Seattle Essentials

From pub crawls to dragon boat racing, check out our guide to the best local places and activities in Seattle.

DYCR-MLB_Seattle-Safeco-Field_s4x3

Photo By: Jerry Driendl

Jerry Driendl

At the Seattle Mariners' Safeco Field, the center field bleacher seats are under $10. Make sure to buy early: seats sell out fast on a sunny day or when a good team is in town.

By: Lauren Vane

Shopping and Dining Essentials: Best Places to ...

BUY GROCERIES

Metropolitan Market: This colorful urban market has four locations throughout Seattle. It’s a local chain with wonderful prepared foods, fresh produce and meat, and a nice floral department.

PCC Natural Markets: Get back to nature at Seattle’s premier natural and organic food market. The goods are high-quality but expensive. Inside you’ll find open bins of rice, nuts, trail mix and excellent local vegetables.

Pike Place Market: At Seattle’s famed market, you’ll find the freshest ingredients, from produce to fish, delivered by local farmers. It can be crowded with tourists on weekends; you’ll have a more sane experience if you go on weekday mornings. While you’re shopping, grab a bag of piping hot, freshly cooked miniature doughnuts from the stand at the south end of the market.

Uwajimaya: At this large Asian market, you can find just about anything, from a hot humbow to rare tropical fruits. The housewares section has a lot of rice cookers, porcelain noodle bowls and other Asian decor at fair prices. Because it’s close to both sports stadiums, Uwajimaya is a nice place to stop for a snack if you’re on your way to a ballgame.

Leschi Mart: This beloved neighborhood market sells hard-to-find gourmet goods and has an impressive wine selection, given the store’s small size. The in-house butchers make their own sausage. On Fridays and Saturdays, they serve up amazing prime rib sandwiches that are best eaten on a bench in the adjacent park.

ENJOY A LATTE

Victrola: This spot is just as much about the coffee as it is atmosphere. It’s the perfect place to read a good book, contemplate the coffee house art and sip a latte. 411 15th Ave. E., 206-325-6520 or 310 E. Pike St., 206-624-1725.

Caffe Ladro: The upper Queen Anne coffee shop is the best of all the locations for leisurely sipping and people watching. They have big comfortable Adirondack chairs perfect for the occasion. 2205 Queen Anne Ave N., 206-282-5313.

Mioposto: This Italian cafe is tucked in a stylish building at the edge of the Mount Baker neighborhood. The cappuccinos are served in extra-large bowl cups. 3601 S McClellan St., 206-760-3400.

Le Panier: Be French at this streetside cafe with a great view of Pike Place Market. The lattes are artful. 1902 Pike Place, 206-441-3669.

Espresso Vivace: You can get a very pretty latte at this shop centered in the hub of the growing South Lake Union neighborhood. There’s also a nice glassed-in room that can be reserved for business meetings or whatever you need. 227 Yale Ave N., 206-388-5164.

EAT PIZZA

Piecora’s: Just good New York-style pizza. They serve simple fare and good beer to go along with it. This is the place to go for celebratory pizza dinners for kids’ sports teams, so don’t be surprised to see a big crowd of kids at the table next to you. 1401 E. Madison St. 206-322-9411.

Pagliacci: This gourmet pizza dethroned the greasy pizza joints in the 1990s. They specialize in thin-crust pizzas with savory combinations, such as figs and prosciutto. Some locations are dine-in, others are delivery only.

Mad Pizza: The name is self-explanatory, and sometimes this place can be a little nutty. The chefs serve up some wacky combos that are surprisingly good. It’s not unusual to see mandarin oranges on a pizza.

Serious Pie: Local celebrity chef Tom Douglas’ take on pizza. It’s not regular pizza as you know it. If you never thought you’d eat clams on a pizza, think again. 

Via Tribunali: It’s known by locals as the only place to get real Italian pizza. The interior is modestly swanky. Both locations can get very busy, so be prepared to wait if you’re going at prime dining hour.

SHOP AT A FUNKY LOCAL BUSINESS

Archie McPhee’s: Who doesn’t need a boxing nun or bacon floss? Perfect for oddball party favors, strange wrapping paper and gag gifts. They sell a lot of products online, but it’s worth the experience to shop in the store.

Ye Olde Curiosity Shop: The store is more than 100 years old and is part tourist shop, part museum. There’s a mummy named Sylvester and a collection of shrunken heads.

