What should we do in Seattle?
December 22, 2003 2:23 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to be in Seattle with my girlfriend from the 25th-29th, and I'd like to have a few fun things to do when we get there. We're planning to try checking out the underground seattle tour, and we will of course make the mandatory pilgrimage to REI... But what else should we get up to?
posted by gkostolny to Travel & Transportation around Seattle, WA (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you have a rental car, you will want to drive out to Snoqualmie Falls. It's about 45 minutes from downtown Seattle due east and is very beautiful.

Touristy, but you must check out the Pike Place Market.

Consider hopping a ferry and taking it up to the San Juan Islands...Orcas or Friday Harbor, hop out and have lunch then take the ferry back to town. Don't worry about doing much when you get to the destination, the ferry trip is the point.

Might want to check out the many breweries. Pyramid down by the stadiums, Redhook in Woodinville (near two good wineries) and Maritime in Fremont. When in Fremont you can also see a huge statue of Lenin.

The University of Washington campus is also quite beautiful.

Have fun!
posted by vito90 at 2:28 PM on December 22, 2003

I've lived in Seattle for two years now, and the one touristy thing that surprised me as being a don't-miss was taking an Argosy Cruise. You get a sense of the city best from out on the water, and the Lake Washington cruise take you past Bill Gates manse, the CEO of Starbucks place, and other celeb cribs.
posted by GaelFC at 2:34 PM on December 22, 2003

Skip the Space Needle, if you had plans. The elevator prices are verging on outrageous, especially for what amounts to "going up a to a relatively high place, and then coming back down again." And the revolving restaurant is notorious for its overpriced badness.

Take a ride on the monorail! It's like a ride in the future . . . yesterday!

If you haven't seen Return of the King, you should consider seeing it at Cinerama. There's nothing quite like seeing nine-foot-tall hobbits, or vast acreage of Viggo-face.

A stroll on Broadway Avenue on Capitol Hill is fun for people-watching, and also for hobo-dodging. Stop by the Broadway Market and ask yourself, "Wow, is this the weirdest, dinkiest mall ever?" Attempt to actually enjoy wheatgrass at the Gravity Bar.

Finally, no trip to Seattle is complete without a stop at Gasworks Park, where you will cut your foot on some scrap metal. After some stitches from the good folks at Harborview Medical Center (say hi to my friend Karen!), you'll have had the Compleat Seattle Experience.

PS--Despite my lame attempts at snark, I actually do recommend all of those things . . . except, of course, the Space Needle. It's just dumb.
posted by Skot at 2:43 PM on December 22, 2003

Eating type activities:
Dicks' drive in (many of them around ... my favorite is the one near capital hill, but there's a neat one off 45th in the university district.)
Vietnamese food! I've enjoyed the half dozen or so viet restaurants in the Seattle area - if you've never had Pho before it's quite tasty (ramen on crack) and for 5 bucks you can get a dish big enough to feed a cow for a few days.
Brewpubs: Yes, there's lots of them. Just pick one. :-)
Little eateries near pike's place market: My fav is this english Tea and Crumpets place - it makes a nice breakfasty/lunch stop.

tip on Pike's Market: Go there on a weekday. There are far fewer tourists and more businesstypes, and it's a bit more interesting and less crowded, in my opinion.

-Downtown to capital hill! I dare you to try to get from here to there on foot! My favorite way was to cut through the convention center, which always gets you lost because it's a huge park right over I-5. In fact, skip the walk entirely and just check out the park.
-Washington park: Get there off I-520, or from downtown off 19th ave/Madison Ave. It's a great drivable park that looks neat and you can get out and walk around.
-Rent rollerblades and go to lakeshore park, it's neat too. lots of collegy types.

Ever tried to lindy hop? Wanna learn? Check out the Russian Center on Thursday nights, or the Century Ballroom on Sunday nights. They're both incredible venues and are a lot of fun to show up at and just watch, even if you don't know your right foot from your left.

I agree with vito, visit the Udub campus, it's neat.

PS) I assume you left the monorail out on purpose? Because it should be done at least once, and so should the space needle, even though they're both so cliche. If you do the needle, do it near sunset.
posted by Happydaz at 2:47 PM on December 22, 2003

Response by poster: (I should add that I've been to Seattle several times, as has she, so the Space Needle was most definitely not on the list, while Pike's Place was.)

On the fun things to do in (or on the way out of) Seattle front, anybody else taken the Victoria Clipper or a seaplane to Victoria harbor? How about that rooster tail? Or the view down at all the logs floating in the sound as they await milling?

