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Located in north Seattle, you'll find the charming, modest, residential neighborhood of Phinney Ridge. Phinney offers an urban-suburban mix with eye-catching views. Given its small size, you may mistake it for Greenlake, Ballard or Greenwood. If Phinney Ridge was a quadruplet of those three neighborhoods, it would be known as the mutt. For as long as Phinney has been around, land rights have been debated between the four neighborhoods, specifically the Woodland Park Zoo and the area known as "PhinneyWood" between Phinney Ridge and Greenwood.
If you've ever heard of Phinney Ridge, it's most likely because of the Woodland Park Zoo and/or Woodland Park. Phinney is surrounded by Green Lake to the east, Wallingford and Fremont to the south, Ballard to the west, and Greenwood to the north.
Phinney's defining characteristics is the thin sliver of flat land at the top with VERY steep sloping sides to both the east and west. This geographically unique layout offers extraordinary views of the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains to the west and Lake Washington and the Cascade Mountains to the east. On a clear day, you'll find yourself pretending to be on the top of the mountains singing Do-Re-Mi from "The Sound of Music," nostalgia gripping you like a bundle of bricks. While you may think Queen Anne or Capitol Hill has the steepest grades, Phinney is also well-known for its slopes (especially to the runners trying to get their best mile on Strava).
Traveling from Phinney to downtown by car will take you anywhere from 15-25 minutes, 42 minutes by bike, and around 30 minutes by bus 5 or the E Line.
Phinney Ridge is named after Guy Phinney. You can probably guess where the Ridge part came from. Guy, a wealthy immigrant from Nova Scotia, established a private estate which is now Woodland Park Zoo. With the implementation of his private streetcar that led from Fremont to Phinney, visitors were able to scour the area. By the 1900s, Greenlake's one and only school was overflowing, leading to the development of the John B. Allen School atop Phinney Ridge. To mitigate travel time for school children, the West Woodland School was built on the west side of Phinney. Things really started to take off when, in 1912, there was sufficient enough access to Phinney Ridge that real estate lots began to sell.
Phinney Ridge's most well-known attraction is certainly the Woodland Park Zoo. Founded in 1899, the zoo now sees more than one million visitors per year. The zoo's mission is its dedication to saving wildlife and inspiring people to make conservation a priority. With its current strategic plan, they seem well on their way. While you may think the zoo is only good for school field trips, there are actually plenty of events that anyone can get on board with including Brew at the Zoo, where you get to drink beer and watch animals, and WildLights, where they light up the entire zoo for the holidays.
Along with the zoo, the Phinney Neighborhood Association (PNA) is really what sets Phinney apart from its counterparts. Housed in what was once the John B. Allen School, the PNA has 85 full and part-time staff. Their mission is to engage and support the community through programs, services, and activities, ultimately connecting people and fostering civic engagement; they definitely do their job.
Its reach includes Phinney, Greenwood, and Ballard. In 2006, the Greenwood Senior Center (GSC) and PNA decided to merge, allowing the GSC to be a full-service senior center. One of the more exciting activities the PNA puts on are art walks. Originally a stand-alone annual event, they have become a monthly event, called the BIG One. The BIG One features art in 70-80 businesses, and will often have music in participating businesses and churches, street performers, and chalk art.
Located on Greenwood Ave, you'll find Oliver's Twist, the neighborhood's casual after-work cocktail spot. When they opened, there was no other place in Phinney that offered craft cocktails. Good thing they tried - it's now a fan favorite! Fun fact: The owners named the bar after their son, Oliver, and the "Twist" comes from the house cocktails named after characters from Oliver Twist. Another Phinney classic, Sully's SnowGoose Saloon, stands tall with a German-like exterior. The cozy shack was one of the first six licensed taverns in Seattle. Inside, you'll find a fireplace, a huge barrel of peanuts, and nearly 30 taps of beer.
Voted as "One of the 20 Hamburgers You Must Eat Before You Die" by the Oprah Show and GQ Magazine, Red Mill Burgers, has customers ranting and raving about their mouth-watering double-decker burgers and silky milkshakes that leave them coming back for more by the week. El Chupacabra Greenwood (yes, it's actually in Phinney), is the perfect place to grab a burrito and sit by the fire in the winter or on the patio in the summer. The admired joint is actually an old house turned cantina. You can get your pizza fix from Zeek's Pizza and Windy City Pie. Another Phinney Ridge favorite is Tangerine Thai Restaurant.
Although small, Phinney still offers some of the greatest coffee nooks and shouldn't be omitted from your "List of Coffee Shops To Visit Before I Die." If you're looking to add a pastry to your Sunday coffee run, Celine Patisserie has croissants and danishes galore. Don't press on that link unless you want to be ordering $20 worth of pastries. If you're just looking for coffee, Cafe Bambino, Caffe Vita, and The Herkimer are some of your best bets.
Phinney Books, while small, takes a special interest in providing customers with fiction, kids' books, essays, history, cookbooks, nature and science, graphic novels, and books about the Northwest. Gibran, Phinney's clothing store offers peculiar, designer clothing to its townspeople. Daily Planet and Johnson & Johnson are both antique stores.
Woodland Park, cut in half by Aurora Avenue, is possibly one of the most well-known parks in the Seattle area because of the zoo. Don't let it fool you, there's more to it. The west side includes picnic areas, a rose garden, and a play area, while the east side, you're more likely to find folk playing sports like tennis, soccer, and horseshoe. It's always fun to go on a buddy-run and watch the soccer matches while passing.
Whittier Kids, the only school in Phinney, is a preschool that uses play-based learning to engage youngsters. The school is part of the Phinney Neighborhood Association.