I'm sure the space needle is great, but...
April 3, 2014 3:01 PM   Subscribe

What are some fun things I can do in Seattle tonight/Friday/this weekend by myself, ideally without being on my feet the whole time?

I'm not really interested in going to the top of the space needle. I've heard a lot of the standard tourist suggestions, and plan to go to Pike place market. I'm open to cool museums (and am planning to check out the museum of glass). I live in chicago, so if there's anything in particular awesome here that isn't like anything there, let me know. I do have good walking shoes, but you'll get bonus points if you can suggest things that don't revolve around a ton of walking. I love weird stuff and awesome food, and have access to a lot of bus lines from where I'm staying.

posted by mismatched to Travel & Transportation around Seattle, WA (35 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
The Ride the Ducks tour is a lot of fun when the weather is decent.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:04 PM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Go see a laser show at the Laser Dome!!! [shows throughout the day]

I went with my dad when I was younger and it was the most fun thing ever!!
(Pink Floyd)
posted by Crystalinne at 3:05 PM on April 3, 2014

This is a TOTAL self plug but the Seattle Symphony is performing Carmina Burana tonight, with Haydn's Symphony #100 on the first half. Show starts at 7:30 and it should be a good one!
posted by KathrynT at 3:07 PM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Note that the Museum of Glass is down in Tacoma and is different than the Chihuly Garden and Glass at the Seattle Center. Both are cool.
posted by Diddly at 3:08 PM on April 3, 2014

Best answer: What neighborhood are you staying in? That'll have a great deal of impact on what one would recommend. A few things:
- If you're going to Pike Place you should get an espresso at Seattle Coffee works (107 Pike). Perhaps not the best espresso in the city, but certainly the best you'll find near down-town.
- The downtown library is pretty cool. The architecture is... bold.
- Take a ferry ride back and forth to Bainbridge island. If you go near dusk you get a great view of the city at night.
- If you want an elevated view of the city and can find a good way up there I'd suggest Kerry park. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerry_Park_(Seattle)) in many ways it's better than the space needle and FREE!
posted by lucasks at 3:11 PM on April 3, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far! I'm staying in lower Queen Anne.
posted by mismatched at 3:14 PM on April 3, 2014

Despite being from Seattle I'm always totally dumbfounded as to how to answer these questions.

But let me warn you what not to do: Do not go wander expecting to be surprised with interesting places and experiences. Seattle hides all its fun parts, and separates them by one too many blocks. So, as you are doing now, try to form a clear plan.
posted by jjmoney at 3:29 PM on April 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: A few more:
- From lower Queen Anne it isn't too bad to bus up to Ballard (D-line, or 18X/17X). Downtown Ballard has lots of good restaurants as well as small music venues.

- Capitol Hill is another good walk-around neighborhood (Cafe' Vivace is amazing) but further away.

- If you want weird (and super gross), check out the gum wall in post alley in the Market. Personally I can't handle it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gum_Wall

- I always take people to either Discovery Park or Golden Gardens.

- The pinball museum in the ID is pretty great (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Seattle-Pinball-Museum/131237786915560). You pay a flat fee and then you get unlimited free play of all their machines. Plus they serve beer.

- Avoid the "chow-foods" restaurants: High-life, 5-spot, Coastal Kitchen, etc.
- Avoid the "original" Star Bucks in the market.
posted by lucasks at 3:40 PM on April 3, 2014

If you don't mind interacting with strangers, I would suggest Puzzle Break. You and 11 others will solve puzzles to find a way out of a locked room in one hour. Looks like there might still be some tickets available for this weekend. Before or after you can explore a bit of the Pike/Pine corridor, including Elliott Bay Book Company and lots of good bars and restaurants.
posted by wsquared at 3:41 PM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Take one of her tours. They are awesome. She picks you up in a van and drives you around to some great locations & tells you a ton of interesting stories. There are a million crappy tours in Seattle- this is the only one I'd recommend.
posted by haplesschild at 3:41 PM on April 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

I loved the Underground Seattle tour when I did it. It's touristy but I don't care -- I loved riding the ducks, too. MOHAI is interesting but maybe more Seattle-centric than you want. EMP is stupidly expensive, don't go.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:46 PM on April 3, 2014

Hey, you're my neighbor for the weekend, or you would be if I wasn't going out of town.

