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Get pampered, cultured – and guzzle a growler – all in Seattle's South Lake Union neighbourhood
South Lake Union, a buzzy, fast-rising horseshoe wrapping the bottom of the eponymous sparkling lake just north of downtown Seattle, is a slice of Silicon Valley in the Pacific Northwest. Which means an area once known for warehouses, rusty fishing vessels and the transient populace that prefers such environs is now home to Amazon.com’s new headquarters, various Microsoft campuses and the University of Washington Medicine complex. But where SLU differs from Menlo Park is the fact that it’s wrapped by urban Seattle, which means the play definitely outnumbers the work. The big freshwater lake in the heart of it all tends to put things in perspective.
Click through to find out where to eat, stay and play in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighbourhood
The Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) was relocated from Montlake and reopened on Lake Union in early 2013 in a decommissioned Naval Reserve first built in 1942. The $90-million, 50,000-sq.-ft. reboot is a heartfelt, appreciative embrace of the city by its most successful residents, funded by private donations with the most recent and notable being the Jeff Bezos Center for Innovation, which opened a year ago. The Center focuses on Seattle’s leading innovators and the city’s unique ability to nurture big ideas. The addition joins a collection of 4 million local historical pieces – from 99 microbrews stacked on a wall (get it?) to the “Wawona” sculpture, crafted with wood from a vintage schooner and soaring 65 feet from floor to museum ceiling.
860 Terry Ave.; mohai.org
Only in Seattle would you find a century-old, family-owned drugstore with a growler refill station boasting better microbrews than most Vancouver “gastro pubs.” Then again, not a lot of drugstores are surrounded by thirsty techies who are apparently allowed to drink at work on Fridays (and in modern rental units the rest of the time). Bartell Drugs stepped up last year by selling 64-ounce glass jugs for about 10 bucks for local staples like Manny’s Pale Ale and Mac and Jacks African Amber. It’s Seattle ingenuity at its finest.
1001 Mercer Street; bartelldrugs.com
Given that the water is such a big part of the neighbourhood (and the city), it’d be shame not to get a little wet. The Centre for Wooden Boats is your ticket to work off lunch and to travel back in time, given its duty as a living museum. The Center rents boats that local historians believe have historical importance and visitors can spend an hour or two with everything from classic wooden sailboats to rowboats and paddleboats. And all vessels are made by hand in the city of sea and lakes.
South Lake Union; cwb.org
The Pan Pacific Seattle, South Lake Union’s only high-end hotel option, has an amenity unmatched by any other property in the city, if not in the country: a Whole Foods Market an elevator ride away. But that’s just the start.
The eight-year-old, four-star, 153-room property is comfortable and modern, while staying true to its boutique aesthetic. A recent room and lobby reno has only enhanced its approval rating by guests and rankings like ZAGAT, where the Pan Pacific earned some of the highest marks for quality, services and facilities in the city earlier this year.
The hotel’s commitment to a content stay transcends guest experience and weaves its way into its core business. The property is North America’s first Green Globe-certified hotel, which means impressive fund-raising efforts for sustainability initiatives and reuse programs for hotel soaps.
But environmental stewardship aside, the hotel has some of the consistently best views in town – each facing either Lake Union or the mesmerizing Space Needle. If you have the means, the massive Denny Suite can sleep an extended family and just may be the best view room in the city.
2125 Terry Ave.; panpacific.com
Vida Spa, just across the courtyard of the Pan Pacific, is the hotel’s official spa. Specializing in Ayurvedic treatments – a philosophy that puts everyone in one of three Doshas, or personality types – Vida focuses on internal wellness as well as the more typical exterior treatments. The spa’s 18 treatment rooms include couples spaces, Ayurvedic cedar steam cabinets and two manicure stations. Hotel guests can also request massages and other treatments in their rooms.
2125 Terry Ave.; vidaspas.com
Vikram Vij’s better half launched her Seattle operations two years ago on the ground floor of an Amazon.com building. Today, a trip to Meeru Dhalwala’s 72-seat Shanik Restaurant is a must for proud Vancouverites, especially the 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. happy hour from Monday through Friday. Bar food is discounted 20 per cent, meaning lamb popsicles cost under five bucks, as do many other riffs on Indian cuisine. Cocktails and draft beer specials hover around $5 as well.
500 Terry Avenue; shanikrestaurant.com