Alki: The Start of Something Great

Welcome! I’m your guide as we explore the different neighborhoods that make up the Pacific Northwest. We’ll discover hidden gems and I’ll introduce you to the people that live here. Every month I’ll showcase a different neighborhood. For my first article I symbolically chose to write about the place where Seattle also received its start – Alki.

In the fall of 1851 a group of settlers known as the Denny Party made their way to the Puget Sound. They staked their claim on Alki Point. Within a year it was decided that the area now known as Pioneer Square would work better as a port, and to make a long story short, the rest is history.

Many of our familiar street names (that we have no choice but to stare at while stuck in traffic) have come from the names of those in the Denny Party: Boren, Bell and of course, Denny.

Since 1851 West Seattle has developed into a unique neighborhood. The difference primarily comes from the physical separation from the rest of the city. In fact, ideas of seceding are never far from the conversation, especially during a voting season. For locals, this separation and small town feel is a favorite aspect of living in West Seattle; it’s the best of both worlds.

For me, West Seattle is like a second home. As a teenager I’d often take the bus from North Seattle to West Seattle and visit family. I’d take one bus downtown, transfer, and end up in the Junction. I’d catch glimpses of the quintessential Seattle views while riding into downtown on I-5, then onto the Viaduct and over the West Seattle Bridge. In a time when my peers and I weren’t old enough to drive, I felt like a lone adventurer stepping outside of my comfortable suburb and into a secret place.

At times getting in or out of West Seattle is inconvenient, to say the least, but once you are there the views of the Seattle skyline, Mt. Rainier, and the Sound are your reward for making the journey.

Public access to the waterfront within Seattle city limits can be hard to find. Bucking that trend, West Seattle provides ample waterfront for everyone enjoy:

Jack Block Park

If you take the Harbor Ave exit from the West Seattle bridge, as though you’re driving to Alki Beach, don’t blink or you might miss the entrance to Jack Block Park. No doubt this is why it’s one of Seattle’s best unknown parks. Jack Block Park is a park for the imaginative. There’s no obvious play structures, only giant boat cleats. The park offers a winding path with a different view of the skyline at each turn. This time of year offers a bonus in the colorful fall foliage on full display. The winding path eventually leads to a little beach where kayakers can shove off of the shore and where kids can skip rocks, all with fantastic views of the city.

Alki + Pepperdock

Some people like to say Alki is Seattle’s version of Southern California. For anyone that has actually been to a sandy beach, you will know the difference. Even so, it’s still great to visit in the summer, that is, if you find parking. My favorite time of year to visit Alki is during the fall and winter. There’s something calming about the moody clouds and being surrounded by grey, plus all the tourists are gone. It’s the perfect time to enjoy a walk along the beach and perhaps stop into one of the joints along the strip. For my most recent visit I hit up Pepperdock Restaurant. It’s a local’s burger joint that also serves fish and chips. It has an interior that feels as if it’s accidentally decorated as an old country parlor, it’s actually kind of quaint. The burger I had was decent, but I had more fun feeding my fries to the seagulls rather than eating them.

Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook

One of my favorite spots in all of Seattle. Emma Schmitz Overlook is more of a locals spot. Where Alki is the main attraction, this viewpoint is mostly surrounded by homes and condos. This west-facing outlook is the best place in Seattle to end a day with a sunset.

Through the eyes of a seven year old girl, West Seattle was special. Over the years it’s remained a place that captivates my intrigue, sense of adventure, and my heart. No doubt it has changed, but ultimately our memories define what makes our city what it is, more so than the buildings.