I recommend the Seattle Underground Tour. Based on the historical research of a local columnist, it's a tour through the parts of Pioneer Square (south end of downtown) which have been preserved from the strange time when the Seattle was still new, and the streets were, for reasons you'll learn, 6-20 feet above the sidewalks. You'll learn about the hilarious corruption of Henry Yesler, the truth of the dressmaking industry that once provided more tax revenue than logging, and much more. I think it's about 90 minutes and starts at Doc Maynards.

(Darnit Corpse!)
posted by Sunburnt at 3:48 PM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

The ballard locks is where I take everyone that comes for a visit. We moved here from Chicago 10 years ago and I am still in love with the locks.
posted by 58 at 3:49 PM on April 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

Crystalinne is right on, the Laser Dome is awesome! (You might want to bring earplugs, though.) I can personally vouch for Laser Daft Punk and Laser Dark Side of the Moon, both of which were quite a bit of fun. And if you don't mind going to Upper Queen Anne, Cupcake Royale has a location there.
posted by Vervain at 3:52 PM on April 3, 2014

Best answer: -Either tonight or tomorrow night, catch a bus up to Capitol Hill and check out the scene around Elliott Bay Bookstore and Oddfellows Cafe (great place to grab a coffee or snack and people-watch). For great food on the Hill (that you'd be less likely to see in Chicago), check out Ba Bar for Vietnamese, Momiji for Sushi, or Terra Plata for Mediterranean. If you want to check out some music or events, see the calendar in The Stranger (the local alt-weekly - quite good, and very Cap Hill-centric).

-When you go down to Pike Place Market, check out DeLaurenti's Market, the fish throwing, the cheese shops, and Rachel's Ginger Beer. After that, walk down to the waterfront and either catch a ferry to Bainbridge Island and back, or head down to wander through the Sculpture Park instead.

-The International District (read: Chinatown or Japantown) would be a fun stop for Asian food and culture. The Wing Luke Museum is fairly interesting. Maneki is the classic choice for sushi (though I prefer Tsukushinbo). Green Leaf and Tamarind Tree are the best choices for Vietnamese food. In that neighborhood, I think you'd quite enjoy the local, large Asian supermarket - Uwajimaya. If you're in the I.D., try to also stop by the Panama Hotel Teahouse to relax and soak up some of the local history.

-If it gets nice any afternoon this weekend, I'd highly recommend kayaking on Lake Union. It's one of the best ways to see the city.

-Other things that don't involve walking: breweries (check out Gastropod in SoDo or Fremont Brewery in Fremont), Central Cinema (local movie theater where they serve you food & beer), biking the Burke-Gilman trail.
posted by leitmotif at 3:54 PM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am seconding the recommendation to ride the ferry over to Bainbridge Island and back (as a walk-on; no need to take your vehicle.) Cheap and relaxing and you get lovely views of the city from out on the water. Bring a book and a beverage and find a seat near the window and take a $5 ride (maybe it's a little bit more now..) across Puget Sound. Doing it around dusk is a wrinkle I hadn't considered but sounds like a good one.

Assuming you are not vegetarian (otherwise: run away!) get a sandwich at Salumi, but show up early, because by noon the line will be around the block.

If you don't mind a little walking (and have a car that will get you there) visit the Kubota Gardens. Once the private project of a family of Japanese landscapers, the family donated the land to the city and it is now a small but lovely and lovingly-cared-for city park. Admission is free but if you have a good experience there please consider making a donation at the donation box to support the upkeep of this gem of a park.

