Seattle – the ultimate list, beyond the guidebook

16 Mar

By Kristy

I just returned from a long weekend in Seattle.  While my exhaustive research (listed at the bottom of this post) was helpful, the list I make today is quite different…

1. Transportation & Lodging: After flying into SeaTac we took the new Light Rail into Westlake Center – clean, scenic, easy ride.  Once there, we purchased Orca cards (and pre-loaded with $20 for the long weekend) in order to take public transportation without scrounging for ones and quarters. (note: with Orca cards on the rail, you must swipe when getting on AND off.  Also – many buses are free during the daytime in the middle of the city)

From Westlake, we took the Monorail, a remnant of the 1962 World’s Fair.  This went directly to Seattle center (home of museums, cultural centers, and the Space Needle).  This was a great way to begin our trip.

If you’re on a budget, the Quality Inn in Belltown is surprisingly nice.  For a nicer place, I recommend the Doubletree near Pioneer Square, which is housed in the historic former Arctic Club (and is themed as such).


While many of the things I originally listed below look great, and here is what I would recommend today:

– at Pike’s Market: Beecher’s Cheese (get the anaheim chile mac n cheese, small size, to share); get a seafood ‘cocktail’ at the fish market; visit DeLaurenti’s market for some gourmet groceries and enjoy a picnic by the water if the weather allows

– restaurants: I think the list below is actually quite good, but I would also add TASTE (if you’re at the Seattle Art Museum), and Tilth (a long bus ride, but worth it to travel to this Organic restaurant with an up-and-coming female chef, on the edge of Fremont).  We also ate at Mistral, but the portions (while tasty), were too tiny and overpriced (but you should still go for the desserts).  Finally, our best find was Petra, a mediteranean Bistro in Belltown that had incredible hummus and dinner plates (in fact, this was so tasty and generously portioned, we had cold leftovers as a picnic in Fremont the next day).  While near Pike’s Market, be sure to stop by the historic Virginia Inn for an incredible tart margarita made with Lunazul tequila, Citronage, and lime juice (Kristen’s top pick).  For breakfast, we enjoyed the Portage Bay Cafe’s local/sustainable and inventive menu (multiple locations).

– Other: It is always fun to experience local markets, co-ops, and food shops.  The co-op in Fremont had interesting fresh bottled green smoothies (from Oregon, California).  The Whole Foods in Queen Anne had amazing muscat grapes and edamame spread (on freshly baked baguette). We didn’t have time to visit the Pacific Northwest’s largest asian grocery (the Uwajimaya). Much of the Pacific Northwest wine we had was incredible (including the Cabernet Franc from Chinook winery).  For a special beverage stop with a great wine, beer and cocktail list, head to the Edgewater. This landmark hotel sports great log/stone design, fireplaces, and water views.

Coffee Shops abound in Seattle.  Our favorite this trip was Uptown Espresso (the home of the velvet foam).  Great place for people-watching in large leather chairs, too.   (across the street from Uptown in Belltown is an amazing organic french bakery, as well, Boulangerie Nantais – which also supplied bread to Tilth)

3. Getting Acquainted with Seattle

We took the Underground tour I listed below, and I would highly recommend it as the one touristy-thing you do while visiting. It gets you in the historic Pioneer Square area to explore, and the tour guides are entertaining and informative.  Pioneer Square is a great place to wander around, although you’ll wander forever if you’re looking for Elliot Bay Bookstore which has moved to Capitol Hill.  We were interested in perusing Capitol Hill as well, but this area of the city is more easily reached by car.

Seattle is home to Microsoft, Boeing, Starbucks (the original is near Pike’s Market), JanSport, Nordstrom, Expedia and  Its also home (or associated with) many musical acts including: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Candlebox, Soundgarden (named for Seattle’s Sound Garden), Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Heart, Judy Collins, Kenny G, Sir Mix A Lot, Modest Mouse, Fleet Foxes, Death Cab for Cutie, Screaming Trees, Sonic Youth, and the Shins.

Local publications to check out (found in street-side vending): City Arts, The Stranger, Seattle Weekly

Top stops:

1. Easy Street Records

2. Tractor Tavern (on the music-friendly Ballard Ave)

3. Elliot Bay Bookstore

4. For the outdoor enthusiast: The Mountaineers, the original REI location, Feathered Friends (across from REI), Columbia/Mountain Hardware, JanSport

5. Public Art – statues, murals and other pieces of public art are everywhere.  Take the self-guided walking tour of Fremont to see a lot of it (and to visit Theo Chocolates and other local favorites), or visit the Olympic Sculpture Park.

6. The Ballard Locks and Fish Ladder

7. Walk from Pier 54 along the water to Pike’s Market

8. Catch a show at the Pacific Northwest Ballet

The original brainstorming list is below:

My top pick – a real foodie experience: (cheese shop) (Russian bakery) (New Orleans cuisine, looks like a great menu for anafternoon snack or a family-style Tapas dinner of sorts) (sustainable local food, good for breakfast/lunch too) (very reasonably priced Asian-themed menu, looksgood for sharing) reasonable prices, and a Satay bar!!)

Some nicer dining places: (yes – its in a former book bindery!!)

Also – Markets:Melrose Market – good alternative to Pike Place, lots of local/independent purveyors: Ave Market in Ballard also supposed to be good.

Foodie Resources (aside from Urban Spoon and Yelp, or travel guides): the Seattle version of my friend Mike’s food blog!)
Seattle Food Trucks (This is so huge on the west coast, we don’t really have thismovement yet…would love to try some of these, many are cheap and easy AND gourmet!) tour of food in Pike Place might be good…or we could guide ourselves through it: covers chocolate in Seattle:

OK, I’m a foodie – but I also love doing interesting and off-beat things when traveling. Here are some good resources for Seattle and some spots I’d like to see if there is time and the interest of others!

- (Sound Garden looks neat!)
-Underground tour (really! old sidewalks/shops subterranean in the Pioneer Sq. district -this area itself is also historical):
-Apparently Fremont is the artists’ neighborhood – would be fun to walk around andgallery-browse, and see the underbridge Troll! — Free walking guide:
-For some outdoorsy stuff & to see Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges: DiscoveryPark
-The hidden staircases of Queen Anne:
-Port Townsend – historic
-The Experience Music -project:

-Potential day trips? Mt Ranier or Mt St Helens

Travel Articles:
NYTimes: Planet (Fremont): general Seattle page: Channel:

1 Comment

Posted by on March 16, 2011 in Kristy, Out West, Travel


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One response to “Seattle – the ultimate list, beyond the guidebook

  1. tyrannosauruslists

    March 28, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    I beat the NYTimes to the chase…but their list is completely different than mine:


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