WHAT TO DO
Seattle is the jewel of the Pacific Northwest. It's a dynamic and growing city with a truly unique culture. It is home to Starbucks, Microsoft, Boeing, Grunge Rock and the spectacular scenery of Puget Sound with Mount Rainier off in the distance. The Emerald City has many distinct neighborhoods, from eclectic to urban and artsy to outdoorsy. It is a walking town (with hills) for the most part and an Uber ride is always nearby to take you where you need to go.
Downtown Seattle is the best spot to start your journey and home to several of the city's top destinations. Begin at Pike Place Market, one of the country's largest and oldest public markets (opened in 1907). It abounds with unusual shops and food joints that are a lively introduction to the sights, sounds and tastes of Seattle. Be sure to take in the banter and antics of the fishmongers as you stroll the market. I highly recommend going with an appetite so you can sample a few of my personal favorite spots. Pike Place Chowder at 1530 Post Alley serves some tasty chowder, including crab & oyster and seafood bisque. Just around the corner is Piroshky Piroshky, a compact Russian bakery that serves up delicious hand held pies. I enjoyed the beef & onion piroshky. Do not miss Beecher's Handmade Cheese, it is just a few doors down. Walk off your food coma by strolling the scenic waterfront. Next, consider taking a 1 hour harbor cruise on Elliott Bay. Argosy Cruises (located at pier 55) offer narrated tours and provide great views of the city and beyond. Another option is to take the 35 minute ferry ride (departs from pier 52) and visit Bainbridge Island. It requires a few hours to explore, but it's worth the trip. Upon returning to downtown and the market, head to one of Seattle's most bizarre sights at the southern end of Post Alley - the Gum Wall. Take a few photos and add your own chewed gum to the popular Jackson Pollock like display. For a proper art experience, conclude your downtown tour at the pride of the city's art scene, the Seattle Art Museum (SAM). Located at 1300 1st Avenue, a giant, moving sculpture of a hammering man welcomes you to this impressive institution. The museum is known for its extensive Native American artifacts and Modern American art is also well represented with works by Andy Warhol and the previously mentioned Jackson Pollock. Note: the museum is closed on Tuesday and admission is free on the first Thursday of every month.
Make your way over to Seattle Center, stopping along the way in Belltown to view Olympic Sculpture Park. Seattle Center's 74 acre complex was built for the 1962 World's Fair and its rolling green campus is home to many of the city's most visited attractions. The Space Needle is Seattle's most familiar icon - built for the World's Fair, it soars more than 600 feet to the sky. Ride the elevator to the flying saucer like observation deck for a 360 degree view of the city, Elliott Bay and the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges. Next, visit the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP). Designed by Frank Gehry, this super modern building is made of aluminum and stainless steel shingles. Inside, enjoy rad artifacts and exhibits focusing on music, science fiction, horror and all things pop culture. Be sure to check out the current exhibits (at the time of this writing) on Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie. UPDATE: on October 7, 2018 - a statue of the late great Chris Cornell was unveiled outside of MoPOP. Located at the foot of the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden & Glass is local sculptor Dale Chihuly's permanent exhibition space, featuring possibly the finest collection of curated glass art you'll ever see. It shows off Chihuly's creative designs in a suite of interconnected dark and light rooms. Don't miss the glass house or the outdoor gardens.
