Boasting the perfect mix of stunning landscape and city sophistication, Seattle is a world-class wonder in the Pacific Northwest.
Perceived by skeptics as the rain-soaked birthplace of grunge, Seattle often takes a lower spot on travelers’ wish lists than powerhouse cities like New York, Miami, and San Francisco. But set amidst a surreal landscape of jagged mountains and sparkling waterways, not to mention teeming with more cultural offerings than can be explored in one weekend, Seattle is the perfect marriage of rugged coastal wilderness and sophisticated city living.
Upon arrival, first-time visitors will discover a bustling metropolis blooming with a mix of historical and modern architecture. On any given avenue, Art Deco skyscrapers tower above modern, angular apartment buildings, and anything from a bake shop to a boutique might be housed in an original 19th-century structure. When it comes to shopping, retail has deep roots here. Seattle is the site of the country’s first Nordstrom and REI stores and over time has welcomed the same boldface brands that line the likes of Madison and Collins Avenues. Meanwhile, local retailers and restaurateurs enjoy loyal followings by patrons who appreciate their quality products and inviting atmospheres. A handful of attractions are requisites for a weekend in Seattle—among them the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, the original Starbucks Coffee shop (its menu is strikingly simple), and Alaskan Way, the city’s vibrant waterfront. The latter is packed with souvenir shops and seafood restaurants and is the site of Seattle’s aquarium, ferry terminal, and newly erected Seattle Great Wheel, a 175-foot-tall gondola-style observation wheel that opened in June 2012.
Pike’s Place Market’s famous sign in front of Pudget Sound
Beyond commercial pursuits, Seattle is rife with natural scenery and easily accessible outlying areas that offer an escape from city life. As few as 10 minutes to the north by car from Seattle’s waterfront and across the scenic Aurora Bridge, Fremont is Seattle’s sleepier bohemian neighborhood and an ideal jumping off point for boating on breathtaking Lake Union and kite flying at Gas Works Park.
For a more dramatic option, at Pier 52 on the waterfront visitors can board a ferry bound for Bainbridge Island. During the 35-minute westward crossing, passengers watch Seattle’s skyline shrink into the distance as Bainbridge’s piney, rocky shoreline comes into view. Upon disembarking, a short walk from the Bainbridge ferry terminal takes passengers to the quaint town center, which is lined with charming galleries, boutiques, and restaurants (the homemade soups, quiches, cakes, and pies at Blackbird Bakery are divine). It’s just enough to see and do in a day’s time to leave visitors feeling refreshed and ready to return to their base in spectacular Seattle. visitseattle.org
Where to Stay
Made famous by a photo of The Beatles fishing from their suite there in 1964, The Edgewater hotel has since remained a celebrity favorite and offers its own brand of cool, casual luxury. Built on Seattle’s Pier 67 for the 1962 World’s Fair, the four-story, 223-room hotel sits directly atop beautiful Elliott Bay and affords views of the city’s skyscrapers, shipyards, and waterfront. The Edgewater’s rooms and suites underwent a renovation this year, resulting in a meticulous new look that’s both cozy and chic. Beatles fans can follow in the footsteps of the Fab Four with a stay in The Beatles Suite, which is outfitted with memorabilia honoring the band, including a portrait wall depicting their early years.
Where to Eat
Seaside dining at The Edgewater hotel’s Six Seven Restaurant
Along with its prime waterfront location and stylish vibe, The Edgewater draws in-the-know locals and savvy out-of-towners to its signature, award-winning restaurant, Six Seven, for everything from post-work cocktails to leisurely Sunday brunches. Chef John Roberts’s menu of Pacific Northwest cuisine includes flavorful preparations of locally caught fish and seafood (don’t miss the halibut), as well as some of his family’s own favorite comfort food recipes. In Fremont, The Whale Wins, opened this spring by Renee Erickson, Jeremy Price, and Chad Dale—the trio behind the wildly successful The Walrus and the Carpenter in Ballard—indeed wins the hearts of patrons with its menu of wood-fired, vegetable-focused dishes that burst with flavors of fresh ingredients and herbs. (The carrot and fennel salad with harissa and yogurt; Matiz sardines on toast with curried tomato paste and shaved fennel; and whole roasted trout with lemon créme fraiche left us speechless.) The restaurant’s charming contemporary English cottage style makes the experience all the more enjoyable. For breakfast, there’s nothing quite like a stroll through Pike Place Market, which can yield goodies like still-warm, freshly made mini-donuts best enjoyed straight from their brown paper bag, or, on the lighter side, an armful of fresh fruit. The market’s mustn’t-miss spot, however, is The Crumpet Shop, which offers a dizzying variety of English-style sweet and savory breakfast sandwiches served on fluffy, chewy crumpets. The pesto, tomato, and English cheese option is the epitome of simple goodness.
What to Do
The Space Needle is a given for a Seattle visit. From the observation deck, snap photos and enjoy jaw-dropping views of Puget Sound, the Cascade and Olympic Mountains, Mt. Rainier, and the rest of the city 605 feet below. Back on the ground, wander through Chihuly Garden and Glass, a stunning exhibit featuring the dreamy works of world-renowned glass artist and area native Dale Chihuly. In the impeccably curated gift shop, pick up a piece by Chihuly or an artful accessory. At Seattle Art Museum, take in fine art and artifacts from around the world, or catch an exhibition featuring Japanese fashion (through September 8), Peruvian culture (October 17 through January 5), or works by Miró (February 13 through May 18, 2014). Before there were any of the wonderful things for which Seattle is now known, the city emerged from a ragtag history pocked with scandal and a devastating fire spanning dozens of blocks. Present-day Seattle was built on top of the original city, and visitors can get an up-close look at the old underbelly on Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour in Pioneer Square, considered the birthplace of this remarkable city.