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On a gray November day in 1851, the homesteading Denny party came ashore at Alki Beach in West Seattle and was greeted by none other than Chief Seattle himself. Seattle, whose Indian band lived on the nearby Duwamish River, would help the new settlers build a cabin to over-winter. Their encampment was temporary; most of the Denny party would later relocate near Pioneer Square and the current site of downtown Seattle.

Often overlooked by tourists staying downtown, Alki is perhaps the finest reason to visit West Seattle. The seawall route that hugs Elliott Bay offers panoramic views west to the mountains of the Olympic Peninsula and north towards downtown. The laid back neighborhood is almost like a Northwest piece of California, with sea kayaks and stand up paddle boards replacing surf boards. Poking around the narrow, winding back streets reveals a wide variety of character homes both old (think Victorian era and Craftsmen) and contemporary (progressive architect’s takes on the mid-century Modern building designs found up and down the west coast).

While Elliott Bay is pretty chilly for swimming, even during midsummer, the nearby Olympic-sized outdoor swimming pool is one of the city’s purest joys.

Fun fact: The original settlers, tongue planted firmly in cheek, renamed Alki as “New York”. In 2008, a bronze replica of the Statue of Liberty (facing west) was erected nearby.