Limited time to explore Seattle - what is REALLY worth it?
August 31, 2011 9:50 PM   Subscribe

Limited time to explore Seattle - what is REALLY worth it?

I'll only have an hour or two here and there to explore Seattle these next few days. What should absolutely be on my must do list?

Space needle? Underground tour? Pike Place Market tour? Just walk around Pioneer Square? Some other thing I don't know about? I like exploring pretty much everything - no specific niche needs. I'm staying in the downtown/convention center area and don't want to travel too far out beyond walking distance. (Bonus question - How easy are the buses to get around)
posted by quodlibet to Travel & Transportation around Seattle, WA (22 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Space Needle is a no. Underground tour... yeah, pretty cool, though not too ridiculously amazing. Walking around Pioneer Square (downhill and to the left of the convention center area) and Capitol Hill (uphill and to the left) are worth experiencing, as are other neighborhoods you probably don't have time for, but both of the above are walkable, and also bus-able. The only main attraction that's 'all that' is Pike Place Market, mostly 'cause it also involves 'real' people and a gorgeous view of the bay. If you go down there, walk along the boardwalk (to the left) for maybe 20 minutes and you're in the Pioneer Square area (get a map). Well, to be honest, you'd need more like 3 hours. If you just have two, I'd say go walk around Capitol Hill and nip down in a straight line (busses also run downhill on Pine Street in that same straight line) to the Market.
posted by reenka at 9:58 PM on August 31, 2011

You're gonna be there over the long weekend? Bumbershoot!!!!
posted by wutangclan at 10:00 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

But if you want to be somewhere quiet and pretty instead, spend it all in Ballard or at the nearby Chittenden Locks.
posted by wutangclan at 10:04 PM on August 31, 2011

Oh gawd. You picked a horrible time. This is Bumbershoot weekend. AVOID SEATTLE CENTER/SPACE NEEDLE AT ALL COSTS!!! Agreed that walking around Pioneer Square and Capitol Hill is your best bet.

The University District is probably the most beautiful part of town if you've only got an hour or two.
posted by lattiboy at 10:05 PM on August 31, 2011

I have a few one or two hour slots - I should clarify. Just not one big chunk of time (unfortunately!)
posted by quodlibet at 10:08 PM on August 31, 2011

We did Seattle in a few days back in April (I lived there for years, but I was showing my husband around for the first time). Here's what we did that was worth it:

-Pike's Place (get the donuts from the mini donut people)
-Zoka's coffee in Greenlake - best coffee in Seattle
-Hale's Brewery in Ballard (if you're into beer) as it's pretty unique...although it probably is better saved for a later trip when you have more time. But I'll keep it on the list for metafilter posterity.
-Capitol Hill - just walk around and hang out

We didn't do the underground market this time, but I thought it was awesome when I went 8-10 years ago...we would have gone if we could have afforded it.

The busses are pretty good, and you can ride for free in most of the downtown zone. The city is pretty spread out, so it does take a while to get anywhere outside of the downtown/belltown/capitol hill/first hill/queen anne area.
posted by guster4lovers at 10:10 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh yeah - skip the Space Needle and definitely avoid Bumbershoot ten block radius of crazy/chaos if you can.
posted by guster4lovers at 10:11 PM on August 31, 2011

Some of you locals might be all jaded with Bumbershoot, if you are into music, it is a tonne of fun!!
posted by wutangclan at 10:19 PM on August 31, 2011

No time for Bumbershoot (sounds epic, I must admit) - but thanks for the heads up. I think I'll cross off the Needle for another trip. Maybe Smith Tower instead.
posted by quodlibet at 10:21 PM on August 31, 2011

Molly Moon Ice Cream on Cap. Hill-single scoop-two flavors! Salted Caramel is amazing!

Bumbershoot is fun, if you like music, people watching, music and don't mind crowds. You can take the monorail from downtown.

Pike Place Market-find the gum wall, odd, fun, get cool pictures taken there.

In the downtown area, there is a ride free zone on the buses. It may only be the north south runs, easy to check out online.

