2017, A toast to the New Year

Your Best Guide is returning after a refreshing off-season with new ideas for enjoying the city of Seattle. Among the great changes to our skyline, the expanded light-rail and streetcar helps one visit new places without a car. I look forward to writing more about that in future posts.

Winter continued with spectacular frosty times in the city and even though it’s cold and damp, it’s perfect for annual celebrations, art exhibits, and books.



The Lunar New Year, Sat. Jan 28, celebrates the Year of the Rooster with traditional firecrackers, and dragon and lion dances. More entertainment, including martial arts displays, is planned for Sunday Jan. 29 at Hing Hay Park on Maynard Ave. in Seattle’s Chinatown.

Also in mid-Jan, The Seattle Art Museum is going to feature a Jacob Lawrence collection to honor the 100 years since his birth. “The Migration Series” had some pieces displayed at the MoMA in New York, and more are coming from the Phillips collection in Washington D.C. so that the 60 original panels can be seen together. Jacob Lawrence was a teacher at University of Washington in the 70s and 80s, and a campus art gallery is named for him.


Then in February, we have one of my favorite events, the annual Search for Meaning book festival, hosted by Seattle University, at 12th Ave. and E. Columbia St. This event offers new perspectives about living, and it features a variety of authors, and presenters with amazing experiences and stories to share. This year it’s on Sat., Feb 25 and Sun, Feb 26th.

Thank you for reading, and Happy New Year!  from Margaret, Best Guide Seattle






South Lake Union

Park in progress during August


What a joy to go to S. Lake Union on a warm day! The breeze over the water is just enough to gently help the children, each in an 8 ft. El Toro, as they learn to sail. West of the  MOHAI (Museum of History and Industry) brave swimmers jump in the blue water and pop out again to bask in the August sunshine. Of course, I have my ballcap on to shade away the bright rays. I never thought I’d see people swim in this lake, but on a 90 degree day it looks inviting.

The nearby neighborhood has changed more quickly than other Seattle areas. With Amazon’s presence, and the sudden population of techs.in their twenties, streets and sidewalks are jammed at work day’s end. I’m guessing many workers are experiencing their first jobs out of college, and first time living in Seattle. It’s a youthful bunch to be sure, but not always considerate of others who may not be employed by almighty A-maz. “Stop walking three across; people, we’re not at the mall!” Seriously, I do appreciate Amazon for funding the 4th of July fireworks. The S. Lake Union venue for the Wooden Boat festival, and fireworks viewing is a favorite summer event.

Other highlights on the lake are the seaplanes landing and taking off, the old ships moored behind the MOHAI, and the Center for Wooden Boats which is constructing a large new center in what was once a surface parking lot.

The history of lake has moved far past the mills, coal barges, and gasworks while keeping some of the ship building, mooring, and maritime business among the people enjoying new bike trails, lake walks, kayaks, houseboats, seaplanes, and the sail-slapping joy of the Tues evening “Duck Dodge” regatta, (season ends Sept 6th). If you’ve never seen it, look down from the slow traffic of I-5, and remind yourself of why this lake is an urban gem.

Summer shines


June center fountainWhales 002

What a strange season it’s been! I had tours in May with the threat of sunburn, and drizzle instead of sizzle on the 4th of July!

The fountain at the Seattle Center is always a great spot to step away from the crowds at the Needle and Chihuly. Originally a 1962 World’s Fair feature, (International Fountain) music plays over the shooting chlorine-scented water. Kids, big and small, attempt to dodge the blasting spray to touch the silver dome, and then run away to safety.

It’s Seattle’s charming nature to be a bit unpredictable.

I’ve been missing my visits to the Smith Tower in Pioneer Square this summer. The observation level is closed, and the “Chinese Room” is being remodeled with a re-opening scheduled for August. I’ve taken a few trips to the Columbia Center viewing area, but the walk from Pioneer Place is very steep, and the building is not as visitor-friendly. It’s a great view to be sure, but currently not on my walking tour.

If you like to see more photos, follow bestguideseattle on Instagram.

Thank you for reading, from Margaret at Best Guide Seattle


Seattle’s Japanese neighborhood

Jackson Street, S. Main St., and the Kobe Terrace


In the Higo Variety Store near 6th Ave.S. and S. Jackson Street, the Kobo Gallery holds modern decor in Japanese crafts and textiles and unique gifts of art. I’ve wanted to include Kobo on my walking tour but it is a few blocks way from my usual swing through Uwajimaya, (Asian grocery/gifts) and Kinokuniya bookstore on Lane St. If you visit Kobo at Higo, be sure to take-in the display about the Murakami family who owned the original 10 cent store.

From Higo, uphill on 6th Ave. S., Maneki, the oldest Japanese restaurant in Seattle is in the NP hotel building. It’s opens in the evening, and is very popular for sashimi and sushi.

At the corner of 6th Ave S. and S. Main street, turn right to find the Panama Hotel at 605 1/2. The tea and coffee house has counter service numerous tables for a relaxed visit. Interesting historical photos and displays remind visitors of the busy Japantown that was here in the mid 19o0s. A plexi-glass view through the floor shows some of the belongings left behind by Japanese-Americans who were sent to internment camps under Executive order 9066. (issued Feb. 19 1942, a few months after the attack on Pearl Harbor 1941).The novel, “The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,” tells a story about a young Chinese boy and a Japanese girl during this time of racism, and the unfounded fear of spies and  sabotage by the Japanese on the west coast. 