On the trip where I took the VC, we encountered a sub going out on patrol and exchanged waves with the guys on the conning tower.
posted by gkostolny at 2:52 PM on December 22, 2003

I was charmed by the Fremont Troll (if you're in the Gasworks Park area).
posted by cairnish at 3:06 PM on December 22, 2003

I'd recommend gassworks park, do see the troll, wander around fremont or downtown and check out the random shops buried in places that you wouldn't catch if you were in a car. Happydaz and I are headed up there during that time as well. See you around. :)
posted by woil at 3:22 PM on December 22, 2003

Don't bother going to Dick's Fucking Drive-In unless you like small uncustomizable hamburgers, limp greasy fries, chalky milkshakes, and paying for condiments. Seattlites only encourage people to eat there so they suffer cardiac arrest on the premises. The number of tourists are therefore kept to a minimum, and the traffic conditions don't continue growing worse.

Definitely hit up the Pyramid Brewery near SafeCo Field. Excellent food, excellent beer. I suggest you skip the RedHook Brewery and its faux-ski lodge crapulence; the food is awful and their beer is better in the bottle. Instead, dine at Fado near Pioneer Square.

If you're visiting the UW campus as suggested above, stop by Sushi Express on 50th & 15th for the full kaiten sushi experience. Individual plates of freshly-prepared sushi go around the restaurant on a large toy train, and you take what looks appetizing. Chef Ahn prepares the best sushi I've had in my life. (The unagi is like eating a tiny piece of God.)

Nothing, however, can compare to the type of tour you'll get by boarding the Metro Transit system. I wholeheartedly suggest grabbing the 66 or 67 bus from Northgate Park & Ride. You'll visit a wide variety of Seattle's neighborhoods, from Northgate to Greenlake, the University District, around Lake Union, through Downtown, and end up at the Ferry Terminal on the waterfront. Lots of gorgeous views and colorful locals to see, for $1.50 a pop.

From there, you can walk over to The Crab Pot, where the sea's bounty will be steamed, boiled, grilled, and dumped onto your butcher paper-covered table for devouring.
posted by Danelope at 3:37 PM on December 22, 2003

I've gotta second the Argosy boat tours. On my first visit to Seattle I took a 2-hour boat tour followed by a 2-hour bus tour, and came away with lots of ideas for stuff to explore further. One of these was Gasworks park. Freaky cool place!
posted by Tubes at 4:11 PM on December 22, 2003

(I should add that I've been to Seattle several times, as has she, so the Space Needle was most definitely not on the list, while Pike's Place was.)

Pike Place, not Pike's Place, please. Calling it Pike's Place tells us immediately that you are not local.

The Experience Music Project is overpriced but still fun if you are a music fan.

The person criticizing Dick's above is obviously not a native either. But I wouldn't send tourists there. It is one of those things that we love because we grew up with it. The milkshakes, though, are not chalky -- they are wonderful. They are real ice cream and milk. Have a milkshake for the Dick's experience.

Take a ferry to Bainbridge and back. You don't have to get off the boat if you don't want... it's just a nice Seattle experience and a good view.

Ride the waterfront trolley.

Visit the International District and especially Uwajimaya, the Japanese superstore with the best food court ever (and a Kinokuniya bookstore to boot).

Safeco Field has tours, and that might be fun.
posted by litlnemo at 4:36 PM on December 22, 2003

This unwashed non-local seconds the aforementioned Market with name containing "Pike."
posted by scarabic at 5:29 PM on December 22, 2003

I used to live in Victoria and took ferries to the states and back whenever time & funds allowed. Ah, the clipper....the memories. Never got to see a sub, though.

If you like big things, you might want to drive up to Everett to do a tour of the Boeing factory.

I don't know if you'll have a car, but you might want to consider a side trip to Port Townsend (the Bainbridge ferry previously mentioned gets you there). If ferry travel is your thing, you can actually take the Bainbridge ferry to the Olympic Penninsula, the Coho from Port Angeles to Victoria, then a Washington State ferry from Victoria back home.
posted by Salmonberry at 5:38 PM on December 22, 2003

From the Boeing site: " The last date for tours in 2003 will be December 19. Tours will resume on January 5, 2004."

So, never mind that bright idea.
posted by Salmonberry at 5:39 PM on December 22, 2003

When you go to the Market, be sure to check out Left Bank Books, one of the oldest collectively run anarchist bookstores in the country. You can even take a bookstore promenade down First Avenue and also go to Arundel, David Ishi bookseller, and Eliot Bay Books. The Arboretum is a good place to walk around if the weather is bearable. They have some neat paths that go down by Lake Washington [canoe rentals by UW if the weather is nice].

