The story of the Mary Adda is one of heartbreak, tragedy, mystery, and above all, redemption. With her stunning make and Nordstrom-Franck influence, the vessel was born in 1928, just before the Great Depression ravaged the boat-building industry. Some 60 years later, while awaiting her official demise, the Mary Adda was discovered in a boatyard on the banks of Lake Union, not far from her original birthplace. Her interior stripped out and her planking rotted, Mary Adda was in need of significant repairs, if not a complete overhaul. She received just that, and today, she sails on as a link to bygone eras while toting small groups across the waters of Lake Union, Lake Washington, and the San Juan Islands during tours and customizable trips.
Big Rig Peddler sends passengers on a bike tour unlike any other, with patrons working as a group to send an ironclad, American-made, pedal-powered vehicle on two-hour crawls of local bars. Guests work out their calves as they visit local Tacoma watering holes and breweries, with the option for a motor-powered engine or on-board sound system to help out tired muscles. Just like a real truck, the Big Rig Peddler barrels down the road with its path lit by twin headlights, and can be powered by up to 14 people at a time.
Charles Mickelson knows Seattle so well, he can unearth trolls hiding under its bridges—specifically, the Fremont Troll, an 18-foot-high stone troll statue nestled beneath the Fremont Bridge. This is just one of the landmarks that Charles’s company, Seattle Qwik Tour, showcases on its signature 90-minute mini-coach tours. Their tour routes also pass the Space Needle, the Central District, and Viretta Park, one of Kurt Cobain’s old haunts. As the group rolls through the city, passengers learn statistics and historical tidbits from their guides while snapping photos of the scenery during periodic stops.
Tucked inside an art deco building within Capitol Hill’s Volunteer Park, the economically-sized Seattle Asian Art Museum showcases cultural artifacts from China, Japan, Korea and India. From silk screens to sculpture, scrolls to woodwork, the museum nods at history at every turn. It also includes a children’s room that lets little ones learn by doing and creating. Outside, Noguchi’s “Black Sun” sculpture lines a decorative pool within Volunteer Park, making for a wonderful photo vantage point that includes Seattle’s Space Needle in the background. Through the Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas, the museum even offers a Saturday lecture series on visual and literary arts topics. Bargain-hunters take note: The museum is free to all visitors the first Thursday of each month.
Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry, known around town by its MOHAI acronym, recently relocated to a waterfront location in South Lake Union, and is now housed in the former Naval Reserve Armory building. It’s a smart change for the popular historical and educational spot, considering its new proximity to some of Seattle’s biggest businesses: outdoor retailer REI and Amazon.com. The museum’s permanent collection traces the city’s history, with nods to the city’s 1962 World’s Fair, the surprising 1999 WTO riots, and the birth and growth of aerospace giant Boeing. Temporary exhibits address topics as diverse as Seattle-specific artists, the history of gay culture citywide or the many engineering feats that have helped a region filled with bodies of water and steep slopes stay connected. The newly-opened Bezos Center for Innovation explores Seattle’s history of entrepreneurship and engages guests in interactive activities to elicit their inner CEO.
From the south end of Lake Union, kayakers and paddle boarders can head north toward Gas Works Park to see the century-old former Seattle Gas Light Company plant. From there, they can head east and wind through Portage Bay on the way through Montlake, then cut over to the Washington Park Arboretum and Lake Washington. If they turn west instead, they can cut through a canyon of city buildings until reaching Ballard Locks and Puget Sound, where they may arrive in time to see the sun hang just above the Olympic Mountains.
Moss Bay Rowing, Kayaking, Sailing and Paddle Board Center's team facilitates adventures like these by renting man-powered water vessels by the hour, day, or week. Rentals afford paddlers and sailors the chance to explore Seattle's sheltered waterways, which are held to a 7-knot speed limit. Moss Bay's staff also leads small-group and private lessons in rowing, kayaking, and sailing, and coordinates guided tours including excursions designed for kids and adults.