University Way, known as “The Ave” is a busy pedestrian street with many shops and many more restaurants. It’s a good walk if you want to take in an active streetscape and find somewhere new to eat along the way.
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The Ave was originally called Columbus Avenue and then 14th Avenue, before being changed to University Way in 1919. The street doesn’t have a lot of fast-moving traffic, being only two lanes, and the road is separated from the sidewalk by parking and bike racks, which helps the walking experience. The groups of students and panhandlers can slow you down sometimes, so be patient or go early in the day. The blocks are long but there are several mid-block crosswalks.
Start at University Way NE and NE 41st St. There are many buses that will get you there, or you can click here for directions (finding parking is another matter).
Head north, up the slight incline. We’ll start on the left side of the street and then turn around and walk back on the other side of the street.
The first part of the walk is a little quieter than the rest of the street. You’ll walk past a parking lot before passing the first of many places to eat.
As you approach NE 42nd St, you’ll begin to see more restaurants. You can find many different types of food to eat – including Indian, Mediterranean, and all types of Asian. Feel free to stop to eat anywhere that looks appealing and you’ll likely pay less than $10 for your meal. You’ll also pass coffee shops, bookstores, clothing stores, and various other retail establishments. There are also some establishments along some of the cross streets, like 42nd, 43rd, and especially 45th, so feel free to explore before continuing north on University Way.
Between 43rd and 45th Streets, you’ll pass the Varsity Theatre, which has been operating as a movie theater since 1940 and added two upstairs screens in 1985.
As you walk, look up at the streetlamps. There are ornaments provided for some of the local establishments (for example, a tub of popcorn for the Varsity Theatre).
Looking north along University Way NE
Continue on to 50th St. If it’s a Saturday, feel free to continue to the University District Farmers Market. Otherwise, cross University Way and head south. Even though we’re backtracking, you’ll see a lot of new things that you didn’t see on the first leg of the walk.
On the way back, you’ll pass a few neat stores, including Gargoyles Statuary and Shiga’s Imports. We’ll end where we started, at NE 41st St and University Way NE.
highlights: many international and inexpensive places to eat, shopping, sidewalks are insulated from the road
lowlights: can be busy with college students and vagrants, sidewalks too narrow for the amount of pedestrian traffic, no open public spaces