Seattle’s University District is the area that surrounds the University of Washington (UW)—the state’s largest university. And as its largest university, UW brings in students, staff, visitors, and more to the area around it. Why is that important? Because with lots of people comes lots of things to do, places to eat and places to explore.
Wander the UW Campus
Get a lay of the land by exploring the University of Washington campus, which is worth a stroll. In the spring, don’t miss the pop of colorful pink trees in the Quad when the cherry blossoms bloom. If you’re a fan of grand interiors, visit the Suzzallo Library, which looks like something that leaped straight out of a Harry Potter movie. Any time of year, strolling through the campus will have you walking past beautiful buildings, lovely landscaping, fountains, and pretty green spaces.
Walk on The Ave
There are few spots more iconic in this neighborhood than “The Ave”—a stretch of University Way Northeast just outside of the campus that’s filled with restaurants and shops. If you’re a thrift shopper, pop into some of the thrift stores here as they often have great pieces at a deep discount due to the number of student shoppers in the area. Likewise, you’ll also find plenty of used bookstores and a vinyl shop or two, including the University Bookstore. If you seek a place to enjoy a cup of coffee, rest assured you have plenty of options. Cafe on the Ave is, perhaps obviously, right on The Ave, but Cafe Allegro is nearby as well. And if you’re ready to grab a bite to eat, you’ll find tons of restaurants and eateries both on The Ave and in surrounding blocks. Count on lots of budget ethnic eateries, including noodle shops, Thai and Vietnamese food, and more. Come without a plan and wander until a menu in the window strikes your fancy.
Get Cultured at the Henry Art Gallery
The Henry Art Gallery is located on the University of Washington campus, was the first public art museum in the state, and it has a stellar collection of contemporary art and photography. The collection includes more than 25,000 pieces that rotate into the exhibits, as well as special exhibitions so there is always something new to see and experience. Also keep an eye out for talks, performances, film screenings, and special happenings that include everything from meditation sessions to family events designed to engage kids to learn more about contemporary art.
Explore Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
Another museum of the university campus worth checking out—especially if you have kids—is the Burke Museum. This museum is filled with all things cultural (it’s located on traditional Coast Salish land, after all) and historical, including always popular dinosaur bones, but also all kinds of other displays from the natural world from plants to animals, to the largest collection in the world of spread bird wings. The museum’s collection also includes 10,000 pieces of Native American art, making it one of the world’s largest collection. Note that the Burke Museum is closed until Oct. 12, 2019, and will open all new and better than ever before!
Get Out on the Water
The Waterfront Activities Center (WAC) is also located on the UW campus, but is open to the public. Located on the shore of Union Bay (which leads to Lake Washington), and also within walking distance of the of the UW light rail station, the WAC rents out kayaks, canoes, and rowboats in spring, summer, and fall. From the WAC’s location in Union Bay, you can paddle out to Lake Washington, the Union Bay Natural Area, or to the Washington Arboretum where there are quiet little waterways to explore.
Walk or Bike the Burke-Gilman Trail
The Burke-Gilman Trail goes far, far beyond the U-District, but it cuts through this neighborhood too. The trail scoops between the university campus and Union Bay, and once you’re on it you can either take a short walk and stick to the U-District or just keep on going. The trail starts in Kenmore to the north, continues south along the shores of Lake Washington, and cuts past campus. It then hooks west, continues past Gas Works Park, Fremont, and into Wallingford, then there’s a bit of a missing link through Ballard, but the trail continues from the Ballard Locks through to Golden Gardens Park.
Catch a Game at Husky Stadium
Yet more entertainment on the UW campus can be found at Husky Stadium, where you can watch the Huskies football team play college ball. Bonus: Husky Stadium is considered to be one of the most scenic stadiums around so you can enjoy a view of the mountains and water in the distance while you cheer on your favorite team.