Seattle in 48 hours!
October 16, 2014 9:52 AM   Subscribe

I'll be in Seattle for 48 hours (Sunday afternoon through Tuesday afternoon) for a brief leg of a solo trip. Help me structure my time there for maximum wandery enjoyable urban exploration, with perhaps a little bit of hiking thrown in?

I've read the previous Seattle questions and they gave me a few starting points. But I'm still looking for ideas for how to structure my time. Here's the itinerary:
- I arrive mid-afternoon this Sunday into SEA
- I booked an AirBnB for Sunday and Monday nights in Ballard
- I'm jumping on an Amtrak train (the Empire Builder!) a little after 1pm on Tuesday and will arrive in Chicago 48 hours later

I really enjoy solo city exploration and am especially excited to see Seattle. I don't need to be super touristy, but I'd love to leave better understanding a few of the neighborhoods and having soaked in some of the sweet literary/queer local culture in particular. Things I'd like to do:
- Experience uniquely Seattle/Pacific Northwestern things, but not necessarily check-off-the-list tourist items. I'm also interested in seeing if Seattle would be a good place to live (I'm currently in Boston), so any way to encourage some low-key scoping out of Seattle life is helpful.
- Have really good coffee
- Check out a few rad bookstores
- Drink local beer
- Consume really good Vietnamese food
- Potentially rent a bike? Or if not, do a little public transit exploration
- Possibly go to some kind of event where I could meet LGBTQ and/or music and/or book folks. Not necessarily something super social, just something that would give me a sense of local community
- I would also consider taking a chunk of the day (perhaps Monday morning) heading somewhere where I could hike around. I don't really want to rent a car, but I'm comfortable taking public transit wherever

Any ideas how to piece some of these interests into a hodgepodge little trip would be wonderful, thank you!
posted by elephantsvanish to Travel & Transportation around Seattle, WA (11 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
There are many tiny breweries in Ballard these days (e.g. NW Peaks, Reuben's, Stoup) however many of them are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays so if you want to visit some of those, there's your Sunday evening. Reuben's is a must visit.
posted by sevenless at 10:35 AM on October 16, 2014

Best answer: For good Vietnamese food, definitely check out taminard tree or green leaf in the international district. You can get there easily via the buses and get off at the international district stop and walk up the hill.

Elliot Bay Books is a local bookstore up on Capitol Hill which is a fun neighborhood to explore that is more LGBTQ oriented. Lots of good coffee up there as well. Vivace or Victorla coffee would be my recommendations.

If it's dry on monday, rattlesnake ledge is a quick drive (45 mins) and it's a great hike with a great view if it's not foggy!
posted by zw98105 at 10:36 AM on October 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ballard is amazing.

- Really good coffee: Ballard Coffee Works (Their espresso is great. They've also got a slow-bar that is worth checking out)
- Rad bookstores: Seconding Elliot Bay Books on Capitol Hill
- Local Beer: Seconding the sevenless' list
- Vietnamese: Yes, you have to go to the ID
- Rent a bike: In ballard you can do this at the Dutch Bike Shop
- Hike Around: Don't leave the city. Go to Discovery Park or Seward Park
posted by lucasks at 11:01 AM on October 16, 2014

1 Good coffee: everywhere. Look for the expresso stands and the local coffee shops on corners. Yelp is your friend on this.

2. Bookstores: Yelp has a great list for Seattle, but also consider hopping the Bainbridge ferry and strolling off it to Eagle Harbor Books. (Downtown Winslow, which is all around the bookstore, is fun too.)

3. Local beer: Any tavern, just ask for what is local and on tap. My personal favorite is Mac & Jack, made in Redmond WA (home of Microsoft.)

4. Vietnamese: Best place is VIetnamese area of the ID. I'd use Urban Spoon to make a choice, and double check with Yelp reviews.

5. Bike rental: We just opened up a rental service with free helmets! But frankly I'd recommend that you skip that for your tooling around downtown, where biking is 1) hilly 2) can be a bit hairy and 3) makes it hard to sightsee and bike simultaneously. I'd suggest using Metro trip planner and hop buses/light rail instead. Metro goes everywhere.

6. LGBTQ: All over Seattle, but especially easy to find on Capital Hill.

7.Hiking: So many good places to do this. Discovery Park, Seward Park, Volunteer Park, and Gasworks Park are all fun. Also great walking parks though not hiking oriented: the people and birding scene at Greenlake Park, the Locks area, and the beautiful waterfront area of Madison Park. Just pick some parks and take a bus there.
posted by bearwife at 11:54 AM on October 16, 2014

Walk down market street from ballard, hitting the Hiram M Chittenden locks. Walk across them to the Magnolia side. Hang a right and walk until the road ends. Turn left, turn right. Boom. Discovery Park.
posted by Windopaene at 1:20 PM on October 16, 2014

I came it to also suggest the locks - also known as the Ballard locks. It's particularly awesome if you're not used to being up close to major pieces of sea-going hardware - everything from tugs to yachts to day sailers.
There's also a fish ladder viewing window on the far side, and if there's a migration (could be Chum? at this time of year) you can watch the fish navigate the ladder at the side of the locks.
It's 'touristy' but every tourist I've taken I've had to drag away - and it's a beautiful park setting as well!
posted by dbmcd at 1:39 PM on October 16, 2014

For getting a sense of what it might be like to live here, you could see if the Farmer's market is still open when you get to Ballard (it ends at 3pm, which might be too tight). You could hang out at the library and yes, visit the Locks: watch the fish a bit, roll down the hill, see a few boats.

