Last year it was outrageous gas prices. This year it’s the “Great Recession.” And even though things are looking better on the economic front, chances are our new culture of penny-pinching, not to mention the higher unemployment rate, will keep people closer to home this summer.
If you’re planning a ‘staycation’ this summer, and even if you aren’t, we recommend committing to doing or seeing a couple of new things before Labor Day comes around. Here are a few ideas:
TAKE TO THE WATER
We’re surrounded by water, but how long has it been since you’ve been on a boat other than a ferry? Now is the time to find your inner sailor.
The Center for Wooden Boats at South Lake Union (www.cwb.org) offers free boat rides on the lake every Sunday at 2 p.m. (sign-ups start at 10 a.m.). Or be your own captain and rent one of the center’s small sailboats, canoes, row or pedal boats (all wood, of course). Another location for small sailboat rentals is Sail Sandpoint (www.sailsandpoint.org), or rent a pedal boat at Green Lake (206-527-0171). If you can handle a boat 25 feet or longer, you move from renting to “chartering.” Try Wind Works Sailing at the Shilshole Marina (www.windworkssailing.com) where they have boats to charter and also offer sailing lessons.
Here’s another way to get on the water, if not in it. The Pacific Northwest coast has a growing surf scene, but did you know that you could surf in Puget Sound? Well, sort of. Local surf shops are promoting paddlesurfing and paddleboarding. You simply stand on a large board and paddle, Hawaiian style.
Cheka-Looka Surf Shop (www.chekalooka.com) on Seaview Avenue in Ballard rents paddleboards with wet suits for $10/hour (2 hour minimum) and offers private lessons with equipment. Perfect Wave Surf Shop in Kirkland (www.perfectwave.com) has posted videos on YouTube of surf paddling on Lake Washington (search YouTube for “paddleboarding Seattle”).
If you’d rather sit with your paddle, rent a kayak. Aqua Verde Café & Paddle Club (www.aquaverde.com) offers kayak rentals and guided tours of the marshlands and waterways of Lake Union and Lake Washington. Or pretend you’ve just returned from kayaking and enjoy a margarita and fish tacos on the deck. In West Seattle, you can rent boats as well as bikes and skates at Kayak Seattle (www.kayakseattle.com). Northwest Outdoor Center (www.nwoc.com) on Westlake Avenue in Seattle has small boat rentals, or on the Eastside try lessons through Issaquah Paddle Sports (www.issaquahpaddlesports.com).
This summer might be the time to finally try rowing or sculling. Seattle is home to half a dozen rowing clubs and they welcome new rowers. For a thorough introduction to the sport try the learn to row program at Lake Union Crew (www.lakeunioncrew.com) which meets three times a week for four weeks. There is also Lake Washington Rowing Club (www.lakewashingtonrowing.com), the Moss Bay Rowing Club (www.mossbay.com) and introduction-to-rowing (as well as canoeing and sailing) classes through Seattle Parks and Recreation (www.seattle.gov/parks/boats/smcraft.htm) at Green Lake Small Craft Center and Mount Baker Rowing and Sailing Center. To read our story last year on learning to row in Seattle, click here.
BE A TOURIST (AS IN, TAKE A TOUR)
You may think you already know everything about Seattle, but unless you’re an ardent history buff and trivia magnet, I bet you’ll learn something on Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour (www.undergroundtour.com). It’s a walking history lesson, but focused on the seamier side of old Seattle and delivered with great comedic talent. Even with the emphasis on the wild side of Seattle’s early days, the tour is clean enough to bring along your kids.
For other alternative views of local history, you might want to try one of several ghost tours offered around town (www.seattleghost.com or www.spookedinseattle.com), or check out Seattle’s Museum of the Mysteries (www.seattlechatclub.org/museum.html) which is proud to be Washington State’s only paranormal museum and offers ghost tours on Capitol Hill.
Want something not quite so out-there? How about a food tour? Seattle Food Tours (www.seattlefoodtours.com) will guide you on an eating expedition through Pike Place Market or Belltown restaurants. Savor Seattle (www.savorseattle.com), which has long guided foodies through gourmet Seattle, now offers a “Coffee Bites and Sights” tour of all things coffee. If you want to eat and cook, you might consider Diane’s Market Kitchen (www.dianesmarketkitchen.com). Owner Diane LaVonne combines an insider’s introduction to the farmers and produce of Pike Place Market with a cooking lesson.
Or perhaps you want to get out of the city for the day? As I’m sure you know, tours ply Seattle’s waterfront all summer long. Let’s Go Sailing (www.sailingseattle.com) offers short sailing tours, and Argosy Tours (argosytours.com) runs port tours, cruises through the Ballard Locks, dinner trips and trips to Tillicum Village, which they now own.
For a stunning tour on an alpine lake, you might consider driving to Newhalem for one of Seattle City Light’s Skagit Tours (www.skagittours.com). They’ve been offering tours of Diablo Lake and Diablo Dam for over 75 years with a focus on the cultural and natural history of the North Cascades wilderness.
EXPERIENCE FOLK ART
I’m sure you’ve been to Pike Place Market plenty of times, but have you contributed to the Wall of Gum? Reportedly started by gum chewers waiting to get into the late night Theatersports™ (www.unexpectedproductions.com or www.pikeplacemarket.org) at the Market Theater, 1428 Post Alley, this mosaic of ABC gum is public art at its most basic level. Spontaneous and open to all “artists,” it fits perfectly with Theatersports, which combines improv, comedy, theater and sports, and is Seattle’s longest running show.
Another favorite folk art installation means a trip to Ellensburg, where you’ll find Dick & Jane’s Spot on North Pearl Street across from the fire station. This is the house that the late artist Richard Elliott and his wife, Jane Orleman, who is also an artist, transformed into a monument to “reflector art” (www.reflectorart.com). Elliott pioneered this art form in the 1980s, and together they covered their property with mosaics made from bicycle reflectors, bottles, bottle caps and other found objects, along with work by other sculptors and artists. You can see Elliott’s art closer to home: He has a huge project on Martin Luther King Jr. Way near Huston Street.
Or you could plan to view more transitory art at Fremont’s annual Solstice Parade, which falls this year on June 20. If you haven’t ever been, it’s time. This whimsical celebration of summer is fossil fuel- and advertisement-free, with its tradition of no motorized vehicles, no logos and no printed words firmly in place. Many floats are created as community art projects at the Fremont Arts Council workshop, and the Solstice Cyclists (www.solsticecyclist.org), arguably the most famous part of the parade, are also works of art created at a body painting party before the event.
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