A friend of mine, Greg, and his wife Lisa are moving from New York to Seattle. As a fellow former New Yorker, I empathize with his trepidation. It's always daunting moving across the country, but the transition from New York to Seattle can be a little, well, jarring. So to try to make them feel more welcome, I figured I'd jot down a few of my favorite things about Seattle. So why not share it with all of you?
Dear Greg & Lisa,
Welcome to Seattle! Growing up in New York and then LA, I certainly never thought I'd live in Seattle, but I loved it here almost immediately and I think you will too.
Here are a few of my favorite things and places in Seattle...
- The weather. Yes that's right, I do love the weather in Seattle. Summers here are gorgeous -- it's 75 degrees with no humidity and no rain from May until October, and it stays light out until 10pm which allows for ample outdoors time. Seattle has the best weather in the country for one-third of the year. The fall season is beautiful here as well; we're just far enough north that the leaves change color. Winters here aren't ideal, but not too bad either: it's basically 45-55 degrees and drizzly from November through April. OK, I agree that California has better weather, but Seattle's winters are much better than the Northeast or Midwest. Overall, I'd say that Seattle weather is terrific, and certainly MUCH BETTER than the stereotype.
- Natural beauty. Seattle and the Pacific Northwest is a gorgeous part of the country, with abundant lakes, rivers, bays, mountains, and pretty much everything you'd ever want outdoors. There's OK skiing 45 minutes away, very good skiing 90 minutes away, and world class skiing 4 hours away. In fact, other than Denver or Salt Lake City, I'd posit that Seattle is the best major city in the US for skiing proximity. There are more hiking and biking trails here than you could ever see in a lifetime. It's an outdoorsman's dream.
- The people. I find Seattleites (as we're known) to be unpretentious and down-to-earth but still sophisticated. There's hardly any elitism, but it's not a social backwater either. It's a perfect balance.
More specifically, here are some of my favorite places in Seattle:
- Madison Park -- recently renovated, great for kids, walking distance from my house (and your new house)
- Madison Park beach -- crowded in the summer, but fun nonetheless
- Madrona Beach -- a short drive from Madison Park, and another good place to take kids
- Seward Park -- 10 minute drive along the lake to Seward Park. A gorgeous 3 mile loop around Seward Park with water views the whole way. Great for walks, and an OK playground as well.
- Chism Beach and Medina Beach -- nice beaches on the Eastside
- Golden Gardens -- a bit of a hike (30 minutes from Madison Park) but a really big beach, with tide pools that are fun for kids at low tide
- Discovery Park -- lots of hiking trails and a big sand area up top, as well as a cool beach area with tide pools down below. Parking is a challenge -- go to the Visitor Center and ask for one of their parking passes; you might have to wait there for a bit if you don't go early in the morning.
- Tutta Bella -- favorite Italitan restaurant for kids. 3 locations -- closest one to Madison Park is the new one downtown, above Whole Foods (South Lake Union). There's also one on Stone Way, on the way home from the Zoo which is convenient.
- Speaking of the Zoo, join it. Great for kids. A surprisingly excellent Zoo for a city as small as Seatle. All outdoors though, so not great on rainy days.
- On rainy days, the Aquarium (downtown) and the Pacific Science Center are both great. Both are worth joining. Also, next to the Pacific Science Center (at the Space Needle in Queen Anne) is the Children's Museum -- also worth joining.
- Sun Ya - favorite Chinese restaurant in Chinatown. People here call it the "International District" or the "ID", but I call it Chinatown just to be a New Yorker.
- Favorite Italian restaurant (other than Tutta Bella): Machiavelli (Capitol Hill, good for takeout because it's on the way home from work), Il Fornaio (Pacific Place Mall downtown), Troiani (across the street from our office), Tuliu (downtown) or Piattia at University Village.
- Speaking of U-Village, get to know it. It will become your best friend. Best outdoor mall in the area. Upscale. The alternative is Bellevue Square across the Lake -- also very nice. Bell Square is indoors though, while UVillage is outdoors.
- Alki Beach in West Seattle is great for Sunday walks along the boardwalk over there, especially after a huge brunch at Salty's.
