Planning a trip to the Northwest’s Emerald City? Good for you. If you haven’t, perhaps you should! We’ve put together a list of 10 things to see and do that will give you a great taste of what Seattle has to offer.
1. The Alibi Room
No doubt your visit will take you to the world famous Pike Place Market, located adjacent to the waterfront on 1st Avenue. Opened in August of 1907, the Pike Place Market, through many transformations, is the oldest operating Farmer’s Market in the U.S. It bustles, so be prepared for a high energy and fragrant visit. From the classic fishmongers flinging fish to fragrant and refreshing flowers, fruit, & vegetables your senses will be overwhelmed. Local artists occupy the space as well and deliver jewelry, art, and clothing for your perusal.
Fun eateries and bars dot the area, but none quite as unique and delicious as the Alibi Room. It is the perfect place to order a pint and devour a perfectly prepared pizza. The ambiance is great. It’s a bit reminiscent of what a speakeasy must have been like during prohibition because it’s off the beaten path, dark, and you can feel the essence of a tapestry of thousands of stories being woven here. It’s said that the cobblestones used to build it, and the surrounding Post Alley, were debris left after the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, loaded aboard lumber ships and used for ballast. It’s really not hard to find once you get your bearings; however, that can be easier said than done! The easiest way to find it is to know that it is located directly across from the Gum Wall, one of the most creative, and simultaneously disgusting, public art displays ever.
What’s a visit to Seattle without stopping at the original Starbucks at Pike Place Market? Even if you are not a Starbucks fan you have to appreciate the original location’s wooden floors and humble beginnings. What has happened since 1971 is pretty well known. So stop in there to get the flavor of the past and then head up Pike Street about one mile to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and experience the present! This is the ultimate coffee house experience. As you enter the space, the aroma alone almost fulfills your caffeine quota for the day! The passionate coffee specialists here will guide you through the art of creating the perfect cup of coffee. Then sit back and enjoy.
3. The Elliott Bay Book Company
The crack of the binding and the ability to actually turn a page calls the true book lover, and if that is something that makes you happy, then get ready to get downright giddy! Located roughly a half a mile or so from the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, at 1521 Tenth Avenue on Capitol Hill, is The Elliott Bay Book Company, a reader’s wonderland. It may not be as huge as Portland’s Powell’s City of Books or New York City’s The Strand, but what it doesn’t have in size is made up for by its hometown devotion to the written word. The staff is outstanding and as you walk through the store you’ll most likely find yourself picking up most of the ‘Staff Picks’ that you pass by. As a side note, their original store was located in Pioneer Square and in 1979 they opened The Elliott Bay Cafe – the first bookstore cafe in Seattle.
4. Chihuly Garden and Glass
This is, hands down, one of the most spectacular art exhibits you may ever visit. Dale Chihuly’s masterful and magnificent use of glass is nothing short of breathtaking. The colors, shapes and sheer size of the pieces you’ll discover during your time here will draw on your emotions and take you to another place. There are eight galleries, the 40 foot tall/4500 square foot Glasshouse, and the inspiring gardens to delight you on your tour. Each one is so beautiful, it’s hard to pick a favorite.
The Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition is located within Seattle Center, which is best known as the hub for the 1962 World’s Fair. The iconic Space Needle stands next door and is always on our agenda when in town. The views are incredible on a clear day: with sweeping views of the city, 600 feet below you, the magnificent Elliott Bay, the Northern Cascades, and when the “mountain is out”, the awe-inspiring Mt. Rainier. The observation deck is a nice place to rest your feet a bit, enjoy the view, and people watch before you head back down for more exploration. There is much to see here so make sure that you check to see what is happening during your stay. The area is also home to the Museum of Pop Culture and the Seattle Shakespeare Company. If you didn’t arrive via the Monorail, go ahead and jump on board and head to its southern terminus, Seattle’s shopping district.
