remnants of the old growth forest that used to cover this area known as Schmidt’s Preserve. You will instantly be surrounded by nature. A clear path takes you all the way down to Alki Community Center, two blocks from the beach.
Alki Beach is West Seattle. Two and a half miles of paved paths run parallel to the shore, and are great for biking, skating, jogging, or just a leisurely stroll. On sunny days, you will find the beach filled with folks from all over the city, playing volleyball, making sandcastles, or taking a swim.
You’ll feel far from the city with the views of the snow-capped Olympic Mountains in the distance and the Space Needle in the opposite direction. If you are lucky, you might just spot West Seattle’s local pod of Orca whales offshore.
When you have had your fill of sun and fun, grab another free shuttle (DART 775) back to Seacrest Dock and the West Seattle water taxi. But make sure and allow time for one last treat before returning home.
MARINATION MA KAI:
As you wait for your return water taxi, make sure and enjoy the sunset on the outdoor patio at Marination Ma Kai. Specializing in a unique blend Hawaiian-Korean food, Marination is known for its creative menu as well as having the best shaved ice in the city.
This Hawaiian treat, with home-made fruit syrups, is the perfect way to savor the end of your day in West Seattle as you watch the colors reflect off the Emerald City.
HOURS: Weekdays 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sat. & Sun. 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Photos by Chris Darden Hjort