You know what else I don’t know? Where you should stay. Thing is, I live here, and I stay at my house. While I’ve toured a lot of hotels into for travel writing work, I’ve spent the night in them a total of four nights in my entire time in Seattle. So, I don’t know. I really don’t. Book a vacation rental on the light rail line? That’s what I’d probably do.
But there are loads of things about Seattle I do know and love.
This isn’t a Top 10 Seattle Attractions list, there are plenty of those — they’ll tell you to go to Pike Place Market (you should, and you should tip the ukulele players, those guys are friends of mine) or up the Space Needle (overrated, if you ask me) or take the Underground Tour (if you get a good guide, this is great, though there’s not that much to see, lower your expectations on that front). You can find that stuff out on your own. This is a list of things I enjoy, things I’ll meet you to do, or drag you out to, or say I wish I could come join you but later, since you’re there, let’s meet for a beer at… here you go.
The Elliot Bay Water Taxi: Sure, you can take an Argosy tour, and they’re fun, but you can cheap out and take the 15 minute ride across the water to Alki Beach. The pier is at the south end of downtown and once you’ve crossed the water, you’ll be at Marination, the best Korean taco joint with a bar and an amazing view of downtown across the water in town.
The food court at Seattle Center: No, seriously. A few years ago they redid this place, booted out most of the chain vendors, and now the food here is freaking great, there is something you want to eat, I promise, and it’s delicious. You can skip the EMP, but the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum is worth springing for. It’s gorgeous and they have a good gift shop, too.
The Ballard Locks and Fish Ladder: The history of the salmon is tied up with the history of Seattle. The Fish Ladder is as good a place as any to learn about it. And it’s fun to see the locks at work, especially if some rust bucket of a fishing vessel is going through. The museum here is kind of hokey, but stop in anyway to learn about what, exactly, is happening here. Plus, park rangers? They’re the best.
The Panama Hotel: This place got sort of famous for its role in a book about the internment of Seattle’s Japanese citizens during WWII (and other things). While the sadness of history is still very present in this place, it’s also a lovely room, a quiet place in our messy Chinatown/International District neighborhood. There’s lots of good food nearby if you want something more substantial. Pro tip: pick somewhere crowded.
Get coffee: There are eleventy billion places to get coffee in this town. I love Milstead & Co. in Fremont; they are dead serious about their coffee without being snotty. I also like Cherry Street — they’ve got a few locations around town, but you can often find me at the one across the street from the Seattle Art Museum at 1st and Seneca. I’ve got a local cafe close to home, too, but you need to invite me to meet you for a cup to find out where it is.
Eat chocolate: We’ve got a bunch of swell chocolate factories here, but my favorite place to go is Fran’s in Georgetown. It’s in a gorgeously restored brick building with wrought iron staircases and the chocolates are displayed like jewelry. I love this room, I’m always dragging out of towners here. Georgetown is funky as hell, too there are good bars and restaurants and the Georgetown Trailer Park Mall and it’s just cool.
Eat oysters: The waters of Puget Sound have long been dotted with oyster farms but more recently, one of the coolest opened a series of restaurants. Head to Taylor Shellfish and have what’s in season. I like the little Kumamoto oysters, but I’m not a hard core oyster person.
What about hotels? I’ve toured dozens of Seattle hotels for travel writing commissions, but I’ve hardly ever spent the night in them, so my recommendations are patchy. I can tell you it’s a little cheaper to stay around Seattle Center than it is to stay downtown, unless you stay at the Ace where the bathroom is down the hall. Nearly everywhere will stick you for parking, but you’re better off without your car downtown, anyway. I do have some hotel notes here but they’re not up to date.
But… if you’re flying out or coming in at an ungodly hour, though, try Cedarbrook Lodge. It’s close to Sea-Tac Airport and it’s a surprising oasis with a very nice restaurant onsite. Check the advance payment rates, they have some good deals.
If you’re looking for something specific to your interests, scribble me an email — pam @ nerdseyeview dot com — I’ll see if I can help.
And don’t forget to tip your guide! If you found this helpful, buy a book, maybe a guide to Seattle, why doncha? I get a little something and it costs you no extra.