So you’ve done our 100 Things to Do around Seattle and perhaps you’ve even checked off every must-do with visiting grandparents. If you’re jonesing for a new type of excursion, or you’ve got visitors who can’t wait to get the nitty gritty on what the Emerald City has to offer, check out our list of Seattle hidden gems that only those in-the-know are privy to—some spots are so secret you might not even know they existed!
E. Highland & Harrison St. Beaches
Did you know our area has over 200 miles of shoreline? When that sun comes out, locals love nothing more than to bask in the brightness at their favorite community beach. This also means some get downright crowded. But, lucky for us, there are still some hidden beach treasures out there where you can avoid the bustle. Two secret beaches to put on your radar? One is at E. Highland Dr. and 42nd Ave. East, north of the Seattle Tennis Club, and the other is a little further south, above Denny Blaine Park, on 39th Ave. E. and E. Harrison St. These low-key, community-improved public beaches sit at the edge of Lake Washington and offer beautiful views and a serene place to take in the lake life. East Highland secret beach has a pebble beach, log seating and lots of trees for shade (plus a couple of parking spots). The Harrison Street beach offers a sand beach, plus a place to wade, have a picnic or watch the sun go down. For more covert street-end beaches to explore, check out this interactive map here. There are actually around 150 secret beaches just waiting to be discovered! Highland Beach E. Highland Dr. & 42nd Ave E. Seattle, WA Harrison Beach E. Harrison St. & 39th Ave. E. Seattle, WA Online: seattle.gov
The Alligator Tree
Well, if this local spot doesn’t sound intriguing, we don’t know what does! Schmitz Park Preserve is a quaint, just over 50-acre park located in West Seattle that offers an old growth forest filled with walking paths, hiking and nature galore. Sure, it sounds like many of the parks in our area, but the hidden gem in this preserve is the Alligator Tree—a fallen tree cut and painted to resemble a huge, you guessed it, alligator! It’s perfect for a photo op (stick that head inside like Captain Hook!)
5515 S.W. Admiral Way
Georgetown Trailer Park Mall
This artistic little shopping area is something you won’t want to pass by. Built in 2010 and nestled among the industrial atmosphere of Georgetown, this teeny retail oasis is home to vintage travel trailers that house independent shops filled with local artsy items. Here you'll find eclectic goodies such as planters, jewelry, ceramics, art, vintage clothing, vinyl records and home decor. And come hungry! The super scrumptious Lowrider Baking Company has mouth-watering homemade cookies for purchase. The Trailer Park Mall is a peculiar, yet totally adorable, spot you’ll be glad you stumbled upon.
Hours: Open Sat. 11 a.m.- 6 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
5805 Airport Way S.
The Shakespeare Garden
This place is downright poetic. This darling garden, located in front of the Fine Arts Building at Seattle University, is a living tribute to the many references made to herbs, flowers and plants within Shakespeare’s most famous works. Swing by to see the beauty of lavender, rosemary, thyme, roses and lilies when they're in bloom. It's the perfect secret garden to take in some rays and the words of the Bard, where we know parting will be such sweet sorrow.
901 12th Ave.
Montlake Spite House
Have you ever heard of a "spite house?" This quirky term refers to a home that is constructed for the sole purpose of irritating one’s neighbors. And guess who has one? Yep, Seattle has its very own—the Montlake Spite House. Built in 1925, this odd, tiny home is shaped like a pie. The front is about 15-feet wide and it tapers to a mere 55 inches in the back! While we know when it was built, the story behind its construction varies. One local legend says that the landowner built it after being insulted by a low ball offer for his land from his next door neighbor. But it’s also been circulated that it was built by a vengeful divorcee who was awarded the small front yard of the home she once shared with her ex. Story has it she built a house on her tiny parcel out of, you called it, spite. Plan a visit to check out this skinny, iconic domicile for yourself.
2022 24th Ave. E.
Wedgwood Duck House
This hidden gem will quack you up! Head to the Wedgwood neighborhood to visit the abode locally known as the Wedgwood Duck House. Approximately every month, the owners of the house, Robert and LaFaye, arrange rubber duckies in the most elaborate formations in their yard. The kiddos will surely get a chick...errr...kick out of their fabulous designs. What started as one lone duck Easter decoration has now hatched into more than a thousand duck donations from all over the world that this imaginative couple uses to build the most creative designs. Psst…while you’re in the area, you might as well stop by the Wedgwood Rock, too. It is a 19-foot, 700-ton, 14,000-year-old gneiss rock in Ravenna that was left over by glacial drift during the last ice age. Go check that huge sucker out, and have a picnic while you’re there, too!
Wedgwood Duck House
West of 35th at 82nd St.
7200 28th Ave. N.E. (at the intersection of N.E. 72nd St.)
West Seattle Bee Garden
Another West Seattle hidden gem! Located in the High Point neighborhood, inside the Commons Park P-Patch, make a beeline to the West Seattle Bee Garden, an educational spot where you can have a close encounter with your favorite honey makers. The bees are viewed in their natural habitat from behind clear plexiglass walls of an adorable enclosure. Take a self-guided tour of the garden, and don’t forget to read the posted signs to learn a few new tidbits about these little stingers while you are there.
3201 S.W. Graham St.
Fourth & Madison Building
This 40-story building in the middle of downtown Seattle hardly seems to be a 'hidden' towny treasure, but it’s the seventh floor rooftop that sets this building apart from the surrounding high rises. On this clandestine rooftop sits a secret public garden! This low-key, yet lush retreat is perfect for checking out the views of downtown and taking a gander at Puget Sound. If you and your fam are in the area, it’s a great insider spot to relax and soak in the jewels of the city.
925 Fourth Ave.
Orient Express Restaurant
Ah, just when you thought the days of traveling by train and eating in a dining car have been rendered archaic, in comes a little-known Seattle fave you and your little engineers will go loco-motive over. Located just south of downtown is the Orient Express Restaurant. This unique eatery is housed in seven railroad cars, including one car that was the private travel car of President Franklin D. Roosevelt during his presidential campaign of 1944. OG fixtures, décor and photographs still fill the restaurant, so it provides a fun slice of history as well. The cuisine certainly adds to the unusual charm, too. They serve up Chinese and Thai dishes, because what else would you serve in an old-timey train car? It’s definitely a legit Seattle original.
2963 4th Ave. S.
Edith Macefield House
Fondly known as the Up house, the Edith Macefield House in Ballard has quite the legendary story. Homeowner Edith Macefield, who was already in her 80s, refused to sell her farmhouse when commercial developers where building up the area. They wanted to buy her land, but spunky ole Edith refused the hefty million-dollar offer. She has since passed, but the house remains. Her whimsical, 100-year-old home still sits wedged between the looming, modern buildings that were built around her. When you visit this amazing piece of Seattle nostalgia, bring a balloon. Many people leave them on the fence in honor of the Pixar film.
1438 N.W. 46th St.
Ballard Corners Park
You could come to Ballard Corners Park for the walking path, the abstract jungle gym, the rain garden or the interpretive park entryway, but the real funky jewel of this pocket park is the stone living room. Built as an homage to a corner book store, this concrete couch and loveseat set is perfect for the kiddos to climb all over and it looks super cute to boot. Bet you never knew you would be encouraging your Littles to jump on the furniture, did you?
1702 N.W. 62nd St.