Can you suggest a cool neighborhood in Seattle that is fairly easy to get to from the airport where I can have a great lunch followed by a pleasant afternoon of exploring?
October 8, 2012 1:20 PM   Subscribe

Hanging out in Seattle next Sunday. Looking for an amazing place to eat lunch/dinner and some cool stuff to do. I've read through the archives, but I've got some specific parameters and I was hoping some of you locals could help me out.

When I'm exploring cities, I really like to focus on one neighborhood and spend time just hanging out rather than zipping all over town trying to see a bunch of stuff I won't remember. Seattle is huge, but based on neighborhoods in other cities I've enjoyed (Central Square in Cambridge, MA, Astoria in Queens, NY, The Mission in San Francisco) I think I've narrowed down my options to Capitol Hill or, potentially, Fremont. I am VERY open to other suggestions.

I'm landing at SEA-TAC around noon and meeting up with friends who are attending the Seahawks/Patriots game sometime in the evening. I don't have a car, and we're staying across the street from the stadium, so wherever I spend my day needs to be relatively accessible to both the stadium and the airport.

From looking at a map, it seems like Capitol Hill is closer to both of these places, so I'm leaning toward saving Fremont for my next trip unless there is a very easy way to get between the two?

Most importantly, where can I have an amazing lunch (and potentially dinner if my friends end up being out of commission after the game) and spend a few (probably rainy) hours in either of these neighborhoods? I don't eat meat, but I do eat fish in moderation and almost anything else in excess. I am also an enthusiast of beer, coffee, book stores, and live music.

Cabs are not out of the question if the alternative is hours on a bus, but I do generally prefer public transit.

Thank you, as always!
posted by justjess to Travel & Transportation around Seattle, WA (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Pioneer Square, which is close to the stadium and your hotel is kind of depressing and not very representative of the city.

Fremont is kind of boring these days, although on Sunday the Sunday Market will be going on and if the weather's nice it can be sort of interesting. Plus walking along the Burke Gilman along the canal and going to Gas Works is pretty nice. Fremont is a dead neighborhood at this point, killed by development.

The liveliest neighborhoods to spend an afternoon would be Capitol Hill and Ballard and honestly, I would choose Ballard. (In fact, most Sundays I *do* spend some time in Ballard). The Farmer's Market (open only on Sundays) along Ballard Avenue is among the best in the city and there's lots of street busking. Some of the most interesting shops and best bars in and restaurant in the city are right in the several square block area and if it's nice out, you can hop a quick bus to the Chittendam Locks or to Golden Gardens for views of the Sound and the Olympics.

Another thing you might do which could easily eat up an afternoon is just stay downtown and hit the Seattle Art Museum, Pike Place Market, and end up at the Olympic Sculpture Garden. Yeah, it's touristy and where everyone goes after getting off the plane, but if you've never been here, it's probably at least as interesting as checking out a neighborhood.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:39 PM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Take the light rail into downtown, and the bus up the hill.

Fremont and Capitol Hill are far enough away from each other to make travelling between the two annoyingly long. Enjoy Capitol hill for several hours.

Amazing Lunch? Just off the top of my head...
Sandwiches: Honey Hole on Pike and Harvard
Fish: Pike Street Fish Fry
Pho: Than Brothers
Street Meat: Hot Dog Cart on Pike and 11th.
Indian: Annapurna***
Burgers: I've heard good things about 8 oz Burger Bar
French: Cafe Press.
Beer: Stumbling Monk (after 6p),
Cocktails: Tavern Law
Cafe: Volunteer Park Cafe ***

If you've got long enough and can stand a nice long walk, go down Broadway, starting at Pike until you get to Roy. Walk up Roy to 15th. Continue North on 15th until you hit Volunteer Park. Explore. Walk South on 15th until you hit John. Walk West on John until you hit 11th, then take a break at Cal Anderson.

Stop by Crossroads and Redlight for shopping on Broadway, enjoy the numerous coffee shops on the way. Vivache and Roy Street Coffee are my preferred, and Stumptown coffee is apparently getting famous or something.

Stop by Half Price Books and Twice Sold Tails for used books, Elliot Bay bookstore for new.

The Chapel on Seattle University's campus is worth seeing.

Oh, and do yourself a favor, buy a bottle of anything at Oola Distillary on 14th and union. I've only had their vodka, but it's AMAZING.

posted by justalisteningman at 1:41 PM on October 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

Columbia City.

Easily accessible from Light Rail and your hotel, also the stadiums. It's in 98108, the most diverse zip code in the city, and has some great restaurants. Also, not touristy.

Recs: Columbia City Bakery, Rookie's Sports Bar, the Jamaican restaurant down the street, and Tutta Bella Italian for pizza and espresso.
posted by spinifex23 at 2:02 PM on October 8, 2012

Fremont is a dead neighborhood at this point, killed by development.

That is not truth, it's opinion. Fremont's had better days, but there's a lot of fun to be had there. (I do agree, though, that Ballard would be a better choice, but it's even farther from the airport and the stadium)

Still, staying closer to the stadium and airport, Collins Pub in Pioneer Square has good food and beer.

For beer in Capitol Hill, Elysian Brewing is quite good and the Pine Box is the new, great beer bar.
posted by gurple at 2:23 PM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ballard is a wonderful way to get to know Seattle, but I would say in your case Capitol Hill is a heck of a lot easier to get to—Ballard is a fairly long bus ride (I lived there without a car and I hated getting to/from the airport even with the light rail, it's an hour trip, and getting there from downtown isn't much better...even with a car, the traffic is usually frustrating!) Fremont is a little closer to downtown but there's less going on there then you'd think, and it seems to totally shut down at night; when I lived in that neighborhood I almost never hung out there!

