Want to get out of town, but not too far? Here are five free things to do in our neighbor to the south:
Pike Place Market
There are few landmarks that invoke Seattle as much as the glowing red letters of Pike Place Market. Sure, it’s a tourist mecca, but it recalls a time when nearby farmers sold their produce to the hungry city masses.
Peruse the bounty of flowers, chocolates, fish, fruit and much more in the multilevel market.
Stop by the Gum Wall to leave your own chewy legacy. Take in the fishmongers throwing salmon around.
But don’t confine it to this one market. Seattle boasts a healthy arsenal of neighborhood outdoor markets. Fremont, Ballard, Wallingford, Madrona and Georgetown have weekend markets that sell everything from consignment clothes from the 1980s to whole furniture sets, as well as vegetables and flowrers.
Go to tinyurl.com/explore-fremont-market for more information.
The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks
Known locally as the Ballard Locks, this water gateway constructed and run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers separates the salty Puget Sound from Lake Union and Lake Washington using a system of water elevators.
Recreational, tourist, working and research vessels make their way through the locks every day, lowering and elevating before crowds of onlookers.
It’s an engineering gem that opened in 1917, a miniature Panama Canal in the middle of the city, but the locks offer more than that.
There are fish ladders that salmon use for their annual spawning migration. Sockeye, king and coho salmon as well as steelhead can be seen making their way on outdoor. indoor and underwater views of the ladder.
Occasionally, a hungry sea lion will also hang around the entrance to the ladder to snag a meal.
The locks also feature botanical gardens, rolling greens for picnics, and free one-hour tours of the facility between March and November.
For more information, go to tinyurl.com/explore-ballard-locks.
At 534 acres, Discovery Park is the largest park in Seattle with some of the most stunning views.
On top of seaside bluffs, visitors can overlook Puget Sound, islands and the Olympic Mountains to the west, and Mount Rainier and the city skyline to the south.
The park, once a military fort, has hiking and jogging trails through acres of forest.
Down below, a sandy beach, with a lighthouse, snakes around the park. Lucky visitors encounter baby seals sleeping on the beach, sea lions swimming just offshore or bald eagles perched on trees.
There is also the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center,with art by Native American artists.
Learn more at tinyurl.com/explore-discovery-park.
The Seattle Central Library
It’s a bit of a quiet tour to take in the 362,987-square-foot Seattle Central Library renowned for its modernist architecture.
Explore the nine levels open to the public to admire the bright neon escalators, lipstick red hallways, and the slanted steel and glass roof that looks like an oversized chain-link fence.
Check it out at tinyurl.com/explore-seattle-library.
The Olympic Sculpture Park
Think of it as an outdoors museum. The Olympic Sculpture Park, an extension of the Seattle Art Museum, offers places to relax on its green grass or stroll through its art collection.
See the “Eagle” with its red-painted steel pointy curves; benches that are giant eyes; an oversized typewriter eraser; a stainless steel tree; and 14-foot high steel curved forms called the “Wake.”
The park also features a walkway along the waterfront.
Connected to the Sculpture park is Myrtle Edwards Park, a Port of Seattle waterfront property with a fishing dock that spits out over the water, and bike and walking trails.
For more information about the sculpture park, go to tinyurl.com/explore-olympic-sculpture.