Gabriel Campanario / The Seattle Times
Explore Seattle by Link light rail

It’s urban, suburban and industrial. At just over 20 miles long, Sound Transit’s Link light rail connects more than a dozen diverse communities with 16 stations in King County.

From the University of Washington on the north end, to SeaTac’s Angle Lake neighborhood on the south, riders can explore and experience arts, culture, history and nature with a $6.50 all-day Sound Transit ticket.

See our Seattle Newcomers Guide to learn more about navigating area neighborhoods.

Click a station below to learn more about the surrounding neighborhood.

University of Washington Station

One of the newest of the light-rail stops, the University of Washington Station deposits travelers at the entrance to Husky Stadium, a sports venue often said to have the best view in college football — Mount Rainier, draped in a snow blanket, frequently demands attention from the southeast, while some Husky fans “sailgate” from boats moored on Lake Washington.

There’s plenty to explore past the stadium, too.

Washington is consistently named one of the country’s most beautiful campuses, with dozens of buildings built in Collegiate Gothic style, including the iconic Suzzallo Library with its 35-foot-high stained-glass windows. In the spring, the campus becomes a regional destination with the university’s blooming cherry trees found concentrated in the Quad.

Museum opportunities also abound on the campus. Science geeks will enjoy the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. Its collections span some 16 million artifacts, including a mammoth tusk and the world’s largest collection of spread bird wings. Art lovers can take in contemporary-focused art at the Henry Art Museum with work created by Northwest talent, along with mixed-media and performance art. Be sure to visit James Turrell’s “Skyspace” on a sunny day for a surreal experience. A round chamber with an aperture in the ceiling, it can make a blue sky look oddly two-dimensional.

A quick jaunt south of the station takes pedestrians to the Montlake Bridge, overlooking the Montlake Cut, where crew teams can frequently be seen practicing for upcoming regattas, or competing for the Windermere Cup every April. And to the east, the U District serves students with rows of kitschy shops, restaurants and bars.

Capitol Hill Station

Ascending out of the Capitol Hill Link Light Rail Station, transit users are greeted by the hustle and bustle of one of the West Coast’s densest neighborhoods — more than 20,000 residents live within just a half-mile of this transit hub.

Upon arrival, stimulation smacks almost all five senses: Buskers lay down a rhythmic beat; smells waft from nearby restaurants; and a mixed crowd of thrift-store fashionistas, casually dressed tech workers, punks and tattooed artists creates a visual kaleidoscope.

The neighborhood’s colorful identity can best be observed on a sunny day at Cal Anderson Park, a 7-acre green space situated next to the Capitol Hill Station. Here, visitors can view a round of bike polo, cheer for a favorite drag-queen softball team, take in an Ultimate Frisbee game, or people-watch near the park’s water fountain and reflecting pool.

Seattle’s coffee culture was largely cultivated along Capitol Hill’s Broadway, where more than two dozen espresso bars popped up in the 1980s. Today, the neighborhood’s coffee scene is smaller, but remains vibrant, with some of the city’s best shots being pulled at iconic coffee houses like Espresso Vivace, Victrola Coffee Roasters and Caffe Vita.

Capitol Hill also has one of the highest concentrations of restaurants and bars in Seattle. The neighborhood’s menu is wide and varied, including affordable bar food along the Pike/Pine corridor and spendier James Beard Award-winning options in venues like Melrose Market. Nightclubs such as Neumos, Chop Suey and the Highline host local and traveling musical artists; and while Seattle’s LGBTQ scene is not as centralized on Capitol Hill as it once was, more than a dozen LGBTQ-friendly bars remain.

Performing-arts and film venues, large and small, dot the hill. International, independent and local films can be viewed at the Seattle International Film Festival’s Egyptian Theatre or the Northwest Film Forum. Annex Theatre, 12th Avenue Arts, Velocity Dance Center, the Broadway Performance Hall and a number of smaller venues host plays and other productions.

Westlake Station

Visitors to Westlake Station will find themselves in the center of Seattle’s downtown retail district. Westlake Center, Pacific Place, Macy’s and Nordstrom offer hours of shopping on a four-block stretch. Hundreds of additional retailers and restaurants, both large and small, are located within just blocks of these four retail anchors.

The Seattle Center Monorail — a city landmark that drew early notables like President Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley – has a terminal within Westlake Center. Constructed for the 1962 World’s Fair along with the Space Needle, the monorail goes from Westlake to Seattle Center, speeding over downtown traffic at up to 45 mph, making a one-way trip in about 2 minutes.

Across the street, Westlake Park serves as a major gathering place for tourists, lunchtime office workers, and musical and vaudeville-style buskers. The park also draws demonstrators and activists: The Black Lives Matter movement, WTO protests and Occupy Seattle have all utilized the park’s central location and high visibility to mobilize their messages.

