West: Nature in the city in West Seattle
Where can you visit old-growth forest, a working lighthouse and a whale-watching beach — all without leaving the city? That’s right, we’re talking about that section of Seattle across the Duwamish River known as West Seattle. Of course West Seattle is not technically its own town, much less a small town. But if you don't live in West Seattle, a trip across the bridge always feels a like a fun mini-getaway.
Snacks first: I’m usually a hike-first, snack-later kind of mom, but when in West Seattle, we stop first at Husky Deli because when the tsunami hits, we want to make sure we’ve already had our 12th Man grilled panini (pastrami and Swiss) and handmade ice cream at the deli counter. The 80-plus-year-old West Seattle institution boasts an old-fashioned candy counter, where kids can go to pick out their après-hike reward (mine is Kookaburra black licorice).
Trees and creeks: You already know about Alki and its wonders — that sandy beach, perfect for California-style people watching, and the wide Alki trail, perfect for scootering. But did you know that just a few blocks from Alki, you can find a 53-acre preserve of old-growth trees that seems like it was designed for young hikers? Park at S.W. Admiral Way and S.W. Stevens Way to access Schmitz Preserve Park, formed from land donated to Seattle in the early 1900s. Kids will love wandering its 1.7 miles of trails, which crisscross Schmitz Preserve Creek and offer a window into Seattle’s forested history.
Tides and whales: Just around the lighthouse from busy Alki Beach Park, another hidden gem of a park, Charles Richey Sr. Viewpoint, which includes Constellation Park, offers a quieter spot to learn about intertidal life and astronomy. Stroll the rocky beach at low tide (Seattle Aquarium beach naturalists might be out there, sharing information), enjoy the tidal-themed art and look for the constellation studies placed in the sidewalk. And though you’re unlikely to see whales in the summer, remember this spot for winter whale spotting. This park is on the Whale Trail. Tip: Alki Point Lighthouse offers free tours on summer Sundays.
Got kids who climb? Add Camp Long to your itinerary. This 68-acre park and outdoor education center, not far from the West Seattle Bridge, has many attractions, but its star is probably Schurman Rock, a Works Progress Administration–era “mountain” designed to incorporate every kind of rock-climbing problem into its design. (Check its hours before visiting.)
Other destinations west: Just south of West Seattle, White Center is playful and culturally interesting, with vintage roller-skating at Southgate Roller Rink and pinball and ice cream at Full Tilt. Or, hop the ferry to Vashon Island for inspired eats at The Hardware Store and beach time at Point Robinson Park.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in 2018 and updated for 2019.