The Complete Seattle Travel Guide
Updated: May 24, 2021
I had heard good things about Seattle, so it was high on my list to visit. I also had just spent an entire year straight watching 16 seasons of Grey's Anatomy which might have also contributed to it being high on the list. And boy did it not disappoint. The city was beautiful and awesome. It gave me if Denver and Boston had a baby vibes. A good mix of some historical looking buildings while mixing in some newer buildings but well blended in that they did not feel out of place. So here is my travel guide to Seattle.
Pike Place Market
I am just going to knock this one out first as I think Pike Place Market is one of the most popular places to visit next to the Space Needle. I honestly do not have much to say about the main market building, there really is not much to it. The market is pretty small and more of a traditional food market and not like a food hall/retail center ala Chelsea Market in New York City. You got the famous fish throwing which is fun to see but not much to it. A few farmer's stalls, some craft shops and some food stalls, restaurants and cafes make up the market that to be honest are not worth it with the amount of places surrounding it that are so much better. The infamous gum wall is also below the market, I would say skip it but if you are like me despite how disgusting it is I still could not keep myself away. But once again not much to it, it is literally just gum stuck on brick walls.
Now what you should really do here (after you get your basic bitch Instagram photo) is actually explore the surrounding area. It is full of awesome stuff and lots of hidden alley ways. Check out Beecher's across the street from the market to see them make cheese right in front of you and then devour that oh so good cup of fresh mac and cheese. Or just around the corner is Pike Place Chowder, where you can try one of Seattle's delicacies, Chowder Fries. What are chowder fries you ask? Well just fries with chowder poured on top. The line here is usually pretty long too. For a more complete meal, just down Post Alley from Pike Place Chowder you will find The Pink Door serving up delicious Italian food. I love that the only way you know you made it here is when you come across a random pink door in the alley way. The cool part about this place is that they usually put on acrobatic performances during the dinner time. I highly recommend making reservations here though. Also, do not bother going to the original Starbucks here, it is literally just like any other Starbucks.
Do head over Western Ave to the back side of the Market to find Old Stove Brewing. This brewery has a killer view perched up high giving you unobstructed views into Elliott Bay. The beer here was delicious and they have varieties for all, from stouts, lagers and IPAs to sours and seltzers. They also serve wine for those non-beer drinkers as well as a full menu that looked delicious. This back market area also has a biscuit everything eatery, Honest Biscuit, as well as a chocolate shop, indi, that also served as a café that had mouthwatering chocolate as well as unique things like chocolate soap?!? Definitely stop here on your way out of the brewery.
Capitol Hill Neighborhood
The Capitol Hill neighborhood was one of the coolest neighborhoods I explored in Seattle. Since I told you to skip over the original Starbucks in Pike Place, that was because you should really go to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery instead. There are only a few of these in the world and this has been the best one I have been to so far. Its different from a normal Starbucks in that it has a bar with one of the best espresso martinis I ever had, bakery items that definitely did not just get heated up in the oven behind the register and even a coffee tasting bar where you can get a flight of different coffees. If you are going to want to visit a Starbucks while in Seattle, make sure this is the one.
After starting with your coffee start trekking down Pike St. and get lost in the places that call this street home. There are tons of vintage shops, record stores, skate shops and more that line the area. There are tons of little restaurants and cafes that I recommend checking out their menus as you walk down the street and give them a try. Continuing the brewery trend, a few places call this neighborhood home. Check out Elysian Brewing's brewpub at the far end of the neighborhood for more delicious beer. Head around the corner from Elysian and check out Rachels Ginger Beer, although not a brewery they mix their homemade drinks into cocktails that went down quick. They have a few locations in the city too. This location though has Ma'ono Fried Chicken slinging food inside and I definitely recommend getting the food because we scarfed it down, it was that good.
