Summers in the Northwest are something to behold, even when some of the things we love to do (like dancing in a room of sweaty strangers and packing a park lawn at an outdoor concert) aren't allowed within social distancing guidelines. You'll always find plenty of options on our streaming events calendar, but below we've rounded up other ways to make the most of the season, all of which you can and should do while keeping at least a six-foot distance from others and wearing a mask. Read on for places to see wildlife (like the Woodland Park Zoo), gardens blooming with summer flora (like the Seattle Japanese Garden), ways to get out on the water (like the Center for Wooden Boats' free Sunday Sail), and lots more quintessential warm-weather activities. For even more options, check out our indoor and outdoor dining directory and our calendar of in-person events. Don't forget sunscreen! H.A.G.S!
Jump to: Animals & Wildlife | Farms & Gardens | On the Water | Arts & Crafts | Other Outdoor Activities
ANIMALS & WILDLIFE
Gold Creek Trout Farm
While those serious about fishing might want more of a challenge, this hatchery can be loads of fun for beginner fisherpeople who don't want to wait all day for a catch. They supply everything you need, from poles and bait to nets, and they even clean and prepare your fish for you onsite so you can cook and eat ’em when you get home.
Sat-Sun, 10 am-2 pm
Northwest Trek Wildlife Park
If your neighborhood squirrel population no longer excites you but you're not crazy about zoos, you'll enjoy seeing moose, elk, sheep, and other such creatures roam freely across this park's 435 acres. That area is open for walking and driving tours, as is the self-guided walking tour where you can spot predatory animals like bears, wolves, cougars, and birds, as well as smaller creatures native to forests and wetlands, like otters and beavers. All visits are limited capacity and timed.
Daily, 9:30 am-5:30 pm
Learn more about the creatures who call the surrounding waters their home. Exhibits at the Seattle Aquarium feature all kinds of Pacific Northwest marine life, from a giant dome of Puget Sound fish, to cuter, cuddlier animals such as Northern fur seals and sea otters. Tickets for each day are limited, but once you're in you can stay for as long as you like.
Daily, 9:30 am-5 pm
Woodland Park Zoo
Get up close and personal with wildlife from around the world (or watch respectfully from a safe distance) in this abundantly grassy place, now offering timed, limited-capacity tickets, which allow you access to all outdoor exhibits. Don’t forget to say hi to Tián and Zan, the zoo’s new, unbearably cute twin red pandas.
Daily, 9:30 am-6 pm
FARMS & GARDENS
Bellevue Botanical Garden
If you find yourself on the Eastside, don't miss a detour to this "urban refuge" boasting 53 acres of cultivated gardens, restored woodlands, and natural wetlands, all highlighting native plants. The Yao Garden is currently open, complete with guided arrows so you don't collide with other nature lovers. They also have virtual classes on everything from the history and culture of Chinese black tea (Aug 9) to how to breed perennial plants at home (Aug 12).
Daily, 9 am-5 pm
Now that the weather is warming up, summer fruits like blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and ingenious berry hybrids are ripe and ready for picking, whether you want to bake them into a pie or eat them straight from the vine. Just be sure to check the farms' websites before you go—they tend to update their hours and offerings often based on what's fresh and how much is left.
City dwellers (or anyone) longing for some quality time in nature should look no further than these peaceful woodlands and gardens on Bainbridge Island, where you can gaze at vistas, wander down shady trails, and do some reflecting by creeks and mini-waterfalls. Timed tickets are available through August 30.
Tues-Sun, 10 am-6 pm
After immigrating to Seattle from the Japanese Island of Shikoku in the early 1900s, Fujitaro Kubota started this Rainier Beach garden with what he knew as a self-taught nursery keeper. He obviously did something right, because this place is a sanctuary. Definitely seek out the Maple Woods (which is really a spectacle in the fall but is still worth a stop), the Fera Fera Forest (originally a nursery of threadleaf cypress), the Japanese Garden (the most traditional part of the grounds, built in the 1930s), the Moon Bridge (which is hard to walk up and down and "symbolizes the difficulty of living a good life"), and the Mountainside (a waterfall replica build for the 1962 World's Fair). Want to learn more about the garden and its proprietor? Check out the book Spirited Stone: Lessons from Kubota's Garden.
