Last Updated on September 23, 2022 by Jim Ferri
By Jim Ferri
Many travelers to Seattle focus only on downtown and the central area of the city. Few realize there’s also another region close to Seattle where there’s more to see and do.
It’s Seattle Southside, and it’s not part of the City of Seattle, as one might expect from the name.
Seattle Southside is a trio of towns – Des Moines, Tukwila, and SeaTac – a region with plenty to see and do. It’s a place with its own vibe, hotels and restaurants at every price point, good shopping, and even a world-renown museum. It’s much more than just the place to fly in and out of Seattle via Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
What makes Seattle Southside even more interesting is that it boasts more than 60 hotels near the airport. Many provide free shuttles and charge rates 20% less than in Seattle proper. That kind of savings can be meaningful to families or others watching their budget.
Of course, that doesn’t require missing the sights in Seattle. There are plenty of taxis and buses linking the two regions. And Seattle is only a 20-minute drive from Seattle Southside. But instead of driving or taking a taxi, I’d opt for the light rail from the airport, which whisks you comfortably downtown in 30 minutes. I’ve taken it before and loved it (full disclosure: I love train travel).
All this works out well, even if you’re only in town for a few days, perhaps on a pre- or post-Alaska cruise.
I spent a few days with a small group in Seattle Southside recently. It certainly was a very enjoyable trip and there was plenty to do. Take a look at some of the fun and delicious things you can also do.
Seattle (Southside) Chocolate
I visited several of the Seattle’s food-related places on my previous visits. The very first Starbucks…the fishmongers at Pike Place Market…assorted and varied restaurants, etc. But a chocolate factory?
I never knew there was a chocolate factory in Seattle. But during our visit to Seattle Southside we found ourselves in the most interesting chocolate “factory tour” at Seattle Chocolate. This wasn’t a sampling, but an hour or so of schooling on how chocolates are made.
Of course, our interest was piqued by the chocolates themselves. But a great part of that interest revolved about learning about different chocolates (and there are several), the history of chocolate-making, how to taste-test chocolates, and more. It’s something everyone in the family will enjoy.
Ethical sourcing is essential to the owners, as you’ll certainly discover in the tasting class. A woman-owned company that’s been a confections crafter for 30+ years, make sure you put it on your must-see list in Seattle Southside. And before you leave, take a look at the bar wrappers, all designed by local artists.
1180 Andover Park West
Tukwila, WA 98188
Tel: (425) 264-2705
Open: factory usually operates Monday-Thursday
Admission: Adult $12 / Child (6-12 years) $10 (children under six years are not admitted)
Seattle Southside’s Incredible Museum of Flight
It will astound you, as it certainly did me the two times I’ve visited and will likely astound me again. It’s that interesting, as your entire family will surely agree.
Undeniably, the Museum of Flight is the world’s largest non-profit, independent air and space museum. Here the history of flight comes to life on its 15-acre-indoor-outdoor campus. Of course, you’ll see fighter planes from World War I and World War II and learn about those wars in a new way. And you’ll also see the first jet-propelled Air Force One (for JFK), a Concorde, and a B-17F Bomber.
By all means, look at the actual NASA full-fuselage trainer, which all the astronauts trained in, and the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane. And you’ll hear the stories about the innovators who broke through the bonds of the earth through science, aviation, and space travel.
Furthermore, do you have kids along with you? Bring them over to the Kid’s Flight Zone for some hands-on activities. Aeronautically themed, of course.
The Museum of Flight
9404 E Marginal Way South
Tukwila, WA, 98108
Tel: (206) 764-5700
Open: daily 10am – 5pm
Admission: Adult (18+): $25 / 65+: $21 / Children 5-17: $17 / Under 4 years: free
Note: Private one-hour docent tours are available for free if booked two weeks in advance. Admission discounts are also available.
Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden
Undeniably, this Botanical Garden is a great spot to unwind among the fuchsias, roses, lilies, and countless other flowers and plants. Pause here if you’re running about Seattle Southside trying to see too much in a day.
While its name is the Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden, it’s not one garden but several, all gardens treasured by locals. (The word “Highline” refers to this geographic area in Southwest King County, Washington, adjacent to the City of Seattle). To prevent the destruction of the gardens, they were moved to their present home when a runway extension was underway at nearby SeaTac Airport. (I noticed how close the gardens are to the airport one day as a flight took off.)
Three of the most treasured gardens include the Celebration Rose Garden, the colorful Elda Behm Paradise Garden, and the Seike Japanese Garden. The latter replicates a traditional Japanese pond and mountain garden. It was built to memorialize one of the three sons, who unfortunately, was killed fighting for the U.S. in World War II.
At that same time, his parents were among the 100,000 Japanese-Americans confined in internment camps back in the U.S.
Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden
Luxe in Seattle Southside: Cedarbrook Lodge
Don’t for a minute believe Cedarbrook Lodge’s description of itself as an “urban oasis.” That doesn’t even come close. Undoubtedly, “Heaven in Seattle Southside” would be more appropriate.
Cedarbrook is one of those hotels that is so unique, so comfortable, and does everything just so right; you’re forever comparing every other hotel to it. It is the proverbial “hidden gem.”
Its 167 guestrooms and suites have plush bedding and, furthermore, all are within easy walking distance of its shared “living rooms.” Those living rooms are 500+ square foot spaces with fireplaces, comfortable chairs, board games, etc.
You’ll also find refrigerators (containing free local gourmet ice cream) and microwaves. And free snacks (try the Malt Balls). They’re great places to chill out, relax, and read a book.
Other complimentary amenities include its Sea-Tac Airport shuttle and the hotel’s fitness center.
And if all this isn’t enough, there’s also the hotel’s Copperleaf Restaurant. When you walk to it for the first time, you wonder if you’ve come to the right place. Another “oasis” it’s on 11 acres of restored wetland, making you forget you’re less than 5 minutes from the airport.
Once at your table, things only get better. Menu offerings are all seasonally inspired Northwest cuisine. In addition, everything comes from small local farms, fishermen, ranchers, and artisans, as well as ingredients from the chef’s on-site garden. Some seasonal edibles are foraged and found in the local mountain, prairie, and sound regions.
Uniquely Seattle Southside: Contrivance Wine & Mead
At first, Contrivance Wine & Mead seemed like a rather off-beat stop to make on our short-ish tour of Seattle Southside. But, surprisingly, I found it quite interesting.
Mead is honey wine, and it comes in many different flavors. I had it only once, long ago on a cold, snowy winter day in Warsaw, Poland. Now I saw my chance to replicate that experience and learn more about mead. And this time, I didn’t have to contend with the cold and snow.
Contrivance is family-owned and operated, and we had plenty of time to sit, chat, and sample. Sampling mead is something you don’t have a chance to do often, so I suggest you take advantage of this opportunity in Seattle Southside. The meadery offers tasting flights ($10 per person, refundable with bottle purchase) and glass pours.
Contrivance is not far from the Southcenter Mall (200+ stores and restaurants), the largest in the Puget Sound region. It also specializes in small-batch premium barrel-aged red and stainless fermented white wines.
Contrivance Wine & Mead
Spice Bridge International Food Hall
Spice Bridge is home to the Food Innovation Network‘s Food Business Incubator program. Consequently, the program helps South King County, WA women of color and immigrants start and grow thriving businesses. It’s exceptionally innovative as well as delicious.
It’s a small food hall with four retail stalls and cooking stations, with a public dining area. The entire area, including the kitchen, is only about half the size of an average McDonald’s. But instead of burgers and fries, you’re offered different cuisines brought from around the world.
And who better to cook them than the cooks who brought them to the U.S. from their homelands? You can enjoy various cuisines on any given day, including Afghan-American, Somali-Kenyan-Tanzanian, Congolese, and Cambodian/Khmer.
Accordingly, bring an adventurous appetite for a wonderful lunch or dinner.
Spice Bridge International Food Hall
14200 Tukwila International Boulevard
Tukwila, WA 98168
Open: Tuesday – Saturday: 11am–8pm / Sunday 10am–5pm / Monday: closed
Quarterdeck and Anthony’s HomePort Des Moines Restaurant
Before dinner, we first stopped for drinks at the Quarterdeck Bar at the Des Moines Marina. Altogether, it was a laid-back place, with good drinks and a good view, and was dog friendly. It’s also unique since it’s in a converted shipping container surrounded by outdoor seating. And since they don’t serve food (only drinks), they even encourage you to bring your own food. It all made me feel very much at home.
Afterwards we were off to Anthony’s HomePort Des Moines and its spectacular view overlooking South Puget Sound. The food is even better than the view.
Located next to the Des Moines Yacht Club, Anthony offers great views of Maury Island on Puget Sound and the snow-capped Olympic Mountains. This restaurant is unique to Seattle Southside since, like the Quarterdeck, it also reflects the laid-back personality of the neighborhood.
All in all, seafood is the Pacific Northwest favorite. So, as you might expect, the delicious and fresh-as-can-be catches at Anthony’s ensure a steady stream of customers for lunch and dinner. Choices include Puget Sound Mussels, Wild Alaska Halibut’ n Chips, Oregon Coast Shrimp Fettuccine, and much more.
22307 Dock Avenue South
Des Moines, WA 98198
Tel: (206) 212-4660
Open: daily 9am–dusk
Anthony’s HomePort Restaurant
421 S 227th Street
Des Moines, WA, 98198
Tel: (206) 824-1947
Open: Monday–Saturday 11am –9pm / Sunday 10am–9pm