One thing about Seattle is for sure and that is that this city does not get enough credit. I booked a last minute flight when I found an affordable ticket from Houston. As soon as I started researching what to do in Seattle (all I had known was that it rained a lot, Pike’s Place Market which by the way began in 1907, the gum wall, and Grey’s Anatomy took place here). Within minutes of research and chatting with friends, I learned this was a destination for art, food, hiking, outdoors, and amazing museums.
Fall is an ideal time to visit. The red, orange, and yellow leaves populate trees everywhere and give you some feeling of comfort and make for gorgeous autumn photos. The crisp and not too cool air allows you to walk everywhere among this town. We were lucky to only experience the Seattle drizzle- where you do not need umbrellas (tourists beware: locals do not use umbrellas because the rain is usually so light so they just throw up their hoodies). In late October we had clear days and about 50-60 degree temperature. There is SO much to do here for every kind of traveler, and they even offer a smart “CityPASS” which is a museum ticket booklet that saves you 50% off what you’d be purchasing for all the entry fees. See below for what to do, what to see, and the best hotels to stay at during your time in Seattle.
The Alexis is in a perfect location just walking distance from the market and not too far from all the main attractions. It’s also close to an amazing caramel chocolate shop called Frans which has been around since 1982. The rooms here are large and in charge and perfect when sharing a room with a friend. We ate breakfast at the their restaurant called Bookstore Bar + Café and had the pleasure of meeting their new, exciting Chef Eric Rivera who comes from working in the kitchen at Grant Achatz Alinea in Chicago. He’s really shaking up the dining scene here, and we got to try his new Walnut Crumble Granola with homemade Salted Yogurt. I’ve never seen a chef use edible gold spray paint, but he sure made us feel fancy for breakfast. If you’re the kind of person that likes to share French toast or pancakes for the table, go for this guy because the granola is really like a pie crust topping and you get to eat with your hands!
I have an ongoing, loving relationship with the Thompson brand as I’ve stayed at their properties in NYC and experienced their dining and nightlife scene. I was thrilled to learn that they just opened Thompson Seattle six months ago and have an incredible F&B scene here. The full length window building looks just like New York with the black trim. It’s modern, stylish, and the staff is impeccable. The bedrooms are smaller than the Kimpton but just big enough. No to mention it’s that water window view that includes the ferris wheel that really stole my heart. Make sure you pick that view when reserving your room.
The hotel lobby is more about the lifestyle and the restaurant, Scout, is a favorite among locals already. The plaid booth cushions over bright wood are a great contrast with the big open windows looking onto 1st Avenue right by the market. The restaurant is helmed by Chef Josh Henderson of Huxley Wallace dining group (Westward and Vestal). For brunch go for the “big as your face” Cinnamon Sticky Bun with cream cheese icing. They bring you a small pitcher of icing to drizzle on yourself. Go for it. I loved my Duck Hash with squash, leek, maitake mushrooms, and a 63 degree egg. Served in a skillet, it’s warming and a true hearty brunch. Other options are: Crispy Chicken Sandwich, Crab Dungeness Benedict, Smoked Trout Toast, and Chowder Fries with clam, bacon, sunny-side up egg. Also, don’t miss the rooftop bar called The Nest. You know it’s a good bar when locals go out of their way to go into a hotel. Try to visit once before the sunset and once when it’s dark out. The ferris wheel lights illuminate the sky and the deck is pretty large for outdoor seating. Or sit inside at the bar by the windows and enjoy the CaraCara cocktail made with tequila, mescal, beet juice, lime cordial, sotol, and agave nectar. The Nest is open daily from 5 p.m. – 12 a.m.
As I mentioned, CityPASS (you can buy online or at one of the museums is the best value for visiting all the hot attractions which are luckily all right next to each other as well. Each pass is $74 for adults which saves you $61 if you were purchasing tickets separately and $54 per child (ages 4-12). In addition, if you have a CityPASS you get the VIP route and can skip most main-entrance ticket lines. Heck yes!
For your first stop you must go to Dale Chihuly Garden and Glass (only about a 20 minute walk from these hotels). This is my favorite museum in Seattle as it’s all of his famous blown glass inside and also an entire garden outside full of his gorgeous sculptures. It may look familiar to some of you Vegas go-ers if you’ve stayed in the Bellagio and seen his work that overflows the lobby ceiling. There are also several of his sketches and unique paintings with metallic paint inside. Many of the sculptures look like they could be chandeliers but they are so large that Chihuly made several just meant for the floor. Everything bursts with color and some of the pieces make you feel like you are in Alice in Wonderland. You’ll end up in the house that looks like an arboretum filled with red, orange, and yellowish glass formed into a floral sculpture that blends beautifully with the real garden outside. It’s truly jaw dropping. Then walk outside and enjoy all the glass plants in bright green, red, purple, and blue colors. Straight above you’ll see the Space Needle.