Just west of Seattle Center is the Queen Anne neighborhood. It is split into Lower and Upper Queen Anne and the two are quite different. Lower Queen Anne has an interesting mix of independent record shops and bookstores, while Upper Queen Anne has historic homes and spectacular views. The best view is from Kerry Park where you can enjoy an eagle's eye view of downtown, Elliott Bay and Mount Rainier (weather permitting). From there, check out one of Seattle's most unmistakable landmarks, the iron tangled, graffiti highlighted Gas Works Park. The former industrial sight compliments stunning views of the downtown skyline over Lake Union and is a great place to chill and fly a kite. After a break in the park, make your way up to 2 of my favorite neighborhoods in Seattle - Fremont and Ballard. Fremont marches to its own beat and has a free spirited charm. Wander around and check out its quintessential art installations. Be sure to take in the Cold War era Rocket at the corner of Evanston and N 35th Street and the larger than life statue of Vladimir Lenin in the commercial district. Fremont's most famous and photographed resident resides beneath the north end of the Aurora Bridge at N 36th Street (Troll Avenue N). The Fremont Troll was created by Steve Badanes, Will Martin, Donna Walter and Ross Whitehead in 1990. The 18 feet high cement Troll has a hubcap for an eye and is clutching an actual Volkswagen Beetle that has a California license plate. After a few selfies, quench your thirst at Fremont Brewing. Located at 3409 Woodland Park Avenue N, this joint does some tasty beers in a hip tasting room and urban beer garden with communal tables. Note: it is dog and kid friendly. If you're in the mood for coffee (most are in Seattle) head to Milstead & Co at 900 N 34th Street. The bean menu changes daily, the sweets are delightful and the vibe is cool. For a killer bakery, try Flying Apron at 3510 Fremont Avenue N. The homemade cookies are heavenly and they play my kind of music. Speaking of music, check out both equally solid record shops - Jive Time Records at 3506 Fremont Avenue N and Daybreak Records at 4308 Fremont Avenue N. Ballard is Seattle's sweetheart. This neighborhood remains proud of its Scandinavian roots and doesn't have many sights outside of the Hiram M Chittenden Locks (Ballard locks). Enjoy your time strolling and hanging out at the fantastic bars and restaurants on Ballard Avenue. I will discuss some of my favorites later on. The Sunday Ballard Farmers Market is awesome, it features an impressive lineup of vendors that range from farmers to florists and fishers.
Capitol Hill's reputation as one of the city's hippest and colorful neighborhoods attracts visitors and locals of all sorts. Global tastes rule this eclectic district, along with a solid nightlife and probably the best bookstore in town. Located at 1521 10th Avenue, Elliott Bay Book Company is a full service shop, home to over 150,000 titles, set on cedar shelves in a multilevel, unique atmosphere. Capitol Hill is where you can worship the statue of guitar genius and Seattle's favorite son, Jimi Hendrix. The bronze sculpture was created by local artist Daryl Smith in 1997 and is located close to the intersection of Broadway and E Pine Street. The hardcore Jimi Hendrix fan can also visit his memorial and grave site, located in Greenwood Cemetery in Renton, a suburb of Seattle.
Enjoy a few hours in Pioneer Square, the original heart of the city in Seattle's early days. The old neighborhood is bustling once again with historic redbrick buildings, art galleries and shops. It's definitely worth a visit for the history and architecture alone - look into Bill Speidel's Underground Tour at 614 1st Avenue. This cleverly conceived 75 minute walking tour of Seattle's historic underground (the part of the city that was buried by landfill after the Great Fire of 1889) benefits from its guides, who use wit and animation to relate Seattle's unusual early history.
To conclude your tour, hire an Uber ride and journey out to the neighborhoods of Georgetown and West Seattle. Prior to my arrival, I was unaware of the Georgetown neighborhood. This funky area, once home to big industry is now booming with bars (9 LB Hammer) restaurants (El Sirenito) record shops (Georgetown Records) art galleries (Studio E) and my personal favorite, Fran's Chocolates. Located at 5900 Airport Way S, this gigantic and beautiful space is open to the public for taking a peek at the production line and for indulging in chocolate treats galore. It's kind of like having your own golden ticket to Willy Wonka's factory. After indulging, head out to West Seattle, another world altogether. With the relaxed vibe of a beach town and plenty of indie shops, this neighborhood has a laid back charm. It covers most of the city's western peninsula and offers great trails in Lincoln Park and sandy beaches at Alki Beach. Stroll along California Avenue in West Seattle Junction and be sure to stop in at the quaint Bakery Nouveau (4737 California Avenue SW) for a delicious pastry. Finish up at Seattle's best record shop, Easy Street Records. Located at 4559 California Avenue SW, this eclectic hangout has an awesome selection of music, plus a coffee shop and diner.
WHERE TO EAT
Seattle is a superb town for eating and drinking. It has renowned chefs, amazing seafood, cult favorites, global flavors and so much more. Foodies and drink aficionados rejoice, this city has got you covered. A few of my favorite spots to chow down are in and around Pike Place Market. Matt's In The Market (94 Pike Street #32) serves up delicious Pacific Northwest cuisine with seasonal specials and has an extensive wine list. The menu is full of farm, sea and ranch fresh ingredients sourced at the market stalls downstairs and the views of Elliott Bay are stunning. Try the seared scallops, they're perfect. The best sushi joint in town is Sushi Kashiba. It is located next to the market at 86 Pine Street #1 and offers top notch sushi and omakase in a chic room with water views. Chef Shiro is the man, go with the signature set dinner appropriately named Seattle. Down the hill on the waterfront at pier 56 (1201 Alaskan Way) is Elliott's Oyster House. It's one of the best and has a list of over 30 different oyster varieties, plucked from practically every inlet and bay in Puget Sound. You can not beat the views or the very happy - happy hour.
My favorite spot for oysters is up in Ballard. The Walrus And The Carpenter has a great atmosphere along with a fun food and drink menu. Located at 4743 Ballard Avenue NW (walk ins only) this popular spot always has a wait. The staff is super friendly and the oysters are ice cold and yummy. Be sure to try the scallop crudo and steak tartare, they pair nicely with the jewel of denial cocktail - gin, grapefruit, etc. If it's a taste of Italy you crave, make your way to Capitol Hill and Cascina Spinasse (1531 14th Avenue). The northern Italian menu from chef Stuart Lane delivers the best of the Piedmont region, including my favorite, the tajarin al ragu - freshly made, hand cut pasta with a beef and pork meat sauce. The space is cozy and rustic and reservations are essential. Staying in the neighborhood, Lost Lake Cafe & Lounge has a great vibe. It's a retro Twin Peaks (David Lynch TV series) inspired diner with two curved bars, orange booths, and tattooed servers. The bar is hip, with over 20 beers on tap and the food is pretty darn good for a diner. You can find it at 1505 10th Avenue and it never closes.
Keeping things casual, Quinn's Pub at 1001 E Pike Street is a lively, wood paneled gastropub that offers a creative take on bar food, beer, bourbons and whiskeys. I enjoyed the scotch egg and foie gras frites with several tasty pints of Quinn's ale. Another popular hangout is King's Hardware, located at 5225 Ballard Avenue NW. Its walls are decorated with taxidermy and its patio is filled with artistic locals. There is skee ball in house and the burgers and hot wings are dynamite. The perfect remedy, if you had too much of the sauce the night before, is a funky place called Biscuit Bitch. It has locations in Belltown and Pioneer Square and does a solid take on Southern inspired biscuit grub. Order a strong cup of coffee and the gritty scrambled cheesy bitch, it's a biscuit and gravy smothered in cheese, scrambled eggs and garlic grits, so healthy. Toulouse Petit at 601Queen Anne Avenue N is an excellent spot for brunch. This cozy Cajun joint offers a menu brimming with New Orleans favorites, including classic shrimp creole, gumbo and jambalaya.
