The Green Lake area of Seattle is less its own neighborhood and more a grouping of neighborhoods that share the common bond of a border along Seattle’s treasured Green Lake. This north-central Seattle collection of mini-neighborhoods includes Wallingford on the northeast, Phinney Ridge to the west and Woodland Park to the south. Most anything located within a half-mile of the lake is referred to as ‘Green Lake,’ even if it is part of another neighborhood. Yet, many of the small sections of businesses that cluster around the lake have no real other designation, and thus it became referred to as the Green Lake neighborhood.

Green Lake can refer to either the neighborhood, the lake itself, or to the park that entirely surrounds the lake. The lake is a glacial lake, which was named in 1855 for the algae blooms that gave it its namesake color. Despite its place as a centerpiece for Seattle, the lake must be carefully maintained, dredged for depth and fed by the municipal water supply as well as rainfall and storm runoff due to the city’s decision to change the course of the water for more parkland.

Today Green Lake Park is considered Seattle’s version of Manhattan’s Central Park. While swimming in it is an option at either of the two lifeguarded beaches or various other areas around the lake, it is more commonly used as something to run, bike, stroll, rollerblade or skate around, via the inner, paved 2.8 mile loop, or the longer, unpaved, outer loop. In the park, along this loop, there are a variety of other sport courts and activities, including a public golf course, volleyball, tennis and basketball courts, a wading pool, a swimming pool, soccer fields and bicycle dirt jumps. Non-athletes also can enjoy the park, either from the beaches or from the lake in rentable paddleboats. There is also a public theater in the Bathhouse on the northwest side of the lake and a water amphitheater on the southwest side, which is also where the boathouse for the crew (rowing) teams is housed.

Much of the area immediately around Green Lake is residential, though there are a few pockets of commerce, many of them looking to draw from the crowds which flock to the park, especially on the rare sunny days. On the east side of the lake is a collection of restaurants and athletic shops. Just a few more blocks east of these is Tangletown, a Green Lake neighborhood so called because of its extremely confusing street layout. To the north of Green Lake are businesses along Aurora, the old Highway 99. While much of 99 is littered with old motels and the such, this part has small restaurants and stores. To the southwest of Green Lake is Woodland Park, home of Seattle’s zoo.

It is because of the proximity of the zoo that Green Lake no longer allows motorized vehicles on the water. Aside from adding to the serenity of the park, this keeps the zoo animals safe. The regulation stems from a mid 20th century incident in which hydroplane races on the lake were loud enough that they caused fatal injuries to a snow leopard cub at the zoo.