Hugo House, on Capitol Hill, might be a place to go for literary stuff.
posted by Margalo Epps at 5:24 PM on October 16, 2014

Everywhere in Seattle and most everywhere in the urban Puget Sound area is reachable by transit.

For your trip: Take Central Link from the airport to downtown Seattle. Get off at Pioneer Square Tunnel Station to 3rd Ave/James St. Walk about a half block south on 3rd to 3rd/James bus stop to take route 40 into the Ballard area. You can also look for RapidRide D, a more express bus, at 3rd/Seneca near University Street Tunnel Station. From Ballard, routes 40 and RapidRide D connect to downtown, to Fremont, and to points north of Ballard like Northgate. Route 44 will get you to the University District, which is its own brand of funky. You could even transfer to the 48 (in Loyal Heights, meeting up with the 40) or the 3 or 4 (in downtown) and come see my neighborhood.

If you want to explore, get an ORCA card just before you board the train. Yes, they cost $5, but you can keep it as a memento plus you can use it again if/when you come back. Load it with two regional visitor day passes and ride both of your days as much as you want. Be sure to download OneBusAway, Seattle's original mobile transit information app. You may also be familiar with Transit App and it works here, too (though I still like OBA, Transit App does have routing directions).

I like public transit and happen to like the transit system in Seattle. Hope you have a good time.
posted by fireoyster at 11:17 PM on October 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Stranger is Seattle's alt weekly newspaper with a queer vibe. Their their art/music/performance listings may be of interest. (you can get a free hardcopy of the Stranger from the newspaper boxes sprinkled liberally along the sidewalks in hip neighborhoods, and it makes good coffee reading material)
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:31 PM on October 16, 2014

Best answer: We always like to take visitors along the Burke-Gilman bike trail from the University District to the Ballard Locks (sometimes we even continue on to Golden Gardens beach.) In the U District, the University Bookstore provides delightful book browsing opportunities and Big Time brews excellent beer. From there the trail continues past Gasworks Park and Fremont (home of Fremont Brewing Company, Theo Chocolate Factory, the Troll Statue, and a lot of friendly weirdness) before hitting Ballard and the locks. I can probably even loan you my spare bike for this purpose if you like (MeMail me if you're interested.)

It's my experience that bicycling to any given location in the city is usually as fast as the bus and often faster, but it's hard to avoid the hills and they take some getting used to, so if you don't already do a lot of cycling I'd stick to the flat and fairly scenic Burke-Gilman.

Literary events: The University Bookstore has a book signing going on Monday night (events page.) Third Place Books, just a bit north of the U District, has something on Monday night they call "League of Literary Snobbery: Storytime for Grown-ups." Or better yet, the previously mentioned Hugo House is having an open mic.

Seconding the recommendation for Ballard Coffee Works for good coffee. Hang out at the Slow Bar and chat with the baristas about obscure brewing methods! They are a satellite location of Seattle Coffee Works, which is located next to Pike Place Market. Speaking of which, Pike Place is awesome and not just for tourists. You should check it out if you have time.
posted by fermion at 12:53 AM on October 17, 2014

Response by poster: Post-trip report: Oof Seattle was so lovely. I had such a good time exploring on my own -- thank you for the immensely helpful tips.

I ended up spending the first night and morning exploring Ballard. I got some vegan ice cream and played pinball, read a bit at a bar blaring metal, got Ballard Coffee Works caffeine fix in the morning (so good), and also had a really wonderful, trans-friendly used clothing experience. (For any readers who are interested in planning a trip where they can explore their gender expression or get a little momentum going for transitioning, Seattle is your place.)

I spent the afternoon exploring bookstores (Elliot Bay!) in Capitol Hill. I swung by Hugo House and felt really welcome as an out-of-towner -- met some folks, heard some really rad readings, and dipped out to get soul food.

Seattle is a great city for solo travel. People seemed happy to engage with me and talk a bit about their lives, but I also felt comfortable doing my own thing like reading in public. Also, as somebody who likes dark beers but is often disappointed by over-sugary Porters, Seattle's beer was perfectly attuned to my taste bud. mmmmmbeeeer.

One thing that I don't think anybody mentioned: right before my train ride, I went to the EMP Museum downtown to check out their Nirvana-related collection. I'm not a huge grunge fun, but I really love hardcore punk and early indie, and EMP had a unbelievable collection of oral histories and other ephemera related to early punk in WA and beyond. Unfortunately I juuust missed their indie games exhibit which would have been rad too.
posted by elephantsvanish at 4:18 PM on October 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

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