Carless in Seattle: Public transit can whisk you to where the locals go

The Seattle S.L.U.T.

Catch a bus to the colorful neighborhood they call the "Center of the Universe" for a zombie walk or a lunch of Turkish pizza.

Fremont's Cafe Turko
Jump on a streetcar to the lakeside headquarters of for brick-oven pretzels and a peek inside a historical museum in a 1941 Naval Reserve Armory.

The New Mohi Museum on Lake Union 

Board a ferry for a half-hour sail across Puget Sound to an urban island for wine tasting or coffee in the waterfront town of Winslow and a walk along a waterfront path.

Much of what's new in Seattle is happening away from the downtown tourist hub in neighborhoods locals know well but visitors rarely discover. Carless? No worries. Given the cost of parking, public transportation is a better option than driving. Hop on a trolley, bus or ferry, spend a morning or afternoon exploring, and be back downtown in time for dinner or a nightcap.

Three suggestions in my recent story for the Portland Oregonian.

Ride the SLUT to South Lake Union

The Seattle Streetcar is how city officials like to refer to the 1.3 mile rail line running between downtown and the South Lake Union neighborhood developed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's CQ Vulcan Real Estate company. Someone with a sense of humor came up with the idea of substituting the word "trolley'' for streetcar and the acronym stuck. 

Replacing car dealerships and light industry around the lake is an urban park flanked by new restaurants, bars and shops aimed at the young and monied Amazonians working and living nearby.  

Getting there: Streetcars run every 15 minutes, making 11 stops between Westlake and 5th Avenue downtown and Lake Union Park. Adult fare is $2.50. 

 Where to eat:  Brick oven pretzels, craft beers, pizzas topped with sweet fennel sausage and roasted peppers...There's a reason Seattle chef Tom Douglas was named the James Beard Foundation's 2012 "Outstanding Restaurateur."  With several restaurants, a bakery and a wine shop in the area, he's cornered the market on fun food and fine dining. 

Where to shop: Surviving the changes so far is  Antique Liquidators, in business at 503 Westlake Ave. N. for 39 years. Hidden among container loads of furniture shipped in from England are burlap coffee sacks, comic books and racks of vintage ties.

West Elm at 2201 Westlake Ave., Williams- Sonoma's version of a 21st century general store, stocks jars of cherry pie filling, fancy garden tools and glasses made from recycled wine bottles. 

 Don't miss: The newly-opened Museum of History & Industry at Lake Union Park near the end of the streetcar line. On display is the first commercial aircraft made by the Boeing Company in 1919 and a giant red neon R from the former Rainier Brewery. 

Museum of History and Industry

Click here for general tourism information 

Take a ferry to Winslow

 Sail away to Bainbridge Island, once a timber and shipbuilding center, now a bedroom community on the Kitsap Peninsula, 35 minutes from the Seattle waterfront. 

Getting there: Walk on a Washington State ferry ($7.70 round-trip) at Seattle's Pier 52, then take a 10-minute stroll to the artsy hamlet of Winslow.

Where to eat: Seattle foodies make the trip regularly to dine at a quartet of destination restaurants. Joining Cafe Nola, the Four Swallows and Hitchcock is Restaurant Marche, a Northwest- inspired bistro run by longtime chef and island resident Greg Atkinson. 

Pegasus Coffee
 More casual is the Pegasus Coffee House, a brick and ivy-covered local hangout near the marina. Consult the menu written on pull-down sheets of butcher paper, then settle in next to the fireplace for a panini sandwich or homemade dessert. Before moving on, walk around back to the waterfront path, and notice the playful stone sculptures by Ethan Currier. 

Stone sculptures in Winslow
Where to shop: Nearly 300 artists sell jewelry, pottery, paintings and sculptures at the non-profit Bainbridge Arts & Crafts  Gallery,151 Winslow Way E.  Sip your way around town at three tasting rooms operated by local wineries. There's Eagle Harbor Winery in the Winslow Mall, 278 Winslow Way E.; Eleven Winery at 287 Winslow Way E.; and Island Vintners, home to three boutique wineries, at 450 Winslow Way. E. Forty food and craft vendors sell their wares at the Bainbridge Island Farmers Market starting in mid-April. 

Don't miss: A scoop of island-made dulce de leche ice cream from Argentine-owned Mora Iced Creamery, followed by a walk back to the ferry through Waterfront Park on Eagle Harbor. 

Click here for tourism information.

Board a bus to Fremont

Instead of lighting a neighborhood Christmas tree each December, residents decorate a 7-ton statue of Vladimir Lenin salvaged from Slovakia. Other seasonal celebrations welcome Zombies, nude cyclists and chainsaw-wielding pumpkin carvers.

The funky neighborhood that the locals call "The Center of the Universe" blends bits of bygone hippie flavor with enough "what's new'' to  compete with nearby Ballard, a Scandinavian neighborhood cultivating a late-night bar and restaurant scene. 

The Center of the Universe
Getting there: Numerous buses make the 15-minute trip from downtown Seattle ($2.25-$2.50). Get off at Fremont Ave.N. and N. 34th St. and explore from there. 

Where to shop: Scoop up crafts and collectables at the year-around Fremont Sunday Market. Find martini glasses, fake furs, neon signs and Pyrex bakeware at the underground Fremont Vintage Mall, 3419 Fremont Ave. N. Burnt Sugar, 601 N. 35th St., sells a stylish mix of toys, boots, bags and shoes in a building topped with a Soviet-era rocket.  

Where to eat: High-end experimental chefs mix it up with young entrepreneurs to produce new twists on Yakima River trout,  English meat pies and old-school soft-serve. 

Fremont resident Maria Hines chose Fremont for her third Seattle certified organic restaurant, the Sicilian bistro Agrodolce at 709 North 35th St. Hines joins Renee Erickson CQ (Boat Street cafe and Walrus and the Carpenter) who opened The Whale Wins CQ in the Fremont Collective, a converted warehouse at 3506 Stone Way N.

At the budget-friendly Cafe Turko, Sureyya Gokeri CQ rolls out dough for Turkish pizza in an open kitchen inside Istanbul Imports at 754 N. 34th St. The Flying Apron, 3510 Fremont Ave. N., turns out gluten-free cherry-cardamom muffins and vegan corn chowder served at communal tables.  

Don't miss: The daily tours ($6) at the Theo organic chocolate factory. Watch beans being roasted on site, and sample bars spiked with coffee, chile or toasted coconut. 

Click here for tourism information.

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