Whats your "Perfect Day" in Seattle?
March 5, 2015 10:49 PM   Subscribe

My SO and I are looking to relocate. What's the "Perfect Day" in Seattle like?

Four years ago I asked AskMetafilter for help on convincing my then-boyfriend to move to LA. Things worked out beautifully and we're currently living in sunny Santa Monica, CA. Oh, and boyfriend has been upgraded to husband. :D

I *love* life here. I love the endless sunshine, the plants, the beachy, chill vibe. I love being able to be outdoors anytime of year and the healthy food/culture thats everywhere. I love how damn nice everyone is here. But the Mr is itching to get out and put down roots in a city that is just a little more affordable. He wants to buy a place with a yard, get some dogs, and pretty soon have some kids. I want those things too and understand we need to make some sacrifices for it to happen. Namely, moving to a city thats a little more affordable for us.

We've heard great things about Seattle and just the PNW in general. We're visiting next weekend and trying to hit up more "daily life" type of places than the regular touristy stuff. I'd love to hear what a "perfect day" in Seattle would be for the people that live there.

A little about what we like:
-Art! Lots of art. Crafts, too.
-Tabletop games, technology, general "nerd" stuff
-Outdoorsy stuff like hiking, biking
-We love coffee. Where's your favorite?
-The ocean! I know its not beach weather, but I just love being by the sea and anything ocean related.
-We're both in our 30's if that means anything.
-We've had lots of recommendations to check out Bainbridge Island.
-Weird, off the beaten path type of things
-Plants, botanical gardens

And if I can confess something... I know its a cliche, but I'm scared of moving from sunshine to grey skies and rain. If I let my mind sit on it too much it sorta breaks my heart. I'm absolutely trying to keep an open mind and remember that happiness comes from within. But tell me... is it really that bad? My SO wants to get out of the entire STATE of CA so that rules out moving to a smaller city in SoCal.

Thank you!
posted by modernsquid to Society & Culture (24 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
but I'm scared of moving from sunshine to grey skies and rain.
This week has been sunny and the cherry trees are blooming.

Head to Volunteer Park near Capitol Hill on a sunny day to climb the watchtower and get a fabulous view. The pop down to one of Broadway's many delicious restaurants like Annapurna.

I love Mercury Coffee's lattes; ridiculously decadent and creamy.

Your list of likes can easily all be found in the greater Seattle area.
posted by HMSSM at 11:45 PM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

The rules about telling the truth about Seattle weather are very specific. We can't, or everyone will want to live here.
I can post this which is the 5 day forecast from komo, a local news outlet.

There is viirtually no snow in the mountains right now, so all of the outdoor activities we wait until july to enjoy are available right now.

I live north of the city in a beach town. I see bald eagles every day. On my commute to work i can see three volcanoes, the ocean, the san juan islands. tomorrow i can be on a sailboat 20 mins after work. saturday i can drive less than an hour to a trailhead to an alpine lake or a mountain top. Sunday i will have brunch in a quirky artsy neighborhood in the city before heading out to play ultimate frisbee, half of my teammates will bike to the game.

Seattle is a vibrant city that skews young. it has neighborhoods with parks, art cinema, craft brew stores with tables to play boardgames and drink pours. weed is legal here.

Traffic is abysmal for some, public trans is pathetic, and there are problems that any urban space faces. for these ymmv.

cost of living is going up because it's great to live here and therefore people are moving here increasing real estate rates and density.

Others will likely suggest specific neighborhoods for you to come hang out in...you might want to check zillow or some such site to see what area you can afford, but if you are looking for a place to get the feel of the city, try Greenlake, Magnuson park/Burke Gilman trail
Ballard or West Seattle.

Some folks talk of the 'Seattle Freeze', which is a vibe very different from what you are used to in chill santa monica. I have never found it to be a thing for me, but again ymmv.

If Seattle is too much of a city for what you want, you might like Bellingham, a (small) college town closer to Canadia.

posted by OHenryPacey at 11:49 PM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

I love this question. I recently moved from Seattle to LA, and while I'm enjoying LA sunshine, Seattle remains my favorite place in the world. You will be lucky to live there!

Because I used to live in Ballard, that is where my perfect day would be. In the morning I'd hit up a coffee shop for breakfast. Cafe Besalu has amazing pastries, but the line is long on the weekends, so I'd probably go to Java Bean down the street instead. Then maybe I'd hit the yarn store across the street. After that (on a nice day) I'd wander to the locks to see if there were salmon running, or maybe even spot a harbor seal or sea lion. If I had my bike, I'd bike over to Golden Gardens for a stroll on the beach. Otherwise, I might just go poke my head into Annie's Art and Frame, or head to Cafe Mox for some gaming (it's an awesome tabletop game store in Ballard). Later I'd grab a bite at any of the awesome restaurants down there... possibly Ballard Annex because it's less crowded than other places and I like oysters. I'd hit up a movie later and then grab some good local beers at The Dray.

