I’ve spent this last spring and summer visiting and previewing locations around Magnolia in Seattle.
Because the Magnolia neighborhood has several great places to visit in relatively close proximity to each other, and because they form a natural driving loop, I thought it might be helpful to publish a suggested tour route. You can look at the individual preview pages for details, including parking info, for each tour stop to help plan your outing.
This tour will provide plenty to see any time of year, though I recommend choosing a clear, sunny day to get the full benefit of viewpoints. A cloudless day in March would probably provide the most bang for the buck. The Olympics will still have snow, Mt. Baker and Tahoma will be out, herons will be returning to the rookery, and the fishing fleet will be in.
The best way to check sky conditions before deciding to head out to see if the mountains are clear or mostly clear of horizon haze is to go to the Space Needle’s webcam page. You get a 360 degree view from high up to see what’s happening.
If you’re in the mood to spend part or most of a day taking in great scenery and interesting locations, all within a contained area, you really can’t go wrong with touring Magnolia in Seattle.
I’m going to provide directions for doing the loop route starting on the south side and ending on the north side. But if you wish to do it the other way instead, simply follow the directions in reverse. (Including swapping right and left for turns.)
You should print out this post to bring the directions with you for easy navigation, though I also strongly recommend having a Seattle street map with you in case you miss a turn or take a wrong turn.
First Stop: Ella Bailey Park
From 15th Ave W. turn west on Garfield Street and cross the Magnolia Bridge.
Shortly after crossing the bridge turn right on 28th Avenue.
Follow 28th for several blocks, then turn right on either McGraw or Smith Streets.
Go two blocks and you will see the park, which sits in between McGraw and Smith.
Ella Bailey Park to Magnolia Boulevard Park
Go back out to 28th and turn left.
Take 28th to Galer Street and turn right onto Galer.
Follow the street as it curves around until you come to a 4-way stop.
At the stop sign turn left onto Howe Street.
Cross over a bridge and on the other side at the first stop sign turn left onto Magnolia Boulevard.
The boulevard will curve to your right as you arrive at the Magnolia bluff.
The park is a narrow strip of viewpoints stretching for about a mile on your left along the bluff.
Magnolia Boulevard Park to Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center in Discovery Park
Keep following Magnolia Boulevard in the same direction with the bluff on your left.
The road will curve around some after you leave the bluff until you come to Emerson Street.
Turn right onto Emerson and go to 36th Avenue.
Turn left onto 36th and go until you reach a 4-way stop.
On your left is the entrance to Discovery Park.
Turn left into the park and then take an immediate right onto Texas Way.
Follow the road as it curves around and eventually take a right onto Bernie Whitebear Way.
Follow the road to the Daybreak Star Center and viewpoint.
Daybreak Star to Commodore Park
Take Bernie Whitebear Way back to Texas Way and turn left.
Almost immediately you will see 40th Avenue on your left.
Turn left onto 40th and go to Commodore Way.
Turn right onto Commodore Way.
Follow Commodore Way to the park, which will be on your left and marked by the railroad crossing over the street.
You can make this stop into a two-for-one if you have the time and are able to walk down and back up the hill.
At the east end of Commodore Park you can walk over the spillway across the canal and explore the Ballard Locks and Garden on the other side.
Commodore Park to the last stop at Fishermen’s Terminal
When you leave the park continue heading the same direction (east) on Commodore Way for quite a ways.
It will eventually curve to your right and become 21st Avenue.
When you reach Emerson turn left onto Emerson.
At the traffic light turn left into Fishermen’s Terminal.
Returning to 15th Ave W. from Fishermen’s Terminal
Leave the terminal by turning left onto Emerson at the light.
If you will be going south on 15th keep going straight in the left lane until you hit 15th and turn right onto 15th.
If you will be going north on 15th, get into the right lane as soon as you turn onto Emerson from the terminal.
The right lane will curve to the right onto a ramp that will take you over 15th and then curves to your left back down to street level.
There’s a stop sign at a kind of funky intersection.
Go straight through and you will be in a lane that merges onto 15th to cross the Ballard Bridge.
Note: If you do the tour route in reverse, starting with Fishermen’s Terminal, you want to take the Emerson/Nickerson exit from 15th Ave W. and head west on Emerson to the traffic light at the Terminal entrance.
Another Note: You may notice that I don’t include Discovery Park itself on the tour. Feel free to make it part of your explorations if you have the time and stamina, but I don’t have a preview posted for it yet.
Discovery Park is huge and is a nature-oriented walking/hiking park. Vehicle access is extremely limited and there are no viewpoints other than Daybreak Star the general population can drive to.
I hope to eventually preview the beach area, but I avoided it this summer due to crowds. The beach at Discovery Park is only reachable by hiking for most people (or a shuttle bus on weekends in the summer). Vehicles at the beach require a special pass from the park’s Environmental Learning Center (limited to 8 at a time), and you have to be with young children, disabled, or a senior to get a pass.