This past weekend I spent a fantastic few days in Seattle courtesy of Visit Seattle and their 2 Days In Seattle program. It’s a pretty clever program – they pay for people from around the country (world?) to come and visit for two days, with no strings attached. We got airfare, a hotel, and some spending money, and they just asked us to use the hashtag #2DaysInSeattle if we were so inclined.
As is my wont in such things, I squeezed every drop out of it I could. We took the earliest possible flight up and the latest possible flight back. We walked, bussed, and trained around that city until our legs were sore. We also decided to skip some of the traditional attractions like the Space Needle and a Mariner’s game in favor of asking some of my friends up there was it is really worth doing. Here are some of the highlights:
Pikes Place Market – Yeah, it’s touristy, but it’s almost required. I loved it more for the sheer insane energy of the place than the crazy crap you can buy in some of the shops. Had some amazing clam chowder in bread bowls (this trip was not a good thing for my diet because i was trying out to see if does beyond diet work and visited the first Starbucks store (a.k.a. Patient Zero). Oh, and we ran into the horribly nasty but colorful gum wall.
Starbucks – I guess I should mention this by itself. I’m not a Starbucks hater, but I will always opt for local coffee if I have an option. Still, it was bizarre to see how many Starbucks there are up there. I don’t think we were out of sight of a Starbucks our entire time up there. I’m not even joking. We even saw a mall that had a Starbucks on every floor. I love my java but have never been so uncaffeinated I couldn’t walk a flight of stairs to get some. It’s ridiculous.
EMP Museum – The Experience Music Project Museum was an unexpected surprise. Having full exhibits on science fiction, fantasy, and horror in our culture, I knew I would like it. What was unexpected was how much sheer geeky glee I got out of seeing the costumes from the Princess Bride, Kirk’s command chair from Star Trek, or a Superman costume worn by Christopher Reeve. Yeah, and I got to sit in the Iron Throne. There’s also some amazing music exhibits, but to me they were secondary.
Seattle Underground – After the Great Seattle fire of 1889 the city raised the street level. This turned the former first floors of the buildings into underground basements, which continued to operate in the gloom for years to come. A few of the passages have been cleaned up and are part of a tour. It’s a bit cheesy and quite a bit touristy, but still a fascinating glimpse into the unintended consequences of some urban planning decisions.
Distillery Tour – Recent changes to Seattle’s liquor laws have resulted in several micro-distilleries popping up. Being big supporters of local business we hit the Local Craft Tour to visit some of them. They took us on a tour of Fremont Mischief (whiskey, vodka, gin), Sound Spirits (gin), and Letterpress Distilling (vodka, limoncello), all of which I highly recommend. In between stops they served us crafted cocktails and bites from local kitchens. An absolutely fantastic time.
Makers Space coworking – We ran into two of the fabulous founders of The Makers Space on our distillery tour. They dropped “coworking” in conversation and probably regretted it as I immediately began grilling them on their place and they gave me a tour. I’m a big fan of Gangplank, CO+HOOTS, and the other coworking places in the Valley, so it was serendiptitally wonderful to bump into them and learn how it compares in Seattle.
Dragon Fest in Chinatown – The international Dragon Fest in Chinatown sounded like a fantastic event, so we headed down to try some great food, listen to some music, and enjoy a parade or two. It also gave me one of the strangest moments of the trip as I saw the entire Dragon Fest was sponsored by McDonalds. I suppose that would have been okay if not for the big URL they were using to promote it – MyInspirasian.com. It just struck me as the weirdest, most generic, almost dismissive way to connect with a diverse group of people that makes up the majority of the human race. But at least I now know how to say “Big Mac” in Mandarin.
Getting Around – Being from a city without much in the public transportation department, I geeked out using apps to navigate the Seattle transit system. Google Maps on my iPhone has a public transit option that told me exactly how far to walk, which bus to take, and when I’d expect to get to my destination. It was a lot more helpful than the the signs at the bus stops and transportation hubs. We also used the OneBusAway app quite a bit, and between that and Google Maps we got around fine.
The Downside – There was only one real problem we ran into up there and that was occasionally being harassed by pandhandlers and homeless people (and one Scientologist). Every major city grapples with challenges like this, but I haven’t seen it that prevalent in a long time. Three times we were followed or yelled at, and one time I was genuinely concerned for our safety. It’s sad to say but the downside of exploring a strange city is you don’t know the “safe” areas and it can be easy to get into trouble. Still, this didn’t ruin our trip by any stretch.
You can check out a few more pictures I took from all of these Seattle places on Flickr. If you think I missed something essential of your own “things to do in Seattle” list, let me know. I’m sure I’ll be going back! If you are looking for a female motorcycle helmets please follow the link.