That's MY perfect day, but there are many other things to do that are not Ballard-specific: a run around Green Lake and hot chocolate at Chocolati, a long bike ride along Lake Washington to Seward Park, some local theater or comedy at The Annex in Capitol Hill, a ride on the West Seattle water taxi, a walk through the Sculpture Park downtown. All of these are things I miss so, so much.

And honestly, the rain is fine. It makes the sunny days even more special, and there are more of those than you realize. The spring was always gorgeous, with dogwoods blooming in March and cherry blossoms in May. It never gets overwhelmingly hot (except for about 2 weeks a year), so nobody has air conditioning. People play outside all year long, and there's even snowshoeing in the mountains in winter.

Good luck! I hope you find out how special Seattle is.
posted by MsMartian at 11:49 PM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I came to also comment on the weather. I am from socal and have lived in the PNW and for the last several years in sunny (NOT) europe. It takes a while to get used to the change, but your second winter should be okay. It helps to be in a place where you can do winter sports (which you would be, I believe) and to use lots of cosy things. The norwegians have a concept called "koselig" which you might look up, but its all about cosiness... hot soups, good bread, warm slippers, cashmere dressing gowns, soft throw blankets, warm lighting... those things make the winter very nice indeed.

Plus, the PNW gets nice hot summers.
posted by catspajammies at 11:56 PM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

A single day is hard to describe because there's a lot to do here even for people who have lived here for years or their whole lives. Ms. fireoyster and I like to go on Argosy cruises, go to board game meetups, visit the main library in downtown, eat at American food places in Lake City, go to the Ballard locks, and so on.

OHenryPacey: "public trans is pathetic"

I really have to disagree a lot. Public transit inside the city and to the suburbs that place value on it (Redmond, Renton, Bellevue, Shoreline) is good. It's mostly buses and they're affected by the same traffic, but I use Metro and Sound Transit to get virtually everywhere I go and they work great for me.

modernsquid: "-We're both in our 30's if that means anything.
-We've had lots of recommendations to check out Bainbridge Island.

To me, these two statements conflict. Both of us are in our 30s and wouldn't dream of living on Bainbridge, even with a kid in tow (which we have). We live smack in the middle of the city--yes, with a yard, those can still be purchased here--and think of Bainbridge as a place to visit instead of live. If you want the social and cultural benefits and to really be part of Seattle versus observing it in doses, you should really live here. I don't know your budget so I can't recommend specific places, but I can unequivocally say that I think that anyone who posts this type of question on Metafilter, especially if you list board games and arts/crafts as interests in your 30s, would do quite well inside the city proper.
posted by fireoyster at 12:33 AM on March 6, 2015

Oh, and no, the weather isn't "that bad." It snows once or twice a year in Seattle and usually not much. Your first winter will be a little rough if you grew up with a lot of sun. Buy a happy light and use it consistently during the dark months. The second and third winters will be progressively better. Besides, the rainy days pay for the summer not generally getting above 85F.
posted by fireoyster at 12:35 AM on March 6, 2015

Washington Park Arboretum. Boom. When I was a kid, I used to sneak down to the mucky creek behind Broadmoor's driving range and gather up golf balls that had ended up behind the fence, for Father's Day gifts. Now I visit the arboretum for the scenery.

I don't live in Seattle anymore, but I *do* love taking a canoe or kayak out onto Lake Union when I'm in town and get the chance. I used to go dragonboating with a club (the Seattle Flying Dragons still appear to be very accommodating of visitors), and paddling on Lake Union remains one of my favorite ways to experience Seattle. Especially if you manage to get out on the lake at night.
posted by duffell at 3:41 AM on March 6, 2015

In southern California, rain is a torrential downpour that makes it hard to go anywhere. In the Pacific Northwest, rain is a light mist that coats the trees and makes everything glittery. The darkness, on the other hand, takes some getting used to: Seattle is quite far north, and winter days are very short. (Summer days are glorious and last forever.)