Daily 9:30 am-6 pm
Known for its cider and perry made from Asian and European pears and heirloom apples, this orchard is a must for your Vashon day trip. You'll also find critters like St. Croix sheep, Bouvier de Flanders dogs (fancy!), barn cats, and an abundance of birds and other wildlife. They're open by appointment for tastings and to-go purchases if you want to grab a sampler pack and find a spot in the trees.
Pacific Bonsai Museum
While the conservatory and tours remain closed, there are plenty of alcoves of sometimes-ancient mini trees to explore in your small group at this outdoor museum and garden. Their permanent collection, featuring over 30 bonsai, is currently on view. P.S. If you need a new mask, they have some botanical-printed ones on their online shop for $15 each.
Tues-Sun, 10 am-4 pm
Seattle Farmers Markets
Refer back to our guide to weekly and biweekly farmers markets around town to find out details on hours and offerings this season. Most markets, like the one in Capitol Hill, accept preorders and in-person browsing, but those who opt for the latter should expect to wait in line.
Seattle Japanese Garden
This 3.5-acre garden features a style developed in the late-16th to early-17th centuries known as stroll gardens. Following a winding path around a central pond, stroll gardens invite visitors to journey through the varied landscapes of Japan—mountains, forests, waterfalls, rivers, lakes, islands, and the sea. Along the journey, varied landscapes are hidden and then revealed. Purchase those tickets in advance!
Tues-Sun, 10 am-7 pm
Sequim Lavender Farms
After a long winter hibernation, the lavender fields of Sequim come abloom to soothe the souls and nasal passages of passersby. While some aspects of the annual Sequim Lavender Festival—like the street fair—have been canceled this year, you can take a self-guided driving tour of the farms in the area, including Nelson’s Duckpond & Lavender Farm, Graysmarsh Farm, and Rancho La Morada Lavender and Flower Farm.
Washington Park Arboretum
Housing one of the nation's best woody plant collections (probably for the fact that many of its flora and fauna can't be found anywhere else in the Northwest, apparently), this hidden gem near UW includes 230 acres of woods for your quiet contemplation needs. All tram and walking tours are canceled for the time being, but you can still explore on your own.
Daily, dawn-8 pm
ON THE WATER
Agua Verde Cafe and Paddle Club
Rent a kayak or a standup paddleboard from Agua Verde, located on Portage Bay right next to UW. If you head east, you can float amongst the lily pads by the picturesque Washington Park Arboretum, or head west for a scenic view of the Seattle skyline. Either way, you can’t lose. Best of all, you can refuel after your adventure with Mexican food from the Agua Verde Cafe, which is currently open for limited outdoor dining.
Wed-Mon, hours vary
Alki Kayak Tours
This company has a wealth of tour options, including one from the Seacrest Boathouse to the Alki Lighthouse and back, one that sweeps around the west side of Elliott Bay, and one that teaches about the history of the Duwamish River. Do-it-yourselfers can also rent kayaks and explore on their own, and beginners can take one-off classes in sea kayaking and paddleboarding.
Daily, 10 am
Households of five or fewer can make reservations for Argosy's Evergreen Excursion, which cruises along Blake Island and the Tillicum Longhouse for a total of five hours, including a stop at a secluded state park only accessible by boat. The journey includes a traditional steelhead lunch with Tillicum bread; a short walk to the ruins of the Trimble Estate; a cultural presentation featuring Coast Salish masks, regalia, ancestral dances, and storytelling; and time to explore the beach and trails.
Daily, 11 am
Center for Wooden Boats
As you might have guessed, the theme of this South Lake Union hub (which calls itself a "living museum") is boats made of wood, aka sailboats, rowboats, canoes, and kayaks. You can currently reserve rentals, book charters for your small household, take private lessons, or check out their free Sunday Public Sail. Some programs, such as boat rentals, have associated fees, and others have suggested donations.
South Lake Union
Wed-Sun, 11 am-7 pm
Electric Boat Company
Rent a standard or luxury boat (both of which can be open-air or heated and fully enclosed to suit the weather) from this company for all the fun of being on the water without rowing your arms into the state of limp noodles. They also have a brand-new "Donut" boat, which is open-air and only available in the summer.