Another Seattle based brewery that calls this neighborhood home is Redhook. This location is a brewlab where they experiment exclusive small batch beers with the public and if successful can move on to full production. Being a brewpub like Elysian, they also have a full food menu serving all your bar favorites as well as a large pizza offering. And if you read my San Diego travel guide, what better way to wrap up this neighborhood then finishing with a stop at Salt & Straw for some awesome ice cream and see what unique flavors they are currently whipping up.
Heading north of the city a bit is this quaint neighborhood. Stroll along Ballard Avenue and check out all the restaurants and stores that call this area home. You'll find those local shops selling everything from clothes, records and furniture to small candy shops and gift shops. If you did not get enough beer while exploring Capital Hill, then check out Ballard Beer Company where you can taste some of their own product as well as some unique locally sourced brews on tap. And maybe stop by the Cupcake Royale next door to satisfy your sweet tooth while drinking those delicious brews.
After building up a hunger after drinking at Ballard Beer Company I recommend heading to bitterroot, a BBQ place right on Ballard Avenue. The food was delicious and I enjoyed the laidback atmosphere. But in all honesty most of the restaurants on this street we passed looked just as good so I think you would have a hard time not finding a good place to eat here. Just pay attention to the opening hours as many did not open till dinner. After devouring your BBQ, I recommending finishing it off with a trip to Hot Cakes to get legit molten chocolate cakes. I could have eaten 15 of these if I would not have needed to be rolled home after. And just saying but if you still have a hankering for more sweets there is another Salt & Straw across the street....
This neighborhood is an easy evening visit so I recommend doing something else during the day in the city or pairing it with a trip to the Woodland Park Zoo. If you can fit some more beer in you the Lagunitas Brewing Taproom (not a Seattle local beer though but still popular) and Peddler Brewing Company is also not that far off from this neighborhood to help fill a day. And since you can BYOF at Peddler, check out the mean-ass sandwiches coming out of Mean Sandwich next door especially if you come here during lunch time and get dinner on Ballard Avenue. If you plan on hitting up this area on a Sunday I suggest stopping by the Freemont Sunday Street Market on your way. The market is full of all different vendors and shut down the street to allow for plenty of shopping space.
Another area you should check out is Alki Beach across the bay from downtown Seattle. You can take a ferry across to Harbor Ave and then I recommend picking up a bike when you get there. From here you can bike right along the water and Harbor Ave and travel around the point to Alki Beach. This little area is like a mashup of the Pacific Northwest meets California surfer town. The beach is not large but has awesome views looking out at the bay with the mountains in the distance. The main strip along Alki Ave is full of all your beach side town staples, your seafood shacks, ice cream parlors, and more. You have plenty of stuff to quench your thirst and fill your hungry from West Seattle Brewing Co. to TACOntainer and El Chupacabra.
Can you really come to Seattle and not go to the Seattle Center? The main attraction here is of course the iconic Space Needle and with their recent renovations in the past few years, they have really stepped up their game. From the top floor you can really take in the 360 views from the seamless leaning glass or go down a floor where the revolving glass floor is located. Definitely a bit freaky at first but totally worth it. Although you can just buy tickets to the needle I recommend purchasing the CityPass, which is $99/Adult and totally worth it. The pass gets you into several attractions including the Space Needle (twice, once during the day and once at night) which just getting those tickets makes up half the cost of the pass.
The pass also gets you into the Museum of Pop Culture which is right next door to the Space Needle (Single ticket costs $30). This museum ended up being a big hit with us as we were not expecting much from it but somehow ended up spending several hours here. They had a video game exhibition that we ended up spending almost an hour in playing random games. They also had a cool traveling Marvel exhibit as well as a neat look at Nirvana and the rise of grunge music coming out of Washington and going mainstream. If you go to the basement, they had a bunch of themed rooms from fantasy, mythical to horror movies that felt like walking through a haunted house at the time. Moral of the story we had an unexpected blast here and recommend anyone visiting to definitely check this out. They also have a cool kids(or kid at heart like me) playground behind the museum as well.
