Seattle is to coffee what Calgary is to beef. People assume that the city’s culture rotates around a pile of perfectly roasted caffeinated beans, but really, there’s a bit more to it than that (just like us). Border times aside, the drive down to Seattle is about one hour longer than it would take you to get to Vancouver. I’ve always considered this Washington state city to be a cross between San Francisco and Vancouver, but without as many steep, narrow roads (San Fran) and Lululemon-adorned individuals (Van).
If you’re driving, Seattle is a fairly easy city to navigate. If you’re flying in, the public light rail system runs from the airport directly to downtown, so either way you should find your way to a hotel no problem. Getting off at Pioneer Square will land you in the heart of downtown. The streets can seem a bit gritty at night, but that’s part of the charm. You’re also likely to notice different standout fluorescent signs throughout the core, notably Bergman Luggage and the impossible-to-miss Pink Elephant Carwash sign. Always good for an Instagram or two.
Now, for the sightseeing — although it’s tourist central, the iconic Pike Place Market is a must-see. On a weekend morning the oceanside market buzzes with thousands of people. The original Starbucks location is located in this market, but (if you care) you’ll be disappointed to find that, yes, it looks like every single other Starbucks on every single corner of every single street elsewhere in the world.
Feel free to wait patiently for the famous fishmongers to throw large fish back and forth while yelling, but those fish are few and far between. So, if you’re anything like me, you’ll get bored and explore elsewhere. A couple of highlights in the market include Micks Peppourri, a stand selling some of the hottest pepper jelly you will ever try in your life, and MarketSpice, a spice and tea shop that’s been doing business since 1911. Grab a tin of its signature Cinnamon-Orange tea. Winter is coming and this will keep you warm.
If you’re looking for a quick lunch here, then the grilled cheese sandwiches and mac ’n’ cheese from Beecher’s Handmade Cheese will blow your mind. Damn it, now I’m craving one.... I’ve often wondered what would happen in a Beecher’s Vs. Beaton’s throw down. It’d be a close one.
After exploring Pike Place, look just outside of the market for the Seattle Gum Wall, an interesting piece of artwork not to be missed. Although intriguing and beautiful from afar, this wall is completely covered in chewed pieces of bubblegum. It was definitely interesting, but a close-up look did make me feel a little queasy. What can I say? I have a tender stomach.
Head a bit out of downtown to check out The Space Needle. Significantly taller than our Calgary Tower, the needle boasts a gorgeous view. However, like any landmark tower, it’s pricey to go up, so I recommend bypassing the observation deck and putting your $20 towards dinner or drinks at the Skycity restaurant right below. If you’re making a day of it, go to the Experience Music Project, the city’s rock ’n’ roll museum a few minutes walk from The Space Needle. Learn more about The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and, of course, Nirvana, than you ever felt possible. Here, the exhibits are loud and visually assaulting in a good way. This is definitely worth a walk-through for any first-timers in Seattle.
Enjoying the nightlife here is easy. Like Calgary, each business district has its own standouts. In the South Lake Union area, I’ve played some shuffleboard while enjoying some unique microbrews and freshly baked pretzels at The Brave Horse Tavern. The dim lighting and huge wood-burning oven would definitely make for a perfect outing on a fall evening. You can also head up to Capitol Hill for a guaranteed fun night out. This is Seattle’s most densely populated neighbourhood, which also has a large LGBT population. If you and your friends want to dance, check out one of the many gay bars in the area, like The Cuff Complex or Neighbors because, really, with names like that, how could you not have fun?
Honestly, it’s pretty hard to list everything that’s great about this city in one article. If you’re planning on heading to Seattle, I recommend (aside from my above recommendations) finding a central hotel and exploring the city by foot and by transit. Have a drink at a patio on the dock, try a different coffee shop every morning and ask the locals what they think you should eat/drink/enjoy. There’s always something new to check out and that’s why I keep going back.
Oh yeah, Dan Savage (that guy with the column at the back of this paper) lives here too. Find him if you can.