Things I like Thursday: special Seattle edition

Aloha astronauts! How are things in your corners of the galaxy?

Image source:
Image source:

In my world, Thursdays are for swimming and sharing things that I like. I got a great swim in this morning, but I’m going to flip the format from my typicalthings I like post.

Notice my super-stylish racing JAMS

Today I want to talk about my favorite (free) things to do in and around my happy little habitat: The Emerald City, Seattle.

394182_10100206004172848_1664780098_nI decided to do a post touting Seattle’s terrific tourist activities because earlier this week my dear friend from college, Casey, came to town for an all-too-brief visit.

Casey, John, the Pike Place Market Pig, and some patriotic DNA-loving freak

I love playing tour-guide in seattle; Whether I am among friends, family, or prospective microbiology graduate students, I always find something new to love about my city every time I show somebody around. That being said, I definitely have a few standard Seattle sights that I include on almost every itinerary. This city has a LOT to offer: great food, access to the outdoors, music, art, architecture, swarms of upwardly-mobile junior executives, and totally insane five-way intersections.

Seriously, what the hell are we supposed to do with this?
Seriously, what the hell are we supposed to do with this?

There’s no way I could possibly list all of my favorite Seattle sights in one post, so I’m not even going to try. Today I’m going to list some of the rocking Rain City Regions that you can roam to free of charge: call it Sam’s recession-buster-special Seattle Sightseeing guide. Click the links to get more information on any of these attractions.

1) Pike Place Market

I have to lead off with Seattle’s iconic excellent and eclectic emporium: the world-famous forum of fruits, vegetables, and flying fish.

IMG_4788Pike Place can be crowded, touristy, and expensive; however, no trip to Seattle is complete without a visit. The market is awesome. The venue is still a fully-functioning sanitary public farmers market: these local artisans earn their livelihood by selling their wares in the stalls.

IMG_4779 You can certainly enjoy the market without spending a single cent. All of the vendors will push free samples like they are working for Pablo Escobar, if Pablo had expanded into the pepper jelly and produce trade.

“Say hello to my little flower-friends”

I always have fun wandering around feasting my eyes on local art, while I feed my face a million chocolate covered cherries.

2) The Ballard Locks

locksSeattle is on an isthmus between Lake Washington and Puget Sound. The Lake Washington ship canal allows boats to pass between the two bodies of water; however, Lake Washington’s elevation is 8 meters above Sea Level at low tide in the sound. The Hiram M. Chittenden locks maintain water levels, prevent excessive salt water intrusion into the lake, and move boats from one water level to the other. The locks were built by the Army Corp of engineers, and officially opened on July 4th 1917.

ballard locksThe locks are entirely powered by water pressure and gravity. I love visiting the locks to watch the boats pass through.

boat in locksThe locks are helpful for humans in boats trying to migrate upstream. Unfortunately they could stymie salmon trying to swim upstream to spawn. Luckily the facility includes a fish ladder to help our coho comrades find their way home. The fish ladder itself is a marvel of engineering, and in autumn you can watch salmon swimming through the weirs during the annual run.

Just keep swimming!
Just keep swimming!

3) Volunteer Park

One of my favorite features about Seattle is the abundance of green spaces available to offset the urban environment. The master plan for Seattle was designed by the Olmsted Brothers (the first generation descendants of Fredrick Law Olmsted, who designed Central Park). The Olmsteds laid out the city so that no house is located more than a half mile from the nearest public park. Volunteer Park, in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, is “the crown jewel” of all of our extensive esplanades.


Volunteer Park is home to a historic conservatory with bounteous bizarre and beautiful botanicals on display.

20140518-212709-77229356The historic water tower in volunteer park offers a 360 degree panoramic view of the entire city, the Cascade Mountains, The Olympic Mountains, and Puget Sound.

20140518-215219-78739116Why pay $20 and wait in line to take an elevator to the top of the space needle when you can get a better view for free by climbing a few flights of stairs?

volunteer park
And you can SEE the space needle from the top of the water tower

4) Greenlake

Greenlake is a freshwater lake in the north of Seattle. During the summer the beaches are open for boaters and swimmers to enjoy aquatic activities.

My dad getting ready to enjoy Greenlake
My dad getting ready to enjoy Greenlake

There is a mixed use path circumnavigating Greenlake that happens to be exactly 5 kilometers. I spend a LOT of time running around green lake. I prefer to run at vampire hours early in the morning when the path is almost abandoned.

IMG_4600However, walking around the lake on a weekend afternoon offers premium people watching opportunities: you can observe dog walkers, rollerbladers, power-yuppies power-walking while power-sipping Starbucks, and (if you’re lucky) the resident great blue heron!

Hiroshima memorial at Greenlake
Hiroshima remembrance at Greenlake

5) The Fremont Troll

The Fremont neighborhood of Seattle is a weird, wonderful, wacky place, that calls itself “the center of the universe.” The Fremont arts council celebrates all things quirky and maintains a plethora of public art installations around the area. The troll has made his home underneath the Aurora bridge since 1989, and though he looks big and scary, he is a friendly troll who loves having his picture taken.

20140518-211623-76583371After you visit the troll, be sure to stop by the Theo Chocolate Factory  for some delectable delicacies.

Find this and put it in your mouth
Find this and put it in your mouth

Theo is a local Seattle company that crafts its confections from organic, fair-trade sourced beans. The factory offers free tours hourly, but if you’re not in the mood to wait around you can pop into their retail space and stuff your face with samples of all of their fantastic flavors. I love the 85% dark, the sea salt almond, and the fig and fennel bar most of all, but every flavor is delicious. Try the ghost-chili caramels, if you are feeling spicy!

I'm ALWAYS feeling spicy...and fruity
I’m ALWAYS feeling spicy…and fruity

I think that the activities I’ve listed could easily fill an entire day with free fun. I haven’t even mentioned the awesomeness that is The Olympic Sculpture Park, The Lake Washington Arboretum, or The Burke-Gilman Trail. There’s just not enough megabytes in the internet to list ALL of the activities available in the coffee-kingdom. I hope that my list could be helpful to anyone planning a visit to my fair city, or wanting to reminisce about past vacations.

We've also got a cool mountain named Rainier
We’ve also got a cool mountain named Rainier

Have you been to Seattle? What was your favorite thing to see? Want to come visit? You can stay on my couch and I’m an awesome cook. 




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