Capitol Hill Walking Loop

Nowhere else is the contrast between the founders’ Seattle of 1900 and today’s counterculture more evident than in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. From genteel turn of the century mansions along millionaire’s row to eccentrically named businesses, such as the Internet cafe Uncle Elizabeth’s, “the Hill” is full of surprises.

This walk  is my attempt to incorporate both extremes within a 4.3 mile loop beginning and ending at the Convention Place station on Pine Street in downtown Seattle.

Starting from Convention Place station on Pine Street, walk across the I-5 overpass then turn right at Boren Avenue. At the next intersection – Boren & Pike – turn left onto Pike and start walking up the hill. Personally I feel the first eight blocks of Pike Street between Boren and Broadway are not particularly interesting to the casual visitor. However I do find the right side of the street, the south side, has more to offer so that’s the side I prefer to walk.

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Elysian Brewing

Pike Street, between Broadway and Madison, is where most places of interest in the Pike/Pine  corridor are concentrated. It is also the area where the full spectrum of counterculture is on display. But as Pike gives way to Madison, and Madison gives way to 15th Avenue, turn north and follow 15th Ave.

From Madison Street, 15th Avenue runs for more than a mile along the spine of the ridge that forms Capitol Hill. The first five or six blocks are of little interest. It gets more interesting once you get past the Group Health Campus at Thomas Street.

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Millionaire’s Row

After passing Thomas stay on 15th Avenue but at Roy Street I recommend turning left, walking to 14th Avenue, then turning right to head north again. This way you get to walk past the early 1900s mansions along 14th Avenue known as millionaire’s row. The street dead-ends at Volunteer Park – cross over and head directly to the water tower.

Volunteer Park is a beautiful destination by itself. Climb the water tower (free admission) to the observation deck for its fantastic 360° views. At 520 ft above sea level you will not find a higher viewing place within the Seattle city limits without paying an admission fee. Other attractions at Volunteer Park are the Seattle Asian Art Museum (admission fee) and the Conservatory (free admission).

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Harvard-Belmont Historic District

Feel free to explore but then make your way over to the west side of the park, exiting onto either Highland Drive or Prospect Street. Either way continue walking west until you reach Harvard Avenue, then turn left (south).

We are now in the Harvard Belmont Landmark District, one of Seattle’s seven historic districts. The map at left gives a more detailed view of the district’s boundaries. When done wandering this leafy neighborhood work your way along Roy Street to the east. At the intersection with Broadway look out for Roy Street Coffee & Tea house and take a break.

Hopefully refreshed we will now set off along Broadway towards downtown. This stretch, from Roy Street to Denny Way, is a lot of fun – one long strip of interesting shops, restaurants, and bars on  both sides of the street culminating with the Seattle icon Dick’s Drive-In on the right just before Denny Way. Directly across from Dick’s an entire block is being redeveloped behind high construction walls for the Capitol Hill light rail station.

An interesting detour to make during the light rail construction is to make a left at John Street, just before reaching Dick’s, and follow the protected sidewalk around the outside of the construction site. A series of portals have been provided through which the deep station excavation can be seen, and where the tunnel boring machine will be launched during 2011. This detour also leads to Cal Anderson Park, recently recognized by Forbes.com as one of America’s 10 best city parks; a stroll through here is preferable to the stretch of Broadway between Denny Way and Pine Street, which is dominated by Seattle Central College buildings.

Eventually Broadway reaches Pine Street and here we turn right and head downhill to downtown. We’ll reach Boren & Pine, cross over the I-5 overpass, and arrive back where we started at Convention Place station. Hope you have as much fun walking my loop as I have had reliving it in my mind and writing about it.

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