Lake Union: Seattle's Water-Loving Neighborhood

In this corner of Seattle, you'll find dragon boats, historic ships, and kayaks.

Seattle skyline from the water, picture
Seattle Washington City Skyline from Lake Union.
JPL Designs / Shutterstock

What to do in the Emerald City after you’ve zoomed up the Space Needle and been serenaded by Pike Place fishmongers? Follow the locals to Lake Union, north of downtown. Stroll paths to gaze at sleek sailboats or paddle your own craft to a café. Start at the lake’s north end.

  • Watchless in Seattle? Your own body becomes the gnomon (indicator) on a beautifully crafted sundial at Gas Works Park, beloved as much for its awesome city views as for the picturesque rusted remnants of a 1906 coal gasification plant on its grassy slopes. 
  • The quirky combo of tacos and kayaks makes sense at the waterfront Agua Verde Cafe & Paddle Club. Rent a kayak and glide past Seattle’s colony of floating homes (glimpsing the Sleepless in Seattle houseboat on the west side), then reward yourself with smoked salmon on fresh corn tortillas.
  • The Center for Wooden Boats celebrates the lake’s tradition of watercraft built the old-fashioned way: with wood. Bring children for free Sunday boat rides, tours of historic ships, and kids’ stories on the wood-hulled Arthur Foss, star of the 1933 movie Tugboat Annie
  • Explore Lake Union Park, a dozen acres with paths, waterfront steps, a footbridge, and a pond for sailing model boats.
  • No experience is necessary to join a paddling crew on a 45-foot dragon boat. Meet at Kenmore Air next to Lake Union Park.
  • Ahoy, landlubbers! Circling the lake (5.9 miles) is easy on a bicycle rented from Recycled Cycles. Stop for a break at the blue-and-orange Fremont drawbridge at the lake’s northwest corner to listen for the honks and whistles of tall-masted boats signaling the bridge tender. 

This article was first published in March 2011 and updated in March 2019.