To get to Capitol Hill, you can walk up Pike/Pine after hopping off the light rail if you're reasonably fit (I'm a short lady who weighs over 250 pounds and I can handle it) or take the 10, 11, 43/49 or 8 bus. (The 43/49 and the 8 go down Bellevue Avenue and head north, but I would get off on Bellevue and Pine so you can work your way up the hill, or do the opposite on the other buses—hop off on Broadway and Pine to be closer to the action, or go all the way up to 15th, where there's lots to do, and work your way down!) (I don't live there anymore but I don't think the buses changed routes.)

Agree with basically all of justalisteninman's suggestions, I really enjoy spending time at the Stumbling Monk (they have games, big plus for me, though they can get crowded).

I am very partial to Cafe Presse for a great dinner that you can linger over, crappy website here, Yelp reviews with map here. They have a lot of meat on their menu, but their fish is delicious and they have enough vegetarian options that I've always been conflicted on just what to order when I didn't eat meat. Big plus, it's next to one of the two Stumptown coffeeshops on the Hill (it's a Portland roaster but still, it's one of my faves in Seattle, although Vivace is also great!) and within walking distance to both Molly Moon's (somewhat overhyped ice cream, but very well known and friends who visit Seattle LOVED going there time after time) and Cupcake Royale, which is one of the original places that started the cupcake trend that took over Seattle (the world?) while I lived there. There is also a new (to me) bar called Canon a block or two from Cafe Presse that I think is classic Seattle, website here, it's a little hipster and a little precious but the drinks are delicious enough to make up for it, and it's a nice place to linger.

I know Columbia City has some great things going on, but I strongly urge going deeper into Seattle to hang out if you want to get to know the city. If I wanted to show someone Seattle in a short amount of time, Capitol Hill would be the way I go. Then again I'm queer and it's very gay-friendly and I lived there for years, and my friends mostly lived there, so I'm biased.

Whew, apparently I really miss Seattle. Have a wonderful time, justjess!
posted by thesocietyfor at 2:37 PM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm a huge Fremont fan, I live here and love it and espouse its gentrified wonders to the haters whenever it comes up, and you want to be in Capitol Hill. Take the bus up the hill and meander your way back down.
posted by Mizu at 3:07 PM on October 8, 2012

Ballard *was* a fairly long bus ride, but after last week's revision, the D Rapidride is a lot faster (because the high-frequency of buses makes it less prone standing around waiting for stragglers). Now it's about 30-35 minutes from the Stadium to the Ballard Bridge.

The RapidRide D will take you to and from Ballard. This is not the light-rail system, which ends at a mall in downtown, nor is it the monorail (goes from said mall to Seattle Center (think Space Needle)), nor is it the South Lake Union (S.L.U.) Trolley. (yes, we call it that.)

Google Maps, assuming you have it on your smartphone, integrates Seattle public transit in its directions, so use that if you can. Also, a great little App called "OneBusAway" (iOS or Android) will tell you with considerable accuracy when the next bus is actually arriving, but the buses only update their positions at certain stops on any given route, so allow for some play in that. Also, our bus system just went through a major revision literally 8 days ago, so not only are some routes new to most users, but to many drivers as well. One bus away can also be used on the web itself, as can Google Maps' Seattle transit directions.

If you want Fremont, find the 40 bus from downtown-- it'll take you to both Fremont and Ballard, going between them via Leary Way and its handful of attractions known as "Frelard or Free-Ballard." If you're drinking beer, don't miss Brouwers.

If I were you, though, I'd recommend one of Seattle's greatest attractions, which should be mandatory for all Seattlites as well: The Underground Tour. The aforementioned Pioneer Square, depressing though it may be, is home to several great things: the Smith Tower, the Sinking Ship Parking Garage, Tat's Deli, and Doc Maynard's. It's a bar, yes, but they operate the Underground Tour, a tour around Pioneer Square that tells the story of Seattle's founding. I also very strongly recommend the main book on which it was based (available in the gift shop, natch) called "The Sons of the Profits." This city founded on sawdust, the streets drawn by 3 different men with 3 different ideas of which way the grid would run, for a time earned more from taxing prostitution than it did from taxing lumber, once made huge strides in progressive politics (until it was discovered what a terrible effect it had on business), burned down, was built back up, fleeced the Alaska gold miners, fleeced San Francisco (which needed our trees after repeatedly burning down their waterfront), fleeced Tacoma, and doing then as we do now, fleecing Olympia.

posted by Sunburnt at 3:37 PM on October 8, 2012

Also, I second the Pine Box. Be sure to ask about the "Randall Tap," with which they can infuse your beer after it leaves the tap.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:40 PM on October 8, 2012

Looks like I'm going to focus on hanging in Capitol Hill, but will definitely try to fit in the Underground Tour because it looks awesome.

Thanks everyone, I'm psyched!
posted by justjess at 5:57 PM on October 8, 2012

Heads up that the downtown free ride on buses ended last week. You now pay as you enter the bus.
And, as always, resist jaywalking, Seattle PD tickets jaywalkers at all hours.
Have a great trip to Seattle!
posted by jennstra at 4:57 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was just a Seattle tourist and our favorite lunch place was Sitka and Spruce in Capitol Hill
posted by rmless at 8:06 AM on October 9, 2012

You might enjoy Plum, on 12th and Pike, for either lunch or dinner. It's small and can be hard to get a seat during peak hours, but it's a very tasty all-vegetarian bistro with an awesome weekend brunch menu. Also, right around the corner is Elysian Brewery's Capitol Hill location. I'm a pretty big fan of their range of pumpkin beers, especially the Great Pumpkin ale which is only really available in October.
posted by Errant at 5:44 AM on October 11, 2012

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