Before you enter Chihuly, you might want to go see how long the line is to go to the top of the Space Needle. At 1 p.m. we couldn’t get up until the next ride which was at 3 p.m., so if you time it right you can go to Chihuly and EMP exhibits first and then be done just in time to ride up. All the locals will tell you this isn’t necessary, and while it is expensive on its own, if you have the City Pass, then it’s definitely worth it. You’ll see easy to read timelines about how the Space Needle was built for the World Fair and how it really was quick. This is a huge part of the city as you’ll see space themed nods throughout the city and art in the Fremont neighborhood. Once you ascend to the very top which is 605 feet, you’ll see panoramic views of Mount Rainier, Bainbridge Island, the shipping yards, and you can even seen the glass sculptures down below. It’s a sight to see and fun to feel like you are in the Jetson’s TV show for a minute. The restaurant is a floor below this view deck, and I’d say skip it unless you want to continue moving in circles.
EMP Museum stands for Experience Music Project Museum. If you desire to see the entire history of punk bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Death Cab for Cutie, see guitars, and even have a chance to create and play real instruments in your own band which is indeed recorded and available for purchase after, then this is for you. There’s also a room dedicated to Star Trek and Super Nintendo. The building is designed by Frank Gehry.
SEATTLE ART MUSEUM
Right by the Kimpton hotel, you’ll see the Seattle Art Museum with a huge almost cowboy looking moving sculpture outside front. If you have time to go in the next few months, you’ll be able to see the special Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style exhibit which is on display now through January 8, 2017. It walks you through the designer’s 44 year career which began as an assistant for Christian Dior. You’ll see many of his sketches, paper dolls, his creation for the women’s first pantsuit in 1967. I loved learning that much of his inspiration came from some of my favorite artists including Andy Warhol and Piet Mondrian during the pop art period. At the end of the exhibit, each room is dedicated to a different color and style, and the area full of all of his couture jewelry would be even better if you could purchase a similar item in the gift shop.
PIKE’S PLACE MARKET
This famous market is full of fresh seafood, the original Starbuck’s, pastries, Beecher’s cheese, Seattle dried and chocolate covered cherries, etc. To read more about the best food in Seattle and where you should eat for lunch and dinner, read my article here.
OLYMPIC SCULTPURE GARDEN
If you have extra time walk down to the Olympic Sculpture Garden which is free admission thanks to the Seattle Art Museum. It’s about a 10 minute walk from the Chihuly, EMP, Space Needle neighborhood. Here you’ll see water views and a few fun sculptures overlooking the grassy area. If you are only here a few days, then it’s not worth the extra trip.
I’d recommend venturing here to Kerry Park in the Queen Anne Hill neighborhood instead of the Olympic Sculpture Park. It’s not a park like Central Park, but a clean view of the mountains, Bainbridge Island, Space Needle, and the rest of the city. Grab some salted caramel ice cream at Molly Moon’s Ice Cream about a 10 minute walk beforehand and walk down here for some scenic photos.
While this is a fun 40-minute ferry ride (and only $8RT) from downtown Seattle, there isn’t much to do at Bainbridge Island after you walk around the island for about 30 minutes. It’s a great way to see marine life as we saw some Orca whales from the boat, but the shops and free art museum isn’t as exciting as Seattle.
Outdoor activities and hiking are what get me high and feeling good. With easy to access mountains and hiking as close as 40 minutes from downtown Seattle, you’d be a fool not to partake in this at least once a month. Our friend from Texas who works at Microsoft took us under his wing and drove us to Rattlesnake Ledge. This hike was pretty average at 4 miles round trip with several periods of uphill walking and took about an hour to get up and thirty minutes to get down. The breathtaking view ends at a huge resting area where you can see views of Rattlesnake lake and other mountains in the distance. You can make the hike longer by doing East Peak which is 4.3 or Snoqualmie Point which is 10.2. Something else to note, is the leaves are bigger than your face/head out here!
Another recommended hike that we didn’t have time to do is Poo Poo Point not too far from here and is 7.2 miles roundtrip. You can even paraglide off the top if you go during the day.
While you can visit the flagship Nordstrom about 10 minutes from either hotel and the cute store Moorea Seal, Capitol Hill has the best shops for boutiques. Check out Edie’s for shoes and jewelry where I got an awesome brass necklace with a blue ocean jasper rock inside made in Chicago. They also sell New York designer Erica Weiner’s pieces which were fun to recognize. Standard Goods across the street has great men and women clothes, shoes, sunglasses, and some other fun things to play with.
If you need a shopping break in Capitol Hill, head to the well-known Elliot Bay Bookstore which is comforting inside with a great pastry counter by Oddfellow’s and has over 150,000 titles. I also like how they have a section dedicated to local authors and in the Pacific Northwest region.
Lastly, if you are around on a Sunday, check out the Fremont Sunday Market. They have food, crafts, antiques, and fun trinkets.