Another location in the Seattle Center that the CityPass gets you into is the Chihuly Garden and Glass that I also recommend you check out in the Seattle Center (Single ticket costs $32). If you do not know who Chihuly is, he is a very famous glass blowing artist with several huge installations around the world, one I got to look at every time I worked at my first job in Mohegan Sun casino. Some of his pieces of art are just massive and to think it is all glass is just mesmerizing. Some pieces especially in the dark rooms where they used lights to illuminate the pieces like they are an LED sign is pretty cool too. I do not think you need to spend a lot of time here, it is not a huge museum over all but definitely worth a visit especially if you get the CityPass.
If you are hungry, definitely check out the Seattle Center Armory. They converted this space into a giant food hall and market. There are tons of places in here like MOD Pizza, The Confectional, Cool Guys Fry Bar, and several others. Grab a bite to eat and sit at the tons of tables that make up the center court. And if you are lucky you may catch a show or event going on on the stage. If you time your visit right, lots of food and beer festivals happen right outside the Armory in front of the Fisher Pavilion on the lawn. We had just missed a Pumpkin Beer Festival that was happening here. So I definitely recommend checking out to see if there are any events going on when you are thinking of making a visit to Seattle.
The center also has a bunch of little theaters and performance halls you can check out. As well as the Seattle Children's Museum, which is also inside the Armory, or the Pacific Science Center, which is also part of the CityPass. They also have updated the Arena on campus where some professional and college sports play (RIP Seattle Sonics).
I highly recommend taking a cruise through Elliott Bay and getting great views of the entire city as well as Bainbridge Island. The city has a big water history so I feel skipping out on doing a water activity seems sacrilegious. I know this might sound like an AD at this point (I swear they are not sponsoring me, but they should at this point), but the CityPass also comes with tickets on an hour long Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour (Single Ticket Price $33). It was great to have the fresh air in our faces and getting some cool perspectives of the city and surrounding islands. You even get a little history of the city and the bay you will be cruising through. There are also several other tours operating on the waterfront as well, some more focused on wildlife and some longer scenic tours, so if you feel like doing a specific type of tour you will find it on one of the many operators.
If you want to do something more unique on the water head up to Lake Union just north of downtown. Here you can potential rent a Houseboat. Where can you do that in America now a days? You can also rent some kayaks and paddle your way around the lake. Or the most unique thing you can do, rent a hot tub boat. Why sit in a boat when you can hot tub in a boat around the lake instead. Check out Hot Tub Boats for a definitely unique perspective on seeing the city. Do know this is not cheap, you will run at minimum $350 for 2 hours with a max of 6 people per boat.
It is hard to walk around Seattle and not pass something that is part of Amazon. Therefore, one thing I would check out is the Amazon Go store. These are still very rare stores to find and they started in Seattle, with several outposts in the city now. These stores are awesome to see what technology can do and the future of grocery and convenience stores. If you have not heard of this store before, the concept is basically you scan your amazon code to enter the store, walk around the store and pick up whatever you need and then just walk out. You will get a receipt a couple minutes later in your Amazon cart. It is amazing technology to see in action where they just know exactly what you picked up from the shelf and you do not have to do anything but scan in. So if you are interested in technology this is definitely a stop I recommend making in the city.
For some awesome sunset views I recommend making the trek up to Kerry Park. The easy way up is definitely just drive to the park and hope to find a spot on the street as there is no parking lot, otherwise it is about a 7 block walk from Seattle Center with some steep hill climbs coming at about half way on that walk. But the view is so worth it with panoramic views of the entire city across the bay all the way to Bainbridge Island. And on good days you can even get views of Mt. Rainer towering over the city. And at sunset this spot is incredible with the sun setting to the west giving the city a beautiful glow to it. It can definitely get crowded up here but not enough that you have to fight for a spot on the fence. You may even see some cameras filming the skyline as well probably to be used between scenes of Greys Anatomy or Station 19.
Speaking of Grey's Anatomy, if you are a fan of the show Meredith's house (not the one Derek built her) is just around the corner from this park.