I second the advice to poke around Zillow and see what neighborhoods you'd be interested in. Ballard is a great place to wander around and get an idea of the quintessential Seattle neighborhood, especially if you like being near the water, but if I were looking to buy a house I'd go further north or south of the city.
posted by yarntheory at 5:13 AM on March 6, 2015

The weather thing is hard. Because I lived in Seattle for much of my time growing up and also for college and a couple years afterwards, and during all that time I would have said that the rain and grey thing was totally exaggerated. And then I moved to Austin and I realized that you really could have beautiful blue skies almost every day. And it was life changing. I've lived in Pennsylvania since then and Chicago and both of them, while hardly being renowned for their weather, have been much much better for me than Seattle.

I love Seattle in many ways--and there are so many perfect days that you could have there--but I do not want to live there ever again because I can't take going back to the grey. Seattle is a beautiful place but it not sunny and it is not chill or beachy. And people are polite but they are not friendly. You may well find your bliss there anyway, and I've heard that it has been an unusually nice winter so who knows what the future weather patterns hold but those are my two cents.
posted by pie_seven at 6:13 AM on March 6, 2015 [5 favorites]

Cafe Mox seems like a great place for tabletop gaming.
posted by matildaben at 6:54 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I had the perfect day in Seattle recently! It was a Friday. I got up in the morning and went to Pike Place Market, where I walked around a little bit and then went to Storyville Coffee for a pourover coffee and a pastry. Then I went to the Columbia Center, where, unlike the Space Needle, there were absolutely no lines and it was dead easy to get up to the top and bask in the beautiful views of the city. After that, I went for one of the amazing sandwiches at Salumi (there was a bit of a line here), and took my sandwich to Occidental Square where I caught an outdoor concert and watched people play with a giant chess set. After that, I grabbed a latte from Trabant and took it over to Bill Speidel's Underground Tour. Next, I walked to Central Library where I checked out the collection and wandered around its mazelike hallways. I was feeling pretty sleepy so I rode the bus back to my friends' place in Ballard where I was staying and took a nap. Well rested, I met up with my friends' gaming group and we got tea at Miro Tea before heading to Cafe Mox for sandwiches, mead, and free board game rentals long into the night.

Some of this stuff was semi-touristy but it's stuff that locals do for fun as well.

Ballard was a really cool place to stay and by all accounts a neat place to live. My friends there bought their place a year or so ago and they are loving it; they're in for the long haul.

I know its a cliche, but I'm scared of moving from sunshine to grey skies and rain.

Psst, I'm not supposed to tell you this, but there are actually a solid 3-4 months of sunshiney, gorgeous, 70-degree summer. And the grey skies and rain mean that there are flowers blooming year round. I was pretty tempted, let me tell you.
posted by capricorn at 7:10 AM on March 6, 2015

Oh, and speaking of the beach/if you want to get to know Ballard better: the very next day was Paseo + Ballard Locks + another outdoor concert in the nearby park + a birthday party with barbecue on the beach. It's a seriously cool place. It's a very different vibe from Santa Monica - I actually found it MORE laid-back; Santa Monica seemed like a pretty trendy/hip area to me. Oh yes the other secret I'm not supposed to tell you is there are no bugs!
posted by capricorn at 7:18 AM on March 6, 2015

Seattle has a bridge with a troll under it.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:20 AM on March 6, 2015

-Tabletop games, technology, general "nerd" stuff

No one has really touched on this yet, but I just wanted to say that Seattle has TONS of nerd culture. I moved to Atlanta for financial and family reasons almost 10 years ago and I still miss Seattle a lot. I would move back if I could.
posted by Fleebnork at 8:04 AM on March 6, 2015

Check out West Seattle for chill, beachy, semi-funky, and house/yard/dog needs. I have some friends who live there and have painless transit commutes to downtown. Also north-ish Ballard (Ballard central has houses with yards but also many condo buildings).

My perfect weekday is: coffee at home, bike 4 miles to work (medical research non-profit), happy day of warm fuzzies saving the children, bike to happy hour with friends (List or Innkeeper in Belltown, Cicchetti on Eastlake, Plum in Capitol Hill, or in the summer Gasworks Park with a stop by Fremont Brewing for beverages), bike home to my cat and charming boyfriend.

My perfect weekends are: (1) early movie at Cinerama, lunch at Serious Pie, walk through the Olympic Sculpture Park, walk home passing by DeLaurenti for fancy foodstuffs, cook an elaborate and delicious dinner (ok, you caught me, watch charming boyfriend cook dinner), OR (2) get up early for a long ride with Cascade Bicycle Club, and later go out for a late lunch or early dinner and eat more than should be physically possible (Skillet, 8oz Burger Co, any of the many Ethiopian restaurants in the area - my favorite is Chef Cafe).

