Top 5 Reasons to Visit Woodland Park Zoo

Seattle is known for a lot of things - coffee, flying fish, needles that point up to space, our stunning geography, tech companies like Amazon and Microsoft, and lots of rain, but not so much our zoo. Nope, our zoo doesn’t get much hype. Well, we are here to hype it up, because although it is no San Diego Zoo, it is a fantastic zoo and a great place to spend an afternoon with friends, family, and kids. It is also on the CityPass so if you are visiting from out of town you can get in at a discounted price, which is a steal!

Grizzly Bear at Woodland Park Zoo

Here are our top five reasons to visit Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo.

1 - They Have Awesome Animal Feeding Programs - This one is enough to get us to go. For only $5 (be sure to bring cash) you can join a few other people and feed giraffes and penguins at different points in the day. When you stand that close to these animals and get to hear about their traits, likes and dislikes, and stories you feel connected to them.

Learning about and feeding one of the male giraffe’s at Woodland Park Zoo.

Learning about and feeding one of the male giraffe’s at Woodland Park Zoo.

2 - You’re Supporting Wildlife Conservation Around the World - Zoos do a lot for animal conservation and Woodland Park Zoo is no exception. They have programs around the world to help animals. Much of this you can learn about on their website or through their exhibits and programs at the zoo.

3 - Birds Will Get Up Close and Personal - In Australasia inside Willawong Station for only $2 each you can buy popsicle sticks covered in honey and birdseed and stand in the middle of a room while small parrots come and perch on your hand (or head) to help themselves to your treat. As adults, we have to say - this is SO fun. We bought more sticks than we probably should have before we deciding we should let some of the kids have our space.

You can make a lot of friends at the bird feeding with a little bit of honey and birdseed!

You can make a lot of friends at the bird feeding with a little bit of honey and birdseed!

4 - You Can Get to Know Gorillas and Tigers - There are several programs to help visitors learn more about the animals. Hanging out to learn from staff about the gorillas and tigers are our two favorite spots for obvious reasons. These animals are incredibly smart, beautiful, and also struggle for survival in the wild. It’s good to learn about what we are doing to protect them and also get a more up close view while they are fed and played with by staff while they educate the audience.

Tiger at Woodland Park Zoo

5 - It’s a Wonderful Way to Spend an Afternoon Outside - With the main loop being about .8 miles around this is a super approachable and easy zoo to visit. We always find ourselves amazed by the easy way-finding to all the animals. You can easily see everything and spend ample time at each exhibit in an afternoon. And, in true Seattle fashion much of the zoo is covered so that visiting on rainy days is still enjoyable and allows you to get outside and enjoy some fresh air and incredible animals!

Honorable Mention: The carousel is super old and cool - in the northwest corner of the zoo sits a beautiful carousel from 1918 which the zoo restored and opened in 2006. There are only 150 hand carved carousels (yes, we said HAND carved) left in the world. So this one is definitely worth checking out, even if you don’t go for a ride. Obviously if you have kids this is a pretty great stop in the day!

We hope this gets you excited to visit the zoo! Let us know your experiences at Woodland Park Zoo if you are a local or visitor!

Neighborhood Guide: Maple Leaf

We may be a bit biased on this post. We do live in Maple Leaf after all. We roam these streets and drink in these bars on the regular, so when we give a recommendation you know it is based on years of experiences. Our little neighborhood isn’t as bustling as some of the other big ones (Ballard, Fremont, etc.), but where we might be smaller, we have some mighty little businesses that make it a great place to come visit!

Maple Leaf Water Tower

Where to Eat

Cloud City Coffee

Nine times out of ten this is the coffee shop we head to in Maple Leaf. They have a wonderful selection for breakfast, lunch, and coffee and have a really genuine and kind feel the second you walk in the door. Also, they have Oatly for your lattes!

Cloud City Coffee

Blue Saucer CAFE 

Another coffee shop in the neighborhood that pulls us in every once in a while is Blue Saucer. And why do you ask? Their bagel sandwiches are To. Die. For. They also do great specials for their coffees. Plus it’s also a little quieter since this is a smaller cafe and some mornings you just can’t beat relaxing with a nice bagel while you do the crossword!

Cafe Javasti

We are lucky that we have so many great coffee shops in the area, and we definitely can’t leave out Cafe Javasti. They have the best selection of crepes you could ask for (sweet and savory!) while serving Olympia’s Batdorf & Bronson Coffee.