A few blocks west is Seattle’s storied Pike Place Market, one of the oldest farmer’s markets in the United States. Known for its giant neon sign, fishmongers and rows of flower vendors, the market is also home to a popular gum wall and the “Original Starbucks,” both easily spotted by long lines and huddling tourists.

University Street Station

The University Street Station serves the downtown financial district, and also provides easy access to some of downtown Seattle’s most notable arts and culture institutions.

The station has a direct entrance to Benaroya Hall, home of the Seattle Symphony. Founded in 1903, the Seattle Symphony often features classics like Dvorak, Beethoven and Bach; on a contemporary note, the group has also performed symphonic renditions of video-game music, a live soundtrack screening of “Psycho” and Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.”

Seattle Art Museum’s main collection is just a few blocks away from the University Street Station. Inside, visitors will find some of the institution’s more than 25,000 pieces originating from nearly every continent, and a distinguished collection of locally made Native American art.

Combine SAM with the Rem Koolhaas-designed Seattle Public Library, a few blocks south of the station, for an ideal rainy-day excursion. The interior of the library is just as striking as the exterior: Light dances throughout the building’s 11 floors, and visitors will be mesmerized by some of the building’s bold colors, including a blood-red passage, and neon-yellow escalators.

Also nearby: The ornate Chinoiserie of the 5th Avenue Theatre; the hardworking kinetic sculpture Hammering Man; and the Seattle waterfront, home to Ivar’s, the Seattle Great Wheel and the Seattle Aquarium.

Pioneer Square Station

Referred to as the “heart of old Seattle,” this historic neighborhood is known for its contemporary art galleries, quirky businesses, casual saloons and pubs, and growing foodie scene.

After originally landing at Alki in West Seattle, Seattle’s early pioneers made Pioneer Square a permanent settlement in 1852. Oddly, the park bearing the neighborhood’s name is a triangle rather than a square — and is home to a Tlingit totem pole with its own unique story, as well as an iron pergola, erected in 1909 as a waiting shelter for a cable car.

Turn-of-the-century light poles and architecturally gorgeous brick and terracotta buildings abound, due in large part to the infamous Great Fire of 1899, which was started by a glue pot boiling over. After the fire, wooden buildings were banned and replaced with brick. The streets were simultaneously raised some 22 feet to help level the city, creating a hidden underground section of Seattle, now the site of daily tours.

Standing sentinel over Pioneer Square is the elegant Smith Tower, once the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. It now has an observatory and speakeasy on the top floor.

International District/Chinatown Station

Seattle’s International District-Chinatown Station functions as a crossroads for Seattle’s Asian-American community, and for the city at large. The district is loosely divided into Chinatown, Japantown and Little Saigon neighborhoods.

Architecture fans will find much to ogle here, including the historic arched interiors of Union Station, a former Union Pacific train station that now houses Sound Transit and private events. A block to the west lies the recently renovated King Street Station, a “Railroad Italianate” gem serving Amtrak passengers. To the east, visitors pass under the 45-foot-tall, ornate Historic Chinatown Gate.

A quick step away to the southeast is Uwajimaya, a popular supermarket owned and operated by Seattle’s Moriguchi family. First operated out of the back of the family’s truck in Tacoma in 1928, it was reopened in Seattle after the family’s internment at Tule Lake, Calif., during World War II. The store now houses a food court, gift section and the Japanese bookstore chain Kinokuniya.

Other attractions include the Wing Luke Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian that features rotating exhibitions about the Asian Pacific American experience; Hing Hay Park, where locals play ping pong and games of giant chess; the fortune-cookie factory Tsue Chong, where you can buy huge bags of imperfect “unfortunate cookies”; and the Seattle Pinball Museum.

The International District houses dozens of eateries, including one of the city’s oldest restaurants, Maneki, which has been serving up Japanese comfort food for more than a century. On the weekend, the neighborhood crawls with people lining up for dim sum, or prowling Little Saigon for affordable, tasty banh mi sandwiches or pho.

Stadium Station

Stadium Station offers easy access to Seattle’s major-league sporting events, including Mariners games at Safeco Field, and Sounders FC and Seahawks games at CenturyLink Field.

In 2001, Safeco Field replaced the Kingdome, which was imploded in grand fashion. Its centerfield screen is the second-largest in baseball, as of the 2016 season, and its retractable roof covers nearly 9 acres and contains enough steel to build a 55-story skyscraper.

CenturyLink Field once broke a Guinness World Record for noise. The stadium’s design, with canopies covering most of the seating, helps to reflect the crowd’s cheers onto the center of the field.

