Best of Seattle: Out & About Winners

As chosen by our readers.

Best City Tour
Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour
Before 1889, downtown Seattle toilets would un-flush themselves at high tide. But then the Great Fire burned us to the ground, and in a moment of uncommon sense the city decided to rebuild 1) with non-flammable materials and 2) one or two stories higher. During the building, drunks would occasionally plummet off the sides of roads, and afterward the abandoned underground became a den of iniquity. Catch the whole sordid history at Bill Speidel’s 75-minute Underground Tour, which literally walks you through the ruins beneath the Emerald City ($19 for adults, $9 for children). 608 First Ave., 682-4646,
Runner-Up: Ride the Ducks

Best Neighborhood
Capitol Hill
Read about the new Hill and the old Hill and where the twain meet here.
Runner-Up: West Seattle

Best Bus Line
C Line
Let’s be honest: The trip from West Seattle to downtown, and vice versa, can be a nightmare. Compared to driving solo, the C Line is a dream, delivering commuters from Westwood Village to Virginia Street in under 40 minutes. Sure, that’s still a hell of a long time, but it comes with a wonderful hands-free view of the skyline and free wi-fi to boot.
Runner-Up: The 49

Best Building
The 12th Avenue Arts Building
Read about how 12th Ave. Arts has brought affordable housing to Capitol Hill here.
Runner-Up: Chophouse Row

Best Bicycle Shop
Gregg’s Cycle
In 5,000 B.C., Mesopotamians invented the wheel. In 1905, Paul de Vivie invented the first derailleur. And in 1932, Gregg’s Cycles opened in Greenlake. That’s about all the history any Seattle cycling enthusiast needs to know. Gregg’s has stood as a cornerstone of the community since those prewar days, the knowledgeable staff offering tips on trails and technology as interest in biking has ebbed and flowed and, most recently, exploded. 7007 Woodlawn Ave. N.E., 523-1822; 105 Bellevue Way N.E., Bellevue, 425-462-1900,
Runner-Up: Recycled Cycles

Best Bike Trail
The Burke-Gilman Trail
Was there ever any doubt? The Burke-Gilman, which leads to the Sammamish Trail and several connecting arteries, is the gray-bearded great-granddaddy of our urban rails-to-trails movement. Established in sections—though still not complete at Ballard’s notorious and much-litigated “Missing Link”—beginning in 1978, the BGT stretches some 20 miles from Golden Gardens to Bothell. Not just cyclists, but walkers, runners, roller-skaters, baby-carriage pushers, and even cross-country skiers (during a good winter) make use of it. A recent UW study estimated that about 1,500 users (of all stripes) pass campus on the BGT each afternoon; on a summer weekend, the numbers are surely higher. Some may complain about tree roots or stop signs facing the wrong way, but the glorious new Rainier Vista underpass (near Husky Stadium) shows the future of what a better-funded BGT could be in the future.
Runner-Up: Lake Washington Loop

Best Park
Discovery Park
Don’t go to Discovery Park. Seriously—it’s not worth the winding drive through Magnolia on a rainy day, where the 538 acres of arrowhead-shaped land juts out into the Sound. It’s not worth wandering the myriad of footpaths through the shady forest, over sloping hills, through abandoned vintage military barracks. All paths seem to wind up, eventually, in a grand golden meadow. Don’t bother plucking a dewy stalk of grass to put in your mouth as you twirl through the wildflowers, feeling like Holden Caulfield as you reach an abrupt precipice—a bluff that looks out over the expanse of the Sound. Below is a beach. You shouldn’t take off your shoes to feel the cold sand, nor should you stand amid the driftwood, pristine Mount Rainier to your left, an idyllic white lighthouse to your right, the salty tide calmly receding before you. For a brief moment your skin is warm, and when the sun drifts back behind the clouds, you realize there’s almost no one here—a far cry from Golden Gardens just around the corner. Shhh, says the sea. Don’t tell a soul. 3801 Discovery Park Blvd., 386-4236
Runner-Up: Green Lake Park