The Maple

This neighborhood pub has a great happy hour and is located in a great converted house, so what couldn’t be there to love? While we usually don’t go there for dinner, we love to hit it up for their brunch (mimosas anyone?) or happy hour (burrata + wine specials!). Bonus points for all the outdoor seating and cute garden you can access in the warmer months!

Rainy Art in Maple Leaf

Rainy Art in Maple Leaf

The Shambles

This is a relatively new spot to the neighborhood, but it immediately stole our hearts. They are a butcher, so they source incredible meats from local farmers and they also craft an awesome beer list from local craft breweries. We love getting their meat and cheese boards, sharing one of their amazing sandwiches and getting a side of the crushed potatoes with beers to top it all of. Boom.

Judy Fu's Snappy Dragon

This is probably Maple Leaf's biggest claim to fame. Judy Fu is famous in the city for her delicious dumplings and homemade noodles. This restaurant has won best Chinese in Western Washington by King5 like a million times. Get the dumplings and noodles, plus whatever else catches your eye on the menu - it's Chinese food at its best! The restaurant fills up fast on weeknights and weekends, so if you don't feel like waiting order it to go or for delivery and enjoy at home! 

Flying Squirrel Pizza 

This is our neighborhood pizza joint. Everyone has one, but we think ours is the best. Flying Squirrel has a few locations around Seattle and all of them are equally great, but we frequent this one the most. We always start with the castelvetrano olives and meatballs then move on to any of the pizzas. They source the best meats and veggies so really you can’t go wrong. Their pepperoni is classic, the pulled pork is something different and delicious, and their seasonal specials are always unique, too.

Kona Kitchen

This place is a beloved Hawaiian and Japanese restaurant (owned by film actor Yuji Okumoto!) and has a wonderful family feel. We highly recommend the Katsu Loco, which is a more delicious version of the Loco Moco made with fried rice and a panko breaded chicken thigh. And on the weekends there is karaoke because duh.

Where to Drink

Old 5th Avenue Tavern

The greatest dive bar in the history of dive bars (our blog, our opinion!). It has everything you could want…stiff drinks, cheap food, fun locals, pull tabs, pool, a jukebox, and you can find the owner, Tara, slinging drinks most nights. We love to come on Tuesday for their tacos (2 for $1) that are old school style with Old El Paso hard shells and ground beef like your Mom used to make. Spaghetti Wednesday is in stiff competition where you get a big plate of spaghetti and slices of garlic bread. Can’

5th Avenue Tavern

Growler Guys

This spot has like 1 million beers. Ok, their website says 60, but we always feel a tad overwhelmed when trying to choose. For those of you who don’t suffer from decision anxiety this place will be beer heaven! They also have good beer food (pizza and wings, duh) and food trucks on site often. We also love keeping tabs on their events - they do a great job of having unique events to bring the community together.

The Reservoir Tavern

Slightly more seedier and smelly than the Old 5th Tavern, this dive bar wins points for its location. It sits right across from the Maple Leaf Park meaning you can easily grab a drink after your Frisbee game. They also have a back patio and pool if you feel up for a bar game, but we highly recommend getting an order of fries, which they make with duck fat and shake with some sort of seasoning that takes them to the next level. Truly the best fries in town.

Things to Do

Maple Leaf Park 

Maple Leaf has an incredible park right smack dab in the middle of the neighborhood and you can’t miss it because it has a ginormous water tower with painted maple leaves right next to it. The park has a paved running track (about .5 mile = 1 lap), some pickleball courts and what is basically the coolest kids playground ever (it has a zipline!). When you visit on a clear day you can see views of downtown Seattle and also Mount Rainier.

Bead World

Okay, so maybe you need to be a jewelry maker to fully appreciate this shop, but even we get joy out of browsing all the cool beads here. They have too many types to count in every style you can possibly imagine. Need a Buddha head bead? They’ve got that. What about sparkly beads? Hundred to choose from. They even offer classes for jewelry making including basic bead stringing all the way up to 3D etching. Check out the full schedule here.

Reckless Video  

We saved the best for last here - Maple Leaf is home to one of the last of the dinosaurs - a real, live, video store. For such a tiny house, they have managed to convert it into a space that holds a crazy amount of movies! If you want to support a local business and have a walk down memory lane we definitely recommend heading to Reckless and hunting for a few videos to watch on a rainy night. Grab some Red Vines on your way out.

The best place to grab a movie in the city of Seattle!

