Looking for something to do? We’ve got you!
August 2, 2022
Even with a functional bridge, West Seattle can feel worlds apart from the rest of the city, so people don’t typically move here for proximity. It does, however, have abundant wildlife, lush nature preserves, and neighborhood haunts with beautiful open-air spaces—and while its coastal areas are best-known, its non-beaches are just as wonderful.
There’s a little bit of fresh air for everybody, whether you’re looking for a great view, a refreshing swim, a cold beverage, a forest trail, a nice place for a picnic, or something that is only technically outside. Some are known for birds, others for good coffee. There’s even a hidden art destination tucked in there.
From patios to nature preserves, these are some of West Seattle’s best outdoor destinations.
1120 California Ave SW
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This park at the very top of North Admiral towers above Duwamish Head at the northern tip of the peninsula, offering a Kerry Park-tier postcard view over the Alki Beach area to Downtown Seattle. It’s a popular spot to watch the New Years’ Eve fireworks since the Space Needle view is so clear from the fenced viewpoint to the northeast, but it’s a great stop any time of year—especially if you want to take some out-of-town family somewhere not too crowded that still feels special. (There’s also parking here, which can reduce some complaints about walking.)
While it has one of the best views on the peninsula, it’s not just a viewpoint. Large, green lawns spread throughout the rest of the park, running up a slight incline in the back. It’s a great spot for a picnic, or maybe just lounging and watching the boats launched from Don Armeni Boat Ramp and Seacrest Park below.
5612 California Ave SW
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This beloved neighborhood coffee joint, located in a repurposed Craftsman house, was always a popular option for enjoying a drink in the sunshine. During the pandemic, their outdoor spaces got an upgrade, giving you a few different vibes to choose from.
You can sip your coffee on tidy patios and lawns along the front steps, including both picnic tables and lawn chairs. In the backyard, you can nestle in cozier soft seating or sturdier tables among trees and raised beds, around an outdoor fireplace, and under trellises and tents. The newest option is a covered wood deck lining its north side, equipped with sturdy surfaces, outlets, and, on cold days, heaters, making it an ideal outdoor work spot or a more secluded open-air space for catching up with a friend.
Coffee is the main draw, but it’s an underrated place to grab beer and wine, too. They close at 7 pm, so it feels more like a happy hour than anything, but they’re certainly not limited to more traditional daytime vices. Beer goes surprisingly well with coffee cake, it turns out.
5551 SW Admiral Way
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Schmitz Park is a 53-acre old growth forest right in the middle of West Seattle, starting around Alki Beach at the northwest and spreading out almost to North Admiral to the east and Genesee to the south. Despite its massive footprint, it can be easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. None of the entrances have much fanfare, and much of it is a ravine far below the street. Once you’re inside, though, it feels like a micro version—just 1.7 miles of trails—of a well-traveled hiking area in the North Cascades, complete with switchbacks, creek crossings, and salmonberries. If off-leash dogs are an issue for you for whatever reason, they’re pretty common here, despite the heavy squirrel population.
It’s not just a destination for nature enthusiasts: The Schmitz Park Bridge, a concrete Art Deco landmark built in 1936, is one of the city’s hidden art destinations. It’s known for some spectacular street art—unauthorized, of course—underneath. You don’t need to hike to see it, either; just head down the stairs on the southwest side.
6413 California Ave SW
There used to be a bar called the Full Moon in this spot when I was a kid, leading some locals to call it the Full Beveridge after the switch—and that’s the name that stuck for me. Anyway, the Full Beveridge is now a premier destination for beer nerds, with a long row of taps behind the bar that borders on unhinged. They also don’t have a kitchen, meaning you can bring whatever takeout or delivery you want inside… or outside.
Their outdoor area really puts the “garden” in “beer garden,” with potted trees, hanging plants, climbing vines, and other greenery adding a jungle-like ambiance. Many tables have umbrellas, but a couple of large tents provide a more sheltered experience and keep the space open during inclement weather. As is now apparently standard for outdoor beer-culture spaces, expect some games like giant jenga and bean bag toss, too.
3951 SW Barton St
This semi-hidden 33-acre park feels like a little sibling of Schmitz Park, only with far less traffic. Its easy-to-miss entrance on Southwest Barton between California Avenue and Lincoln Park unfolds into a forest landscape that feels bigger than its footprint. It’s actually pretty comparable to Schmitz in trails, with 1.5 miles of small, interconnected hikes through cedar trees, Douglas firs, sword ferns, and wetlands. This park is on a surprisingly steep slope, and my tiny dog loves to nearly kill me by dragging me up and down the woodland stairs very quickly. The elevation gain is what actually preserved this natural area—it was privately owned until the 1970s, but the topography rendered it unbuildable.
It’s a very pretty spot for a secluded afternoon walk, but it’s especially of interest for conservation nerds. Since the early 1990s, the city and volunteers have been restoring the creek running through the park as a coho salmon habitat. The park is also a pretty vibrant habitat for birds, and even bald eagles have been known to nest inside it.
8603 Fauntleroy Way SW
Seattle Parks and Recreation runs exactly two seasonal outdoor pools: the resort-vibes Pop Mounger Pool in Magnolia and this 50-meter, low-chlorine saltwater pool by the shore in Lincoln Park. It’s like swimming at the beach; the water gets pulled directly from Puget Sound, and it has a view of the water beyond. It’s just tidier, heated, and with standard city pool amenities like two diving boards, water aerobics—you may think it’s just for the elderly, but that’s because you’ve never done a slow, serene Otter Roll—and swim lessons, along with a twisty water slide. The saltwater adds a little extra buoyancy, which feels nice, especially if you’re just in it for floating around and not lap swimming, and unlike the real beach, you’re not going to step on any sharp rocks or dead crabs.
Sarah Anne Lloyd is a writer and lifelong Seattleite whose work has appeared in Seattle Met, The Stranger, Seattle Weekly, KNKX, and others. She lives on the outskirts of West Seattle with her partner, an absolutely perfect dog, and six terrifying chickens. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahannelloyd.