Seattle has a reputation for cloudy skies, coffee cups and software development. But those infamous rainy days ensure some of the bluest skies ever seen when the clouds finally lift. The increasing number of tech companies are responsible for attracting workers from all over the world, enlivening the city’s culture to no end. And the coffee? That’s just what fuels locals and tourists alike, whether they’re taking in an exhibit, attending a sporting event or simply wandering the city’s neighborhoods. Read on for 10 things that definitely must be done in Seattle.
10. Wander Through Olympic Sculpture Park
Even those who don’t necessarily fancy themselves as art lovers will find themselves charmed by the Olympic Sculpture Park. The city of Seattle took a formerly industrial site, north of downtown and edging the waterfront, and turned it into nine acres of green space, throughout which paths meander through works of art. The scenery, too, is a work of art in itself: it’s hard to choose whether Alexander Calder’s “Eagle”, a soaring red monument to flight, or the Olympic Mountains glimpsed across Puget Sound are more beautiful. The park, open daily and with no admission charge, is part of the Seattle Art Museum. SAM, on the other end of Seattle’s compact downtown, features a large collection of Native American carvings, as well as Asian art and more sculptures. It’s free on the first Thursday of each month.
9. Take a Ride on a Ferry Boat
There’s nothing like taking a ferry away from the city to get a feel for Seattle. The Washington State Ferry is the largest in the United States, operating 10 routes, with two leaving from downtown Seattle. Pedestrians and cars alike can ride the ferries, but for a fun getaway, grab a bike and head to Bainbridge Island, 35 minutes away. The trip across the Puget Sound is likely to be spectacular – barring rain, of course – with views of jagged mountains rising up from the water. The island, too, is beautiful, with rolling hills, quiet roads and plenty of trails to choose from. Bikes can also be rented on the island itself, or those seeking more time in the water can choose to kayak instead. On the return trip, bundle up warm and stand on the deck to take advantage of amazing views of the Seattle skyline.
8. Join the Cheering Crowd at CenturyLink Field
In 2013, the Seattle Seahawks set a record for the loudest outdoor sports stadium, recording 137.6 decibels of sound as the home team went on to beat the New Orleans Saints. The Seahawks went on to win the Super Bowl that season, a feat that the fans, referred to as the “12th Man”, and believed to be no coincidence. The Seattle Sounders have yet to set a noise record, but routinely shatter Major League Soccer attendance records. The south end of the stadium fills with fans dedicated to waving flags and chanting their team on, while the rest of the crowd provides plenty of noise as well. With both teams routinely selling out every game, it may be difficult to get in, but it’s worth the effort for one of the best tickets in town.
7. Head to Fremont Neighborhood
At first glance, the Fremont neighborhood, located north of the Ship Canal dividing Lake Washington and Puget Sound, looks just like any other recently gentrified area in any other city. Yes, the “People’s Republic of Fremont” has moved away somewhat from its countercultural roots, but many residents still try to live out its motto, “Freedom to Be Peculiar”. Tourists visiting in late June will find the Solstice Festival impossible to miss, particularly if they wander into the nude cyclists who kick off the day’s parade. But even if not visiting in June, there are plenty of weird, wonderful reasons to visit Fremont. Check out the troll nestled under the Fremont Bridge, crushing a Volkswagen in his fist, or pause to wonder how a statue of Vladimir Lenin wound up on a Seattle street.
6. Explore Seattle’s Food Scene
One of the first cities to embrace the food movement known as “localism” – eating seasonal foods grown nearby – visitors to Seattle must take time to eat and drink like a native. From The Walrus and The Carpenter in Ballard, which specifies the local coves that hosted the oysters on the plate, to Local 360, where all ingredients are sourced within 360 miles of the café, to any of local celebrity restaurateur Tom Douglas’s dozen eateries, it’s clear Seattle takes the motto farm-to-table to heart. But it’s not necessary to fork over a wad of cash to get a taste of local eating, not in a city where food trucks advertise where they bought their beef. Be sure to drink local as well. Seattle has a great craft beer scene, and Fremont Brewing is one of its best, with its emphasis on the use of local ingredients.