The best place to grab a movie in the city of Seattle!

Alright - come visit us in Maple Leaf and let us know what you think!

Best Desserts in Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market is a bit of a food mecca in Seattle. Dessert is no exception. The various shops and restaurants around The Market have something for everyone and we have compiled our list of favorites sugary, sweet treats for you!

Etta's Coconut Cream Pie - This is not only the best pie in the market, it is easily…EASILY… the best pie in the city. Tom Douglas, our city’s award-winning restauranteur with a slew of great spots to eat around town, has tapped into something we can’t truly describe but will try. It’s fluffy, it’s creamy, it’s coconuty, it’s sweet, it’s perfect in every way. Go grab a slice… or a whole pie.

Storyville Coffee’s Frosted Cinnamon Roll - We have written about this cinnamon roll before and we will write about it again. It’s CRACK, people. In the best way possible. Grab one with a cup of coffee and sit by the window of their 2nd story location in the market overlooking the hustle and bustle of the main street.

Storyville Cinnamon Roll

Ellenos’ Pumpkin Pie Greek Yogurt - Fall in Seattle isn’t actually referred to as Fall, it’s “Ellenos Pumpkin Pie Greek Yogurt” time. This local favorite bakes pumpkin pies and then crushes them up, crust and all, into their amazing Greek yogurt. And we go CRAZY TIME for it. You will too. If you visit during the rest of the year, known as “Non-Pumpkin Pie Yogurt Time of Year,” you can enjoy our other favorites, marionberry pie and passionfruit.

Ellenos Pumpkin Pie Yogurt

Piroshky Piroshky’s Apple Cinnamon Roll - You really can’t go wrong with anything on the shelf at this tiny walk up, but their apple cinnamon roll with thin slices of apple dipped in sugar and cinnamon is definitely a best seller for a reason. Be prepared for a line, but it will move fast and we promise it will be worth it.

Piroshky Piroshky Apple Cinnamon Roll

Le Panier Chocolate Croissant - Or as the French call it "Pain au Chocolat. Order it the French way and you’ll feel way more cool. This flaky, chocolate staple won’t disappoint. You can taste the butter and chocolate melting together….MMmmm, don’t think about how bad it is for you, just enjoy.

Daily Dozen Doughnuts’ Assorted Dozen - This is THE spot for mini-doughnuts in Seattle. They crank out tons of tiny doughnuts every day for their hoard of fans. From the plain to the maple bacon they are all equally delicious. Grab some of each flavor and don’t forget cash!

Shug’s S’More Sundae - Because the combination of graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallow could only be improved by adding Shug’s locally sourced ice cream to the mix. The old fashioned atmosphere and sundae cups help, too.

Shug's S'More Sundae

indi chocolate’s Hot Chocolate - This hot chocolate will change your life. Add whipped cream and a toasted marshmallow (or two) and sit down in their cafe or walk out to take in the views of Puget Sound while you sip your warm, liquid goodness.

What are your favorite sweet spots in Pike Place Market? Tell us in the comments below!  

Seeing Seattle by Water - Kayak Tour of Lake Union

Seattle is a city where water and mountains collide, and it’s basically a sin to visit and not experience one or the other (but hopefully both!). If you’re visiting for a short time the mountains are sometimes hard to get to, but luckily we have three big beautiful lakes right in the city. Since they are so accessible, we love to recommend to people of all backgrounds and fitness levels to get out on the water and experience the city from a different point of view. For first time visitors to Seattle, we often point to Lake Union as the spot for stunning views of the city (iconic Space Needle included) and the fun experience of checking out the house boats that sit along the edges of the water and the sea planes taking off over head!

lake union

Where to Rent

The fastest way to get onto the lake is to rent equipment from a place right on the lake. There are three companies we love equally, so take your pick:

Agua Verde

Located in Portage Bay, Agua Verde is not only a Mexican restaurant but also a paddle club! You can rent either kayaks (single or double) or stand-up paddle boards March - October (and if you need a snack, we won’t be mad at ya if you grab a taco before heading out. They even have a to-go window). The Paddle Club has a huge selection of rentals, so the chances of them running out of equipment even on busy, sunny days is pretty slim. You don’t need a reservation for groups under 11, and they also offer guided tours in case you don’t want to venture out alone. Check out their tour page to see what’s up.

Nice views of Downtown Seattle and the Space Needle can be viewed from the comfort of your own kayak on Lake Union.

