Take Your Paddle To Seattle
Sophisticated and filled with natural beauty, Seattle is a mecca for pickleball players. The sport was born just across the bay—and from hiking to boating, exhilarating experiences await
Situated between the mountains and the sea, Seattle is a city for adventure lovers. As a hub of tech innovation (think: Amazon and Microsoft), the city center is modern and sleek, yet the landscape provides a dramatic backdrop at every turn. Downtown, tall buildings rise high above glistening Elliott Bay. Amid the hustle and bustle of busy streets are leafy trees and plenty of green spaces and parks. In the surrounding hills lie Seattle’s many other neighborhoods, each of which has a distinct personality. To the east of the city is the Cascade Range, and to the west are the Olympic Mountains to hike, climb, and explore.
Best of all, there’s pickleball! Just across Puget Sound is Bainbridge Island, where the game was born. It’s a ferry ride away, and has much to offer. Washington made pickleball the state sport earlier this year, so playing here is practically a must.
Plan your trip to Seattle for the fall for ideal getaway—and pickleball-playing—weather. Our guide will help you discover it all.
WHERE TO PLAY
Pickleball is just about everywhere in Seattle. To meet the growing demand for play, the city’s Parks and Recreation department created pickleball courts on multiple tennis courts throughout several city parks. Most are reservable via the ActiveNet online reservation system (apm.activecommunities.com/seattle/home). Reservations for courts can be made up to 14 days in advance; the rates are $10 an hour. Otherwise, courts are available on a first come, first served basis. (There is a drop-in calendar at timeforpickleball.com/calendar.html).
At the 534-acre Discovery Park, a former Army base on Puget Sound northwest of downtown, and Seattle’s largest city park, there are four pickleball courts. They sit near the playground and visitors center, which also rents equipment. (Note: The center is set to close in October for renovations.) Before or after you play, wander the park’s 12.4 miles of wooded and beach trails, and explore the 2 miles of beaches and bluffs along Puget Sound.
North of downtown, Green Lake Park, where the namesake lake is surrounded by lush gardens and tidy Craftsman homes, has six pickleball courts. The Green Lake Community Center offers equipment to borrow. The courts are near the lake, which is ringed by a popular walking and running path.
North Seattle’s Bitter Lake Playfield, a small urban park north of Green Lake, is quickly becoming a pickleball hot spot. With eight pickleball courts— plus new court lamps and resurfacing —the park is almost always hopping with players. Visitors are welcome to join in.
WHERE TO STAY
At the vibrant Maxwell Hotel, you’ll feel like you’re sleeping under Seattle’s most famous landmark. The hotel sits blocks away from the Seattle Center, making it a great home base for the Space Needle, the interactive Museum of Pop Culture, the Seattle Center Monorail, and the Pacific Science Center. The hotel is dog-friendly, has an indoor pool, and offers beach cruisers. The 139 rooms are colorful and comfy, and some have views of the Space Needle. (Rooms from $170/night; staypineapple.com).
For something more intimate, check yourself into the elegant Shafer Baillie Mansion bed-and-breakfast, in the leafy Capitol Hill neighborhood. This gorgeous Tudor Revival home sits on beautiful grounds and features opulent common areas for relaxing. And the breakfast spreads, with cheeses, meats, fresh fruit, and pastries, are excellent. Each of the eight rooms is unique, furnished with antiques and reproductions, and has a modern, private bathroom. (Rooms from $179/night, with a $20/night charge added for weekend stays; sbmansion.com).
The floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Elliott Bay or the city—and soaking tubs in select suites—make staying at downtown’s Lotte Hotel Seattle a magical experience. This luxury spot consistently ranks high on “best hotel” lists. The spacious and bright rooms have huge mirrors that make them feel even more expansive. (Rooms from $350/night; lottehotelseattle.com).
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
Seattle is known for its seafood. But Asian food is also a very big deal here. You’ll find great meals spotlighting both traditional and innovative Filipino, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese cuisines.
