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Summer in the Cities: 6 Cool Communities to Explore Around Seattle

Published on: July 26, 2014

Beacon Mountain spray park, Nate Cormier

Park, pool, library, coffee shop. Is that your all-too-familiar neighborhood summer rotation, perhaps with an occasional field trip to a beach or museum thrown in? In August, we dare you to leave your ZIP code behind and explore the corners, cafes, water parks, trails and food forests (!) of a new ’hood. Here are six up-and-coming communities around Puget Sound that are perfect for a day’s adventure.

Skip to the first neighborhood explore or browse all six:

1) Beacon Hill: Forage in the city

2) Richmond Beach: Coasting along

3) Maple Leaf: Peak park experience

4) Issaquah: Alpine adventure

5) Renton: Do the wave pool

6) Greenwood: Lost in space travel

7) More happening hoods

Also, already on our site, find guides to communities including Bellevue, Burien, Edmonds, GeorgetownVashon Island and White Center.

BEACON HILL: Forage in the city

Beacon Mountain spray park | Courtesy SVR Design Company

Yuek Hahn, flickr, Creative Commons

Beacon Hill, one of the seven hill neighborhoods of Seattle, is ripe for cultural and natural exploration. Start at Seattle’s sixth-largest park, Jefferson Park (3801 Beacon Ave. S.), where you can catch a stunning panorama of the city, play at the Beacon Mountain playscape and spray park, try lawn bowling or watch daredevils at the skate park.

Head to the southwestern end of the park to see the much-buzzed-about Beacon Food Forest (15th Avenue S. and S. Dakota Street), a 7-acre “edible urban forest garden” adjacent to the park that will be the country’s largest such project when complete. You can already glean food in some areas of the food forest: berries, greens and more.

Still hungry? Take a long walk or quick drive up Beacon Avenue to one of the many ethnic eateries that reflect the neighborhood’s diversity; local favorites include El Quetzal for authentic quesadillas (3209 Beacon Ave. S.), Bar del Corso for wood-fired pizza (3057 Beacon Ave. S.) or — a little farther up Beacon Avenue and west on 15th — Despi Delite Bakery for Filipino pastries (2701 15th Ave. S.).

Hoof it back to your car and drive about two miles to the Seattle Bouldering Project (900 Poplar Place S.), an indoor free-climbing space beloved by kids and adults.



RICHMOND BEACH: Coasting along

Richmond Beach Saltwater Park | pfly, flickr Creative Commons

Jennifer Kakutani

Although not all of this Shoreline neighborhood is walkable, its many attractions make it worth hopping in and out of your car. Local mom Kimberley Bryan suggests starting the day by buying picnic supplies at The Little Store (2002 N.W. 196th St.) and then making the short drive down to Richmond Beach Saltwater Park (2021 N.W. 190th St.), enjoying dramatic views of the Sound along the way. “When the tide’s out, you can walk for hours along the shoreline to the south — or just kick back and watch the kite surfers,” says Lisa Costantino, an Edmonds resident who often treks to this beach.

Pop back into your car and change gears completely at Spin Alley (1430 N.W. Richmond Beach Road), a bowling alley with an onsite restaurant. Caffeinate next door at locally owned Richmond Beach Coffee Company (1442 N.W. Richmond Beach Road), a cozy spot with good snacks and a small play area.

Reserve time to wander the trails of Kruckeberg Botanic Garden (20312 15th Ave. N.W.), a lovely 4-acre garden that is home to thousands of native Northwest species mingled with exotics, and which hosts many family-friendly programs throughout the year. Don’t miss the intriguing garden art (including a piece that kids can climb).



MAPLE LEAF: Peak park experience

Emily Johnson

Emily Johnson

Have you heard the loving raves about Maple Leaf Reservoir Park (1020 N.E. 82nd St.), the renovated two-story park in this northeast Seattle neighborhood? The upper section, located at one of the highest points in the city, covers the old reservoir and boasts a .5 mile circular bike path, pickleball and basketball courts, and a vast field that bustles with action. Walk down steps to the newly remodeled playground; though its play equipment is best suited for younger children, the zip line will thrill kids of all ages.

Lunchtime? Walk north to Cloud City Coffee (8801 Roosevelt Way N.E.), a neighborhood hangout with a small kids’ play area, outdoor seating, tasty baked items, soup and sandwiches and soft-serve ice cream (check out happy-hour specials from 3–6 p.m.). Just a bit north, Judy Fu’s Snappy Dragon (8917 Roosevelt Way N.E.) has earned a cult following for its hand-cut noodles and General Tso’s chicken.

After your meal, stock up on summer learning staples at Math ’n’ Stuff (8926 Roosevelt Way N.E.). Don’t let the odd storefront fool you: It’s a wonderland of building toys, science sets, Lego kits and — yes — math games.



ISSAQUAH: Alpine adventure

Poo Poo Point | Andrew E. Larsen, flickr Creative Commons

A historic town complete with a trolley, creekside viewing of migrating salmon and some of the most family-friendly hiking in Puget Sound? Check, check and check. Start your tour of the former mining town by parking at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery (125 W. Sunset Way), which is worth a visit all year, but especially between late August and November, when you can witness the return of spawning salmon to Issaquah Creek.

Kathleen Miller

Make a play stop at the playground at Veterans’ Memorial Field (105 Second Ave. N.E.) near City Hall, and then hop on the Issaquah Valley Trolley #519, a 1925 vintage electric trolley car that makes a run through downtown from the Issaquah Depot Museum on weekends through September (78 First Ave. N.E.).