Nice views of Downtown Seattle and the Space Needle can be viewed from the comfort of your own kayak on Lake Union.

Northwest Outdoor Center

This company offers single, double, or triple kayaks and paddleboards and is located on the western side of Lake Union, meaning you need to travel less distance than you do if you rent from Agua Verde (see map below). However, unlike Agua Verde, they do suggest making reservations and will require an extra $10 per item deposit for groups over 6. No need to worry if you are beginner, though. The center offers classes, which range from basic strokes to learning how to eskimo roll. They are also open year-round, which is a bonus if you’re crazy and want to be on the lake in the winter.

Moss Bay

In the south part of Lake Union, you’ll find Moss Bay, which provides single or double kayaks and paddle boards for rent. The waterway around the business has a 7-knot speed limit making it safe to paddle in case you’re worried about the boats. Moss Bay also offers tours that include a lesson (total time 3 hours) and will take you past all the great sites. They are open April - October.

Set Sail

Lake Union is a fairly small lake and easy to navigate (you are basically looking at one giant circle), and because of its location north of downtown, you get pretty epic views of our gorgeous skyline. The lake is also home to Kenmore Air, a seaplane operation that has been in business since 1946. From your vantage point on the lake, you can see the planes coming and going directly overhead and if you’re wondering, yes, it absolutely is an instagram-worthy event!

Kenmore Air seaplane comes in for a landing on Lake Union.

Kenmore Air seaplane comes in for a landing on Lake Union.

On the north end of the lake sits the famous Gasworks Park, a 19 acre park that you’ll recognize by the giant defunct (yet cool looking) gasification plant. You aren’t able to dock at the park and get out of your rental, but it’s definitely worth a paddle-by. There is always something new and unsual going on at the park from weddings to Irish step dancers, to nudist bike riders, to art installations. Seriously, we’re never sure exactly what we’ll see so check it out and report back.

Gasworks Park in Seattle is one of the best lake front parks and people flock to it to fly kites, sun tan, and play games. The old gas plant gives it unique character too!

Gasworks Park in Seattle is one of the best lake front parks and people flock to it to fly kites, sun tan, and play games. The old gas plant gives it unique character too!

Sleepless in Seattle IS the best Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan film. Don’t argue with us. Tom Hanks actually filmed in Seattle for the movie, and there are many spots around town that you can visit from the film’s scenes. One of those spots is the Baldwin house boat (Tom Hanks’ Seattle home in the film), which still sits on Lake Union and looks exactly the same! Head to the houseboat on the west side of the lake and see if you can find it. And while we’re on the subject of houseboats, Seattle has the coolest ones around. They line the lake on both sides and are beautiful and interesting and worth checking out and then discussing what you would do if you owned one (for us, it would be paddle board right off our deck every morning before the day started).

Tom Hanks' houseboat from Sleepless in Seattle is still perfectly the same!

Tom Hanks' houseboat from Sleepless in Seattle is still perfectly the same!

Grab a Bite!

Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, it’s time to stop for a bite. We have two favorites that have a dock where you can park your equipment. This is a great way to rest for a bit and fuel up for the equipment return trip.

100 LB Clam is exactly what you want in warm weather dining. It has outdoor-only seating with a walk-up window for ordering food. You’ll find a rotating menu, but you can be guaranteed that it will have delicious seafood combos and cold beer on draft. We highly recommend the Poutine O’ the Sea (clams! bacon! chowder!) or the fishwish BLT. Wash it all down with a microbrew or, our pick, a Rainier tallboy (your classic Seattle beer since 1887). They are open 11:30am - 3pm in the summer only. If you are outside of this window or you prefer indoor seating, head into the White Swan next door. It’s run by the same owner and also has an incredible menu (with a few of the same items like the poutine!) and a great happy hour.

Ivar’s Salmon House is another great lake option with a large outdoor seating area (and inside seating too). The restaurant is a Seattle staple and has been serving customers since 1938. The restaurant sits right on the lake, so you won’t miss a second of the boat action. You’ll find the freshest seasonal seafood on their menu, and you definitely can’t go wrong with a bowl of their famous clam chowder...even if it IS in the middle of summer.

A bowl of chowder at Ivar's is great year-round, a Seattle classic!

A bowl of chowder at Ivar's is great year-round, a Seattle classic!

Check out our inclusive map to get your bearings on our recommendations.

Map of Kayak Tour Lake Union Seattle

We can't wait to hear how you like it! Comment with your thoughts and/or questions below.