Home & Garden Art: Navigate the maze of wrought iron masterpieces. This store along a less-traveled section of road in the Greenwood neighborhood is where to shop if you’re looking for a unique iron arbor, custom fencing or an iron sculpted crab.

Hardwick’s: Anything you can think of, you’ll find it here. At this family-owned Seattle institution, you’ll find new and used tools, kitchen supplies, furniture and more. It’s a swap shop; on select days, you can bring in your goods to sell or trade for store merchandise.

Display & Costume Supply: It’s the place to go during Halloween and a resource for parties any other time of the year. In the nearly 40,000-square-foot showroom you can find anything from life-size decorations to a fake-blood kit.   

Entertainment Essentials: Best Places to...

HAVE FUN FOR FREE

Explore the Washington Park Arboretum. This urban park has 230 acres of green space and is home to 20,000 plants and trees. In the spring, a green-carpeted pathway called Azalea Way is breathtaking in bloom.

Watch the ships go between fresh and saltwater in the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard. There’s also an underwater viewing room where you can watch salmon climb the fish ladder. When salmon are ready to spawn, the fish journey from the saltwater to the freshwater lakes and streams where they were born.

Many Seattle-area museums offer free admission on the first Thursday of every month, including: The Museum of Flight, The Seattle Art Museum and the Museum of History and Industry. It’s a good chance to get into museums that have otherwise pricey admissions. Special exhibits are usually exempt. Check with individual museums for specific details and times.

Take yourself on a creepy tour to find the final resting places of Seattle’s famous dead, including: Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Lee and the city’s founding fathers. If cemeteries are too creepy, pay tribute to the late Nirvana rocker Kurt Cobain at Seattle’s Viretta Park, a small hillside park near his former home. Try Lakeview Cemetery at 1554 15th Ave. E., (206) 322-1582 or Viretta Park at 151 Lake Washington Blvd.

Watch the sunset over the Olympic Mountains at the Sculpture Park. The park, an outdoor feature of the Seattle Art Museum, features a winding foot path through larger-than-life sculptures. The park is open daily from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.

MEET NEW PEOPLE

Seattle is a dog-friendly city and dog owners are often friendly, as well. There are many designated off-leash parks in the city. While the dogs play, owners chat.

Meet fellow adventurers by joining the Mountaineers. For a small initiation fee ($35) and yearly dues ($73), you can take part in organized athletic activities from beginners to experts.

Volunteer for one of Seattle’s iconic festivals. The celebrations happen mainly in the summer, but planning goes on all year long. Try volunteering for Bumbershoot, Family 4th or the Northwest Folklife Festival.

Join the Jefferson Park Lawn Bowling Club. A $100 yearly membership gets you full access to the club and events. Because not many people are familiar with lawn bowling, it’s also a great conversation starter.

Learn to race dragon boats (think really big canoes) with the Seattle Sake Dragon Boat Club. This is a creative way for people of all ages to get out on Lake Washington and learn a competitive sport. You can try it out up to three times for free before becoming a member. A yearly membership is $90.

TAKE YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER

Safeco Field: Enjoying a ballgame in Seattle isn’t necessarily expensive. At the Seattle Mariners' Safeco Field, the center field bleacher seats are just $8. Make sure to buy early because these seats sell out fast on a sunny day or when a good team is in town.

Daniel’s Broiler: Don't miss Happy Hour. The fancy steakhouse is pricey during dinner, but if you go a little early you can fill up on appetizers and enjoy good beer, wine and cocktail prices. From the patio at the Leschi location, you can catch a great view of Mount Rainier.

Agua Verde Cafe and Paddle Club: This is the only place in the city where you can grab some tacos and rent a kayak at the same time. The restaurant is upstairs, the kayak rental is below. Rent a double kayak for $18/hour.

Stroll Alki Beach: Alki is Seattle’s version of a mini-Venice Beach and a great place to people-watch. Walk the lengthy beachfront boardwalk and grab a bite at one of the many restaurants along the beach.

Pub-crawl in old town Ballard: Wind your way through the bars of Ballard’s tree-lined streets. Don’t forget to take a cab home or bring a designated driver. Try these three spots along Ballard Avenue: Old Town Ale House, The Tractor Tavern and Hattie’s Hat.

