Seattle’s South End comprises neighborhoods that are the often neglected offspring of a city whose pulsing downtown is frequented by tourists who rarely give a second thought to what lies south of the central hub. But failing to stray means missing out on all that Columbia City, Seward Park, Mount Baker, Georgetown, Rainier Valley, Rainier Beach, and Beacon Hill have to offer.
Georgetown, Seattle’s oldest residential neighborhood, annexed in 1904, relied on its arsenal of pubs and breweries as one of the city’s final strongholds against Prohibition in the 1920s. The jovial, small-town atmosphere created by Georgetown’s array of bars, cafes, a record store, a bakery, and an art gallery is enough to make visitors forget that they’re part of an urban sprawl. The neighborhood hosts Artopia, an annual art festival in late June to promote the works of local artists. Attractions include graffiti and performance art, sculpture, live music, even power tool races (which are generally as dangerous as they sound, so it’s best to leave to the professionals).
Not to be outdone by its neighbor to the south, Beacon Hill has a few tricks up its own sleeve. The Seattle Bouldering Project fosters a love of fitness, with a giant indoor climbing wall, four types of yoga classes, Zumba, and suspension training. Those seeking a more unusual experience can trek over to Jefferson Park for a game of lawn bowling.
Rainier Valley, an area encompassing several of the South End neighborhoods (including Rainier Beach and Columbia City), was once a shallow swampland swelling with overflow from Lake Washington. The 1917 construction of the Ship Canal, an eight-mile-long waterway connecting Lake Washington to Puget Sound, necessitated the lowering of the lake by nine feet. After the canal’s completion, the water receded and Rainier Valley’s pruny terrain began to dry. Today, it is a maze of beaches, public bike paths, and boat launches and rentals.
The neighborhood of Seward Park, built on the largest residential hill in Seattle, is home to the city’s biggest population of orthodox Jews. It also houses the oldest synagogue in the state, established in the early 1960s. The heart and namesake of the area is 300-acre Seward Park, with 120 acres of old growth forest and miles of hiking paths and beaches.
Columbia City is known for its walkability (it scored a perfect 100 on walkscore.com), as well as its art galleries, farmers’ market, and quaint movie theaters. Its neighbor, Mount Baker, hosts the city’s annual summer fest known as Seafair which features hydroplane races and an airshow by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.
- • South End Online Magazine: thesunbreak.com
- • Beacon Hill Blog: beaconhill.seattle.wa.us
- • Columbia City: www.columbiacityseattle.com
- • Georgetown Community Council: www.georgetownneighborhood.com
- • Mount Baker Community Club: mountbakerclub.wordpress.com
- • Rainier Valley Portal: www.therainiervalley.com
- • Seward Park: www.seattle.gov/parks/environment/seward.htm