Welcome to Seattle, whose perpetually cloudy skies mean that if the sun peeks out for a second, everyone gears up to take their kayaks or bicycles out.
Locals might tell you to watch the 'flying fish' at Pike Place Market early in the morning, visit the Olympic Sculpture Garden around sunset and take an evening ferry ride to Bainbridge Island. They might take you on a bar crawl in Georgetown, or a gallery crawl in Belltown. Or you could just get hopped up on caffeine and go thrifting all day.
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What To Do
Seattle is hometown to giant outfitting companies Eddie Bauer and REI, and it's no surprise that folk here adore life outdoors. It's even possible to hike wilderness trails without ever leaving the city. Seward Park offers several miles of trails in a remnant of the area's old growth forest.
Punk Rock Yoga
An open-minded, stereotype-defying approach to yoga defines this group, which holds all kinds of classes in a number of locations. Though not at all irreverent, it is a bit unorthodox in the best sense. Check the website for the latest schedule.
What To See
Experience Music Project
The Experience Music Project (EMP) is worth a look for the architecture alone. The shimmering, abstract building – designed by Frank Gehry – was inspired by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen’s passion for Jimi Hendrix’s music and was initially intended as a tribute to Hendrix alone. It now houses 80,000 music artifacts, including handwritten lyrics by Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and a Fender Stratocaster that Hendrix demolished. There’s also Janis Joplin’s pink feather boa, the world’s first steel guitar and Hendrix’s signed contract to play at Woodstock.
Science Fiction Museum
Attached to the EMP, this is a nerd paradise of costumes, props and models from sci-fi movies and TV shows. Admission is included with your EMP ticket.
This unusual park is an urban oasis commemorating workers of the United Parcel Service (UPS), which grew out of a messenger service that began in a basement at this location in 1907. The artificial 22ft waterfall that flows in this tiny open-air courtyard is flanked by tables and flowering plants. This is a perfect spot to eat a brown-bag lunch or to rest weary feet.
The Fremont Troll lurks beneath the north end of the Aurora Bridge at N 36th St. The troll's creators - artists Steve Badanes, Will Martin, Donna Walter and Ross Whitehead - won a competition sponsored by the Fremont Arts Council in 1990. The 18ft-high cement figure snacking on a Volkswagen Beetle is now a favorite place for late-night beer drinking.
Six Arms Pub & Brewery
One of the classiest of the McMenamins outposts, the Six Arms has lived-in booths and couches upstairs, tons of antique chandeliers and an elaborate pipe sculpture surrounding the bar. McMenamins' Terminator is a decent stout, and Hammerhead is a perennial favorite.
Weekend cabaret performances, amateur strip shows, go-go boys and DJs – there’s something entertaining going on every night of the week at this welcoming gay bar. Relax with a beer on the deck or dance your ass off. Three floors of dancing to hip-hop and R&B DJs and plenty of sweaty body contact make this club a blast for pretty much everyone who isn’t terribly uptight. If you’re feeling brave, take a shot at winning a hundred bucks in the all-male wet-undies contest.
Seattle's first big ethnic festival is Chinese New Year, held in the International District, usually in January. Pioneer Square embraces its somewhat rowdy reputation on Mardi Gras (usually in late February), adding in that special Seattle touch via the annual competitive Spam-Carving Contest. Seattle's main gay pride event is the Freedom Day Celebration, which is usually held the last Sunday in June. The Northwest Folklife Festival takes over Seattle Center during Memorial Day weekend, the last weekend in May, when 5000 performers and artists present the music, dance, craft and food of over 100 countries.
Seattle has two spectacular summer festivals that, more than any other events, bring the city to life. The first, Seafair, is an extravagant three-week celebration in July and early August featuring hydroplane races on Lake Washington, a torchlight parade downtown, an airshow, lots of music, a carnival and the arrival of the naval fleet. Bumbershoot, held at Seattle Center over Labor Day weekend (in early September), features an arts & crafts street fair, fine art exhibitions and an amazing assortment of theatrical and musical events. As autumn rolls around and thoughts turn to earthier matters, the Western Washington Fair presents a bewildering array of livestock and agricultural displays, another carnival and live entertainment. It's held in Puyallup, south of Seattle, in mid-September.
Food and Drink
You can get three sizes of pho at this well-established restaurant, with its huge windows gazing onto Little Saigon, as well as excellent salad rolls wrapped in fresh herbs and other classic Vietnamese dishes. Bonus: iconic Seattle chef Tom Douglas famously loves the place.
Many locals consider this Seattle’s best restaurant. Chef Thierry Rautureau (‘the Chef in the Hat’) offers three prix-fixe menus a day (one vegetarian), as well as á la carte items. The food is upscale French with a Northwest twist – Oregon quail, for example, or Copper River salmon with morels. The cozy space is one of the few in Seattle where you’ll want to dress up, and reservations are definitely advised.
This dark cathedral of beer in Fremont has rough-hewn rock walls and a black metal grate in the ceiling. Behind an epic bar are tantalizing glimpses into a massive beer fridge. A replica Mannequin Pis statue at the door and the Belgian crest everywhere clue you in to the specialty.
Gourmet pizza sounds like an oxymoron until you stumble upon this place in Belltown which adds ingredients no one else would dare use to embellish its crispy Italianate crusts. Bank on truffles, Brussels sprouts, clams, eggs and a variety of herbs and cheeses.