- Bellingham is only 1.5 hours away and is fun for getaways. Stay at Chrysalis Inn in Fairhaven, on the water. If you go to Bellingham, go to Larrabie State Park -- I can give you good hiking suggestions.
- Mt Rainier is 2 hours south. Great place for summer hikes. Some crazy people like Rich or Chloe actually summit it, but normal mortals like us just hike around it. Beautiful place for a day trip, or there's a nice hotel right there in Paradise (the name of the "town" where you park to hike).
- The Summit at Snoqualmie is our local ski resort, exactly 45 minutes from downtown Seattle. I taught Sophia to ski there last year and we'll be going there a lot this year as well. It's the perfect place for your daughter to ski with you.
- Groceries: Amazon Fresh is awesome. They deliver and it rocks. Alternatively, QFC in UVillage is the nicest grocery store, but Safeway up the hill on Madison is OK too. Bert's (in Madison Park) is ok for small stuff as well. You can set up an account at Bert's so you can charge stuff with just your phone number. This comes in handy a lot when you're across the street at Madison Park and you need to grab something without a wallet. (Also handy if you have a nanny.)
- Piecora's Pizza (Capitol Hill) is where we get delivery from. It's just OK, but hey, we're not in New York anymore. Mad Pizza is in Madison Park but I think their pizza isn't very good.
- Thai Ginger in Madison Park is good. No delivery though (common theme out here...). Cactus (Mexican) in Madison Park is very good. The other restaurants in Madison Park (Bings, McGilvras, and the Italian place at the end of the street) are not good imo, but they're convenient.
- Weekend breakfast / brunch places: Salty's (on Alki in West Seattle, 20-30 minutes away) is a big undertaking but a lot of fun. Madison Park Cafe (across from Madison Park) is great; they also serve dinner but we've never been there. Opens at 8am which is good if you have kids. On the other hand, St Clouds in Madrona (5 minutes away) opens at 9am which is sometimes kind of late for us (our weekends start at 5am because of our youngest's schedule....) but is great as well. They also have dinner.
- Nishino is great japanese; Chinoise (Madison Valley) is great pan-asian (pseudo-Chineses + Thai + Japanese). Nishino is very expensive; Chinoise is more reasonable. Neither delivers.
- Seattle Gymnastics Academy is where many people (including us) take their kids to do gym stuff. It's about 30 minutes away (north).
- The Burke-Gilman trail is a big biking trail that everyone likes. You can pick it up in the U-District.
- The Arboretum (see photo above) is 5 minutes from Madison Park and is terrific, especially on hot days because it's in the shade. There are 3 places to park depending upon what you want to do. We usually park "up top" so when you're coming down the hill from Madison Park it's a quick right and then up the hill. Park up there and you can walk on the road or in the trails thru the Arboretum. (We usually do the road so our daughter can ride her bike.) Or you can park down below and walk thru the grass or the dirt trails. Or you can park at the visitor center. Sometimes we park at the visitor center and do the 10 minute walk from there to Lake Washington and check out the boats. From there, look to your left and you can walk along these little foot bridges and thru some mud areas which eventually take you on this little adventure walk that kids love. If you follow that walk you'll end up in the U-District. You can walk across the bridge to Husky Stadium and rent a canoe to take out on the lake. Hard work, but fun for kids.
- Likewise you can rent kayaks to take out on Lake Union which is also a lot of fun.
- Oh that reminds me, Bellevue Square has a great kids area all the way upstairs where there are boats for kids to play on. It's a madhouse there, but definitely fun for kids.
- Take the Victoria Clipper boat to Victoria (Vancouver Island BC), or a float plane (Kenmore Air) from Lake Union there. Or you can drive to Vancouver and take a ferry over to Vancouver Island. Proximity to British Columbia is a big benefit of Seattle.
- Join the Madrona Moms email list thru Yahoo Groups
- Use the GoCityKids (Parents Connect) website which has an EXCELLENT directory of all the fun stuff going on for kids each week. We use this religiously to find festivals, carnivals, etc for the kids. Definitely use it.
OK that's enough for now. I have a million more things to share, but the rest will have to wait.
As you can tell, one of the best things about Seattle is the outdoor stuff. We really love it here, and I think you will too.
Welcome to Seattle,