I am not really into games but have heard good things about Cafe Mox in Ballard and Raygun in Capitol Hill.
posted by esoterrica at 8:04 AM on March 6, 2015

If you were my friend visiting me in Seattle and trying to decide whether or not to live there, this is how we would spend a Sunday:

We'd leave the house around 10 (eh, realistically more like 11, right?) and head to either Skillet or the Hi-Life (both in Ballard) for a delicious brunch. Then we'd spend an hour or so perusing the Ballard Farmer's Market, which is chock-full of amazing vendors selling all sorts of stuff (produce, honey, vinegar, crafts, brick-oven pizza, foraged mushrooms, everything). Then I'd take you over to the aforementioned Cafe Mox, which also happens to be next to a game store. After that, we'd get in the car or on the bike and head over to Golden Gardens, Seattle's best beach, where you can sit on the sand and look out over the bay and the Olympic Mountains. If we were hungry again, we'd stop on the way at Paseo for Cuban sandwiches or the Lockspot Cafe for fried seafood, and have a picnic on the beach. Then in the evening we'd head back to Ballard Ave for dinner (sushi, maybe, there are some great places) and then watch some live music afterwords if we weren't completely exhausted from all the awesomeness.

That's just one neighborhood's perfect day - I picked it because Ballard is close to Golden Gardens and you like the beach. But you could have similar amazing days in Capitol Hill, downtown, Wallinford, and many other neighborhoods. It's a great city with so many great places to eat and fun things to do.

The weather is an issue for lots of people. It wasn't really a problem for me, but I'm from the Northeast and loved how mild it was. Others are right that it isn't REALLY constantly grey in the winter, but if you LOVE the sun, it could be a problem, most winters. However, Seattle has a lot of the other things you like in spades, so I say give it a shot, and maybe rent a year before you buy a place to make sure you can handle the winter.

Disclaimer: I no longer live in Seattle but am pretty much counting the days until I move back, so there may be some rose-colored glasses going on in this comment!
posted by lunasol at 10:14 AM on March 6, 2015

Cafe Mox seems like a great place for tabletop gaming.

It is consistently packed. Get there early, if this is your thing. The food is meh-to-okay, but it is really about playing games, anyway.

You can check out games for free from the guy behind the register in the adjoining game store.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:22 AM on March 6, 2015

Oh I didn't even cover hiking in my comment, but there's plenty of that as well! In less than two hours (depending on where you start and where you finish, less than an hour) you can be in the Cascades, where you can hike and camp to your heart's content, everything from short-but-steep hikes like Rattlesnake Ledge to back-country camping in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. There's also tons of great kayaking in the area.
posted by lunasol at 10:33 AM on March 6, 2015

Namely, moving to a city thats a little more affordable for us.

The city is becoming much less affordable, so if you plan to rent here, be aware that — barring some unforeseen problem with Amazon — real estate prices will be substantially higher in a year. Renting from month to month may be more sensible, until you get your bearings and know what kind of place you want and can afford.

Unless you live north or south of the middle band of the city (basically, outside of QA, Belltown, Capitol Hill, Central District, Madison Valley and Magnolia) having a yard will be $$$. Living space is tight and options are dwindling, as houses are torn down to build mega-apartment complexes.

Outside of those neighborhoods I mentioned, public transportation is not great and the traffic is often worse. Where you work will become a major consideration in where you look to live, because it will determine your commuting options.

All that said, we are having freakish weather and it is beautiful. It is normally amazing here from mid-June to late-September, and rainy and dreary the rest of the year. The summer weather makes up for the rest of the year.

Some good coffee can be found at Fremont Coffee Company, Caffe Vita, Milstead, Victrola, and Vivace.

If you go to Paseos, Caffe Vita is right up the street. But Paseo makes pretty heavy food that would be difficult to follow up with coffee.

A trip to Fremont and Ballard may be sensible. You can end up at Golden Gardens, which faces the sound. It isn't the ocean, but it works. Another option is couple miles south of Ballard, in Magnolia: Discovery Park, which has lots of trails to hike that lead out to Puget Sound. It offers a nice Sunday walk, about 5-10 miles, and goes well with a thermos of coffee and some sandwiches at the end.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:41 AM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

I will confirm the freakish/beautiful weather that a lungful of dragon mentions. While it will never be as sunny as CA, you can certainly get used to living here, because you will learn to appreciate each sunny day as a little jewel.

