12 Best Things to See & Do in Seattle – Taste Travel Guide
Washington State’s largest city might be a long, long, long way from Ireland, but when you get there you might not want to return home. Like all cities out of general reach, there is something of an outsider status to it, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be welcome. On the contrary, there is a natural warmth to Seattle-ites that is obvious from the moment you step into its atmosphere. As for things to do and see, to experience and soak up, you are totally spoiled for choice. From the dizzying heights of the Space Needle and the open spaces of Discovery Park to art (Seattle Art Museum) and rock/pop (Museum of Pop Culture) – not forgetting the best places to eat/drink/sleep – you will forever be sleepless in Seattle. (With apologies to Tom Hanks.)
Anyone with a fear of heights can walk away now – Seattle’s Space Needle was constructed in 1962 (for that year’s themed Space Age World Fair) and towers 605ft above the city. In the past 18 months, however, the top section of the iconic still futuristic structure has been completely redeveloped: floors, walls and barriers have been replaced with clear structural glass, which dramatically enhances the gob-smacking views. Repeat after me: Do. Not. Look. Down.
On the shores of Puget Sound, in the aptly titled Magnolia area of Seattle, is the 534-acre Discovery Park, one of the best places in the city to view wildlife and marine mammals. Of course, the truly majestic park is also amazing for its walking trails (all 19km of them – some paved, some naturally rough), as well as providing a typical ‘shelter from the storm’ atmosphere from the hustle and the bustle of city life. In other words, whether you want a picnic or a practice run, this is the place.
Known colloquially as SAM, Seattle Art Museum was established in 1933, and since then its collection has grown from almost 2,000 pieces of art to over 25,000. There is something brilliant about SAM that not many art museums have: their admission policy is a ‘suggested’ amount. In other words, if the admission fee is too much for you, then pay what you can afford. The museum also has selected days when admission is entirely free of charge. Closed Mondays/Tuesdays.
Founded by Microsoft’s Paul Allen, and designed by Frank Gehry, the Museum of Pop Culture is more than just about music. Alongside pop and rock culture (which celebrates all areas, but focuses on Seattle’s own Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix, of whom it has, respectively, the largest collection of artefacts in the world), the museum also celebrates sci-fi, fantasy, horror, fashion, video games and sport. Keep a beady eye out for the Guitar Gallery, which outlines the history of the instrument in American popular music.
If you want to shove out the boat for a special someone (or even if it’s just to treat yourself), then Bateau (https://www.restaurantbateau.com/) is a safe if somewhat expensive option. Attentive but not over-familiar service coupled with steak house classics? Walk this way. If you’re on a more sensible budget, then Bar Del Corso (www.bardelcorso.com) is ideal. A mix of crispy-crunchy wood-fired pizzas and immoderate side dishes hit the spot.
Canon (www.canonseattle.com) is regarded by those in the know as the Big Kahuna of craft cocktail bars, and it’s easy enough to see why: it has a collection of over 4,000 spirits and has been gathering awards and nominations for itself (Esquire, Travel and Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, Drinks International, to name only several) for almost ten years. For something a tad more down to earth, pop into the Shanty Tavern (https://www.facebook.com/TheShantyTavern/), the least pretentious honky-tonk C&W bar in the city.
A long spit away from Pike Place Market and the Seattle Art Museum, the State Hotel (www.statehotel.com) is a new kid on the block that has quickly earned the status of Seattle trendiest place to lay the head. The hotel’s ground-floor restaurant – Ben Paris – is not only one of the best in-situ city eateries but is also fast becoming a destination option for many.
Not that you’d travel any distance to get your coffee fix (or would you?!), but if you like the elixir of the Caffeine Gods, then Seattle – home of Starbucks – is most definitely the place. For coffee geeks, a visit to Milstead & Co (www.milsteadandco.com) is a must – its alternating of coffees from over ten local roasteries is smart. Another great bet is Espresso Vivace (www.espressovivace.com), which has been delivering lattes like no other from 1988.
Downtown Seattle’s first neighbourhood, Pioneer Square is history as seen through a unique filter of Romanesque Revival architecture, design and community awareness. Here is the place to come to if you want lively nightlife, a broad selection of food options, singular shopping experiences, cafés, antiquated street lighting, and the largest concentration of art galleries in the city.
One of the oldest continuously functioning public farmers markets in the US (it opened in 1907), Pike Place Market is Seattle’s most popular tourist destination. Local farmers, artisanal producers and collectors of anything-and-everything sell all-year-round in the market arcades. Not only can you buy to your heart’s content, but you can also eat and drink your fill – the market has many terrific options. Lucky you.
Back in the days of grunge (the late ‘80s into the ‘90s), Fremont was known as ‘The People’s Republic’, and was, therefore, considered the focal point of the city’s counter-cultural scene. Its unofficial motto, too, carries a message: “Freedom to be Peculiar”. Somewhat more gentrified these days, Fremont is nonetheless the best place to head to if you’re searching for a slice of bemusing city life, as well as a fine selection of vintage/second-hand stores.
If you’re looking to escape the noise of the city for several hours, then a short trip to Vashon Island is a good bet. Accessed only by ferry, Vashon’s year-round 11,000 full-time residents don’t mind the sound of tourists’ footsteps tapping along their one-lane roads. After you take in some of the island’s pretty, peaceful shoreline, take an even calmer break at Café Luna or lunch/dinner at The Hardware Store.
WRITTEN BY TONY CLAYTON-LEA