J.W. Nordstrom was born in Sweden and headed to America when he was 16 with $5 in his pocket. He made it to the west coast and with his $13,000 stake he claimed in the Klondike, he partnered with Carl Wallin and opened a successful shoe store in Seattle. That shoe store ultimately became the largest shoe store in the country, and with its then eight locations, the largest chain in America. Clothing was added in the early 1960’s and in 1971 Nordstrom went public. The flagship store at 500 Pine Street is worth a walk through. At the very least take a stroll through the massive shoe department, perhaps it will be busy while you are there and they will be calling numbers in BP Shoes. That is a show in itself!
6. Olympic Sculpture Garden
Operated by the Seattle Art Museum, the nine-acre Olympic Sculpture Park can be found at the north end of the Seattle Waterfront. There is a variety of permanent and visiting installations that you can wander through at your leisure. The park was designed to create a large green space which was lacking the downtown area. Its modern design has been a classic since It opened in 2007. As with so many places in Seattle, the Olympic Sculpture Park is another location with fantastic views of the bay, mountains and the city.
If you have time and the energy, a walk along the waterfront from the park down to the ferry pier is about 1.5 miles and will take you by a number of local attractions including the Seattle Aquarium and the Seattle Great Wheel along with a fair share of restaurants and souvenir shops.
7. The Ferry to Bainbridge Island
The 35-minute ferry ride over to Bainbridge Island is just the start of a pleasant adventure away from the city. Seeing Seattle from Elliott Bay and Puget Sound is stunning and you’ll experience a whole new perspective with the Cascades looming to the east and the Olympic Peninsula to the west. The island is quiet and a great place to recharge. There is something for everyone here. Hiking, parks, historic sites, wineries, breweries, boutique shops, and some great food options. Even if you only have time for the ferry ride it is worth adding this to your agenda.
8. Underground Tour
After the Great Fire of 1889, the intrepid citizens of Seattle literally rebuilt the city on top of the old one, leaving an entombed chamber of corridors, buildings, and the countless stories buried with them. Or were they? Grab your ticket to The Underground Tour at Doc Maynard’s Public House in Pioneer Square. This 75-minute walking tour regales you with a humorous take on the history of Old Seattle and how it grew into the place it is today. If you feel like you have stepped aboard the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland, you’re probably not alone. The campy one-liners and jokes you’ll hear along the way provide an amusing way to learn and although they may not be appealing to every guest, the tour does take you into areas that you’d never be able to see on your own (and that alone makes it worth the inevitable courtesy laughter).
9. University of Washington
U-Dub was founded in 1861, which makes it one of the oldest universities on the West Coast. It was greatly expanded in 1909 by architect John Charles Olmsted for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. Many of the buildings from that time are still in use today which makes a trip to this campus an architectural wonder. The gothic style, Suzzallo Library, stands out and is a feast for the eyes, inside and out. The reading room is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in the world. If you are a Harry Potter fan you will feel at home here as there is a remarkable similarity to the main dining hall at Hogwarts (although there is no direct link to the film). Many films have used the school as a backdrop, however, including the 1983 film WarGames starring Matthew Broderick.
10. Washington Park Arboretum
Stretching out to the south of Union Bay adjoining Lake Washington is the 230-acre Washington Park Arboretum, which is managed by the City of Seattle and the Washington University Botanic Gardens. You’ll feel like you are a million miles from the city yet you are actually only about four and a half miles from Pike Place Market.
The park’s design draws you from one area to another as you stroll along paths through native plants and trees of the Pacific Northwest. Seasonal highlights include Azalea Way, which was a key feature of the original design by the Olmsted brothers, Rhododendron Glen, Woodland Garden, and the 3.5 acre Japanese Garden, which is regarded as one of the finest of its kind in the United States.
There’s So Much More…
There is so much more to Seattle. If you are a sports fan and are here at the right time, Century Link and Safeco Fields are side-by-side and only a short 1.5 from downtown. Grab a seat and catch a Seahawks or Mariners game. Bars and restaurants are plentiful as is art, music, and theater – not to mention the 3 National Parks that are all within a couple of hours of the city: Mt. Rainier, North Cascades, and Olympic. All three offer quite different adventures for the outdoor enthusiast to wonder and wander (and could be drive-through day trips or whole trips unto themselves).
Seattle and its environs are a gem on America’s Northwest Coast -great for a weekend getaway, a vacation, or a lifetime. – the perfect place to be Wandering But Not Lost.