Northwest Outdoor Center
Hard-core kayakers head for the islands of Puget Sound, but more casual paddlers can explore plenty of gorgeous waterways right within Seattle’s city limits. At Northwest Outdoor Center, you’ll launch into beautiful Lake Union, which has lots of inlets to explore (some include clusters of houseboats that were made famous in Sleepless in Seattle). For more adventure, you can follow the Lake Washington Ship Canal at the northern end east toward the University District or west past Fremont. If you long for the really big blue, the center offers multiday whale-watching tours of the San Juan Islands. You’ll take a ferry to the islands’ base camp, then paddle close to the whales in kayaks.
Tip: If you’re nervous about heading off on your own, the center also offers some wonderful guided tours, including a sunset tour that ends at the ultimate sunset spot, Golden Gardens Park in Ballard, and a full moon paddle around Portage Bay.
Admission: $13 per hour single; $18 per hour double.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.