5 Things You Should Know About West Seattle
Seattle is a city of neighborhoods, with each having its own personality and ardent fans. West Seattle is one such district that has all the amenities for comfortable urban living: great parks, bustling shops, and quiet residential streets. Read on for a rundown on the area and what makes it distinctly West Seattle.
1. A Neighborhood of Micro-Neighborhoods
West Seattle encompasses the whole peninsula located southwest of downtown Seattle. It is bordered by Puget Sound to the north and west and by the Duwamish River on the east. Accessing the area from downtown is a matter of hopping on the West Seattle Bridge and driving over the Duwamish Waterway.
While West Seattle is a much-loved place to call home, it’s such a large area that it isn’t so much of a neighborhood as it is a district of smaller neighborhoods. Newcomers may find this confusing since Seattle’s neighborhood boundaries are often unofficial and loosely defined. Areas get popular through grassroots efforts from residents and business owners who take pride in their neighborhood, as opposed to territories drawn by city government. Some of the micro-neighborhoods of West Seattle include North Admiral, Fauntleroy, and Delridge.
2. Where it All Started
When settlers first arrived in the Puget Sound region in 1851, they landed on West Seattle’s Alki Beach. The Denny Party had grand visions for this place, hoping it would someday become the New York of the West. They called it “New York Alki” – Alki being the Chinook word for “by and by”. But beach weather can be harsh during the winter, and when the women of the party arrived on Alki they were said to have sat down on a log and cried!
The settlement was quickly moved inland to present day Pioneer Square, but West Seattle eventually grew and became annexed to Seattle in 1907. To this day, some residents still resent being affiliated with Seattle and have threatened to secede as recently as the 1990s! Today, Alki is known for its sandy beach where rollerblading, sun tanning, and people watching is highly recommended. But if you look closely, there is a pylon on the beach marking where the Denny Party first landed.
3. Boatloads of Boats
Life’s a beach, go sailing! The Washington State Department of Transportation operates a ferry terminal in West Seattle’s Fauntleroy neighborhood. Plan a day trip and hop on a ferry traveling to Vashon Island or Southworth. Commuting downtown? Shun driving and take a 10 to 15 minute ride on the King County Water Taxi from West Seattle’s Seacrest Dock.
4. Where Locals Go for Everything
West Seattle may seem slightly removed from the city, but that’s just part of the appeal for residents. All the amenities are here, yet it’s extremely livable with a “small town vibe”. (Think bustle, not as much hustle.) Besides Alki Beach (see above), check out these other West Seattle hotspots:
- Lincoln Park – This park is huge at 135.4 acres. Here you’ll find picnic sites, a boat launch, an outdoor pool, soccer and baseball fields, hiking trails, and even a horseshoe pit.
- The Junction – The crossing of California Avenue and Alaska Street is the intersection where two streetcar lines met in 1907. Today, the streetcars are gone but now the Junction is an all-way crosswalk with coffee shops, bakeries, restaurants, bars, a farmers market, and shopping that keeps the area buzzing.
- Westwood Village Shopping Center – This outdoor shopping center is your one-stop shop for national chains – Target, 24 Hour Fitness, Marshalls, and more.
5. Famous Residents
A handful of celebrities are known to call West Seattle home. Here’s the short list of famous residents, past and current:
- Eddie Vedder, noted rock star from the band Pearl Jam
- Frances Farmer, successful Hollywood actress in the 1930s
- Dyan Cannon, television and film actress active since the 1960s
- Art Wolfe, internationally known wildlife photographer and conservationist
- Ivar Haglund, folk singer and founder of local seafood restaurant chain Ivar’s
Whether you’re new to Seattle or a longtime Seattleite looking to put down new roots, West Seattle has much to offer in urban comfort and livability thanks to its beach access, active shopping districts, fantastic parks, and much more.
Featured Photo: View of West Seattle looking east and slightly north. Alki Point is in the foreground and downtown Seattle is in the background. Ships are seen traversing Elliott Bay midground. Photo credit Michael Brophy.