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East Side
More Seattle visitors staying across the lake
Next time you're headed for a fun weekend 1 in Seattle, consider the advice of many visitors to the area who have found an attractive alternative to staying right in downtown Seattle. They say try the East Side -- it's close to the Seattle action, but can be a less harried experience.

It's all about traffic and downtown congestion and, in recent years, the cities on the East Side -- especially Bellevue -- have seen an increase in tourism as Seattle-area visitors find the East Side alternative often makes sense. It's 15 minutes from Seattle, but it also has its own shopping, restaurants and tourist activities.

Visitors know the traffic and congestion in Seattle is always going to be more of a challenge and some visitors prefer to stay where the streets are wider, the crowds smaller and the vehicle traffic a lot more bearable.

Bellevue is the biggest of the East Side cities and has developed quite a local infrastructure of upscale shopping, great restaurants and fine hotels. Kirkland joins Bellevue as a lakefront city and both cities offer lots of opportunities to enjoy the views and activities of Lake Washington.

The vacationers who choose Bellevue as a base of operations find miles of nature trails, public parks and swimming beaches. And Bellevue has some big city attractions like spas, museums and art exhibitions.

If you want to get in your car, it's just a short drive from Bellevue to lots of unique East King County attractions such as the wineries and breweries of Woodinville. Or in half an hour you can be at Snoqualmie Falls enjoying a one-of-a-kind breakfast at the Salish Lodge or riding the rails of the Snoqualmie Valley Railroad and touring the Northwest Railway Museum.

And, believe it or not, Bellevue has some great outdoor recreation. One of the favorite areas for outdoor enthusiasts is Meydenbauer Beach park, just a quarter mile from the Old Main neighborhood. There are lots of forested trails and you can walk right to the beach where you'll enjoy an amazing view of Lake Washington. Check ahead on progress of recent improvements and whether the park is closed -- when it re-opens it will be triple the size with more waterfront area and will be closer to downtown.

Another favorite is Chism Beach Park, which is about a mile from downtown and, like Meydenbauer, you'll enjoy dramatic views of the lake and the Seattle skyline.

If you're into people watching, do your walking in Bellevue Downtown Park, a 21-acre slice of the city set aside for outdoor recreation. It's a circular path and you'll enjoy the atmosphere with a beautiful pond -- and lots of beautiful people exercising with you. There has been a lot of recent improvements in the park and the Grand Reopening is June 28. A huge new children's play area called the Imagination Playground will be available to kids of all abilities.

Also check out the Mercer Slough Nature Park and Bellevue Botanical Garden which, together, include 373 acres of countryside to enjoy.

Even when it rains, Bellevue has plenty to keep you busy. You can stay dry during your visit to Seattle's East Side by shopping at the very impressive Bellevue Collection in Bellevue. The Bellevue Collection has three distinct shopping areas, with more than 250 stores between the three. If you've had trouble finding something, you'll find it at the Bellevue Collection.

Another great place to spend a rainy day is the Bellevue Arts Museum, which is actually one of the top destinations in Bellevue.

You and your Significant Other might enjoy a trip to the spa. There are a number of spas to choose from in Bellevue and one you might consider is the Salt Mine Arium which offers special salt therapy to relieve allergies and other ailments.

It's also well worth the short drive to Woodinville, home to more than some of Washington's finest wineries and breweries. You can visit more than 90 wineries that have production facilities, barrel rooms or tasting rooms -- and it's all just 20 minutes from Bellevue.

There also are a number of craft breweries in the general area, most with pubs or tasting rooms. If you want to sample the beverages but leave the driving to others, there are several tour companies that provide transportation to the wineries and breweries.

For more information, please visit www.visitbellevuewashington.com or phone 425-450-3777.
PHOTOS: Bellevue Skyline Park
PHOTO CREDITS: Photo courtesy visitbellevuewashington.com
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