Making Queen Anne Hill the center of Seattle exploration; water, boats, views, dining and more!

Water, boats, views, history, tasty dining and proximity to lots of tourist destinations make Queen Anne Hill the center for Seattle exploration!

Looking south from Queen Anne Hill's Kerry Park, the Space Needle, Mt. Rainier and Elliot Bay sparkle on sunny day!

We’re spending two weeks in Seattle, house-sitting a lovely condominium on the west side of Queen Anne Hill.  Our first several days were spent re-acquainting ourselves with the Seattle we knew from frequent visits when we lived in Spokane (1971-84) and occasional visits since.

Strangely enough, in about 40+ prior visits to this marvelous city, we had never toured Queen Anne Hill (the earliest homes were built in the Queen Anne style; find the most historic residences on 14th Avenue West, built between 1890 and 1910).

Another Queen Anne view, from 8th Avenue W, looking out over Puget Sound toward the Olympic Mountains.

So we’re exploring the Queen Anne area; lovely with mansions, shops, restaurants and views to die for, surrounded by the Ballard area, Lake Washington Ship Canal and Chittenden Locks, Lake Union, Seattle Center and more.

The Vashon Glacier sculpted Queen Anne Hill’s contours about 13,000 years ago; human habitation began with the Duwamish tribe about 3000 years ago. The Denny party arrived at Seattle’s Alki Point in November, 1851; David Denny would lay claim to hundreds of acres including lower Queen Anne just two years later.

Houses on Queen Anne Hill are resplendent in lots of colorful foliage.

Queen Anne Hill rises 456 feet above sea level at its highest (offering incredible views from Kerry Park on W. Highland Drive on the south, and 8th Avenue W on the west), and is home to about 28,000 Seattle residents in the area of 7 square miles. It’s just northwest of downtown and bordered by the Lake Washington Ship Canal on the north, Lake Union on the east, Belltown to the south and the Interbay area to the west.

Grilled shrimp tacos, lovely Ceasar salad at Paragon on Queen Anne Ave.

Queen Anne Hill is loaded with tourist delights. Plan to walk or bike several miles, including Parsons Gardens and Kerry Park (superb views of the Space Needle, Mt. Rainier, Elliot Bay) on W. Highland Drive, then north along Queen Anne Avenue for a quaint retail and delectable restaurant dining area and admire stately homes dating to the 1890s. Finish your trek near sundown along 8th Avenue W, with stunning views to the Olympic Mountains west across Puget Sound.

The corner of Boston Street and Queen Anne Avenue might best be described as restaurant row!

Stroll the retail district and unique restaurants on Queen Anne Avenue N., from W. Highland Drive to Boston Street, south to north:  Charleston, SC, 5 Spot: Domini’s Pizza and bar, Chocolopolis, El Diablo Coffee Company next to Queen Anne Bookstore, Samurai Sushi, Nana’s Mexican, Zeke’s Pizza, Paragon Bar and Grill, Queen Anne Cafe, Hilltop Ale House, Grappa Restaurant, Orrapan Thai, Homegrown, How to Kill a Wolf (Italian), Bounty Kitchen, Storyville Coffee House, and yes, of course, Starbucks.

Interspersed among the restaurants are shops and boutiques offering the latest in trendy fashions. And, stop at 10th West Restaurant (10th and Howe) for a tasty breakfast or lunch. The restaurant anchors a small neighborhood retail oasis surrounded by a half dozen fashionable shops.

A big ship in one of two of the Hiram Chittenden Locks always makes for interesting (and free) viewing!

The areas adjacent to Queen Anne Hill offer equal interest. To the north, the Lake Washington Ship Canal offers the Hiram Chittenden Locks and adjoining Carl English, Jr., Botanical Gardens. Stop and watch small to large ships navigate through the locks, take in the fish ladder and wander through the adjoining botanical garden full of lovely blooms (take a picnic lunch); best of all, the locks and gardens are free.

A cyclist, eastbound on the Burke Gilman Trail in Fremont area, passes a kayaker on the ship canal.

Ballard is home to a serious gathering of micro-breweries and related eateries.  Check out acclaimed Rueben’s Brews and to eat, try Ballard Pizza or Frelard Pizza (another outlet of Ballard Pizza) for seriously good pizza and suds (they also have a location in South Lake Union). West of Ballard is Shilshole Bay area, with the Olympic Mountains looming in the distance (long a favorite, Ray’s Boathouse, with wonderful fish dishes, right on Shilshole Bay with the most glorious of sunsets – chose the second floor for the bistro menu and lower prices).

Don’t miss walking or biking the Burke Gilman Trail, an urban delight that winds its way from Shilshole Bay on the west, through Ballard along the ship canal, past Lake Union, through the University of Washington campus and on to Woodinville. The coolness factor of this trail helps make Seattle residents some of the more active folks in the west!

Houseboats on Lake Union's east side were part of the filming of 'Sleepless in Seattle'.

Lake Union (home of Sam/Tom Hanks in the hit movie Sleepless in Seattle) teems with nifty houseboats, pleasure boats big and small and a host of waterfront restaurants with lovely views of downtown. Well worth a stop is the Center for Wooden Boats, with 100-plus historically-significant boats (you can rent boats and kayaks here); next door is the Museum of History and Industry.

Plan to walk through the 74 acre Seattle Center, built for the 1962 World’s Fair and right on the southeast edge of Queen Anne.  Packed into the grounds are the Bill and Melinda Gates Center, Chihuly Garden and Glass, Key Arena, Pacific Science Center, the Seattle Monorail, Seattle Children’s Museum and, of course, the Space Needle. If you want to dine or take the elevator up to the lofty top of the Space Needle over 500 feet above the city, book in advance!

Pkie Place Market is 'the place' to purchase fresh fish, flowers, crafts and also is home to trendy restaurants.

Just south is downtown Seattle.  Don’t miss the US’s best known public market, Pike Place Market, to purchase fresh fish, flowers, goods by scores of artisans and home to a number of cool restaurants. From the market, you can walk down to the Elliot Bay waterfront, with piers lined with shops and restaurants, the Seattle Aquarium and ferry access to Bainbridge Island, Bremerton or Victoria, BC. The views from the WA State Ferries are superlative and make for a sea adventure!

Where to stay: The Queen Anne area offers a host of Airbnb options, many at very reasonable prices! A number of bed and breakfasts and moderate motels are in surrounding areas.

How to get to Seattle, WA: From Stockton, take I-5 north; it’s about 810 miles and 12.5 hours from Stockton.

For more information: For Queen Anne Hill, queenannechamber.org; Pike Place Market, pikeplacemarket.org; the Space Needle, spaceneedle.com; Washington State tourism info, experiencewa.com.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

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