Seattle Travel Guide
Galvanised by the espresso beans of a Pacific Northwest roast, Seattleites push the envelope with a swelling tech scene and energetic environmentalism. The eye is constantly drawn to the retro Space Needle, which gives visitors a vista of the shores of Puget Sound to the glacier-capped summit of Mt. Rainer and every lake in between. The mild climate allows for year-round wilderness adventure but doesn’t fail in its urban exploits, cultivating strong art and music scene formed from its grunge rebellion. As money floods the city, restaurants and stores up their ante to world class, but beneath the glitz, the city maintains its laid back, carefree lifestyle and may finish the day with a legal, recreational toke.
The best hotels in Seattle
Things to do in Seattle
Seattle activates adventurers with a healthy array of seize-the-day activities to experience the stunning natural environment the city resides in. Take advantage of the city’s ferry terminal downtown and break across the chilly waters to Bainbridge Island. The ride will provide an unmatched view of the downtown skyline as well as an opportunity to explore the nearby residential island lush with gardens, museums, and nature reserves. In summer, rent a bike at the ferry terminal or join a bike tour to circumnavigate the entire 35 miles of the island or, mellow out and pedal from cafe to cafe in the quaint little town.
Three popular lakes are embedded in the city’s hilly topography with each one geared toward a specific activity. Lake Union is best for luxury electric boat rentals (with up to twelve close friends) for catered cruises while Green Lake attracts active stand up paddles to self-navigate the smaller lake’s shores. For those looking to dive into the freshwater, Lake Washington decorated with swimming opportunities. T-Docks is great for divers looking for a quick plunge and Madison Park for picnic-ers and sun tanners.
To see the entirety of the region in true PNW fashion, hire a seaplane from Kenmore Air for a scenic tour. The plane takes off from the surface of Union Lake and shows the prominent sights of the city at a thrilling elevation with a personal pilot and guide. The company also offers chartered flights to Victoria and the San Juan Islands for travellers looking to explore remote corners of the greater region.
Seattle is saturated with underground music venues
What to see in Seattle
The city on the Sound captivates the sophisticated with an elaborate culture scene that stands out most prominently in fine arts and music. A diverse display of artistic mediums can always be found at Seattle Art Museum, which impresses with recent exhibitions from 18th century Romanticism to modern day (and polka dot obsessed) visual artist, Yayoi Kusama. The museum is free on first Thursdays, with half price for on special exhibitions. The organisation behind it also maintains the Olympic Sculpture Park, a free outdoor space alongside the Elliot Bay Trail in Belltown. The larger than life works of art are wonderful photography points set beside the greys and blues of the water.
While the exterior of The Museum of Pop Culture MoPOP celebrates the twisted eccentricities of architect Frank Gehry’s imagination, the interior hosts an eclectic collection of permanent exhibitions like The Science Fiction Hall of Fame and the Guitar Gallery. The 236 guitars are nice to look at, but many visitors are keen to experience a live show while visiting the city that moulded Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. And so, Seattle is saturated with underground music venues. A most reliable and historic is the Shadowbox which played an important role in the foundation of the grunge rock movement of the 80s and 90s. Shadowbox Presents puts on many shows all over the city in the tradition of its grunge rock past but hosts a changing tide of other genres from indie folk to EDM.
Seafood is in fact so plentiful in Seattle that it inserts itself in unexpected forms
Where to eat in Seattle
Renowned chef Renee Erickson’s boutique empire Sea Creatures supplies Seattle with modern spins on old-time seafood recipes, sourcing from local fisheries and farms. The popular restaurants each have a specific niche inspired by the culinary delights from regions famed for their seafood. However, the Seattle staple is The Walrus and The Carpenter, which has the city’s best steak tartare. For those that don’t want their fish cooked, Nishino in Washington Park offers elegant cuts of sashimi over crisp white tablecloths. Pricey (but complementing) sakes are offered alongside the restaurant’s sushi, which gains national recognition by the week.
Seafood is in fact so plentiful in Seattle that it inserts itself in unexpected forms. At the esteemed Pikes Place Market, Piroshky Piroshky serves its best selling smoked salmon pate. Salmon, cream cheese, and dill wrapped and warmed to take on the go. But don’t fret the fish if it’s not your thing. The Emerald City is a vegetarian-friendly city, and its greenest restaurant is Plum Bistro, which serves a creative and upscale vegan menu in a lovely, bright, plant-filled atrium. Located in Capitol Hill, the city’s gay neighbourhood, the restaurant is a great brunch spot to take your first stabs at Sunday.
MBar has one of the best patios in the city with extensive skyline views for dinners with larger groups. The establishment’s inventive American cuisine is upscale, trendy, and delicious, but the year-round patio complete with blankets and warmers make the experience especially memorable. For more formal, fine dining Altura (Italian, meaning achieving great depth or height) prepares a seasonal three-course menu that has racked up local awards since opening in 2012. No matter where you end up for dinner, cap the evening with Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream, sprinkled around the city.
It would be a shopping sin to visit Seattle and not visit the Nordstrom flagship location
Shopping in Seattle
Seattle is home to the rugged outdoor brand Filson. The flagship store features a fireplace, bulletproof bags, and enough flannels to fill a lumberjack’s closet. In the same building the store occupies, the company “develops, cuts, and sews (their) unfailing goods” in one of only a handful of truly “made in America” clothing brands.
It would be a shopping sin to visit Seattle and not visit the Nordstrom flagship location, which takes up a city block and has everything one comes to expect from a Nordstrom, but at epic proportions. For modern menswear, visit Killion, a new concept store (only in Seattle, Las Vegas and LA), where expertly designed garments are sold direct to consumers, and where products are never mass-produced. Items at Killion are never restocked once sold out, and sales are non-existent as the brand avoids unnecessary markups on their high-end style.
You will smell hops on every corner of Seattle because it has the most craft breweries of any American city. Join the hops culture and opt for a happy hour I.P.A. at Cloudburst Brewing, which has some of the city’s most experimental concoctions (like the guava and coriander ale.) For cocktails, chat with friends at Gainsbourg Lounge. The French drink selection adds lovely European flair thousands of miles from the home continent. Adventurers will enjoy exploring the handful of speakeasies hidden around the city behind false doors, blinking lights, and passwords. While many are word of mouth, Gin and Bathtub Co. lurks in an alley off Blanchard street between Avenue 1 & 2. Arrive early to secure entrance and don’t hesitate: order the Ivory Key.
Once lubricated, head over to Capitol Hill’s Q Nightclub, a behemoth 12,500 square foot nightclub with high concept lighting and speakers. The club hosts house and techno DJs that channel the genre’s origins of long, artistic sets. Maybe it’s late, and you’re looking for something to take you into the new day. Located in SoDo, Monkey Loft is the city’s best after-hours running until 4 a.m. playing, you guessed it, techno.
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MBAR | Photo: Brooke Fitts
Sea Creatures - The Whale Wins | Photo: Dorothée Brand
Seattle Art Museum | Photo: Benjamin Benschneider
Olympic Sculpture Park | Photo: Benjamin Benschneider
MBAR | Photo: Brooke Fitts