How To | Seattle Life | Student Life

Get lost in Magnolia: Journey to Discovery Park and Ballard Locks

Pictured left to right: Brianna Franco, Gavin Long, Kaytlin Tan, Reyna Camarena, and Sharif Khan.

Get ready to be in awe of your Seattle home. Just a short bus or bike ride away from campus, Discovery Park in Magnolia is a no-fail destination when you’re itching for a remote beach vacay, but need to be back for your 8 a.m. math class on Monday.

When you live at Seattle Pacific University, you can create thousands of different Instagram or Snapchat-worthy city adventures. We’ll show you how to have a restorative and delicious Magnolia adventure that ends at the Ballard Locks — no car necessary.

students walk across a bridge

Take the hidden route

With only three ways in — all by bridge — Magnolia is one of Seattle’s most tucked-away neighborhoods.  Our favorite route is straight up West Cremona Street through Queen Anne’s dreamy hidden staircases. (Start on West Cremona Street outside of Arnett Hall and continue upward, walking through every hidden staircase you see, until you hit West Dravus street.)

students at the QFC grocery store entrance

Fuel up

Grab a snack, lunch, or picnic items on West Dravus before continuing on your Discovery Park adventure.

If you like the sight of a stack of crispy, pepper bacon waiting to adorn a mouthwatering burger or chicken club, stop at Red Mill Burgers. They even have tempting vegetarian burgers, if bacon isn’t your thing. Just make sure you have cash!

Pagliacci, a local Seattle chain, offers some of the best pizza in the city. What makes it so good? Fresh seasonal ingredients, a killer thin crust, and creative flavor combos, such as Asparagus Prosciutto or the 12th Man Primo, which includes three different meats.

For amazing coffee (it really is hard to go wrong in Seattle) and a tasty bite, stop by the Ugly Mug Cafe. We love their Belgian waffle with pearl sugar and lavender whipped cream.

QFC, a grocery store, is probably your best bet for something easy to pack into Discovery Park. If you’re on a tight budget — what college student isn’t? — grab a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, and other snacks. They also make delicious made-to-order sandwiches.

a group converses on the public bus

Bus to Discovery

Cross the bridge over the train tracks to Thorndyke street to catch the 33 bus over to the entrance of Discovery Park.

When you enter Discovery Park, you will wonder two things: 1) Did I magically teleport out of Seattle? 2) Does everyone here own a dog?

Enjoy this feeling of being away from the city by hopping on the Discovery Park Lighthouse Loop Trail and winding yourself down to the beach through meadows and mossy forests.

friends walking down stairs

a group eating on driftwood

Picnic on the beach

The two-mile, protected beach is a picnicker’s paradise, especially since it has hundreds of free benches (aka massive pieces of driftwood). Skip stones on the calm water, breathe in the salty air, and forget all about that chemistry final. You may also want to snap some pics with the West Point Lighthouse. This beauty was built in 1881 — a mere decade before SPU.

two females having chocolate chip cookies

It’s not a cookie, it’s The Cookie

After all that hiking, you’ll be craving something decadent. Head to Metropolitan Market, an upscale grocery store, to buy The Cookie — a famous salty, sweet, buttery delight that took three years to perfect and sells enough in a week to be stacked higher than the Space Needle. Grab a napkin or two, because half of this baked good’s weight comes from gooey Belgian chocolate, and it’s sure to end up on your fingers.

the locks in magnolia

Fish and boat passage

Take that chocolate masterpiece to the Magnolia side of Ballard Locks (officially Hiram H. Chittendem Locks). The locks help boats and fish transition from the salty Puget Sound to Lake Union. In late September, you can cheer for spawning Coho salmon as they make the trek upstream through the 21 different ladder steps, or weirs. An underwater viewing area allows you a front row seat. It’s a lot like observing an Olympic event, except with large, silvery fish. (Why aren’t salmon a Seattle team mascot anyway? Those fish are fierce!) You can also watch a tiny sailboat or a 700-foot yacht go through the locks to transition about 25-feet up or down.

After your #Northwestisbest day, you may have to pinch yourself. This is your city! Those mountains you saw at Discovery park and on your walk over the staircases, the Puget Sound, the salmon … it all belongs to you in a way, and it’s pretty magical.

3 girls look out to the water

girls taking a selfie magnolia beach

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