Why Seattle Is So Much More Than Just Coffee
Everything you need to do, see, and eat in the Emerald City.
Published Sep 22, 2017 4:00 PM
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Seattle is the fastest-growing city in the US. And with so many neighborhoods to explore, from the trendy Capitol Hill area to the historic Pioneer Square, there’s definitely no shortage of things to do—meaning that narrowing down a list of places to see and things to do is not an easy task.
Aside from being a pilgrimage destination for coffee lovers and an up-and-coming tech haven (Seattle happens to house a little company named Amazon), there really is something for everyone, and it’s a city that goes well beyond the stereotypes. Don’t expect to see flannel-clad hipsters running around clutching organic kombucha—though if that is your scene, check out the Fremont neighborhood. And while it may be impossible to truly delve into everything the city has to offer in a weekend (or even a week), we’ve put together a travel hit list for your next trip to the Emerald City.
Have any Seattle suggestions we might have missed? Be sure to leave them in the comments!
Thompson Seattle is part of the nationwide Thompson Hotels chain—but this sleek and sophisticated hotel is anything but mainstream. The 12-story luxury hotel is ultra modern and boasts panoramic views of the city and water (plus, it’s mere steps away from the famous Pike Place Market). The floor-to-ceiling glass exterior, black-coated interior, and an eclectic mix of vintage and contemporary pieces come together to make a bold statement.
Another reason to stay at the Thompson Seattle? The food and drink. Its day-to-night Scout restaurant offers locally-inspired dishes expertly thought up by chefs Josh Henderson and Derek Simcik (the pork chop over herb spaetzle is reason enough to book a ticket to Seattle).
Motif Seattle, a Destination Hotel
Full of locally inspired touches and upscale, contemporary decor elements, Motif Seattle is a must for those looking for a boutique hotel experience with all the luxuries of a larger accommodation. Go for the local art, the expansive guest suites, and the stunning rooftop bar.
For a more in-depth look at Motif Seattle, check out our feature on the hotel here.
Woodmark Hotel & Still Spa, A Destination Hotel
If you don’t need to be directly in the city center, opt for a quieter lakeside retreat at the Woodmark Hotel & Still Spa. Renovated in 2014, the Woodmark is an absolutely stunning hotel full of nautical features that boasts two separate dining establishments.
A short 15 minute drive from the heart of Seattle and situated directly on Lake Washington, the main draw of this hotel is the relaxation factor. The surrounding water offers plenty of opportunities for activities—take a boat tour or rent a kayak and paddle up to Bill Gates’ house yourself (it’s seriously impressive). Elsewhere, the hotel’s full-service spa has locally inspired treatments like the Mt. Rainer Hot Stone massage that are not to miss.
The Venetian island of Murano may be synonymous with the art of making glass, but did you know that the Pacific Northwest also has a strong tradition of glass art? Famed artist Dale Chihuly has some of his larger works on display at the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum. And check out local glassblowing artist Julie Conway of Illuminata Glass, who will be offering periodic workshops at the aforementioned Motif Seattle as part of the hotel’s unique Visiting Artist program.
Take an Underground Tour
Fun fact: The current city of Seattle is actually built on top of the old city of Seattle. After the Great Fire of 1889, the city rebuilt itself, but you can take a walk through history with a guided tour courtesy of Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour. It stops in the Pioneer Square, too, so you can experience Seattle’s more charming, historic neighborhood.
Pike Place Market
It might be cliché and generally overrun by tourists and locals alike, but you can’t go to Seattle without stopping by Pike Place Market. The inside area has row after row of fresh flowers, artisanal jewelry, and art prints. Whether you’re on the hunt for souvenirs or just want to spend an afternoon perusing the stalls, the market is a must-see. At some point, you’ll start to smell cinnamon and sugar: Follow that scent to the Daily Dozen Doughnut Company and get yourself a bag of tiny donuts. Thank us later.