5. Visit the Iconic Space Needle
It’s not cheap to travel to the top. It’s argued that the observation deck may not even have the best views of Seattle (although the views are astounding). But the Space Needle, built for the 1962 World’s Fair, is one of the most iconic structures in the world, and it’d be a crime to visit Seattle and not stop by. Up the retro factor by traveling there on the monorail, another World’s Fair relic that transports passengers between just two stations on a two minute ride. When done taking photos – either from the ground or the observation deck, 520 feet up – continue the trip back in time with a stop at the nearby Experience Music Project. The museum goes beyond music to all that influences contemporary pop culture, with exhibits centered on everything from Nirvana to Star Wars to video game development.
4. Indulge in the Tastes of Seattle’s International District
Despite its presence on Puget Sound, Seattle’s most famous cuisine isn’t seafood, but rather teriyaki. That’s no surprise, really, seeing as the city’s Chinatown emerged shortly after the town was founded and together with Japantown and Little Saigon is now known as the International District. While teriyaki, dim sum and pho are widely available throughout the city, this is where Seattleites come to experience other Asian delicacies. Get sushi at the venerable Maneki, the Vietnamese crepe known as Bánh xèo at Green Leaf, and hand-shaved noodles at Seven Star Pepper. For those wanting to take the flavors home, stop in at Uwajimaya, an Asian grocery store founded in the International District, which also features a food court of its own.
3. Take a Tour of Seattle’s Spooky Side
The Underground Tour is often recommended to those visiting Seattle, and while it’s certainly a great way to gain a sense of Seattle history, the Spooked in Seattle tour also ducks underground, while also introducing participants to the weird and wonderful world of Seattle ghost lore. Spooked in Seattle provides multiple tours, including trolley tours and pub crawls, but its Pioneer Square tour is best for soaking up Seattle history. The tours, all lead by actual paranormal investigators, begin at the company’s underground office, which doubles as the Northwest’s only death museum. From there it’s up to Pioneer Square, where the city of Seattle was founded, and through the surrounding blocks, accompanied by an interesting guide who offers facts about both the historic buildings and those that continue to haunt them.
2. Take in the View at Alki Beach
Ever wonder where those postcard-perfect shots of the Seattle skyline are taken? Wonder no more, because a great many of them are taken at Alki Beach in West Seattle. As the name suggests, this is the neighborhood to the west of the city, across Elliott Bay from downtown, so it’s a little off the tourists’ beaten path. Buses serve the area, but the most direct route is via the Water Taxi, which ferries passengers from downtown to Duwamish Head, at the northern tip of Alki Beach. Bike, jog or simply stroll along the beachfront path, gazing out at both the city’s skyscrapers and the snow-covered Olympic Mountains. Later, walk up the hill to West Seattle’s quaint downtown, where the buildings may look old-fashioned, but there’s plenty of modern day food and drink to make up for those calories burned getting up the steep slopes.
1. Find the Hidden Gems at Pike Place Market
At times it may feel like a tourist trap, but don’t be fooled: this historic market, established in 1907, is loved by locals as well. Visitors should do their best to catch one of the famous fish-throwing displays, but truly experiencing the flavor of the market requires venturing off its most popular corner. Rub Rachel the Pig’s copper snout for good luck, then cross the street to what is known as the “Sanitary Market” to Jack’s Fish Spot, where nearby workers also stop to enjoy some of the city’s best fish and chips. Head north on Pike Place to grab a coffee at Starbucks’ original location, then back across the street to the “Main Arcade”. Sample the fresh produce on offer, then head downstairs to browse the market’s eclectic collection of shops. Finish up at the famous Pink Door in Post Alley, featuring one of the best outdoor patios in Seattle – and a burlesque show on Saturday nights.