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The Woodmark on Lake Washington. Photo credit: Courtesy of the Woodmark.
Well, you fly to Seattle, obviously, and you check into a hotel. There are many nice ones downtown. But Microsoft is on the “east side.” This means the east side of Lake Washington, with Seattle on the west side. But the terminology is confusing to New Yorkers because in social terms, “east side” basically connotes New Jersey.
Nevertheless, there are three terrific hotels in the east-side suburbs, all more flavorful of the Pacific Northwest than the downtown offerings. The Woodmark in Kirkland is the only hotel actually on Lake Washington, with gorgeous views back toward the downtown skyline and the Olympic mountain range. The Bellevue Club Hotel, in Bellevue, is very deluxe and built over a huge health club. There is a small set of weights in every room. (Honest.) The Willows Lodge in Woodinville is adjacent to a microbrewery and a couple of wineries, and almost on top of the bike path.
That’s your bike path. The idea, you see, is to let Seattle play to its strengths, and then decide whether they’re strong enough to pry you out of Tribeca. One of the city’s strengths is that you can enjoy the great outdoors all day and be back in time for a great meal and a great night’s sleep in your own bed or a hotel’s. (You like that. Selling out is one thing. Camping out is another.) Hence the “Seattle triathlon”: three days of vigorous activity, none of it beyond the capability of a middle-aged person in even reasonable shape.
Day one is kayaking. You can rent kayaks on the east side, but a better plan is to drive back into the city and to Northwest Outdoor Center on Lake Union. Kayaking well is quite difficult, but kayaking badly (my own preference) is quite easy, and perfectly sufficient for our purposes. The friendly staff will give you a five-minute lesson and send you on your way. It seems ungainly and frighteningly low to the water, but you won’t fall in. And if you do, no harm done. One tip: If there are two of you, rent two singles rather than a double. Makes for a friendlier day.
Lake Union is full of urban bustle. The downtown skyline and the Space Needle loom. Seaplanes take off and land. The shores are lined with docks full of houseboats (yes, including the one in Sleepless in Seattle). Paddle past Gasworks Park to Ivar’s Salmon House, park your ark, and have lunch. Then paddle back. The whole adventure can take three or four hours.
Day two, hike up Mount Si. It’s one of the more popular hikes in Washington State because it’s in North Bend, barely a half-hour from downtown. It’s a good workout, steady uphill switchbacks and about four to five hours round-trip, if you’re not being macho about it. But there’s no technical climbing or even minor scrambling until a few feet from the top. It’s impossible to get lost or fall off the edge or any such downer. Some Seattlites consider it a morning stroll. And if you’re lucky, you’ll be rewarded with a wonderful view back toward the city.
Day three, bike around Lake Washington. You can probably rent bikes and helmets at your hotel, or have the concierge arrange it. Just the top half of the lake is more than enough, actually, since it adds up to more than 40 miles and gives you a spectacular ride across the middle of the lake on a bike path attached to Interstate 90. The route is almost all dedicated bike path and almost (I say almost) all level, making the biking reasonably easy and safe. Lake Washington is more sedate than Lake Union—lined for much of your path with fancy houses. Depending on how much Microsoft is offering for your company, you might spot one to buy.
So you have earned your dinner. Seattle Municipal Ordinance 7886-B-3 requires every out-of-town visitor to eat salmon. That is no deprivation at my favorite restaurant in Seattle or elsewhere, Etta’s Seafood, just north of Pike Place Market downtown. If you’re staying at the Woodmark, the salmon is also excellent at the Yarrow Bay Grill, right next door. The Herbfarm, a really serious country restaurant where people book months in advance, is actually at the Willows Lodge complex.
If you take Microsoft’s offer and become a Seattle resident, you’ll never have to eat salmon again.
The Woodmark on Lake Washington (800-822-3700; thewoodmark.com; from $225); the Bellevue Club Hotel (800-579-1110; bellevueclub.com; from $130); the Willows Lodge (877-424-3930; willowslodge.com; from $250). Northwest Outdoor Center (800-683-0637; nwoc.com; kayaks from $12). Etta’s Seafood (206-443-6000); Ivar’s Salmon House (206-672-0767); Yarrow Bay Grill (425-889-9052); the Herbfarm (425-485-5300).