Hit the Touristy Stuff
Specifically, the Space Needle and nearby museums. If you want to be efficient, purchase a CityPass for $79, which gives you access to five of the city’s biggest attractions (including a harbor cruise). For panoramic views of the city that really can’t be beat, head to the observation deck of the Space Needle. The Museum of Pop Culture, Pacific Science Center, and aforementioned Chihuly Garden and Glass are all conveniently located next to the Space Needle, so you can check out all the museums at once.
TO EAT AND DRINK
Coffee (and lots of it)
It’s impossible to reduce America’s coffee capital to just one shop, so instead spend your stay in Seattle sampling all the different locales the city has to offer. Start with Victrola Coffee Roasters (you can get a flight of coffee), make your way to Caffe Vita (try the cold brew), and end at Stumptown (ideal for lattes, but even a plain black coffee there is great). And of course, there’s always Starbucks: The chain originated in Seattle, and you can visit the reserve roastery. There’s even a tasting room.
This brunch spot is a 15-minute drive from Seattle located in Kirkland, right on Lake Washington. But for healthy foodies, Carillon Kitchen is definitely worth the trip: The wellness-oriented restaurant uses fresh, locally sourced ingredients to help you start your day off on the right foot. Try a colorful smoothie (the selection changes daily) or the warm bacon, spinach, and cheddar quinoa bowl for a heartier option.
For a good cocktail, try the Thompson Hotel’s rooftop bar. The Nest is a local hotspot, featuring an impeccably designed interior (if you are someone who chooses their bars based on the decor) and equally impressive views of the water. Try the Roseallday cocktail—yes, it is all one word—which incorporates sparkling rosé, Tanqueray Ten, Cocchi Americano, and lime for a refreshing drink you’re sure to love.
For a dining experience that’s truly unique, the carnival-themed Unicorn bar is second to none. The inventive menu is not for the faint of heart (though they do offer vegan quinoa tots, for anyone interested in going the healthier route), including everything from poutine corn dogs to deep-fried Snickers. Unicorn Bar also has a pretty great cocktail menu.
Frolik Kitchen + Cocktails
The restaurant at Motif Seattle has a gorgeous outdoor patio space that features ping pong tables and live music to make for an unforgettable evening. Frolik’s Pacific Northwest-inspired menu is small but intentionally created to showcase the best of the region’s flavors—try the confit duck leg or the halibut—though its drink menu is far more extensive, if you’re simply looking for a happy hour spot.
Molly Moon has some of the best homemade ice cream ever, sourcing the majority of its ingredients from local Pacific Northwest farmers. It’ll be hard to choose from the unique and delicious-sounding array of flavors (there’s even a Stumptown Coffee option, a nod to one of the city’s favorite coffee spots), but do yourself a favor and try the salted caramel.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Somewhere between an upscale restaurant and a local fish pub, The Walrus and the Carpenter is renowned for its oysters. In addition to the wide variety of oysters available, this eatery also has an impressive seafood menu.
Calling all minimalists: Totokaelo is an upscale boutique with a great selection of pieces in both fashion and homeware. The showroom features indie artists as well as some more mainstream designers.
If you’re looking to bring a taste of Seattle home, stop by this chocolatier for some sweet souvenirs. Fran’s also offers classes you can take, but if you’re solely focused on eating then choose from an impressive display of confections. Pro tip: The smoked salt caramel and orange dark chocolate truffles could probably inspire poetry.
The stunning plant-filled interior of this design-focused clothing and home goods store is reason enough to stop by. Glasswing Shop is split into two parts: The front half is dedicated to retail, featuring clothing, furniture, and a rotating selection of plants, while the back half contains a shared design office and common gallery space available for rent.
Alki Beach Park
While the weather’s still nice, pack up some food and head over to Alki Beach Park for an afternoon by the water. The grassy area is ideal for soaking up views of the Puget Sound and surrounding Olympic Mountains.
Gas Works Park
This waterfront park might be slightly touristy, but the view is worth it. Gas Works Park is a now-public park located on the site of the old Seattle Gas Light Company gasification plant—which doesn’t sound super glamorous or conducive to photography, but it has since been turned into a hub for people to wander and hang out in. Not to mention, the views of the water and downtown Seattle are definitely Instagram-worthy.