Plenty of bars and restaurants cater to thirsty and hungry fans — and to others who work or pass through the growing retail district around the stadiums. Among the options are a southern outpost of the famous Paseo Caribbean sandwich shop and Pyramid Alehouse, a large, popular place to grab a beer with a great Northwest pedigree.

SoDo Station

Passengers entering SoDo Station should crane their necks to observe the massive, colorful murals adorning warehouse exteriors – the artwork is part of the growing SODO Track project. When completed, murals from some 50 artists will spread over 32 walls.

SoDo is almost entirely an industrial and factory district. The area was originally named for being South of the former Mariners stadium, the Kingdome. The Mariners also popularized the slogan “SoDo Mojo” in the early 2000s.

About a 10-minute walk from the SoDo Station is the colorful Old Rainier Brewery, adorned with an iconic “R” that can be seen from Interstate 5.

For rabid Starbucks fanatics, the company’s world headquarters is a half-mile jaunt to the west of SoDo Station. Formal tours aren’t usually given, but anyone can visit the Coffee Gear Store on the eighth floor for items that aren’t found in most stores.

Other stops on a Seattle insider’s tour might include Emerald City Trapeze Arts, which offers circus-arts classes and weekend performances; the Orient Express Restaurant and Lounge, a funky, unique restaurant created from former railroad cars; an unofficial “green light district,” with several legal cannabis shops like Cannabis City and Ganja Goddess within walking distance; and the Marginal Way Skatepark, a concrete bowl-shaped park underneath the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Beacon Hill Station

The Beacon Hill Station beams visitors up to the neighborhood’s leafy streets using four high-speed elevators. Above ground, pedestrians are welcomed into one of Seattle’s most diverse neighborhoods and treated to some of the city’s most impressive views.

Many Beacon Hill locals relax in the Olmsted Brothers-planned Jefferson Park – the city’s sixth largest park — and its historic golf course. The Seattle skyline serves as an impressive backdrop for this 50-acre oasis, where you can regularly watch a game of lawn bowling, or skateboarders practicing their Ollies and Indy Grabs, kids splashing in a water park or photographers snapping photos of the Olympic Mountains or downtown. On a summer weekend, you might catch the Samoan Cricket League in action in the heart of the park.

To satiate your appetite, look for tasty, affordable, global cuisine in restaurants scattered along Beacon Avenue South. In one business cluster near 15th Avenue South, you can choose between Indian Thali, Japanese takeout or Mexican food served alongside an entertaining drag show. A few blocks south, you can indulge in Beacon Hill’s beer scene.

Mount Baker Station

The immediate environment surrounding the elevated Mount Baker Station has a suburban feel, with important Seattle arterials Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Rainier Avenue sprawling below. These two major north-south routes are lined with strip malls and medium-sized box stores, along with only-in-Seattle businesses like the Oberto Sausage Company and Borracchini’s Bakery. Coincidentally, Rainier Avenue once served as a thoroughfare for the Rainier Avenue Electric Railway, which connected Seattle with Renton.

But also in the shadows of the station is an important and beautiful string of greenbelts to the south and west, which link the Mount Baker neighborhood to Beacon Hill’s Jefferson Park; and just east, near neoclassical Franklin High School, is a meandering greenbelt that follows Mount Baker Boulevard, leading urban wanderers past classic Craftsman-style homes to the shores of Lake Washington’s Mount Baker Beach and Colman Park.

Small, yet incredibly popular among locals, Mount Baker Park connects the neighborhood to Lake Washington and Colman Park. The park includes tennis courts, a children’s play area and an idyllic setting for a picnic. Nearby, Mount Baker Community Club serves as a community gathering place in an airy, early-20th-century building adjacent to a row of neighborhood businesses.

Columbia City Station

Brick and wood-framed buildings line Columbia City’s quaint historic business district on Rainier Avenue South. The neighborhood’s shops, restaurants and community spaces are a reflection of its diversity: you can find all kinds of food, from African to Hawaiian to Caribbean; or snag a ticket to a Latino film festival or opera preview. Coffee shops and breweries abound, and locally owned shops sell everything from toys to gifts to consignment clothing.

Looking for arts and culture? Columbia City Gallery hosts rotating art exhibitions, and entertainment is offered nightly at Ark Lodge Cinemas, Columbia City Theater, the Royal Room and other venues. The Rainier Arts Center, housed in a landmark 1921 building, presents a particularly eclectic mix of theater, dance, music and town hall-style discussions.

Columbia City is a short five-minute walk from the station that bears its name. Close by are Columbia Park, an urban green space sandwiched between traditional Seattle bungalows and newer high-rise apartments; the century-old Seattle Public Library’s Columbia Branch; Rainier Community Center; and Genesee Park and Playfield, with its sports fields and off-leash dog area.