Another option which is best done if you have access to a car to take you across the city.. If the weather is nice, drive over to West Seattle. Start by walking along Alki Beach and admiring the city skyline from over on the other side of Elliott Bay. Alki Bakery is a nice place to stop and sit for a bit. If you want to walk farther, Schmitz Park is nearby and is a small patch of surprisingly preserved forest surrounding a ravine with trails running through. Better still would be to get out of town into some real forest but this will at least give you a taste.. Before you leave West Seattle head to the Admiral Junction neighborhood. Stop and browse for records at Easy Street Records, then walk up the next block to get an amazing croissant or other treat at Bakery Nouveau.

Have lunch or dinner at Wild Ginger downtown. Sit at the sate bar and order whatever they're grilling that looks good.

If you can get out of the city for a day trip there are amazing hikes available in the nearby Snoqualmie National Forest, and there's very decent skiing (by Chicago standards) within a couple of hours' drive at Stevens Pass or Crystal Mountain -- but check snow conditions because it's been a low-snow year in the Cascades.

Are the tulips in bloom in the Skagit River Valley? Commercial tulip growers in Skagit County (about one to two hours north of Seattle) have fields that are carpets of vivid color this time of year and it looks like they're getting ready for their annual Tulip Festival.

Those are just off the top of my head. You can easily find amazing things to do in and around Seattle that will keep you busy for far longer than your visit will last. Pick any that sound interesting and go have a blast!
posted by Nerd of the North at 4:09 PM on April 3, 2014

For things to do, my visiting friends have consistently enjoyed the Chihuly gallery and the Theo Chocolate factory tour; for awesome food, Macrina Bakery (weekend brunch) and Skillet Diner (anytime). We've also had pretty good luck with beer + board games at Cafe Mox, but you sound like you're by yourself. Hey, you can play Agricola single player...

Awesome food can be found at Skillet. Also Macrina for brunch. Also Serious Biscuit for brunch. There is so much good food here.
posted by hishtafel at 4:09 PM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

The D line to ballard suggestion is good. You can seriously just get off on market st, walk west, and once you get to ballard ave just... wander around. There's a TON of interesting places, little art galleries full of interesting stuff and affordable trinkets to take with you(that are interesting, and as a bonus not stupid touristy stuff).

There's tons of good food down there too. tons.

Everything else has pretty much been covered, though. Any other ideas i had of "oh oh!" are probably too far out of the way, like add-a-ball in fremont.
posted by emptythought at 4:20 PM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you have a way to get there, I highly recommend Lunchbox Laboratory for food. Their burgers are not of this world.
posted by jquinby at 4:26 PM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Favorite places to sit, alone:

The counter looking out onto 1st Ave at the Crumpet Shop (just a little north of Pike Place), you can also watch them make crumpets if you're there early enough.

Panama Hotel Tea & Coffee House on 6th and Main (as mentioned above).

Zeitgeist Coffee on Jackson & 2nd in Pioneer Square.

Le Pichet on 1st just north of the Market.

The lunch counter at Easy Street Records in West Seattle (cheap breakfasts!).

It's amazing how little I "do" in my own city, must get out more...
posted by plasticpalacealice at 4:29 PM on April 3, 2014

Best answer: I have always been a fan of The Crumpet Shoppe, just next to the famous florist at the entrance to the Pike Place Market. A hardy Irish breakfast tea and a egg, pesto and tomato crumpet really does the trick for me, and you can sit right there in the window people-watching while you enjoy it. Man, I really miss that place.

Nthing Elliot Bay Books, and though it might be a bit out of the way I do enjoy a stroll around Green Lake. Maybe hit that up after you've seen the Ballard Locks, as it's up there in the north end as well. Magnussen park is pretty awesome on a warm day, too. Too bad the Soundgarden isn't open any longer :(

Gasworks Park has lovely views of the city, and the sundial on top of the hill is charming.

