There’s no place like home: A great summer vacation is right here

There’s no place like home: A great summer vacation is right here
By mattc

By Connie McDougall

Gasoline can cost more than a barista-babied cup of coffee. There’s yet another contagious COVID-19 variant lurking about. And, between mask options and rising ticket prices, air travel remains something of a crapshoot.

Time for a staycation!

That doesn’t mean staring at the same four walls. Indeed, stare at new walls by spending a few days in a Seattle-area vacation rental through Airbnb or Vrbo. Booking in the summer may be a challenge but try to snag some of the unique offerings including houseboats, sailboats, treehouses, and homes with pools or hot tubs. Try a tiny house, mansion, garden retreat, or a sophisticated city condo.

While you’re playing tourist, go all out and buy a CityPass. The company claims to save 44% over individual entry fees, and you get to choose five attractions from their offerings, which include visiting the newly renovated Space Needle, with its vertiginous, revolving glass floor, and exploring Chihuly Garden and Glass or the MoPOP (Museum of Pop Culture). Other destinations include the Woodland Park Zoo, an Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour, and the Seattle Aquarium.

A Seattle Aquarium beach naturalist talks to kids about marine life during a super low-tide.A Seattle Aquarium beach naturalist talks to kids about marine life during a super low-tide. Photo courtesy of the Seattle Aquarium.

Here’s an aquarium-sponsored freebie: During super low-tides this summer, Seattle Aquarium naturalists will be on hand at area beaches to reveal the mysteries of marine life (for example, you can find out why barnacles stand on their heads and what sea stars like for lunch). Golden Gardens Park, Carkeek Park Beach, and Richmond Beach Saltwater Park take part in the program, as well as many others. Explore the Seattle Aquarium Beach Naturalist Program for a list of all locations, a low-tide schedule, and a downloadable beach field guide.

While beachcombing at any time, be mindful of tidepool etiquette and make sure kids understand the delicate nature of beach inhabitants: Don’t pick up critters, but if you touch them, be gentle, using a single wet finger. Also, let the dogs nap at home; they aren’t allowed on public beaches.

Super low tides also make for good hiking. Try the beach walk from Golden Gardens Park to Carkeek Park and back.

Kayak on Lake Union with the Space Needle in the distance

Summer and water sports go hand-in-hand around here. For a one-of-a-kind adventure, take a tour with Ballard Kayak & Paddleboard. Located at the north end of Shilshole Bay Marina, the company offers a variety of guided kayak tours. Paddle from Shilshole to the Ballard Locks and sit with the big boats as water rises to meet the Ship Canal.

Another tour heads south to Discovery Point, which includes a beach landing and lunch. Touring Puget Sound at water level makes for a special outing. There’s also a casual paddle called Sunset on the Sound to observe the ebbing of a summer day. All the tours put you up close with marine life, including seals, sea lions, herons, and more.

But perhaps you prefer inland waters. Try a place you’ve probably walked by dozens of times: the Green Lake Boathouse on the east side of the lake near the community center. It offers paddleboards, pedal boats, kayaks, and, for those with experience, sailboats. Go old school and just rent a rowboat, noting that the Boathouse has a “happy hour” before noon with boats going for just $16 an hour.

A heron in Greenlake (left) and a mosaic column in the 6th Avenue NW Pocket Park (right).Boating on Green Lake offers lots of wildlife viewing like this heroic heron (left). Outdoor art is abundant in Seattle parks, like mosaic columns at the 6th Avenue NW Pocket Park (right). Photos: Connie McDougall

Finally, after so much activity, consider restful visits to our many neighborhood parks that you may not know about. Spectacular Marshall Park (1191 7th Ave. W) on Queen Anne offers a stunning panorama of Puget Sound and the Olympics. Fremont Peak Park (4357 Palatine Ave. N) is a half-acre bluff overlooking the Sound and Olympics, and features sculptures that mark the solstices and equinoxes.

The 6th Ave NW Pocket Park (606 NW 76th St.) is a kid’s dream-come-true with all manner of toys scattered about, including dump trucks and mini-slides. Grown-ups will admire the pillars, mosaics, and gateway designed by Northwest artist Alden Mason.

In these uncertain times, staying put can often be more relaxing, and even enlightening, than the expense and effort of a traditional vacation. As Dorothy observed so many years ago, there’s no place like home, especially when you see the familiar with fresh eyes.