South Lake Union
Daily, 11 am
Hot Tub Boats
A hot tub boat is, correct, a floating jacuzzi. It's also a good, slightly indulgent way to get out on the lake without shivering in your swim trunks. This rental company's slogan is “soak in the seanery,” and with a pun like that, you know it has to be a good time.
South Lake Union
Lake Union Charters and Adventures
Let experienced guides take you on short journeys on Lake Union, including a 1.5-hour sailing excursion and a one-hour floating homes tour.
South Lake Union
Savor Seattle Kayak Expedition
There's nothing wrong with a knapsack full of Spam sandwiches on a kayak, but this tour company caters (literally) to those who enjoy fine dining and drinking on the water. Their three-day Kayak Expedition on the San Juan Islands includes gourmet cooked-to-order meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; Washington wines paired with every meal, plus happy hours; rental and camping gear; and, of course, excellent views of the Cascades and chances to see wildlife like orcas, seals, jellyfish, starfish, deer, and osprey.
San Juan Islands
The next available date range is September 4-6
UW Canoe & Kayak Rentals
You can reserve canoes and double kayaks by the hour to take onto the waterfront. Boat rentals are available between 10 am-5:30 pm on the hour and the half-hour on Thursday-Sunday, and all boats are due back no later than 7 pm. Note that the UW Waterfront is only accepting rental launches at this time. If you want to launch your personal canoe, kayak, or paddleboard, head to East Montlake Park, the Washington Park Arboretum, or the Montlake Community Center.
Thurs-Sun, 10 am-5:30 pm
Whether you want to stay on land or explore the open water, this guided tour company offers adventures on electric bikes, kayaks, and standup paddleboards (plus camping at Maury Island Marine Park and "glamping" at Blue Moon Farm). All tours begin at the Jensen Point Boathouse and require reservations.
ARTS & CRAFTS
Art spaces across the city have been quietly reopening their doors for limited-capacity viewings, in part due to the low traffic that comes through galleries as opposed to museums and stores. Check out our roundup of art spaces that are back in business during regular hours and by appointment, including Linda Hodges Gallery (currently showing work by Tim Cross and Kurt Solmssen) and Winston Wächter Fine Art (showing work by Northwest artists).
Seattle Glassblowing Studio
Amateur Dale Chihulys and Preston Singletarys of all ages can craft glass creations large and small at this studio, which is open for private lessons, small group classes, and weekend workshops.
Mon-Sat, 10 am-7 pm
OTHER OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES
Without the pleasure of watching summer blockbusters in a cool movie theater this year, laying your eyes on the big screen in any capacity feels like a treat. Hit up our list of drive-in movie theaters in the Seattle area screening new and old favorites, the majority of which veer on the family-friendly side (like an August 27 screening of The Princess Bride at Marymoor Park).
If you like hiking on certain trails and want to see them maintained forever and ever, join the Washington Trails Association's monthlong virtual fundraiser as an individual or as a part of a team.
Hiking Spots and Beaches
Many of Seattle's 485-plus parks and beaches are open, and, while you mustn't join strangers' rogue games of volleyball or invite all your friends to a group picnic, you can still enjoy them safely. Eli Sanders wrote a warning on public park usage during a pandemic back in March, and it's still worth a read to remind yourself that social distancing in public places is still paramount. With that in mind, read about our favorite spots to visit, from Humpback Mountain to Golden Gardens, and check out Seattle Parks and Rec’s updated list of what’s currently open before you go.
King County Parks
As of July 15, King County parks have reopened their backcountry trails, ball fields, sports courts, picnic shelters, and other areas. You can also revisit the campground at Tolt-McDonald Park, the climbing wall and community garden at Marymoor Park, and a few other amenities.
While tons of places are still doing takeout and delivery, the limited-capacity dining allowed during Phase 2 of the city's reopening means you can sit outside and soak up the sun at places like Serafina and Frolik. Find all your options on our indoor and outdoor dining directory, and also check out these 10 resaurants and bars to visit on your staycation.
There is a ‘Best in the Northwest’ prize for ballooning, and this place won it in 2017, in part for being the only service that flies directly in front of Mt. Rainier. You’ll get breathtaking views of downtown Seattle, the Space Needle, Tacoma, Lake Tapps, the Cascade Mountains, and, heck, even Auburn. As for COVID-related safety, rest assured that they follow the same guidelines and recommendations for passenger flights.