ENTERTAIN THE KIDS

The Seattle Aquarium: What better way for kids to experience Seattle’s marine life than at this waterfront aquarium. Kids even have the opportunity to touch real marine creatures. The aquarium is public, run by the city of Seattle.

Pacific Science Center: You can’t grow up in Seattle without spending a lot of time at the science center. Kids love the hands-on exhibits and there’s enough to do here to occupy the whole day. Avoid the area during festivals and on weekends.

Woodland Park Zoo: The zoo is full of wonderful exhibits and manicured grounds. You can eat your lunch here at the many restaurants or you’re welcome to bring in a packed lunch. The zoo hosts classes for kids, teens and adults.

Madrona Park Beach: Madrona is one of Seattle’s best neighborhoods for young families and that’s reflected at this beach. There’s a sandy play area for kids and a grassy spot where parents can picnic and socialize while they watch the kids. Although the play area is popular all year long, lifeguards only protect the swimming beach in the summer.

The Museum of Flight: At the edge of Boeing Field, the museum is in the center of the action. The museum has an airpark filled with real planes, including a Concorde supersonic jet and Air Force One.

Nightlife Essentials: Best Places to...

GRAB A PINT

Brouwer’s Cafe: Approved by many beer-drinking Seattlites, this spacious Fremont bar has a big selection. 400 N. 35th St., 206-267-2437.

Feierabend: If you’re up for a rowdy time and some German beer, try this pub in South Lake Union’s Cascade neighborhood. Tucked into a condo building in an obscure location, this bar has a big selection of German beers and real German food. You can even drink an extra large beer out of a glass boot (deposit required on the glass). 422 Yale Ave. N., 206-340-2528.

The Pike Brewery: You’ll feel especially “Seattle” drinking in this brewery located inside the Pike Place Market. The beers have fun names like Kilt Lifter and Naughty Nellie. 1415 First Ave., 206-622-6044.

Elysian Brewing Company: This company has three breweries in the city. The Capitol Hill brewery can be found in a hip and growing neighborhood, the other locations are harder to find and buried deep in local neighborhoods. Elysian Fields, 542 First Ave. S., 206-382-4498; Capitol Hill, 1221 E. Pike St., (206) 860-1920; Tangletown, 2106 N. 55th St., 206-547-5929.

The Jolly Roger Taproom: It’s a little crusty, but this little taproom serves up some good beer under the Maritime Pacific Brewing Company name. Seating is minimal so you may have to wait, but the beer is worth it. 1514 N.W. Leary Way, 206-782-6181.

DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY

Trinity: Located in the center of Seattle’s nightlife in Pioneer Square, this multilevel club can get pretty wild and is popular with the younger set.

Century Ballroom: With a 2,000-square-foot dance floor, this is one of Seattle’s biggest dance venues. You can learn how to dance here -- salsa, swing, you name it. You can take a five-week class or just drop in.

Tractor Tavern: See a live show nearly every night of the week. You can get right up to the stage and dance close to the band.

Nectar Lounge: In the heart of Fremont’s bar and club zone, this is a chill place with a good mix of music. It’s popular with the college crowd. There’s a nice big patio if you need some fresh air.

The War Room: This dancing spot is located in Seattle’s edgy, hipster neighborhood, next to Broadway. This spot draws big crowds, even on weeknights.

SATISFY YOUR HUNGER

Pomodoro Ristorante: Tapas with an Italian and Spanish flair. The chef is almost always in the restaurant and he comes right to your table. The restaurant is easy to miss; it's in a nondescript office building along Eastlake Avenue. There’s plenty of free parking in the back at night. They serve until 11:30 weeknights, until 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays and until 10 p.m. Sundays. 2366 Eastlake Ave. E., 206-324-3160.

Boom Noodle: This newbie in the Pike/Pine neighborhood, one of Seattle’s most happening new corridors, has simple, but tasty noodle dishes. You can play ping-pong on Fridays, from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. 1121 E. Pike St., 206-701-9130.

13 Coins: This is Seattle’s most famous late night eatery. Expect American standards, like French onion soup and steak sandwiches. The booths are tall, the lighting is dim and the clientele is varied. Order omelettes, oysters or pasta anytime. 125 Boren Ave., 206-682-2513.

