Sitting about 10 minutes north of downtown Seattle is one of the best (and most popular) urban parks the city has: Greenlake. The lake and its surrounding 2.8 mile track provide a plethora of things to do year round. Now, most of our neighborhood guides tend to focus on places to eat and drink (because let's be honest, we really like to eat and drink), but we have to admit the dining around Greenlake is a little lack-luster. While we do mention a few choice spots, we go to this neighborhood mostly for all the fun activities the lake has to offer! It does get fairly crowded, but that just means the people (and dog) watching gets even better. You never know when you'll run into a Corgi meet-up (yes, they really happen), see someone unicycle by your picnic, or run into the family of turtles that live at the lake. In addition, there are always fun events to keep an eye out for, and we have mentioned our favorites below.
Thing to Do
Open from around Memorial Day - Labor Day, the Boathouse has you covered for all your water rental needs. They offer everything from paddle boards, pedal boats, kayaks, and canoes (among other things). There is also a cafe that serves coffee and snacks for a picnic or to enjoy while laying in a water hammock (they rent those too). All rentals are first come, first serve.
The bathhouse is a cute little theater that bring together the community for year-round plays and musicals (check their calendar for events).
Let's say your golf game isn't strong, but you want something more challenging than mini-golf (oh who are we kidding, mini-golf is hard!), enter Greenlake Pitch 'N Putt, a perfect 3-par course on the lake for practicing your swing.
We don't have kids, but if we did, we would take them to the wading pool at Greenlake because nothing is more fun than a pool when you're a kid and this one is pretty cool. It also happens to be conveniently located next to the playground equipment. Get that child an ice cream cone, and you're officially parent of the year. Score!
The lake offers two paths for your running pleasure. The inner loop is 2.8 miles around while the outer loop is 3.2 miles. There are even running clubs you can join if you need inspiration. As you run, you will also come across some exercise equipment with bars and hoops where you can stop over and stretch, hang, flip, twirl and do whatever else it is you do on this stuff (see Kristina's uncoordinated-adult-ring-swinging in photo).
We can not recommend eating any of the fish you catch at Greenlake (for real, we are very unclear about this...we are guessing no), however it IS stocked fully with trout, which makes it a great place for recreational fishing. There are lots of spots to fish along the lake, but we like the dock located close to the Aqua Theater. It makes us feel like we aren't in the city, and it's a great place to set up a chair, pop a cold beer, and wait for the fish to bite. It's a popular spot, so you'll most likely have to share or go early to set-up camp.
This fun, international, hide-and-seek game is HQ'd in Seattle, and Greenlake is definitely a popular spot for hiding these treasures. Download the app and go to town! It's a great way to walk around the lake with a destination in mind. Check out our post on Geocaching 101 if you don't know how to play.
Where to Eat
This Cuban and Caribbean restaurant is by far THE BEST place to eat at Greenlake. We love it for its laid-back outdoor seating (complete with sand, a tiki bar, and a fire pit -- you'll forget you're on Aurora Ave), delicious food, and colorful building. It's impossible to pick one dish on the menu to recommend as we love them all, but if you are forcing us, start with the The Desi... or Bucco chicken (sorry we can't pick just one, you'll understand once you go).
Located a little off the lake in the Greenlake Village, this is the only place up north we know of where you can get acai bowls. It's a Brazilian coffee shop that also offers special products from Brazil like chocolates and cheese. You can even get acai in bulk to take home.
The food at Shelter is fine, but what we can't get over is the beautiful building with ceiling to floors windows and natural light. It's a beautiful space whether you are there on a sunny day or a rainy day. We recommend going for a cocktail and enjoying the lovely vibe.
Every neighborhood needs a classic sandwich shop, and the Urban Bakery is it for Greenlake. It's your go-to place for coffee, pastries, sandwiches, and soups, and is a perfect place to stop in for lunch after walking the lake.
Hot days at the lake call for a sweet treat! We love all those yogurt places with the toppings bars because customizing your treat is the best. Zoe yogurt has a bunch of different yogurt flavors available (you can sample them all!) with a wide selection of candy and toppings to choose from. If you're more of a Menchie's fan, there is one of those too in Greenlake Village. Or, if you think yogurt is the worst, you can go classic Ben and Jerry's and stop in at their scoop shop.
This burger shop is a Hawaiian based chain, which obviously makes it legit. The burgers are, in fact, bigger and they have a wide range of flavors such as the Volcano Burger (jalapenos, pepper jack, BBQ) or the Kaneohe Burger (garlic burger with bacon, cheddar, avocado). Not a beef eater? No worries! There is also chicken, fish, pork, and veggie options available.
Neither of these places will blow your socks off, but they get the job done when you need an easy, no-fuss spot to grab food at the lake. Either place is a great spot to grab brunch or your standard pub food and both have a small, but well curated, local beer selection.
Festivals & Events
The Fremont Arts Council (who put on our favorite Summer Solstice Parade) also do a festival to celebrate the Autumn Equinox. The celebration includes a parade around Greenlake complete with music and lighted lanterns. Lanterns are available for sale, and it's a wonderful way to say goodbye to the summer and start embracing the shorter days.
Hiroshima to Hope (August)
This festival also includes lanterns, but this time they are lit and floated on the lake as a way to honor the victims of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and all victims of war. It's a beautiful, annual tradition with thousands of participants, music, and hope.
Pathway of Lights (December)
A Christmas tradition! People come to light the pathway around the lake and share in holiday cheer with music, food, and warm drinks. Bring your own light and lantern to add to the ambiance.
Greenlake Gobble & Mashed Potato Munch-off (November)
Sure, sure. The 5k around the lake is all fine and dandy. We understand the importance of working off your turkey dinner. BUT we really go for the mashed potato eating contest. You can buy raffle tickets for the opportunity to participate, and trust us, it's harder than it looks (we have known people who have participated), but the amusement is priceless!
Donut Dash (April)
An annual 5k that ends with eating donuts? No further details needed. SIGN US UP.
Corgi Meet-up (every second Saturday)
Is there a dog cuter than a Corgi? We think not. We LOVE that there is a meet-up for these pups every month at the lake. If you own a Corgi, you should definitely go and participate, and if you're like us and don't, you just go to squeeze them!
What do you love at Greenlake? It's such a vibrant urban park and there is so much to do!