Smith Tower is a great building, if you like cured meats, Salume is right around the corner from Smith Tower. Mario Batali's fathers shop. See if you can find the fairly recent article on the private apartment remodel at the top of Smith Tower.
posted by jennstra at 10:24 PM on August 31, 2011

Take the ferry to Bainbridge. In the evening for sunset if you can.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:28 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

In re: your bonus question: I have no problem negotiating Seattle buses, and I'm not a particularly transit-savvy person. This real-time transit tracker is super-helpful, and the rider tools on the King Country Transit web site have worked well for me as well.

The best times I have in Seattle (as a non-resident who spends time there a few times a year) are just wandering around exploring and enjoying city-ish things. Capitol Hill (just take a bus straight up) is awesome for that, and you can easily spend a few hours at Pike Place people-watching and grazing.

I always tell people to go to the Smith Tower- great old building and super views. Here's the article jennstra mentioned.
posted by charmedimsure at 10:32 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Fremont is a truly unique neighborhood that's small and easy to explore. Theo's Chocolates has a tour that involves tasting just about every kind of chocolate they make. You can also visit the troll under the bridge and see the giant statue of Lenin, and top it off with a quick trip to Gas Works Park with some amazing views of the city.
posted by rouftop at 10:42 PM on August 31, 2011

Your options are limited if you only have two-hour spans. Pike Place Market can be done, it's close to the convention center with a direct bus. Likewise Capitol Hill (same bus, other direction). The interesting place for walking on Capitol Hill is Broadway, around the John street intersection. Volunteer Park is further north on capitol hill. It's a great place to stroll on a nice day, and the Asian Art Museum is there. You can climb the water tower in Volunteer park for a free view of Seattle. If you wander up to the cemetery adjacent to Volunteer Park, you can see Bruce Lee's grave, and also a great view of distant mountains if it's a clear day.

Otherwise don't waste your very limited time screwing around with buses. Capitol Hill is within reach, but anything else will take a while. Going between any two places on the bus takes at least 30-minutes, probably more like 45 unless you hit the timing exactly right.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:45 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, do Pike's Place Market. One of my earliest, favoritest memories of Seattle.

"Here, have a big ass grape," said the vendor.

I was not accustomed to accepting fruit from strangers.

It was the best grape I have ever tasted and I still remember it, that day and the knitted gloved hand that offered it to me.
posted by ainsley at 10:55 PM on August 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

The library. I'm not kidding.
posted by too bad you're not me at 11:00 PM on August 31, 2011 [6 favorites]

Skip buses and take a taxi. Your hour constraint puts a crimp on going anywhere outside a few blocks downtown.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:05 PM on August 31, 2011

Seconding the library, it is amazing!
posted by jennstra at 11:08 PM on August 31, 2011

If you find a block of time that's more than two hours long, take the Central Link Light Rail south, and see some of the eclectic neighborhoods on its path. These neighborhoods are easy to get to, yet ignored by the vast majority of visitors who come to Seattle. (And ignored by most of Seattlites, for that matter. Rainier Valley is the Best Valley.)

The Beacon Hill stop has some great little Filipino and Latin American restaurants, as well as some eclectic small art studio/galleries.

Columbia City is filled with eateries of all types, including Columbia City Bakery, which was featured in the NY Times last year. It;s also in the 98118 Zip Code, which is one of the most diverse zip codes in the entire nation. I live in Columbia City, and I love it here.

The Othello stop is in a heavily Vietnamese neighborhood, and there are some great pho and Vietnamese bakeries here.

You can even buy a Day Pass, and take Link Light Rail as much as your heart desires.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:13 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

FYI the library is CLOsed this weekend due to budget cuts`
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:21 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Forget the Needle this weekend & check out the observation deck of the Columbia Tower instead.
posted by asciident at 12:56 AM on September 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Pike Place market and Capitol Hill because both are easily accessible from the Convention Center area. Pike Place is a ten minute walk--it's interesting enough on its own for a short time because it's pleasant to walk around the different stalls and wares and talk to the merchants, plus it's quintessentially "Seattle." Capitol Hill is walkable from the Convention Center, but instead take buses 11 or 49 or a few others, and it's also a ten minute trip. It's got the great restaurants and funky shops and fun vibe that's generally missing from downtown. I think all of the other suggestions are great, although most of them would be tough to do in under 2 hours.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:41 AM on September 1, 2011

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