Where to Grub
Besides all the awesome places that have already been mentioned that you should check out, here are a few other spots we visited that I highly recommend checking out:
Biscuit Bitch - Go here now. I still think about how good the food is here. They have two locations in the city. Their whole MO is Trailer Park to Table and they do not shy away from that, they will swear and mock you up and down when you order so be prepared. As their name says they are all about the biscuits and I got the Hot Mess Bitch which is biscuit, gravy, cheese, grits, eggs and hot link and I devoured it. The inside is small and there was even a line out the door in the rain (it is Seattle after all) but worth the wait.
Top Pot Doughnuts - On the opposite side of the spectrum from Biscuit Bitch is Top Pot which is your more traditional coffeeshop/breakfast café. They are known for their doughnuts from the classic glazed to fancy donuts like salted caramel and raspberry and lemon glazed. The coffee is also just as delicious as the doughnuts. They have several locations in the greater Seattle area so no matter where you are there is probably not one far away from you. The one we went to was off 5th Avenue in downtown and had a very cool setting with the classic neon sign out front, two story floor to ceiling windows making up the entire front of the store and the inside felt like a classic library with bookshelves all over.
Okinawa Teriyaki - I had learned before this trip that one of Seattle's food delicacies was Teriyaki. So of course I had set out to find some good, highly rated teriyaki joints and stumbled across this spot. Perfect for before or after your bay cruise as it is just across the way from the boat docks. And let me tell you I never had Teriyaki so good, this was definitely not that cheap stuff form the local Chinese spot around the corner. I tried it as a chicken and pork combo and it was full of flavor and they gave a nice portion size too. The inside is nothing special just your casual joint and you order at the counter and find an available table, so super casual spot I definitely recommend checking out.
Some Random Bar - Yes that is the name of this place and do not let the name fool you this is not just some random bar. The inside may look like a typical tavern but the menu was definitely a bit more upscale bar food from crab nachos, a mouthwatering slow-roasted brisket sandwich to a grilled shrimp club. The drinks were just as tasty as the food with a mix of specialty cocktails to several wines and beers on tap, with non of the big brewers on tap.
Tacos Chukis - When looking for dinner one night stumbled upon this taco shop that I could have ordered 5 times as many tacos as I did. They have all your typical tacos from asada, adobada and pollo and you can also get them as tortas, quesadillas or mini burritos. They also have their special taco chuki taco that is adobada pork, grilled pineapple, melted cheese, onion, cilantro, salsa and guacamole. Salivating. This taco was just as good as the one from Tacos Los No. 1 in New York (if you havent read that post, go read it now). There are a few locations throughout the city so definitely seek one out for some awesome delicious tacos.
I like to also mention (being I am a transportation engineer after all) the transportation in the city. There are just three train lines in the city, the main one called the Link which connects the airport all the way up to the University of Washington, the SLUT...I mean the SLUS (yes they actually named a line the South Lake Union Transit without realizing what it abbreviated to and switched it Streetcar instead of Transit) which connects downtown to the southern shore of Lake Union, and the First Hill Streetcar that connects the stadiums to the First Hill neighborhood. There is also the Seattle Monorail, which is both an attraction (it was built for the 1962 Worlds Fair) and a practical way to travel from downtown to the Seattle center. So you will probably find yourself either walking the city a lot (it is very walkable), renting a car (we did not find this necessary except to get up to Vancouver) or using ride shares (what we used when not walking). I think it is good to note that the airport is also a decent distance out of the city (about 15 miles) so taking the Link takes about an hour to get in (its a local light rail so several stops in the local neighborhoods).
And if you have been paying attention here is the breakdown for the CityPass cost versus cost for individual tickets:
Day/Night Needle Pass: $59
Chihuly Garden and Glass: $32
Bay Cruise: $33
Total: $154 versus $99 for CityPass and that is not including two more museum visits in the CityPass that I did not include in the total.
Let me know if you make a trip to Seattle and visit any of these locations. Do you have any Seattle favorite spots or recommendations?
See you in the next adventure!
-The Wandering Professional