On Preview: plasticpalacealice and I share an opinion about The Crumpet Shoppe. Awesome place.
posted by Pecinpah at 4:54 PM on April 3, 2014

If, and only if, you are heading to Ballard AND don't mind going just a bit farther AND you like really, really good beer... Find a way to Chuck's Hop Stop on 8th Ave NW and NW 85th St. The owner bought an old mini-mart and converted into a beer paradise, with 30+ beers on tap plus everything you can imagine in bottles lining the store. There's also a different food truck out front every day and locally made Full Tilt ice cream in the case. It doesn't get much more local, friendly, or PNW quirky. (Important note: kids and dogs are allowed inside...)
posted by rouftop at 5:07 PM on April 3, 2014

Evening at the bar at Palace Kitchen. Not for the drinks (although those are great) but for the yummy seasonal food. Very good for being a lone traveler.
posted by Mizu at 5:12 PM on April 3, 2014

Best answer: Toulouse Petit is in Lower Queen Anne at Queen Anne Ave & Mercer, it has IMO the best brunch in Seattle, and has breakfast happy hour where most of the menu is $9 between 8 and 11 am M-F.

After you eat, go 5ish blocks up Queen Anne Hill* and a couple blocks West to Kerry Park for the iconic view of the Seattle skyline. Bring a camera.

Then go back down to Mercer and catch the Rapid Ride D line (which is a misnomer and practically guaranteed to be late**) north to Leary or Market and go do all the Ballard stuff that people are suggesting.

That's a pretty good day.

*I say 'Go' instead of 'walk' b/c the hill is a monster and you may want to take the bus, pending walking concerns.
**When you're being uppity about how lousy our public transit is compared to Chicago, try to keep all the hills and water in mind.
posted by Kwine at 5:49 PM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's a nifty little hidden park not far from Salumi (which I highly recommend) that's worth a peek.

If you're up to going to Fremont (a little hard to get to from Queen Anne, but easy from downtown), go have a sandwich at Paseo. They're cash only and there's usually a line, but they are so worth it.

I don't know if there's Taiwanese in Chicago, but Henry's Taiwan in the ID is pretty freaking amazing.
posted by calistasm at 6:05 PM on April 3, 2014

Best answer: If I didn't feel like doing much walking, I would go park my ass at Le Pichet and have a long, multi-course lunch with delicious wine, then totter down to the ferry, passing through the market on the way, and take a cruise to Bainbridge. There are a lot of good ideas in this thread but they're all too far apart. You need a plan that doesn't involve fighting traffic for half the day.
posted by HotToddy at 6:21 PM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

I just came in to Nth walking on the Bainbridge ferry just to ride it there and back. It is a great way to experience Puget Sound and you get to sit and relax or stroll around the deck and look for porpoises. There is an Ivar's location right by the terminal and you could pick up chowder and/or seafood and chips to take with you on the ferry. Seattle-ites think Ivar's is touristy (or something) but as a Midwesterner who always went there on family vacations and then moved to WA state as an adult, I have always loved it. It's a Seattle institution. (Go to the walk up counter, not the restaurant.) For extra touristy-ness and to annoy people on the ferry sitting near you, you can feed french fries to sea gulls or get them to eat out of your hand.
posted by dahliachewswell at 8:00 PM on April 3, 2014

I liked the stories at the Seattle Underground, but thought that what you see is actually fairly underwhelming and it is all on your feet.

Ride the Ducks is so cheesy, but absolutely good fun and a good way to get an overview of the city without having to do too much walking.

Also, one of my favourite days of my trip to Seattle was taking the ferry to Bainbridge Island and going to the Harbour Public House for lunch, which is only about 15 mins walk. Pub food made with good local ingredients and some craft cider - yum!
posted by AnnaRat at 8:29 PM on April 3, 2014

I second HotToddy's rec for Le Pichet, because it's my favorite restaurant and also because the weather's going to be (surprise!) crap this weekend so you might as well eat and drink well.