Among real lives, the Murakami family who owned Higo, and Mr. Takashi Hori who owned the Panama Hotel were sent to  the Minidoka camp in Idaho. The Moriguchi family, who started Uwajimaya,  were sent to Tule Lake in northern California. Although some of the businesses resumed after the WWII,  Japantown didn’t recover in population. 

 In April 2015, the Panama Hotel was given “national treasure” status by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  Its story helps us remember what happened here. 

Across S. Main Street from the hotel, the terraced walkways of Danny Woo’s Community garden are bordered by many small fenced plots, and fruit trees, and chickens . And at the top of the stairway,  Kobe Terrace Park awaits on S. Washington Street.

Seattle’s first “sister-city” relationship began in 1957, and the tiny park has Cherry trees, and Japanese pine that were gifts from the city of Kobe. A stone lantern was placed with a 1976 dedication “to shed light on the friendship” of our sister-city.  In present-day Seattle, Nihonmachi, our Japantown, is a place to remember, and rediscover.

Thank you for reading, from Margaret at Best Guide Seattle



2016, Is it still raining?

Yes! and there’s snow in the mountains– where it belongs.

With each New Year, I find it more difficult to put the old year away.  It’s a sad day pushing the dried-out Christmas tree, and crispy cedar boughs into the yard. We age our old tree and later cut it up so it’ll sizzle and pop in a summer fire pit. And inside, we’ll have the company of sharp fir needles under cushy chairs and carpet edges throughout the spring, no doubt.

It’s a melancholy time for many reasons. Holiday treats and special foods are recent memories, as is our happy football season. But enough! We have to look forward.

Need some cheering? Go to Georgetown! I love the vibe of this neighborhood, and anybody who has played rec. soccer likely has been distracted by planes flying closely overhead. While on the astroturf, I can’t NOT look up, they are just above your head! Then, a re-positioning BN train comes creeping along with its whistle blasting, only to stop and reverse itself silently.

Before it was annexed to Seattle in 1910, Georgetown was its own little town on the Duwamish river among the native Duwamish people. White settlers here pre-date the more famous Denny party. Historylink.org provides a summary that includes the local Duwamish being pushed out by private land claims as the settler population grew. Farmers grew hops in the river valley, and brought the success of the Seattle Brewing and Malting Co.  (later becoming Rainier Beer). Railroads expanded, and landfills completely re-engineered the bending river at the turn of the century. Boeing field began its service for King Co. in the 1920s with the Boeing factory nearby booming into a huge industry. Then, in 1962,  I-5 cut into Georgetown further chopping the little town in segments between the various ramps, and industrial arterials.

The current Georgetown has restaurants, shops, great beer and coffee, live music venues, and the Art Attack (2nd Sat each month) within a few blocks.  When you go there, bring your real friends– not everybody you know, but just a few who can slow down, and know how to enjoy a rainy January day in Seattle.

Thank you for reading, Margaret at Best Guide Seattle

Place of Light, Place of Welcome

St James Cathedral, Seattle
St. James Cathedral, Seattle, 2015

These orange-garbed workmen are adding lights to the exterior of the towers at St James Cathedral on First Hill. The project began at the end of the summer, and should be completed by early December. The theme of this renovation is ‘Place of Light, Place of Welcome,’ and it’s right on time with a needed hopefulness to get us through the long, gray days ahead.

In the early 1900s, St. James was a landmark on First Hill, but now it’s somewhat hidden in the increasing skyline of towers. From the waterfront, the dark heights of the Columbia Center often block the view. The new lighting system will illuminate the beautiful cathedral structure as well as add to the safety of those walking along on 9th Ave.

The Cathedral is making these improvements with the help of the community. If you’d like to make a contribution to this project, or would like to find out more about it, please visit www.stjames-cathedral.org and thank you for reading, Margaret

New Festival Park for Chinatown

Future park expansion
Future park expansion west of Hing Hay Park

Earlier this year, the Chinatown post office closed, and moved to a tiny corner on Jackson St. so that a Seattle Parks and Rec. project could begin. While I miss the room of the old USPS clerk’s counter, I like how the new park design expands Hing Hay Park into two city blocks. The artistic landscaping includes terraces and performance areas. It’s sure to welcome more people who enjoy open walk-able places year-round, and it’ll be a great setting for festival times.

Of course being Seattle, it’s a bit behind schedule due to required permits, and ground breaking likely will be in November. Add a year of construction, and it should be ready for all the multi-cultural music, dance and martial arts displays celebrating Lunar New Year, 2017, the year of the Rooster! (Don’t worry, 2016 is the Year of Monkey and it can’t help but be a fun, and happy event too.)

Chinatown/ID also hosts The Dragon Festival in July, and the occasional food frenzy at the Night Markets during the summer. Drawing crowds to Chinatown for great food and festivities is a Seattle tradition that is not to be missed.  Visit the city’s Park and Rec. page to see the new park plan, and thank you for reading, Margaret

Oh and look what else I saw today:

New streetcar on Jackson
New streetcar on Jackson St., Seatttle