Best Beach
Alki Beach
Shaped like a boomerang, Alki Beach is situated on the northern tip of West Seattle. On a clear day, downtown looks swimmably close. Ferries arrive and depart. And all is well. But Alki takes on a different, more alluring vibe as night falls. Veiled in darkness, groups of beachcombers wander the shoreline. Music blasts from the subwoofers of cars cruising through. Couples neck. A bulldog rides a skateboard. And across the harbor, the city is still there: brighter now, reflecting on the water, twinkling mischievously. 1702 Alki Ave. S., 684-4075
Runner-Up: Golden Gardens

Best Swimming Spot
Madison Park Beach
If ever there were an antidote for the Seattle Freeze, this is it. On hot days, beachgoers can’t help but buddy up on the lush grass lawn between dips in Lake Washington. Conversations happen as naturally as a shared love of this mid-city gem. Sunny weather, friendly strangers. Are we even talking about Seattle here? 7796 43rd Ave. E., 684-4075
Runner-Up: T-Dock at Lake Washington

Best Ski Area
Crystal Mountain Resort
El Niño notwithstanding, when there’s a winter—if there’s a winter—Crystal Mountain is the best place to lug your skis or snowboard. The drive is usually about two hours southeast of Seattle, and the Mount Rainier views are unsurpassed from the 6,872-foot top of the gondola (and restaurant). Almost all the chairlifts are now high-speed detachable models; and the avalanche-destroyed High Campbell lift has been rebuilt—even if it saw little use during last winter’s non-winter. Crystal’s terrain is the real selling point: nicely groomed for families on the lower slopes; plenty of expert couloirs and powder stashes for those willing to hike (or skin) into the north or south back country. And an extra bit of good news: The six-mile cutoff road from 410 is being repaved this summer, meaning no more bone-rattling potholes. 360-663-2265,
Runner-Up: Stevens Pass

Best Hiking Trail
Rattlesnake Ledge
With a trailhead less than an hour’s drive away via roads that wouldn’t challenge even the meekest Zipcar, Rattlesnake Ledge reminds Seattle how close to the wild it truly is. With that proximity comes congestion—the parking lot regularly overflows onto the road, and the trail itself gets clogged with sprawling mobs of hikers sporting their latest REI purchases. However, whatever urban annoyances follow the crowds are put out of mind upon reaching the craggy bluff overlooking the amazingly pristine Cedar River drainage. It’s here that one realizes this is no Disneyland nature walk but the Cascades in their sheerest form—as the occasional hiker falling to their death from the cliffs there attests.
Runner-Up: Mount Si

Best Outdoor Store
In many ways, REI has served as a microcosm of the city it was founded in. Like Seattle, the outdoors-gear cooperative developed an identity in the first half of the 20th century marked by quiet Scandinavian socialism. But also like Seattle, REI wasn’t content to remain some provincial outpost in the Pacific Northwest. As it grew it earned hordes of new members, with an undercurrent of unease from those who knew it when. Back in 1996, upon the opening of its flashy new flagship store on Yale, The New York Times’ resident Seattleite Timothy Egan published a piece titled “A Hiker’s Paradise Lost?” Our own archives show similar doubts were being expressed about Seattle in general. But neither REI nor Seattle ever really paused to consider the haters. REI now claims to be the largest consumer cooperative in the country. It has 140 stores—nearly quadruple the 40 Egan counted when he documented customers’ concerns. And its corporate suite is now one step away from the president’s cabinet, as the appointment of former CEO Sally Jewel as Secretary of the Interior displays. If anything, it’s remarkable how much remains right about REI in light of all the growth. That too could be said about Seattle. 222 Yale Ave. N., 223-1944,
Runner-Up: Second Ascent Outdoor Gear and Apparel

Best Camera Shop
Glazer’s Camera
A city as transcendent as Seattle demands to be captured in a picture. The late Ed Glazer couldn’t possibly take credit for the city’s vistas, but he can be credited with providing photographers, amateur and professional, with the tools and know-how to do them justice. Since opening as a small shop in 1935, Glazer’s has provided the latest in photo technology, equipment rental, and classes for a clientele that has included Art Wolfe, Mary Ellen Mark, Graham Nash, and Randy Johnson. And through scholarships for Seattle Central Creative Academy, it assures a bright future of brilliant photography. 433 Eighth Ave. N., 624-1100,
Runner-Up: Rare Medium