My ideal Sunday:
• Start out in West Seattle, ride bikes (you can rent from Alki Bike & Board) down to Seacrest Pier for brunch at Marination Ma Kai.
• Take the bikes on the Elliott Bay Water Taxi (~15 minutes journey) and get off downtown.
• Ride bikes along the waterfront trail, through the Olympic Sculpture Park, then Interbay, Magnolia, and the Ballard Locks.
• Watch the salmon travel through the locks.
• Cross over the locks, then ride to the Fremont Sunday Market, where you can browse antiques, crafts, etc.
• Ride back to West Seattle.
• Sushi at Mashiko for dinner.
posted by oxisos at 11:22 AM on March 6, 2015

There's been a ton of good answers in this thread already, but you seem pretty fixated on the weather thing, so here's some cold water:

My SoCal-4-lyfe boyfriend moved here in 2013 to live with me in the heart of the city. The first winter was a shock to him: 8 hours of "sunlight" filtered through clouds, light rain that's just enough to be obnoxious, and a whole new water-proof winter wardrobe required. It's not the whole winter, but every year weeks will go by without the rain really stopping or the sun coming out. The lack of sunlight causes serious sleep issues for some, myself included, where it's hard to feel fully awake or get out of bed in the winter mornings because the sun if it comes out at all isn't up till 8:45-9am. SoCal boyfriend experiences a mild SAD-induced depression every winter. So for him, yeah, it's been that bad. He's asked me a bunch of times in the last year if I would be ok living in NorCal sometime soon.

The joke among locals is that summer doesn't start until July 5th. Residents usually travel during the winter to warmer, sunnier places -- our go-tos are Hawaii, California and Vegas. Boyfriend's second winter here (this one we're just exiting) has been somewhat less grumbly and disappointing, but it's also the nicest winter I can remember in almost three decades of living here. I'm savoring it, and so is boyfriend, but this is not normal. There's still time for this nice weather to go to shit and be low 60s and cloudy straight through into summer, which it has done before and isn't predictable, unlike sun in California. On more than one occasion I have planned and taken a vacation somewhere warm to escape late lingering winter, only to miss one of three sunny weeks we had that summer.

And as a side-note, the "beach" here isn't the ocean, it's Puget Sound: no real waves breaking and freezing year-round. Golden Gardens, the only real SAND beachfront (because almost every other beach will be rocks that are not fun to walk on), is packed with people all summer long. It faces land, so you can't really look out into the horizon. I love it, but if you're used to wide-open Pacific beachfront and waves and the whole actually-an-ocean thing, you need to drive a couple hrs to the peninsula for that.

I used to be super gung-ho about the rain and the cold rainforest feel. What really changed it for me is when I lived in Arizona for 18 months -- getting lots of sun lifts my spirits and keeps me full of energy in a way that I had never experienced before. My personal long-term plan is to relocate somewhere else where school season weather is nicer and then live in Seattle during the summers. As beautiful and amazing as this place is, and others have said as much, I've spent too much of my life putting up with Seattle winter bullshit when it's just not a good fit for me personally. No amount of awesome things to do or it being my home will change that.
posted by Snacks at 1:19 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

For art, check out the Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington. They have a sky room by James Turrell. If the weather's nice, you might also like the Olympic Sculpture Park. I love Oldenburg's typewriter eraser, and the massive Serra sculpture.
posted by MrBobinski at 5:40 PM on March 6, 2015

I love Seattle, it's a literate, beautiful, historic, interesting place. But I don't think it's what you're looking for if sunshine is important to you. Seattle has most of the things on your list of desirable qualities, but when that list is contrasted with the list of things you love about Santa Monica it's less favorable.

71 clear days
93 partly cloudy days
201 cloudy days (cloudy is defined as 80% or greater cloud cover)
43% sunny annually

Los Angeles:
186 clear days
106 partly cloudy days
73 cloudy days
73% sunny annually

As you can see, the difference in weather is very drastic. Seattle may have less actual precipitation than the cliche would lead you to believe but the number of days on which precipitation occurs is greater and there's a long period of cloudiness and/or rain from October to May or June.

That's quite different than "endless sunshine" and it may be a shock to adjust to 30% fewer sunny days. If it's cloudy when you visit, just consider that it will be like that for 57% of the year and give serious thought to whether you could deal with it for 5-10 years or even permanently. Definitely discuss that with your SO.

Seattle also has a reputation for being polite but impersonal, sometimes called "The Seattle Freeze". You might want to test that out as much as possible when you're out and about during your visit to see if it's something that happens to you and if it's something you could live with.
posted by i feel possessed at 12:24 AM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

> Weird, off the beaten path type of things
-Plants, botanical gardens

This is probably further than you want to travel but it covers both those: the Kruckeberg Botanic Garden in Shoreline. And since you said you want "affordable," well, you're more likely to end up here than in Seattle.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:21 PM on March 7, 2015

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