The Columbia City Farmer’s Market draws crowds every Wednesday to 37th Avenue South and South Edmunds Street from late spring to fall.

Othello Station

More than 40 languages are spoken in the Othello neighborhood — from Amharic to Vietnamese — making it the United Nations of Seattle.

The community’s rich cultural diversity is omnipresent, and can be experienced in the businesses and organizations found close to the Othello Station along Martin Luther King Junior Way South: East African and Cambodian grocers and retailers sell familiar products to their respective communities or curious customers; the smells of lemongrass pho, or beef skirt steak carne asada, or pork and shrimp shumai greets pedestrians passing the dozens of restaurants dotting the neighborhood; and throughout the week, you can hear Christian service spoken in Tagalog, or Vietnamese singing coming from the neighborhood’s Buddhist monastery, or prayers in Arabic being recited at a local Islamic school.

The Othello Playground and John C. Little Park are both a short walk from the Othello Station. They provide great green spaces, making an ideal location to enjoy food and picnic from one of the neighborhood’s many food choices.

Rainier Beach Station

Where Rainier Avenue meets Lake Washington, you’ll find the vibrant, diverse and residential neighborhood of Rainier Beach.

Among the area’s attractions are a recently remodeled community center (with a family-friendly indoor pool) and branch library that serves patrons in many languages. Nearby Kubota Garden, an expansive, tranquil Japanese garden created in the late 1920s by Japanese immigrant Fujitaro Kubota, is home to a bamboo grove, koi-filled ponds and the picturesque Heart Bridge.

From there, you can take the short trek to Lake Washington’s Pritchard Island Beach, a park with sweeping views of Seward Park to the north and Mercer Island to the east, and a connected marsh with native plants and several animal species calling the wetland home. Adjacent to Pritchard Island Beach is Beer Sheva Park, which makes an ideal setting for a picnic, with the Cascade Mountains greeting visitors in the distance.

For those with an appetite, head to Jude’s Old Town or Stonehouse Café and Bar for sweet and savory food options, or a pint of beer. Or if you need a jolt of caffeine, enjoy Ethiopian coffee paired with the tasty and filling Kaffa combo at Kaffa Coffee & Wine Bar.

And don’t miss Emerson School, an architectural and historic gem. Built in 1909 in the Jacobean style, it was the first Seattle public school to have kindergarten.

Tukwila International Boulevard Station

The Tukwila International Boulevard Station is located in the most diverse city in the Pacific Northwest. At nearby Foster High School, more than 40 world languages are spoken, and flags from about 50 countries greet students in the cafeteria. Tukwila’s diversity is also illustrated through the many businesses found near the station. At nearby Bakaro Mall, a wide range of African-made products are sold, including fabrics, jewelry and beauty products. Global cuisine is also found in the shadows of the station, including Indian, Chinese, East African and Mexican food.

A quick bus ride from the Tukwila station is Westfield Southcenter mall. At 1.7 million square feet, it is the largest shopping complex in the state, with more than 200 stores. Dozens of additional retail[ers and restaurants, large and small, anchor the periphery of the mall.

For bike and hiking enthusiasts, the Green River Trail is about a 15-minute trip from the station. The approximately 20-mile trail hugs the Green River, traversing farmland, industrial and warehouse areas, and suburbs, ending in Seattle.

SeaTac/Airport Station

This station serves the rapidly growing Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and the diverse suburb of SeaTac.

Travelers can experience Seattle and the region without ever stepping outside of the airport: Local musicians perform seven days a week; Puget Sound oysters and salmon are served on several concourses, along with some of the area’s beer and wine; and regional Native American art can be found throughout the terminals.

Beyond the airport, the city of SeaTac offers a variety of restaurants that reflect its demographic makeup, including Thai, Japanese and Mexican cuisine. For travelers with an overnight layover, the restaurant 13 Coins serves a bucket of clams, smoked-salmon eggs benedict and other menu items 24 hours a day.

Angle Lake Station

Passengers traveling the elevated 1.6-mile track south of the airport station are offered a sweeping view of the Olympic Mountain range to the west, Mount Rainier to the southeast and Angle Lake to the east.

Opened in September 2016, the Angle Lake Station is the newest stop on Sound Transit’s Central Link Light Rail. This SeaTac neighborhood is largely residential, but Angle Lake Park is a short 10-minute walk away, offering visitors an opportunity to fish, swim or picnic. For the latter, picnic-goers can stock up at a Mexican restaurant or West African market near the station.

Feeling lucky? Try a hand of poker or blackjack at the nearby Silver Dollar Casino.

Reporting by Tyler Sipe and Lindsey Wasson
Design by Frank Mina
Web development by Audrey Carlsen
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