Seattle; north of Lake Union and the Ship Canal; University District, Fremont, Ballard are heart of waterfront, food, drink and Seattle vibe!

Houseboats line eastern side of Lake Union, where scenes of the 1993 hit movie Sleepless in Seattle were filmed.

Water, boats, views, history, tasty dining and lots of tourist destinations; it’s Seattle just north of Lake Union and the Ship Canal!

Sax player enlivens the University District Farmers Market near University of Washington.

We’re spending five weeks in Seattle, house-sitting a home in Edmonds, 18 miles north of Seattle. It’s our time to explore new options in the greater Seattle area and the Pacific Northwest.

Despite some 40+ prior visits to this marvelous city (we lived in Spokane for 13 years and vacationed here often), we had never spent much time in the University of Washington District, Fremont or Ballard, all fronting an active waterfront. This lively part of Seattle is separated from the main city by Lake Union and the beautiful Lake Washington Ship Canal.

Don’t miss walking or biking the Burke-Gilman Trail, an urban delight that winds its way through the University of Washington campus, along the Ship Canal and Lake Union, passing through Fremont and Ballard, beside the Chittenden Locks and onto Shilshole Bay on the west. The relative bicycling safety and cool views along this trail helps make Seattle residents some of the more active folks in the west!

Spectacular colors of tulips show off at the University District Farmers Market.

The Vashon Glacier sculpted Lake Washington, Lake Union and surrounding hills in Fremont and Ballard 13,000 years ago; the Duwamish tribe initiated human settlement about 3,000 years ago. The Denny party arrived at Seattle’s Alki Point, a few miles to the southwest, in November, 1851; David Denny later claimed hundreds of acres including neighboring lower Queen Anne Hill several years later.

Cyclists que up at the Fremont Sunday Farmers Market (it's right off the Burke-Gilman Trail along the Lake Washington Ship Canal).

Fremont Brewing Company, near the Burke-Gilman Trail, is a vibrant stop for craft beers and pizza.

On a recent Saturday tour, moving east to west, we began by wandering the hundred vendors at the Saturday University District Farmers Market, which turns out a crowd of both locals and University of Washington students.  Despite a breezy, 45 degree day, the noon crowd (market runs 9 AM to 2PM, at University Way NE and 51st Street) was vibrant and many enjoyed a sax player while touring the food, crafts and produce vendors.

Heading west we were soon into the Fremont District; on this day, we stopped by the Fremont Brewing Company, with several score craft beers, pizza and salads – a large brewpub catering to a lively, bohemian crowd.  It’s located next to the bike trail and just blocks from “the Old Troll under the Aurora Bridge”, a huge concrete sculpture of an ancient troll with hand wrapped around a ‘70s Volkswagen Bug!

Stroll the old streets of Fremont for topiaries cut in shapes of dinosaurs, eclectic shops and scores of Fremont eateries and brewpubs. Celebrate with a big Sunday Farmers Market, 10 AM to 3 PM at N. 34th Street and Evanston Ave. N.

The "Old Troll under the Aurora Bridge" grasps a '70s-era Volkswagen Beetle in his left hand!

Fremont runs into Ballard, also home to a serious collection of micro-breweries, related eateries, trendy shops and outdoor sports outfitters.  Check out acclaimed Rueben’s Brews; to eat, try Ballard Pizza or Frelard Pizza (another outlet of Ballard Pizza) for seriously good pizza and suds. We enjoyed a marguerita pizza and local craft beers at Frelard Pizza on a recent outing, enjoying the crowd scene and passing cyclists. Ballard’s Sunday Farmers Market runs 10 AM to 3 PM at 22nd Avenue NW and NW Market Street.

Large fishing vessel navigates the Hiram Chittenden Locks at dusk, on its way west to Shilshole Bay.

Trekking west along the Ship Canal brings you to the Hiram Chittenden Locks and adjoining Carl English, Jr., Botanical Gardens. Stop and watch large commercial ships and smaller pleasure craft navigate through the locks, see salmon climb the fish ladder and wander through the adjoining botanical garden full of lovely blooms; best of all, the locks and gardens are free. Within steps of the locks/garden entrance are two worthy places for food, the Lockspot Café and Red Mill Totem House.

Just west of the Chittenden Locks is Shilshole Bay, with the Olympic Mountains towering in the distance.  If seeking a more upscale dining experience, you can’t go wrong at Ray’s Boathouse, right on Shilshole Bay, with wonderful fish dishes and the most glorious of sunsets. Choose Ray’s second floor for more casual dining, a bistro menu and lower prices.

Sunset over the Olympic Peninsula, taken from Ray's Boathouse on Shilshole Bay.



If you have time, explore Lake Union (home of Sam/Tom Hanks in the 1993 hit movie Sleepless in Seattle) lined with 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. Adjoining Lake Union to the west is the classy, historic Queen Anne Hill District, worthy of another day-tour!

Where to stay: from the University District to Ballard, a host of hotels, motels, B&Bs and VRBOs offer upscale to laid-back lodging options.

How to get to Seattle: From Stockton, take I-5 north; it’s 810 miles and 12.5 hours, or, fly into SeaTac Airport.

For more information: Seattle visitors, and search for districts like Fremont or  Ballard neighborhoods; for Washington State tourism,

Contact Tim Viall at; follow him at Happy travels in your world!

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