I say skip the downtown harbor areas and get yourself out to Ballard, visit Golden Gardens beach, stop in at Hattie's Hat for a beer and a burger and maybe visit the Ballard Locks while you're there. There are a few interesting weird libraries in town: one at the Center for Wooden Boats, the newly re-opened Suzallo at UW and the As You Like It metaphysical library is always closing and re-opening, worth a looksee if you can track it down. If it's shopping you're after, I recommend Boeing Surplus, the Great Wall Mall [both south of the city in Kent] and maybe Ye Old Curiosity Shoppe by the blasted waterfront [say hi to the mummy for me]. The underground tour is really worthwhile, and even fun if you take your local pals -- there's really something on that tour for everyone.
posted by jessamyn at 6:01 PM on December 22, 2003

Take my humble advice: Don't drive to eastern washington. I went to Warped Tour in a 1971 Skylark with all my friends and it is a desert. Enjoy the northwest.
posted by Keyser Soze at 8:30 PM on December 22, 2003

Dick's, bleah. Although I do try to sample local flavoring, so if I didn't live here, I probably would try one once.

I've taken the Victoria Clipper and loved it, but warning: It was around this time of year last year, and apparently on our return day they felt it was too stormy to take the Clipper back to Seattle. I spent most of my birthday on a BUS coming back home. Happy birthday to me! I'll definitely take the Clipper again, but only in summer.
posted by GaelFC at 8:49 PM on December 22, 2003

Indeed, Gael. I moved to Seattle nearly three years ago, and my one visit to Dick's (on the insistence of many Washington natives) was enough to inspire the opinion posted earlier. Having grown up with an axe buried in one's head doesn't justify recommending it to those who have not. <grin>
posted by Danelope at 9:12 PM on December 22, 2003

Second the recommendations for Uwajimaya (great HUGE Japanese grocery store) and Elliott Bay Book Company (one of the two or three best bookstores I've been to. Right up there with The Tattered Cover in Denver, and believe me, that's high praise indeed.)

I enjoyed wandering around Capitol Hill. Check out the Victrola for some fine coffee in a friendly, art-filled atmosphere.

And don't miss the Archie McPhee store!
posted by Vidiot at 11:48 PM on December 22, 2003

Visit Uwajimaya. Wander back to the tea stand in the food court and try the ginger ice cream.

Go to Thai Tom on University Way (known as "The Ave"), the smallest restaurant in Seattle. If you can, sit at the bar...and wear a flame retardant suit.

If you like indie rock, be sure to go to Sonic Boom, either on Capitol Hill, in Fremont, or in Ballard (the largest store).

If you dig snooty furniture, then set aside an hour or two to walk down Western Avenue, the street below (on the west side) the Pike Place Market. There are 8 or 9 worth while shops along this row offering the very finest in furniture I cannot afford. Henry Built is my favorite.

Like beer? Go to the Jolly Roger. It's strong stuff, but if you pace yourself and eat a little food along the way, you'll find this to be some of the best beer around. The Navigator is totally recommended. Best of all, it's a cozy little hole in the wall. Pyramid is great, but it kind of feels like it belongs in a shopping mall.

This is a wonderful city, and I hope that you have a wonderful time.
posted by tomharpel at 6:07 AM on December 23, 2003

Oh, forgot: best coffee in the world is served at the Espresso Vivace Roasteria, where they take espresso so seriously, it's creepy.
posted by tomharpel at 6:08 AM on December 23, 2003

I'm going to second the plug for Crab Pot on Pier 57. We travel to Seattle roughly twice a year, and we always go to the Crab Pot.

Another great place we liked was Pete's Pizza and Calzones, which was a favourite haunt until we had a surly waiter one night.

If you're into flora and fauna books, which is a bit of a niche thing, check out umm... Flora and Fauna Books, near to where you start the Underground Seattle tour (also highly recommended).
posted by dpkm at 11:41 AM on December 23, 2003

Rent a canoe at the UW's Waterfront Activity Center if it's dry. Have breakfast at Vera's in Ballard--it's right across from Bergen Place. Go see the Turrell exhibit at the Henry Gallery. If you can get bikes, by all means hit the Burke Gilman Trail and the bike path from Myrtle Edwards to Magnolia. I'll always give Twice Sold Tales, former home of Nevada a plug. I was saddened to find that Nesbit died, 'though....

Climb the watertower in Volunteer Park. Visit Bruce and Brandon Lee's graves at nearby Lakeview Cemetery. Go see the Oz House at 2018 Nob Hill Ave North on top of Queen Anne hill. Ride your bikes to Discovery Park. You can take the Burke Gilman trail to Ballard and cross the locks to Magnolia. Look for great blue herons at the locks--there's a rookery nearby.

Go to 7018 32nd Ave N.W for their Xmas lights--it's the last year for them.

I will add more Xmas lights sites later when I get my computer back up. (84 links and 2031 comments since last I visited there shores... Yipes!) I ought to be back online in by Xmas. Write me for more details. Heck, if you get a car, I can give you the dee-luxe Insider's insider tour.

I also recommend the bumper cars at the Seattle Center.
posted by y2karl at 3:48 PM on December 23, 2003

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