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Seattle Southside secrets: Don't miss these must-see spots

From a plane-spotting garden to a free aquarium, check these spots out before you check into your flight. Sponsored by Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority

SEATTLE — Jetting out of town for the holidays? Before taking off, explore some of Seattle Southside's best secret spots.

Seike Japanese Garden is a treasure tucked away in the Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden. It was built by Shinichi Seike – a nursery owner in the area - to memorialize his son, who was killed in action in World War II. It might be the only Japanese garden in the world where Zen co-exists with low flying jets.

Don't settle for a chain restaurant if you're waiting for a flight: Sharp's Roasthouse has been feeding locals as well as travelers since 1989 - and keeping them entertained as well, since much of what they serve is being smoked, roasted or brewed in plain sight inside the restaurant.

"It's kind of like a show when you come in, our pasta is being made, our prime rib's being roasted, our meats are all being smoked in our smoker, we're rotating our bourbon,” said Merissa Claridge, owner, and second-generation restaurateur.

A reviewer once called Sharp’s ‘A Carnivore Palace’. Their signature item is a prime rib that’s dry-brined for 24 hours, then cooked for another 12 in a contraption that combines chains, onions and heat in a theatrical display right at the restaurant’s entrance. After those hours of prep and cooking, the prime rib sells out quickly every day – get to Sharp’s before 8:30 pm if you want a slab to call your own.

If you don't make it in time, you can drown your sorrow with house-made hooch.

“We have the largest collection of spirits in the South Sound, we love our spirits so much we decided to make our own liquor and we make small batch spirits here in house, a gin, tequila, vodka and bourbon.”

Claridge said locals pack this place, especially for the lunch deals, and added it's a favorite for travelers also. “This is 100% the place to come if you're flying in or you're flying out, we have food for kids, families, everyone.”

Finally, take a deep dive at this little-known underwater attraction on Redondo Beach in Des Moines called The MaST Center.

"The MaST Center of Highline College is a great secret in the south Seattle community because we're a free public aquarium,” said Jessica Lotz, education coordinator for the aquarium. MaST stands for Marine Science and Technology Center, and visitors can explore the floor of the Puget Sound without getting wet with their 'live dive' program - and meet some real locals: Every critter here comes from Northwest waters.

"Some people like seeing the small things like the sea stars, some people like coming to see the octopus, we also have a six-and-a-half-foot wolf eel,” said Lotz. Upcoming events include Squid-a-rama, on Nov. 16th.

A visit to any one of these places is an opportunity to extend your vacation. Check out one of these Seattle Southside secret spots before you check into your flight.

Stay, play and fly packages for holiday travel are available here.

Story sponsored by Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority. KING 5's Evening celebrates the Pacific Northwest. Connect with Evening on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Email

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