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Arts and Culture

The Great Outdoors gets so much attention it's easy to overlook Seattle's Great Indoors—the myriad galleries, museums, music clubs, independent bookstores, theaters, and cinemas. The city teems with visual artists and sculptors; several excellent film festivals attest to the number of resident cinephiles. Nearly every local coffee shop (and many restaurants, bars, and stores) serves as an impromptu art gallery; some even hold official openings with food, drinks, and music when exhibits change.

A great way to get an overview of Seattle's art scene—and mingle with locals in the process—is to participate in one of the city's art walks, which include stops at galleries, coffeehouses, restaurants, shops, and public works of art in all their quirky glory. The First Thursday Art Walk in Pioneer Square (first Thursday of every month from noon to 8 pm www.firstthursdayseattle.com) starts at Main Street and Occidental and takes you through the city's gallery district, as well as to some Downtown spots. There are also smaller walks in every neighborhood in Seattle (www.seattle.gov.arts.experience.art-walks). Some of our favorites are Capitol Hill (second Thursdays from 5 pm to 8 pm www.capitolhillartwalk.com), Fremont (first Fridays from 6 pm to 9 pm www.fremontfirstfriday.blogspot.com), and Ballard (second Saturdays from 6 pm to 9 pm www.ballardchamber.com).

Check out what local writers are up to at readings at the Hugo House, Open Books, the Elliott Bay Book Company,and at other local bookstores and venues citywide (www.thestranger.com/seattle/books for weekly listings).

The grande dame of the art scene, the Seattle Art Museum has rotating exhibitions and a broad permanent collection. SAM's outdoor branch, Olympic Sculpture Park, is where striking sculptures compete with views of the Puget Sound. Other favorite museums include the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience and the Frye Art Museum, along with the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum.

A nonprofit that aids Seattle's budding filmmakers, the Northwest Film Forum (www.nwfilmforum.org) has the scoop on independent film in the Northwest. At NWFF's hip screening room, film geeks can catch hard-to-find documentaries and feature films or revisit classic films from masters like Jean Renoir and Akira Kurosawa.

Water

Bound and sliced by impressive stretches of water, even longtime residents can be found gawking at the mountain-backed Puget Sound and its bays.

A must-see on any itinerary, the Seattle Aquarium shows you what's going on underneath the surface, with special exhibits concerning the ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest. Get an up-close look at all sorts of craft, from research boats to posh yachts, as they navigate the Lake Washington Ship Canal and the Hiram M. Chittenden (aka "Ballard") Locks.

If you're not content with views alone, rent a canoe or kayak from Agua Verde Paddle Club and tool around the ship canal or head into Lake Union to see Seattle's famous houseboats. Experienced sailors might want to consider renting a sailboat from the Center for Wooden Boats; lessons are available for landlubbers.

On hot days, the swimming rafts in Lake Washington beckon. Several beaches along the western shore of this massive lake have lifeguards and other amenities. The eastern shore of Green Lake also has a beach and swimming raft and offers a more subdued dip—a good way to cool off after you join Seattleites in a jog around the lake's nearly 3-mile pedestrian path.

To experience a little taste of California in Seattle, with beach volleyball and a general SoCal beachy feel, take the West Seattle water taxi (www.kingcounty.gov) across Elliott Bay. Stroll or bike along Alki Beach, dip a toe or a kayak in the water, and enjoy a panorama of city skyline, mountains, and sea. Riding a Washington State ferry—perhaps a trip from Downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Island—is pure exhilarating joy, with the views, the waves, the seagulls, the spray of water, and the seals frolicking.

Lazy Days

Despite all the activities they enjoy, Seattleites appreciate the beauty of slowing the pace and spending a few quiet hours away from distractions.

Grab a few books, find a coffee shop, and spend a couple of hours reading and writing postcards.

Instead of jostling with joggers around Green Lake or power walking in Discovery Park, head to Gas Works Park and stake out a piece of green. From the park's hill you can watch the boats in Lake Union.

Take the ferry to nearby islands of Vashon or Bainbridge. Rent a bike and tool around past parkland, farmland, and orchards; then pop into charming galleries and crafts shops if you feel so inclined. Or just find a piece of beach and relax for a few hours.

Wining and Dining

It's no secret that Seattle has excellent restaurants as well as an obsession with wine. Many restaurants showcase the best of Northwest wine alongside international selections, and the city's most upscale dining options often offer sommelier services. Oenophiles should also plan to visit the Woodinville wine country. Just 30 minutes outside Seattle, the region features numerous wineries and tasting rooms.

Craft beer is a big deal in Seattle. An annual spring beer fest celebrates the best of the city and beyond, while low-key brewpubs continue to crop up in every neighborhood. Ballard features a growing concentration of microbreweries, many of which are kid-friendly and include ample seating. Other locally produced tipples are trending as well, including craft cider and spirits.

Out of all of the city's current favorite restaurants, Canlis, Cascina Spinasse, Sitka & Spruce, the Walrus and the Carpenter, Tilth, How to Cook a Wolf, Poppy, Anchovies & Olives, Matt's in the Market, and Lark are just a few that get a special nod for excellent food and wine choices that never disappoint. Café Juanita and the Herbfarm, in the city's eastern suburbs, take special-occasion dining to a whole new level with multiple courses and wine pairings.

To indulge during daylight hours, create the perfect picnic with food from Salumi Cured Meats in Pioneer Square, Paseo in Fremont, or DeLaurenti's at Pike Place Market (be sure to grab a few choice bottles from the Pike & Western Wine Shop nearby).

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