The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, built and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, may seem like an odd place to spend a few hours, but this high-traffic dual-lock system is surprisingly fascinating, even for those who’ve never given a thought to nautical engineering. Traversing the Lake Washington Ship Canal on a series of platforms lets you watch ships being raised up from the salt water of Puget Sound to the fresh water of the canals, and everything from dinghies to luxury yachts to University of Washington research vessels pass through the channels. Free guided tours, which provide the historical context and explain the engineering particulars, are run through the visitor center.
Tip: After your visit, follow the water northwest to Ray’s Boathouse (206-789-3770; www.rays.com) or Anthony’s HomePort (206-783-0780; www.anthonys.com), two popular seafood restaurants with stunning views of Shilshole Bay and the Olympic Mountains beyond.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.