They share the same area code, but Seattle and West Seattle are worlds apart. Think of West Seattle ― especially the strip of shops and restaurants on California Avenue near Alaska Street ― as Seattle's laid-back cousin, the one who always tries to hide while a group picture is being taken. Absent is the hustle and bustle of downtown Seattle, but West Seattle's got an energy all its own.
Info. From downtown Seattle, take I-5 south to the West Seattle Bridge exit and Fauntleroy Way S.W. Turn right on S.W. Alaska St. to California Ave. S.W. www.wsjunction.com or 206/935-0904.
Capers Home. A furniture, gifts, and home accessories store where you can pick up anything from argyle-patterned ottomans to cookbooks from San Francisco's Boulevard restaurant. Open daily. 4521 California Ave. S.W.; 206/932-0371.
In Bloom Home & Garden. A garden store perfect for first-timers. "We sell a lot of plants that thrive on neglect," says the store's co-owner Bonita Corliss, who often recommends prayer plants. Open daily. 4437 California Ave. S.W.; 206/932-2588.
Easy Street Records & Cafe. Situated inside a record store, the quirky eatery has red vinyl booths and a hanging fridge door covered in stickers. At the coffee bar, old singles records from Johnny Cash and other crooners peek through the clear resin countertop. Breakfast and lunch daily. $. 4559 California Ave. S.W.; 206/938-3279.
The Matador West. Moody restaurant with artistic wood-and-ironwork touches, specializing in Tex-Mex cuisine and high-end tequilas. Try the blackened whitefish tacos or the ancho-chipotle baby back ribs. Lunch Sat-Sun, dinner daily. $$. 4546 California Ave. S.W.; 206/932-9988.
Alki Beach Park. An actual sandy beach where you and the family can catch some rays or play paddleball. Only the brave or the very young go swimming in chilly Elliott Bay, though. 1702 Alki Ave. S.W.; www.seattle.gov/parks or 206/684-4075.
Alki Kayak Tours. Guided sea-kayak trips on Puget Sound. Reserve ahead for a Sunset Tour, with incredible views of the Seattle skyline, or a morning kayak tour of Alki Lighthouse or Duwamish River, a route usually teeming with wildlife. From $35 per person for 2 hours. Alki Crab & Fish Co., 1660 Harbor Ave. S.W.; www.kayakalki.com or 206/953-0237.