Looking for ideas of things to do on your own to get the most out of your visit? Seattle's got something for everyone! Here are a few ideas:
"Take A Trip Over Seas"
Take a ferry ride to Bremerton! From the deck of your Washington State ferry, see the Seattle skyline, Mt. Rainier, the Cascade and Olympic Mountains, and maybe some sea life during your one-hour trip across Elliott Bay and through narrow Rich Passage. In Bremerton, tour the USS Turner Joy, a Navy destroyer from the Vietnam era. Or, hop aboard the Carlisle II, Kitsap Transit's historic foot ferry crossing Sinclair Inlet to Port Orchard (boarding is downstairs at the ferry dock). Photographs on main cabin's walls take riders back to the days of the "Mosquito Fleet," when dozens of similar small craft buzzed people around Puget Sound. In Port Orchard, visit antique shops and have a picnic in a waterfront park. Retrace your route (Port Orchard to Bremerton to Seattle's Colman Dock) to return.
Where Seattle Was Born
Take the King County Water Taxi from Pier 50 across Elliott Bay to West Seattle. There, board the #775 shuttle bus to Alki Beach, site of Seattle's first settlement by Euro-American families. A monument marks the founding efforts. For more information, visit the nearby Log House Museum, headquarters of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society. Then walk, or take the # 56 Metro bus to Schmitz Park, where a fragment of old-growth forest serves as a reminder of the environment found by the early settlers. Afterwards, you can take the #775 shuttle back to the Water Taxi dock, or board the #56 to go back to Seattle by land. There is a wonderful vista of Seattle from the Admiral Viewpoint Park, left side of the bus just after crossing California Avenue. Stop off for some pictures!
Take a trip to the City of Destiny! Board your #594 Sound Transit bus on Seattle's Second Avenue for a direct express, one-hour ride straight into Tacoma's fascinating musem district! You'll be let off on Pacific Avenue right at the door of the Washington State Historical Society Museum and its wonderful interpretive displays. Two other museums within very easy walking distance are well worth visiting: the Museum of Glass across the railroad tracks via the Chihuly Bridge of Glass, and the Tacoma Art Museum about a block north on Pacific. Both the Museum of Glass and the Art Museum hold works by Dale Chihuly. You can also see (from the outside) Chihuly pieces on display in the Federal District Courthouse, the former Union Station. Across Pacific Avenue, the University of Washington's Tacoma campus provides another impressive example of adaptive reuse of old commercial structures. Don't fail to check out the library, the classically-proportioned old warehouse up the hill (it also boasts a Chihuly chandelier). Its angled orientation sets it alongside the original, first railroad right-of-way up from Portland. If you're returning to Seattle in the late afternoon, you might be able to utilize a newer rail system. Take the Sound Transit "Link" light rail to its terminus at Freighthouse Square, then transfer to commuter rail, the Sounder, back to the King Street Station in Seattle. The rail route goes through the Puyallup and Green River valleys. If the weather is fine, watch for a splendid view of Mt. Rainier from the right side of the train just after leaving Puyallup! Or you can return to Seattle (Fourth Avenue) via the #594. Catch either the "Link" or the bus across the street from the historical museum.
Journey to the Center of the Universe -- Funky Fremont!
Board your #26 or #28 Metro bus northbound on Seattle's Third Avenue for a ride along Lake Union (watch for the houseboats!), over the Lake Washington Ship Canal via Seattle's oldest and most active drawbridge, and into Fremont, the self-styled "Center of the Universe." Fremont, one of Seattle's first suburbs, is now home of the body-painted bicyclists who streak the annual Summer Solstice Parade in June. Walking is easy in this compact, slightly hilly neighborhood: a short distance from your bus stop by Costa's Greek restaurant you can see a recycled surplus Cold War rocket; a recycled surplus statue of Lenin from the former Soviet bloc; the famous Volkswagen-eating troll that lives high up under the Aurora Bridge; and Richard Beyer's beloved sculpture group, Waiting for the Interurban. The latest walking tour map can be obtained free from most merchants and are also posted at various points along the streets. Fremont also boasts a charmingly restored small Mission Revival Carnegie library, the grassroots community history project History House, and the Theo chocolate factory (tours available). If you're in Fremont on a Sunday you can visit the street market, or extend your visit with an Ice Cream Cruise around Lake Union on a historic small boat. Eateries and drinkeries, antiques, unique art, an actual independent bookstore, and, for all your organic-product needs, a PCC Natural Market -- all are right there in Fremont. When you're ready to return to downtown Seattle (Third Avenue), hop a #26 or #28 bus heading south on Fremont Avenue at N. 34th Street, right across from where you got off.
Twin Peaks Country: Valley of the Moon
More adventurous tourists seeking some car-free strolling and hiking can take local transit to its limit -- the Snoqualmie Valley east of Seattle. Native Americans called it the "Valley of the Moon." You'll need two buses for this expedition. Board Sound Transit #554 southbound on Seattle's Second Avenue at University Street for a quick trip out Interstate 90. You'll go through the Mount Baker Tunnel and then over Lake Washington via a floating bridge -- on sunny days, there are superb views of Mt. Baker ( to your left) and Mt. Rainier (to your right) as you cross the lake. On arrival at the Issaquah Transit Center, change to Metro Transit #209 for a van ride into east King County. You'll leave the freeway for a trip down a wooded river valley to the old town of Fall City, and then continue up the hill to Snoqualmie Falls. The bus stops here, and the falls make a good destination. There are easy walks, a gift shop, and fine dining here. Or -- keep riding the #209 through the quaint, historic town of Snoqualmie all the way to North Bend, heart of Twin Peaks country. Shoppers: the bus terminates at the North Bend Factory Stores!
Hikers: a number of trails are accessible from the #209. For an easy one (no hills), exit the #209 at the North Bend Public Library (ask the driver for the closest stop), walk one short block north from the parking lot to the old Milwaukee Road rail grade that's now the Snoqualmie Valley Trail, part of King County's extensive regional trails system. Turn left, and walk the trail about 2 miles, until you cross the old railroad bridge over the Snoqualmie River. Turn left over the historic Meadowbrook Bridge, then turn right, keeping the river on your right. Another half-mile or so of streets will bring you into downtown Snoqualmie. Have a snack, rest your feet, visit the Northwest Railway Museum in the old depot...then catch the #209 back to Issaquah and the #554 back to Seattle's Fourth Avenue. (Hint: do allow plenty of time for this trip and be very mindful of bus times!)