Best Flower Shop
Pike Place Flowers
If you’re ever feeling blue, head down to Pike Place Flowers, where you can admire just about every other color under the sun. Gazing at the shop’s wares is like seeing candy blooming right before your eyes. Flower after flower with thick, luscious stems, grown by local farmers, seem to pour out of the market’s little nook shop. There it feels like you’re in the early 20th century, America beginning to boom, as you pick up a bouquet for a loved one. Pike Place Market, 1501 First Ave., 682-9797,
Runner-Up: Ballard Blossom

Best Toy Store
Archie McPhee
More a novelty shop than a traditional toy store, Archie McPhee is still jam packed with fun, no matter your age. Some of the tamer finds include Handerpants (underpants for your hands), unicorn masks, and bacon-flavored toothpaste. 1300 N. 45th St., 297-0240,
Runner-Up: Top Ten Toys

Best Furniture Store
Area 51
It is plenty satisfying to peer into the windows of this Capitol Hill furniture shop to gawk at some beautiful mid-century modern teal leather sofa that, let’s be honest, you probably can’t afford. But to really appreciate this shrine to stunning home decor, you’ve got to go all the way in. There you’ll likely find things you never knew you truly, deeply desired—like a foosball table crafted from reclaimed wood, cast iron, and stone; a spherical end table carved from teak root; or maybe a stool made of twigs. 401 E. Pine St., 568-4782,
Runner-Up: Ballard Consignment

Best Clothing Re-Sale
Lifelong Thrift Store
In the Emerald City we take our thrifting seriously (right, Wans???) and this Capitol Hill shop has taken our admiration even further, because for every gently used pair of boots or pearl inlay button-up you buy, LTS donates cold hard cash to pay for food, housing and health care to people living with illnesses like HIV/AIDS. (Side note: check out Lifelong’s annual bingo nights! They’re kitsch fun and you are likely to hear someone call out “O-69!”) 312 Broadway E., 329-5792
Runner-Up: Buffalo Exchange

Best Women’s Boutique
Pretty Parlor
Parasols and petticoats hang from what looks like the inside of Audrey Hepburn’s closet. Vincent, the friendly in-store cat, lounges between racks of clothing from Grandma and Grandpa’s attics, estate sales, and local designers. Owner Anna Banana, whose pink hair matches the walls, handpicks the attire for her store—creating a reliant source for vintage clothing unlike the hit-and-miss of thrift stores (with no musty used-clothing smell either). Plus Goodwills don’t have a cuddly gray cat to pet between trips to the dressing room. 119 Summit Ave. E, 405-2883,
Runner-Up: Totokaelo

Best Men’s Boutique
Born of the Alaska gold rush, C.C. Filson’s Pioneer Alaska Clothing and Blanket Manufacturers—as the company was then called—aimed to outfit those in search of fortune with durables that could weather the difficult Northwest winters. Today’s fortune-hunters are perhaps more coddled than their forebears, but the clothing manufactured and sold by Filson, made from heavyweight Tin Cloth and warm Mackinaw wool, is still just as durable. 1555 Fourth Ave. S., 622-3147,
Runner-Up: Blackbird

Best Tattoo Shop
Slave to the Needle
Walking into either of Slave to the Needle’s two Seattle shops will put anyone looking for some new ink at ease. The space is as artful as its many artists, who are led by Aaron Bell, an old Orange County punk who found his way to Seattle, where he opened the Ballard location in 1995. (A Wallingford locale was added in 2005.) The shop will do whatever you like, but specializes in large-scale custom work, 20 pieces of which will be on display at Axis Gallery in Pioneer Square this month to celebrate Slave’s 20th anniversary (the opening reception is Thurs., Aug. 6, 5–9 p.m.). 403 N.E. 45th St., 545-3685; 508 N.W. 65th St., 789-2618,
Runner-Up: Valentine’s Tattoo Co.