Next up: A hike through the “Issaquah Alps,” the nickname for the highlands that surround the town. Park at Issaquah High School (700 Second Ave. S.E.) to find the trailhead for the 7.4 mile roundtrip hike to Tiger Mountain’s Poo Poo Point — keep an eye out for soaring hang gliders. If you have young kids, try the Pretzel Tree Trail in Squak Mountain State Park, a .3-mile roundtrip path marked by storyboards that illustrate the adventures of a field mouse.

Critter-loving kids will love the macaws, wallabies and reindeer at the Cougar Mountain Zoo (19525 S.E. 54th St.) or the farm animals at Fox Hollow Farm’s popular petting zoo (12031 Issaquah-Hobart Road S.E.). Or please everyone by picnicking and swimming at Pine Lake Park (228th Ave. S.E. at S.E. 24th St.).

Wind down with an early dinner at one of Issaquah’s varied eateries, such as Tutta Bella (715 N.W. Gilman Blvd.), the classic Triple XXX Rootbeer Drive-in (98 N.E. Gilman Blvd.) or Sunset Alehouse (20 Front St. S.). You could even poke your head into Village Theatre, Issaquah’s award-winning theater, to see what’s playing (303 Front St. N.).



RENTON: Do the wave pool

Henry Moses Aquatic Center | Courtesy, City of Renton

For a summer jaunt to the city at the southern tip of Lake Washington, bathing suits are a must. Start with what might be Renton’s most popular summer destination: the outdoor Henry Moses Aquatic Center (1719 S.E. Maple Valley Highway), a budget-friendly water park with 26-foot-high water slides, a wave machine, lazy river, toddler area and spray features (tip: purchase passes for the session early). Pre- or post-swim, play or walk the trails at next-door Cedar River Park (1717 Maple Valley Highway) — in the fall, it’s also a prime viewing spot for returning chinook, coho and sockeye salmon.

Gene Coulon Park | Steve Voght, flickr Creative Commons

Mosey half a mile to explore downtown, including the Renton History Museum (235 Mill Ave. S.), an Art- Deco-style former fire station with exhibits that include a reconstructed house and Boeing historical artifacts. Fuel up at nearby Common Ground Coffee & Cupcakes (900 S. Third St.) and look for used books at the Old Renton Book Exchange (227 Wells Ave. S.), where you can settle into the play area and couches.

Next, soar on a giant tandem swing at Renton’s newest play area, Meadow Crest Playground (3000 N.E. 16th St.), an all-inclusive park designed to accommodate children in wheelchairs and with other aides. (Note: During the school year, you can only drop in outside of school hours.)

Or go for another dip, this time in Lake Washington at Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park (1201 Lake Washington Blvd. N.). Ivar’s and Kidd Valley concessions will feed the gang — remind them to keep eyes peeled for the occasional Boeing plane taking off from the nearby assembly plant.





 6. Greenwood: Lost in space travel


At first glance, Greenwood — an evolving microneighborhood in northwest Seattle — appears to be a community tied together by the busy intersection of Greenwood Avenue N. and N. 85th Street. But there is much more going on here.

Start your adventure at the Greenwood Branch of the Seattle Public Library (8016 Greenwood Ave. N.), where you should give little ones time to climb the boulders outside before venturing inside to discover the library’s unstuffy ambiance and patient librarians.

Cross Greenwood Avenue to Chocolati Café (8319 Greenwood Ave. N.) to refuel on chocolate-infused espresso and salty-sweet Fish n’ Chips (chocolate with pieces of potato chip). Mosey half a block to grab lunch at Mr. Gyros (8411 Greenwood Ave. N.), where the staff are experts at putting Greek food into the hands of customers in record time (don't worry, the lines move quickly).

Just across Greenwood Avenue, enter the universe of Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co. (8414 Greenwood Ave. N.), a geek-tastic shop that is the storefront for 826 Seattle, a nonprofit writing center for kids. Across the street, explore friendly G&O Family Cyclery (8417 Greenwood Ave. N.), a bike shop that specializes in the colorful, heavy-lifting gear of family biking, from box bikes to longtails to cycle trucks.

Don’t even try to avoid a trip to the recently remodeled and award-winning Top Ten Toys (120 N. 85th St.), just two blocks away. Recharge at Sandel Playground (9053 First Ave. N.W.), a quiet green space with long-chained swings for flying high, and rocks for climbing.



Snoqualmie Falls
Snoqualmie Falls, B Gallatin, flickr Creative Commons


Want more explores? Our readers share these ideas for top towns to while away an afternoon:

1. MALTBY: “It has such a wonderful small-town feel about it. Snoqualmie Ice Cream is located there as well as Maltby Pizza & Pasta and Flower World.”

2. BROWN’S POINT: “There is the lighthouse, lighthouse museum, numerous parks and beautiful views of the Sound. The Brown’s Point’s center has recently opened a new grocery store as well as pizzeria.”

3. DUVALL: “Cute town in farm country. Nice little Main Street with good pizza, coffee, kids’ consignment shop, used bookstore (with amazing prices), riverside park and [it’s] close to . . . farm stands and berry picking.”

4. MILL CREEK: “In the past several years, the new Town Center has brought in many unique stores, restaurants and community events.”

5. MUKILTEO: “Amazing views, sandy beach with a great playground, ferry rides, walk-up Ivar’s fish bar and waterfront farmers market in the summer.”

6. SNOQUALMIE: “The falls are amazing, great hiking trails all around (even for little kids), Cedar River watershed, antique trains, train depot.”

7. SUMNER: “. . . from the used bookstore and antique shops on Main Street to watching the trains at The Old Cannery. A milkshake from the Berryland Café is a must!”

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