On a recent trip to Seattle I had a limited amount of time so I wanted to fill it with all of the best things that I could find. I spoke to friends, did research online, and browsed through Yelp listings. This is a list of the places that I checked out on my visit, along with a brief description of each. If you are going to Seattle and your interests are in line with mine, this will save you a lot of time. I went through a little more effort when I made a Map of My Favorite Places in Berlin, but this is the quick and dirty version of that.
35th North: Local Skate Shop
A skateshop with personality, which stocks a large selection of shoes and apparel in addition to skateboards and skating accessories. Features some interesting local apparel. When I first came to Seattle I got a Sea Town locally designed and produced t-shirt here which I still wear. Good place to meet friendly people and members of the local underground scene. I came here to collect information on other places to visit while I was in town.
Sky View Observatory: 73rd Floor View of Seattle
An amazing 360 degree view of not only the city of Seattle but much of the surrounding landscape including the North Cascades which is punctuated by Mount Rainier. $12 admission fee. The observatory opens at 10am seven days a week so the best time to visit is around dusk. Food and drinks are served here but they are overpriced and not worth it, so I would plan to visit and spend 30-45 minutes circling the observatory and checking out the view.
The Raygun Lounge: Gaming Society
A local gaming store with a particular focus on board games and Magic the Gathering. Features a number of weekly events and large tables to meet and play with new and old friends. There are some stand-up arcade machines here as well, including some rare one like Marble Madness. This place has the personal touch and a great location on Pine Street in downtown Seattle. When I visited the owner was working at the cash register, which is a good sign.
Bauhaus: Hipster Books & Coffee
Your friendly neighborhood hipster coffee shop. Super fast internet, great service, and a comfortable atmosphere. Located just down the street from The Raygun Lounge and the Starbucks Reserve also on Pine Street. Inexpensive and great local place to visit. Get your coffee here and visit the Starbucks Reserve down the street to see the spectacle of their enormous roastery apparatus. If you plan on bringing your laptop and getting work done, try to get here early, before 1pm. People tend to set up and camp here all day long. The woman seated next to me was drawing with colored pencils for what must have been three hours.
Cupcake Royale: Decadent Treats
Every city has one of these nowadays, but this is novel for me living in Asia. As you may expect, this place is decadent. In addition to cupcakes they have other baked goods and make their own ice cream. The cupcake that I would recommend is the salted caramel, which is evidently their speciality. All of the flavors I observed were some kind of variation of flavors that you would expect to see, like Lavender Vanilla. Before leaving Seattle I grabbed a cupcake from this place and ate it on my flight to Shanghai.
HoneyHole Sandwiches: Delicious Irony
A sandwich shop filled with pop culture references. Sandwiches with names like The Gooch, Wave Rider, and Big Smooth. These are heart-stopping, greasy, gluttonous sandwiches. Has a large selection of draft beers and is also located on Pine Street not far from Bauhaus, Raygun and the Starbucks Reserve. It’s probably not good for you to eat here on a regular basis, but it is a delicious place to get lunch while you’re in the area visiting other local places like the Starbucks Reserve or Raygun Lounge.
Seattle Art Museum: Downtown with a View
Packs a large amount of exhibits into a very efficiently used urban space. Easy to find with the Hammering Man sculpture right outside. The entrance is dramatic, featuring the exploding Ford Tauruses exhibit by Chinese artist Cai Guoqiang. Entrance is expensive at $25 but the breadth of the exhibitions is impressive – from Africa to Asia to Americana and Native American art.
Starbucks Reserve: Mother of All Starbucks’
The largest Starbucks in the world. They serve food and wine here in addition to coffee, but the most interesting part is the on-site roastery where they process their Starbucks Reserve beans. These elite beans are shipped to Starbucks locations around the world and comprise less than 1% of all Starbucks coffee beans. Each staff member inside the reserve is a certified coffee expert and they are anxious to talk about coffee and answer questions about particular bean types or the roasting process.
Olympic Sculpture Park: Seaside Modern Art
Large, dramatic sculpture pieces dot this grassy area along the water just a few blocks from downtown Seattle. There’s a lot of modern architecture around this area and the Space Needle will be just behind you as you look out onto the ocean. Conveniently, there are dozens of modern art pieces that also serve as seating for you to watch the sunset.
Big Picture Cinema: Indie Film Cave
One of the best theaters in Seattle, which features an enormous lounge and bar area to hang out in before the film starts. They serve food here but also have a full bar and wide selection of draft beers. Interestingly, they offer the option of ordering drinks before the showing which are delivered to your seat during the film. Located underground in the historic Belltown neighborhood. Big Picture only shows a single film at once and the screen is not very large, but the atmosphere is intimate and personal. This place is easily preferable to chain movie theaters.
Pike Place Market: Seafood Vendors & Tourists
One of the most well-known tourist attractions in Seattle, but absolutely worth visiting. The best time to visit the market is in the early morning when the market is in full gear and seafood is being thrown all over the place by the hundreds of vendors who gather here daily. There’s a park just next to the market which is a great place to sit down and eat seafood or a sandwich picked up in the market.
Shorty’s: Pinball Dive Bar
Located in the Belltown neighborhood next to The Crocodile and a late-night pizza place called Rocco’s, Shorty’s is a dive bar which specializes in pinball machines. The back room features a dozen of them packed into a small room, where patrons drink pints and try to beat high scores. Frequently features pinball tournaments with cash prizes and there are some more traditional arcade games in the front room. You will see a lot of neck tattoos here.
The Crocodile: Live Music
A fantastic performance venue in Belltown – the 9:30 Club of Seattle. One of my best memories from Seattle was seeing Lido, a Norwegian singer and producer, perform here along with a Brooklyn-based band called Brasstracks. Inexpensive and crowded when there are performances. I also visited when there wasn’t a performance and it wasn’t worth the time – check this place out when there’s a show happening.