On clear days, the 360-degree view from the top of the Art Deco–themed Graduate Seattle hotel are breathtaking: From here, you can see the Space Needle and the Cascades. The backdrop is even better when enjoyed alongside the Mountaineering Club’s cocktails and Wagyu hot dogs topped with Dungeness crab (graduatehotels.com/seattle/restaurant/mountaineering-club).
Tucked among the numerous bars and restaurants in the Ballard neighborhood, a lively all-day destination northwest of downtown, WeRo (weroseattle.com) puts modern flourishes on Korean staples like mung bean pancakes with kimchi, chicken wings, and kalbi steak ssam. The signature cocktails incorporate Korean flavors, like sujeonggwa (Korean cinnamon punch).
Downtown’s swanky Bar Taglio (bartaglio.com) has perfected New York- and Roman-style pizza, and it washes down well with the selection of mini martinis like the Julia Child’s (dry vermouth, gin, chamomile, orange bitters) and other classic cocktails.
Celebrated restaurant Musang—which has earned national acclaim—serves memorable takes on Filipino classics for brunch and dinner. Try the adobong lechon kawali (fried pork belly with adobo sauce) or the daing na talaba (smoked oysters with vinegar). Order a range of plates for sharing (musangseattle.com).
And then there’s coffee. You’ll find scores of great local shops to try (Caffe Vita, Victrola Coffee Roasters, and Caffe Ladro), but one not-to-be-missed standout is Hello Em, which specializes in Vietnamese-style coffee. Do yourself a favor and order a ca phe trung, topped with whipped egg yolk and condensed milk, and the breakfast banh mi.
OFF THE COURT
No trip to Seattle would be complete without getting lost in Pike Place Market (pikeplacemarket.org). The 9-acre downtown icon has bustled ever since it opened in 1907. Now a creaky-floored, lively maze of over 200 craftspeople, 70 farmers, and a rotating cast of buskers, the market is a sensory adventure. Whether you’re here to hunt for souvenirs, eat a meal, or just wander, arrive early (restaurants serving breakfast open at 7 a.m., and shops unlock their doors at 9 a.m.) and go on a weekday if possible.
On good-weather days, boats fill the 580-acre Lake Union, just north of downtown, which sports major skyline views. Rent a kayak and join them and you’ll paddle near rows of charming houseboats (think Sleepless in Seattle, which was set on a houseboat on this lake). There are several places along the lake to rent kayaks, canoes, or paddleboards, including Northwest Outdoor Center ($23 to $40 an hour; nwoc.com), the Center for Wooden Boats ($35 to $40 an hour; cwb.org), and Agua Verde Paddle Club ($23 to $30 an hour; aguaverdepaddleclub.com).
BAINBRIDGE ISLAND: THE BIRTHPLACE OF PICKLEBALL
From downtown Seattle, it’s just a 35-minute ferry ride to Bainbridge Island, where pickleball got its start. Bainbridge makes the perfect day trip, with time to play, explore, and grab a bite to eat and a glass of wine.
First up is pickleball, of course, so you’ll want to head directly from the ferry to the Bainbridge Island Recreation Center, which has three courts ($20 a day for nonresident adult players; birec.org), or Battle Point Park (biparks.org), a 90-acre former naval radio station with ponds, open spaces, a jogging path, and sports courts and fields, including six dedicated pickleball courts available at no additional charge.
After a rousing game (or several!), see the sights. The largest business district is Winslow, which is filled with shops, wine-tasting rooms, and restaurants. Get a table at modern Vietnamese restaurant Ba Sa (basabainbridgeisland.com), fish-and-chips favorite Proper Fish (properfish.com), or high-end seafood restaurant Seabird (seabird.fish). And have some wine. Washington’s wine country east of the Cascades is famous for its bold red varietals. Sample them at the Eleven Winery (elevenwinery.com) and Amelia Wynn Winery Bistro (ameliawynnwinery.com) tasting rooms. Then tour the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art (biartmuseum.org), which focuses on contemporary works and heavily features local artists.
Finally, take a trip inland to the Bloedel Reserve (bloedelreserve.org), a 150-acre forest reserve. The Grand Forest, with its 8 miles of hiking trails, has a verdant collection of ferns, moss, and evergreens. The forest’s beauty is a great way to wind down after your action-packed day.