Seattle has some great neighborhood spots to chill and enjoy a drink or two. It also is a musically inclined city and is home to some of the best music venues in the country. I would like to share a few of my personal favorites. For cocktails, start at Canon (928 12th Avenue) it's the best in town. With a cozy space and retro feel, the talented mixologists carefully craft perfection before your eyes. Canon has the largest spirit collection in the Western Hemisphere at over 3,500 labels and counting. The cocktail menu is sacred and each drink has its own unique glass, pretty rad. I was a big fan of Birds & Bees, Bright Idea, Elementary and Fellow Of Infinite Jest - just to name a few. The light bar menu was just right, try the pork belly bun and the fried cauliflower. Expect to wait for a seat, there's little standing room and reservations require a small credit card hold (credited to the bill). Note: they only accommodate parties of 4 or fewer. Another solid destination is Liberty on Capitol Hill. Located at 517 15th Avenue E, this rustic space with couches offers excellent craft cocktails and delicious sushi - two of my favorite things. They open at 4pm every day and it's a coffee bar during its off hours. Nearby at 1118 E Pike Street is the totally rad Unicorn. This carnival themed bar has arcades, corn dogs and cocktails - what more could you ask for. Also on Capitol Hill is Foreign National. Located at 300 E Pike Street, this sleek space is lit by a huge disco ball and does highbrow cocktails and snacks from around the globe. Up in Ballard at 5233 Ballard Avenue NW is Percy's & Co. This great neighborhood hangout serves apothecary inspired cocktails and a Southern Creole menu in a relaxed, vintage setting. I enjoyed the Honey Bee (rosemary infused gin, fresh lemon and lavender infused honey) along with the fried chicken sandwich. My favorite speakeasy is at 2205 2nd Avenue in Belltown (between 1st and 2nd off Blanchard in Gin Alley). Bathtub Gin & Co distributes Prohibition era cocktails and has a large international gin menu. This two floor joint does a Hendrick's & Tonic just right and the Atticus Finch delights the senses. Note: the place is tricky to find, look for the wooden door. The perfect way to end the night is at Seattle's best dive bar, Shorty's. Located at 2222 2nd Avenue in Belltown, this popular hangout is all about cheap beer, arcade games, pinball machines and music (punk and metal). The lights stay low, the music stays loud and the Coney Island like hot dogs and nachos help soak up the booze.
Seattle gave the world Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley and Chris Cornell. It's a great music town and it has a handful of cool places to catch a show. My favorite venue hands down is The Crocodile at 2200 2nd Avenue in Belltown. The Croc has been the heart and soul of Seattle's music scene since 1991. With a small capacity (around 500) this intimate space has hosted the likes of Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains. The bar area is a cool place to hang and has some awesome photos on the walls. Across the street from Pike Place Market, The Showbox (1426 1st Avenue) is a great place to see some big name acts. The acoustics are decent, the room is not too large (capacity 1100) and there are a few bars to wet your whistle. Just around the corner at 1932 2nd Avenue is The Moore Theatre. This famed venue (capacity 1800) is the oldest still active theater in Seattle, dating from 1907. Located on Capitol Hill at 925 E Pike Street is Neumos. Once one of the grunge era's iconic clubs (used to be called Moe's) it has managed to reclaim its status as a staple of the Seattle rock scene. It's a solid rock venue (holds around 700) the sound is excellent and the roster of acts is one of the best in the city. It can get stuffy and hot but that's rock and roll at its best. Finally, The Paramount Theatre is an old, historic venue at 911 Pine Street. It dates from 1928 and was originally a movie house. It became a rock venue in 1971, was restored in 1995 (capacity 3000) and has since operated as a multi performance venue. It hosted significant performances by Nirvana in 1991 and Soundgarden in 1992.
WHERE TO STAY
Seattle has 2 superb hotels that I highly recommend. They both offer exceptional service and comfort. The first is the Thompson Seattle, a sleek hotel just across the street from Pike Place Market at 110 Stewart Street. Recently opened in 2016, this modern boutique property provides expansive views of Puget Sound. The sophisticated rooms with floor to ceiling windows and modern wall art offer sitting areas, minibars, flat screen TVs and free WiFi, as well as rainfall showers and designer toiletries. Its restaurant, Scout, specializes in Pacific Northwest cuisine and the rooftop bar called The Nest is the perfect place to enjoy a drink high above the city, looking out onto the water.
A second option is Inn At The Market, set in the heart of Pike Place Market at 86 Pine Street. This 71 room boutique hotel has elegant, good sized rooms, many with large windows or small balconies. All rooms have flat screen TVs, iPod docks, complimentary WiFi and coffeemakers. The fifth floor deck has comfy teak lounge chairs where you can enjoy a beverage with your view. The staff is friendly and helpful and you are just a short walk from several popular attractions, including the Seattle Art Museum. The two restaurants I mentioned earlier, Matt's In The Market and Sushi Kashiba are just outside the lobby door - as is Radiator Whiskey, a great place for a nightcap. Despite its busy location, the hotel has a cloistered entrance in an ivy covered courtyard that makes it feel secluded.
I really enjoyed my time in Seattle and look forward to the next visit. The Seattle band Mudhoney says it best in their song Overblown, "everybody loves us, everybody loves our town."