They don’t call Seattle the Emerald City for nothing. Washington’s largest metropolis is surrounded by evergreen forests and glittering waters, where you’re never far from hiking trails and parks. If you want to explore the rugged nature of this Pacific Northwest gem, dive in with these seven low-cost activities.
Hike the trails
While Seattle has so many options for hiking, it’s hard to beat the trails at the towering, snow-capped volcano of Mount Rainier National Park. It’s just an hour and 40 minutes’ drive from the city, and the park’s 260 miles of trails are open from May to October. Whether you’re up for a short 20-minute jaunt through the Twin Firs Loop or a four-hour journey through Glacier Basin Trail, you won’t forget the views anytime soon. Rather stick closer to town? Mount Si and Snoqualmie Falls are just 30 minutes from the city.
Cost: $25 per vehicle
Kayak on Lake Union
Paddle past the area’s famous houseboats (yes, including the one made famous by “Sleepless in Seattle” on the northwest corner) and take in the surrounding wilderness. Make sure to wear layers — it can get chilly on the water.
Cost: Rentals are $16 an hour for singles and $22 an hour for doubles.
Whale watch on Puget Sound
If you want to spot orcas and humpback whales, Seattle is a great jumping off point. Leave from the city’s harbor on a half day boat tour for the wildlife-rich water of the San Juan Islands.
Cost: $65 – $99 per adult from Clipper Vacations for day-long tour
Catch a sunset at Kerry Park
This park in Queen Anne neighborhood has the best views of the city skyline with the Space Needle front and center — in fact, it’s on just about all the postcards. On clear days, you can spot Mount Rainier in the distance, glowing as the sun puts on a show of orange, reds, and purples.
Paraglide at Poo Poo Point
Drive out to nearby Issaquah (about 25 minutes from Seattle) to this paraglider’s haven, named for the whistling sounds heard in the mountains, and you can join launch off the side of the hills and soar above the evergreen landscape.
Cost: $225 per flight
Sprawl out on the beach
One of very few sand beaches in Seattle, Alki Beach Park is a great place to stroll with views of the city and the Olympic mountains. During the summer, you’ll find beach volleyball games roaring and sunbathers lying about.
Stroll through the Washington Park Arboretum
Take a long walk among the 230 acres of flora-filled trails here — some of the plants aren’t found anywhere else in the Northwest. Whether you go in the fall to admire the changing foliage or spring to catch colorful blooms, the flower-lined Azalea Way and zen Japanese Garden are must-sees.
Cost: Arboretum entrance is free; the Japanese Garden is $6 per adult.