Thanks to the city's many hills, lakes, and bays, all Seattle neighborhoods are distinct. However, none is more a world unto itself than giant West Seattle. It is only minutes from city center travelling down Highway 99 and across the West Seattle Bridge.
West Seattle's miles of rolling peninsula feature many of the city's loveliest parks and beaches, its highest hills, a couple of happening retail districts studded with good restaurants, middle-class neighborhoods blessed with gorgeous views, and a mix of residents as diverse as any in town.
West Seattle might be more apt to be called Southwest Seattle because it occupies that quadrant of the city. The "south" part was skipped because Seattle has long been divided along class lines north and south. As the nicest part of the South End, early boosters called the place West Seattle to distance it from its embarrassingly obvious southern location.
There are poor neighborhoods here within miles of very rich ones. Generally, the socio-economic spectrum stretches from the southeast, near immigrant-packed and ironically named White Center, northwestward until one arrives among the leafy, pricey homes overlooking Alki Beach, the city's favorite strand.
Among its residents, West Seattle features more than its share of famous and not-so-famous rock stars, mountaineers, artists and others taken with its unpreposessing, outdoorsy style.
- Alki Beach: It's popular for good reason. In addition to the beach and the walk along it, restaurants, bars, and coffee houses abound at the southwest end, across Alki Ave. Alki was also home to the historic Luna Park. Good bets for meals include The Alki Cafe, Dukes, Pegasus Pizza, and Sunfish Fish & Chips. For dessert, try the Alki Bakery. Or enjoy a sunset barbeque or bonfire at one of the public fireplaces along the beach. You can rent bikes or inline skates, or bring your own, and wheel off along the Alki bike path, going northward around Duwamish Head and around the peninsula, with stunning city views, to Seacrest Pier (with fishing boat rentals in summer). A libation on the deck at Salty's restaurant is a fine break before heading back.
- Lincoln Park/Fauntleroy: Parks don't get any prettier than this, with a mile of spectacular beach backed by forested hills laced with trails. A summertime bonus: Colman Pool, a saltwater-filled public olympic-sized swimming pool, perches at the tip of Pt. Williams in the park's center. Access is by foot only; easiest to come from the park's south parking lot. Just past the park is the Fauntleroy Ferry Dock, giving access to Vashon Island and Southworth across Puget Sound. Four blocks east, Endolyne Joe's provides good, moderately priced eating.
- California Avenue: Most head for the beach, but this street's two distinct retail districts (Admiral Junction and Alaska Junction) provide reasons to visit. Along with the book shops, antique malls, craft stores, and yoga studios, highlights include Easy Street Records, easily Seattle's coolest record store and cafe; ArtsWest Playhouse & Gallery for live theater, music, comedy, and cabaret, plus a quality art gallery, classes, and workshops; the Admiral Theater for funky second-run movies; across the street is Mission with it's notorious margaritas and pleasing decor; Ovio Bistro for chic dinner fare and a great bar; Metropolitan Market, a tastefully upscale environment for grocery shopping, including exemplary produce, cheese, and wine sections alongside a full-service deli ; West 5, excellent home-cooked favorites and full bar in a retro atmosphere; Lee's Asian Restaurant, the best hole-in-the-wall Chinese joint in Seattle; several good pubs and bistros include Circa, Elliott Bay Brewing and Beveridge Place Pub; West Seattle Nursery, a first-class neighborhood garden center for plants you won't find at Home Depot; and ice cream cones and sandwich at Husky Deli, a neighborhood gathering place beyond compare.
- White Center: Genteel it's not, but for the best pho this side of Saigon, or Mexican food made the way Mamacita made it, this is the place. Taqueria Guaymas serves brain tacos, yes they do, but we prefer the BBQ pork super burritos...oh, yeeeesss.
- West Seattle Golf Course: The best public course in Seattle, with long holes, lots of hills and verdant views. Just off the West Seattle Bridge, south on 35th Ave.
- Camp Long: It's a real summer camp, now a city park, and a great place to take kids for a romp among meadows, trails, ponds, and the world's original man-made climbing rock.
- The Seattle Chinese Garden: located at the South Seattle Community College campus along 16th Ave. on Pigeon Hill, it's an excellent, if new, sizeable Chinese pond garden, perfect for a stroll.
- Schmitz Park: Winding paths weave their way through old growth into secret places in this lovely Olmstead park. Donated to Seattle in 1908 by Ferdinand and Emma Schmitz, Schmitz Park has been preserved as a santuary and memorial to what old Seattle looked like. You will be delighted by owl hoots and the babbling brook. Great info about the park can be read at http://www.schmitzpark.org.