Palace Kitchen: They serve a full menu until 1 a.m. The $13 Palace Burger Royale is totally worth it. Chef Tom Douglas is somewhat of a local celebrity. He owns this neighborhood; he has four restaurants in a several-block radius. 2030 Fifth Ave., 206-448-2001.

Black Bottle: In trendy Belltown, this tavern serves up good food and drinks for the late-night crowd. It’s a great spot to host an intimate party. They serve until 2 a.m. every night except Sundays, at midnight. 2600 First Ave., 206-441-1500.

Outdoor Essentials: Best Places to ...

ENJOY NATURE

Rent kayaks and canoes on Lake Union or Lake Washington. The best deal is at the University of Washington’s Waterfront Activities Center. They rent canoes and rowboats for $7.50/hour.

Bike the Burke-Gilman Trail. This trail is great for commuting around the city or for a leisurely Sunday ride. Pay attention to voice and hand signals from other trail users, as some people bike fast on this trail.

Ski at nearby mountains. One of the best things about Seattle is that you have your choice of skiing less than two hours from the city. Leave early and check the weather conditions. The Summit at Snoqualmie, Crystal Mountain and Stevens Pass are the most popular and easiest to drive to.

Learn to row at one of the city’s several rowing centers. There are teams for all ages, from beginner to advanced. Crew is a big part of living in Seattle. Rowers practice in all weather. Try Lake Union Crew or Pocock Rowing Center.

Climb the rock wall at the REI flagship store. The Pinnacle rises out of the ground, surrounded by windows on all sides. It’s not technically outside, but experts will tell you it’s a challenging climb. They also teach classes on the wall.

TAKE FIDO

Magnuson Park: This park at the north end of Lake Washington has a large off-leash area with beach access. They even have a “small and shy” pen for the little ones.

Marymoor Park: Head east out of the city to the largest off-leash area in the entire state of Washington. The park also has a “pet garden,” where you can pay homage to a living or dead pet.

Stroll Lake Washington Boulevard from the neighborhoods of Leschi to Mount Baker: The entire area is a dog-friendly neighborhood where the pooches can do plenty of socializing. Start your walk at the intersection of Madrona Drive and Lake Washington Blvd and head south.

Walk the loop at Seward Park: The dog-friendly loop trail is wide and paved and curves around the edge of Lake Washington. Make sure to stay on the path, there’s lots of poison oak in the area.

Mud Bay: It’s a health store for pets. They stock carefully chosen products and publish a helpful newsletter with healthy tips. There are five stores in Seattle and many more throughout the Puget Sound region.

TAKE IN CITY VIEWS

Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill: The site of many a commercial. If the weather’s right, you can line up the Space Needle and Mount Rainier in the same shot. Be nice to neighbors when parking as it’s a residential street.

Salty's Resturant at Alki Point: Pretty much any spot on Alki delivers a spectacular view. At the eastern most tip, there’s a perfect view of the downtown Seattle skyline. At Salty’s restaurant, you can dine and enjoy the sights.

Gas Works Park: This city park, an old gas manufacturing plant, is on a green hilltop at the north end of Lake Union. Some of the old machinery is still there. From the top of the hill, you can watch seaplanes take off and land against the city backdrop. 

SPEND A DAY OUTSIDE THE CITY

Leavenworth: Travel to Bavaria without actually going too far. Everything in this little town in the mountains is completely built to look like a European village -- even the grocery store. In the summer, there’s great hiking in the area. In the fall, don’t miss Oktoberfest.

Vashon Island: Arrive by boat on one of Washington’s state ferries. This island is a wooded artist’s enclave that’s fun to explore. It’s best to drive on the ferry because once you get to Vashon you need a car.

Blake Island/Tillicum Village: Get the real Northwest experience by hopping on a tour boat to Blake Island. Explore the island, enjoy a traditional salmon meal and visit the Native American cultural center. Tour boats leave from downtown Seattle.

Mount Rainier: Drive a few hours south of Seattle and you’ll find yourself at the foot of the region’s most magnificent mountain. Depending on weather conditions, Mount Rainier has some amazing hikes for all levels. Stay at the recently rehabbed Paradise Inn.

Hurricane Ridge: Outside of Port Angeles, in the Olympic National Park, there are all sorts of hikes and a beautiful vantage point from the visitors center. In the winter, there’s a small ski area. Take care driving on the steep, winding road.

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