Best Eyewear
Eyes on Fremont
Sure, you could order your frames off the Internet, but where’s the fun in that? At Eyes on Fremont, the personable staff works with you to find the perfect frames, selecting from a collection that comes directly from international designers; then they might snap a photo of you and put it on their blog, where they will publicly shower you with flattery. And then they might invite you to a eyebrow-shaping event that benefits a homeless shelter. The Internet cannot do that. 4254 Fremont Ave. N., 634-3375,
Runner-Up: Broadway Vision

Best Barbershop
Where else can you sit and get a haircut or a dye job and look at naked lady pictures on the walls between giant mirrors? Or a picture of Roger—the leather-jacketed, coiffed ruffian from Nickelodeon’s Doug cartoon—with “Macklemore?” written below it? Rudy’s, which has a shop in seemingly every neighborhood, is essential to the lifeblood of Seattle and its subtly stylish citizens. Multiple locations,
Runner-Up: Vain

Best Hair Salon
When Victoria Ptak founded Vain in 1996, the idea that a salon could eschew mainstream ideas of beauty and promote a do-it-yourself approach to personal style was novel. Since then, its cutting-edge approach has been copied but never replicated, as Seattleites still count on the stylists at Vain’s original Belltown location and Ballard and West Seattle outposts to help them identify what they already know they really want. 2018 First Ave., 441-3441; 5401 Ballard Ave. N.W., 706-2707; 4513 California Ave. S.W., 535-2595,
Runner-Up: Bang

Best Nail Salon
Penelope and the Beauty Bar
To be fair, nails are just one among a plethora of treatments available at Penelope and the Beauty Bar, located inside the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in downtown Seattle. You can get European facials, non-surgical facelifts, body wraps, body scrubs, body toning, cranial sacral therapy, hair, makeup, eyelash extensions, waxing, sugaring, and, if you still have the energy, yes, you can get your nails done. 411 University St., 438-1750,

Runner-Up: Hoa Salon
Best Massage
Sorry, guys, but the massages at Hothouse are for women only. Which is too bad for you, because this place is relaxing enough that just walking in will loosen your knots. Whether looking for a full-body massage or help with a nagging problem area, the massage-seeker will find what she’s looking for in the hands of the five staff practitioners who utilize Swedish, hot stone, trigger point, and myriad other practices. 1019 E. Pike St., 568-3240,
Runner-Up: Penelope and the Beauty Bar

Best Yoga Studio
8 Limbs
Inclusivity is the driving force behind 8 Limbs, which in its 20 years has grown from a modest Capitol Hill studio to a growing yoga empire that invites neophytes and longtime yogis alike to four different locations. Marrying practical advice with spiritual guidance and a fervent dislike for any kind of dogma, the collection of studios are open enough to be inviting and, once you’re there, to allow you to grow. 500 E. Pike St., 325-8221; 6801 Greenwood Ave. N., 432-9609; 7345 35th Ave. N.E., 523-9722; 4546½ California Ave. S.W., 933-9642,
Runner-Up: Seattle Yoga Arts

Best Crossfit
Stone Way Crossfit
Over the past six years, Stone Way Crossfit has carved itself a sizable niche in Seattle’s crowded crossfit scene by focusing on community-building with its members. Class sizes are limited to 12 to assure more one-on-one time with coaches, and a leave-no-one-behind mentality means that all athletes stay in the box until the last is finished. As a result, many consider the place a second home. Oh, and they get super-ripped too. 2 Dravus St., 930-7169,
Runner-Up: Northwest Crossfit

Best Gym
Evolv Fitness
Variety is the name of the game at Evolv Fitness, which offers 12 very different classes. Also, it should be noted, the South Lake Union gym has a way with words. The classes that take place in the Brawl Room are focused on “combat-based training,” with inspiring monikers like Clash, Jolt, Spar, and Sprawl. The Velocity Room might have less combat, but the workouts are no less intense, bearing names like Hardcore, Shock, and Chaos. Chaos, though, is the last thing you will find at this premier gym, where the instructors are knowledgeable and supportive. 1317 Republican St., 294-5884,
Runner-Up: YMCA

Best Race
Rock ’N’ Roll Marathon
In most any other category, readers would be loath to give a Best of Seattle award to a national chain. But there are many reasons to love the Rock ’N’ Roll Marathon, which is put on by San Diego-based Competitors Group Inc. and features bands and cheerleaders along the course to stoke runners. But we’d suggest that one word sums up why the event’s such a hit in Seattle: June, the month it’s held. For reasons unfathomable, the Seattle Marathon takes place in late November, when cold, viscous rain dissuades one from walking half a block for coffee, let alone running 26.2 miles. June is much better. June 18, 2016,
Runner-Up: Dead Baby Downhill

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