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My Town: Ken Jennings’ Picks for Seattle

‘Jeopardy!’ champion turned host shares his favorite hometown places to explore


spinner image water, boats and buildings as background; photo of ken jennings in upper left corner; the words greetings from seattle, washington in upper right corner
Photo Collage: MOA Staff; (Source: Jennings: Maarten de Boer/ABC via Getty Images; Background: Chona Kasinger)

Jeopardy! legend Ken Jennings, 49, holds the record for the most consecutive games and prize money won in regular season play, and since 2022 has been a regular host of the game show. The trivia ace also knows a thing or two about his current hometown of Seattle, Washington. “It’s really a carpe diem city,” he says. And in addition to these tips he offers for exploring the area, his latest book, 100 Places to See After You Die: A Travel Guide to the Afterlife, is a humorous roundup of destinations from literature, mythology and pop culture to explore in the next dimension.

 

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Browse the stacks at …

Phinney Books. Seattle has an abundance of great indie bookstores. … I’ve done events at all of them, and they’ve all been very supportive. But my neighborhood bookstore — Phinneys — weirdly, is actually founded and owned by a fellow Jeopardy! champion. The guy’s name is Tom Nissley. He was running Amazon’s book blog several years ago and he wound up going on Jeopardy! [in 2010] and winning eight games. He won a nice chunk of change [$235,405] and … he decided what he had always wanted to do was run an independent bookstore. … It’s not a hangout place, but it’s extremely well curated because Tom has a Jeopardy!-level brain. He knows everything about books. So the selection there is just fantastic. He’s amazing at recommendations. 

spinner image tom nissley and ken jennings in front of bookcase with numerous books
Phinney Books is owned by fellow "Jeopardy!" champion Tom Nissley.
COURTESY JENNINGS

 

Take the dogs for a swim at

Magnuson Park. It used to be a military base. … Now it’s an amazing park: They’re restoring the wetlands; the great swimming beach; the iconic hill from the credits of Six Feet Under is there and you can fly a kite there. There’s a lot of good art. There’s a sculpture of a pod of killer whales [part of The Fin Project: From Swords Into Plowshares] that’s all made with deconditioned submarine towers. [In the park’s off-leash area], dogs can paddle around in Lake Washington. I have one dog, Chance, a spaniel mix, who’s very water reluctant, and then I have Dakota, a golden retriever who does like water but is a little bit neurotic about it. So I really do have to get out there and splash and throw the stick to get her into the lake. 

spinner image dogs swimming in body of water
Dogs can take a dip in Lake Washington in Magnuson Park's off-lease area.
Chona Kasinger

 

Enjoy the view at …

Fremont Peak Park. It has what I’ve come to think of as the best view in Seattle. You’re looking west over the neighborhood of Ballard. You get this little wedge of Puget Sound. You can see the Olympic Mountains. You’ve got the lights of the old fishing village of Ballard spreading before you. … There’s a series of cool stone markers for solstices and equinoxes. The whole park [is] weirdly themed around the Greek myth of Theseus. So there’s a metal thread winding through the park, like Ariadne’s ball string and the labyrinth. … I take my dogs there a lot.

spinner image overlooking view from fremont peak park down on seattle
Fremont Peak Park features spectacular views of Seattle.
CHONA KASINGER

 

Make a reservation at

Le Pichet. It’s a French place down by Pike Place Market that’s been there forever. I feel very loyal to it because it almost closed last year. Its original owners were going to move to Provence and had abruptly closed their other restaurant on Capitol Hill that we loved. So a lot of Seattleites stepped in, including me, to kind of help these employees fund a couple of the longtime employees to buy the place and take over the lease and the restaurant. It serves great simple French bistro food. If it’s cold out, [order the] French onion soup.

spinner image four different food items on separate plates
Le Pichet serves up French bistro fare seven days a week.
Chona Kasinger
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Enjoy live music at

The Neptune Theater. If I’m there, it’s usually because it’s an indie band or something that reminds me of my love of indie pop in the early 2000s. It’s an old movie house with beautiful stained-glass windows, scenes from Greek mythology. … I will say that the acoustics are terrible, but I love the building so much that I go to concerts there all the time.

spinner image stage, rows of seats, stained glass windows in theater
The Neptune Theater hosts a variety of events, including musical performances, film screenings and arts education programs.
Chona Kasinger

 

Witness civil engineering at work at

[Hiram M. Chittenden] Ballard Locks. [The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] cut a ship canal through Seattle into Lake Washington in the early 20th century, and that means the boats have to go from sea level up to the level of Lake Washington. It’s a massive boat elevator, gravity powered, right in the middle of Ballard. Water flows in from Lake Washington to lift the boats up, and it goes back down. It’s fun to just spend an hour there watching the boats go up and down. There’s a beautiful botanical garden [Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden]. The Army Corps of Engineers built it; there’s a little museum about the history of the spot. And there’s a fish ladder. You can watch the salmon head upstream to spawn, getting their strength back before they tackle swimming up the fish ladder next to the locks.

spinner image ballard locks lifting up; boats on water
Visitors can watch a variety of ships pass through Seattle's Ballard Locks system.
Chona Kasinger

 

Rent a movie — yes, that’s still a thing — at

Scarecrow Video. At this point, Scarecrow Video has by far the biggest collection of any [independent] video store in North America. It’s a Seattle institution. As people moved to streaming services, they have stayed alive by becoming a nonprofit. They’re basically, at this point … a motion picture and video archive. Their goal is to own one of everything. I’m a longtime fan. I used to go there in college because it was all the stuff I was dying to see that I’d read about that you just couldn’t see anywhere else. … It’s great for browsing. That’s what I miss about video stores. 

spinner image ken jennings in front of shelves and shelves of videos
Scarecrow Video is currently the largest independently owned video and physical media library in the country and boasts more than 145,000 titles.
COURTESY JENNINGS

 

Insider tip:

Park at …

Amazon’s parking garages. Amazon has these abundant eight-story parking garages under a lot of their [office] buildings in Seattle. All these garages are free after 4 p.m. [on weekdays] and on weekends. So anytime [my family and I] go downtown, we park at Amazon. There’s charging [stations] down there. We drive an electric car, so we charge down there.

spinner image entrance and exit of amazon parking garage; vehicle exiting
Jennings suggests parking at one of Amazon's Seattle-area garages.
Chona Kasinger

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