There's something odd about this Memorial Day, and it isn't that the holiday weekend snuck up on us (it's this weekend, for real). Washington is still in Phase 1 of its coronavirus quarantine, meaning nonessential travel remains prohibited, and even park picnic shelters are off-limits—but there are still ways to celebrate the magic of a day off from work.
Salute the Fallen
It's right there in the name—since 1971 Memorial Day has commemorated those who've died serving in the American military. Take a trip around Seattle's outdoor memorials, like the Garden of Remembrance on the Second Avenue–side of Benaroya Hall; not only does it list some 8,000 Washingtonians that have died, but it includes quotes from their letters home. The University of Washington boasts five spots on campus dedicated to soldiers, like the first American monument to Spanish Civil War volunteers. Up on Capitol Hill, the small Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery has a pillar dedicated to Civil War veterans (more controversially, next-door Lake View Cemetery houses a Confederate memorial).
Drive on the Wild Side
Tacoma's coolest city park, Northwest Trek, is actually a wildlife preserve of sorts near the base of Mount Rainier, home to moose, bison, longhorn sheep, and elk. While normally a tram runs through the exhibits, special pandemic circumstances have caused the park to allow visitors to drive their own cars through the enclosures while a naturalist's audio guide narrates. Book ahead for the $80 one-hour tour.
With park picnic facilities off limits, this is the year to outsource grillmaster duties. Several local restaurants offer takeout packages suited for an outdoor feast (shared with only your own family bubble, of course). North Ballard's Sunny Hill dishes a four-person "lawn sitting" menu of slow-braised ribs, macaroni salad, and green beans; add-on Holy Mountain brews or premixed cocktails are extra. Tilth's barbecue package is made to heat at home, stocked with applewood smoked brisket or St. Louis-stye ribs, several sides, and salted caramel budino as dessert. Both should be ordered ahead.
While most of the state's national parks remain closed, the city of Seattle has over 400 green spaces for the public; Bellevue and King County have dozens more. Choose from our roundup of our ten favorites, or simply look over the city's long list for ideas. While playgrounds and sport facilities are closed, most of the system is open for strolling.
Take Over the Street
The conversion of Seattle city roads to pedestrian-only Stay Healthy Streets was first meant as a temporary measure, but in early May the mayor announced that conversion would be permanent. About 20 miles of pavement are expected to be cordoned off for walkers and bikers by the end of this month, allowing for mid-block wheelies or uncrowded roller skating. Remember that locals are still allowed in and out by car; don't totally bliss out as you take back the blacktop.