Destination South Lake Union: Ships, Planes & Houseboats at City’s Core

South Lake Union, Seattle © 2012, photo by 4Culture staff

Recently, I used the excuse of attending a meeting to get out in the May sunshine and get close to the shoreline at Lake Union Park. The meeting took place at the Museum of History and Industry, the latest permanent addition to the stunning-view park that includes The Center for Wooden Boats (CWB), Historic Ships Wharf, and Model Boat Pond. The History Trail, a series of interpretive monuments, signs, exhibits, and an informational kiosk along park pathways, relates the history of this site where cityscape meets the water. Plans for the park’s future include an education center for CWB and a Native American canoe center.

Although it’s an engaging interactive place, South Lake Union can also be a tranquil oasis from the urban scene in this rapidly growing neighborhood, especially on a sunny Seattle day. However, at the present time, it can be difficult to get there by car, and parking is limited. When I visited, I took light rail from my office in Pioneer Square to Westlake, and then hopped the South Lake Union Streetcar, catching views of new office construction, and a neighborhood populated during the day by young tech workers. The area’s rapid expansion has prompted changes to the arterials of Westlake and Valley streets, and further disruption to traffic flow. To avoid the traffic headaches, I recommend taking public transportation. No matter how you get there, it’s worth the trip.

Years ago, when I worked for the Seattle Aquarium, and prepared exhibits at a city shop on Roy Street, I would walk down to Lake Union to eat lunch on a weathered wooden bench next to a small patch of grass along the shore. With only the company of a few ducks, that spot wasn’t much compared to the 12 acres of Lake Union Park that opened in 2010. But I found it exhilarating to watch watercraft and floatplanes ply this freshwater lake surrounded by dense urban neighborhoods crowding the edges of its shoreline, and, in the case of houseboats, invading its waters as well. Even experienced through a meeting room window, the sights and sounds of Lake Union still amaze me.

Image: South Lake Union, Seattle © 2012, photo by 4Culture staff