If you do get a break in the rain, the ideas for places around Pike Place Market are all good, and Toulouse Petit is magnificent. But once you start spreading out to other areas, it gets a lot more complicated and you'll spend a lot of time in transport.

For stuff you can't do in Chicago, riding the ferry is really the best option of all. That's another good thing for if you have a break in the rain, and it takes you to the waterfront, which can be nice to just walk along.
posted by emcat8 at 9:31 PM on April 3, 2014

If you're there on Sunday, check out the Fremont Sunday Market (including all the vendors inside the parking garage) and take a tour of the Theo Chocolate factory.
posted by Joleta at 9:37 PM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm so glad someone mentioned the Bainbridge Island pub (I'm an island native). Other than that, go to the Green Leaf on 8th Street in China Town and have delicious pho. Where to find the best pho is a highly contentious topic but the Green Leaf is always a safe bet.

And how has no one mentioned Dick's Drive-In? GO TO DICK'S DRIVE-IN. Chances are you will be somewhat underwhelmed, but you'll have participated in a very important right of passage. Bonus points if you go after midnight and after you've had "a few."
posted by desert_laundry at 5:38 AM on April 4, 2014

Response by poster: I'm marking best answers as I do them! Right now I'm at the crumpet shop and enjoying myself immensely. Thanks everyone, and feel free to keep suggesting things!
posted by mismatched at 12:51 PM on April 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Kinda late to the party, but here was my standard list of stops for people who came to visit me when I lived in Seattle:

Sights (all of these are a walk or a pretty easy bus trip from downtown):

- If you like farmers markets, Ballard is my all-time favorite, and it's open year-round. This time of year there's not a lot of produce, but there are still plenty of stalls selling things you could take home as souvenirs (local honey, foraged mushrooms, crafts, etc.)
- The aforementioned Kerry Park and/or the water tower at Volunteer Park (beautiful park, great view).
- Golden Gardens, for a great combo of beach and mountain views
- Ferry to Bainbridge or Vashon Island (the former is better without a car)
- Gasworks Park on a nice evening for a quintessential Seattle experience (it's a converted natural gas facility right on the lake, so you can watch picnicking families, kite-flyers, sailboats, and hydroplanes).
- The Experience Music Project is fun.
- Just walking around Capitol Hill - it's the traditional center of Seattle's gay, artistic, nightlife, hipster, and music scenes, and just a fun place to wander around and poke into random stores, galleries, cafes, etc. You can get some food/coffee/ice cream and hang out at Cal Anderson people-watching for hours!


- Serious Pie has locations in Belltown (near Queen Anne) and South Lake Union and has really good wood-fired pizza. I'm drooling just thinking about the wild chantrelle pizza!
- Smith in Capitol Hill is great for high-quality pub food and beer, with lots of local ingredients.
- You have to have pho while you're in Seattle. You can go to pretty much any of the places with "Pho" in the name and you'll get a good, cheap meal.
- Molly Moon's ice cream is wonderful, also uses lots of local ingredients. I'm especially a fan of the honey lavender.
- There's a long debate in Seattle about whether Vivace or Victrola has the best coffee. I vote for Vivace - it also has a nice space in Capitol Hill.
- The Pink Door near Pike Place market has very good Italian food in a really nice room that feels a bit like Paris in the 20s (or at least my idea of Paris in the 20s). They have low-key live music in the evenings.
- Revel in Fremont has really good Korean fusion food.
- Sushi pretty much anywhere, though avoid Blue C (it's a local chain).

Have fun!
posted by lunasol at 1:15 PM on April 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

Recent transplant from NYC here. Make the trip to Ballard Tomorrow morning: pastries at Besalu are with it all by themselves. We could never find anything as good in NYC, now we can go anytime!
posted by SirNovember at 5:14 PM on April 5, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! I had a great time on my trip to Seattle based on your suggestions.
posted by mismatched at 9:19 PM on April 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

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