On this day one year ago, David, Jack, and I boarded a plane headed to Seattle, to our new life, to a complete unknown. To say that we have had a blissful first year here would be a lie…this year has been trying, to say the least, with David’s dreadful surgical intern demands, the reality of just how far away from most of our family we are, and the natural adjustments to life in a completely different place. But, despite all that, we have fallen in love with this city. What’s not to love in a city where the water and mountains are everywhere??!
As I plan for family to visit in a few weeks, I’ve been reminded, again, just how many fun things there are to do and how many great places there are to eat that are completely unique to this city. I’ve been asked by many readers where to go and what to do while visiting Seattle, so in light of our first anniversary of living here and in preparation for our family visit, here’s an amateur list…keep in mind the list of things we want to do and the places where we want to eat is about 100 times longer than this!
If you came to Seattle for a few days, here’s where I would direct you:
Your first stop would be a quick breakfast at Top Pot Doughnuts, a Seattle institution that features great coffee and the most delicious apple fritter- crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, and full of cinnamon and apples. Then, an early morning trip to Pike Place Market. I clarify early morning because it gets really crowded, especially in the summer, and you will get the most out of the all the stalls and vendors if you have some space to explore. You could honestly spend the better part of a day exploring it all- the seafood, the impeccable fruit and vegetable stands, and all of the stores. I love to stop into DeLaurenti’s as it reminds me of my college days spent in Florence- I like to pick up bread, some olives, Nutella in the cartoon painted glass jars, and perhaps some prepared foods- the sandwiches and soups are divine. I also always pop into World Spice Merchants to smell all of the teas and spices…it’s mind boggling just how many spices they have!
A trip to the market would not be complete without tasting, and then inevitably buying, smoked salmon from Pure Food Fish Market…it is out of this world (we had some for our Christmas dinner last year) and they are happy to have you sample it. It is located in the main hall of the market…you haven’t tasted smoked salmon until you taste it there, trust me! One last market must-do is a stop into Beecher’s Cheese. You can watch the cheesemakers at work behind the large windows while stocking up on some of the yummiest cheeses made right here in the Pacific Northwest.
Before you leave the market, you will most definitely be hungry as your senses have been played on for hours while wandering around all of the delectable food stuffs. Take the elevator upstairs and away from the crowds to Matt’s in the Market for a delicious lunch of fresh seafood and a great glass of wine (or a Bloody Mary, which are very good here). While dining, you can peer down on the market and the distant ferries in the Puget Sound.
If it is a sunny day, I would urge you to spend the afternoon on the water. Seattle is a city best seen from the water, and on a sunny day there are few better places to be than in a boat or a canoe or a kayak. As we did for our Anniversary, you can rent kayaks from Agua Verde Paddle Club situated on Portage Bay in South Lake Union. They rent by the hour and have happy hour specials on weekday afternoons so you can enjoy a margarita on the patio after you’ve paddled around Lake Union admiring the bigger boats and the amazingly cool houseboats. You can rent a canoe from the University of Washington Waterfront Activities Center and from there easily row yourself through the waters of Lake Washington into the Washington Park Arboretum . And if you prefer a much larger boat, you can hop a ferry to Bainbridge Island, which gives you a taste of the islands and bays in the Puget Sound and the opportunity to stroll around the small town of Winslow. However you do it, you deserve to experience a bit of Seattle water culture.
All the water adventure will have you thinking about dinner…I would suggest a trip to the Wallingford neighborhood for an intimate dinner at Cantinetta, a small and cozy neighborhood pastaria emphasizing Tuscan culinary traditions, authentic hand-made pasta, and seasonal organic ingredients from the Pacific Northwest. I encourage you to settle in for a relaxed, long dinner with the house red wine, mussels, the Farmstead cheese plate, and several of the pasta dishes to share.
If you aren’t in the mood for Italian food, head to the quirky neighborhood of Capitol Hill to enjoy handmade, unique craft cocktails and delicious sushi while relaxing in a plush leather sofa next to the window overlooking 15th Ave at Liberty- they make a mean Moscow Mule.
After dinner, head to Kerry Park in Queen Anne for a stunning view of downtown Seattle, the Space Needle, and Mt. Rainier off in the distance (on a clear day). While in the neighborhood, stop into Paragon for an after dinner drink (this is where David and I had our first Seattle date!). It’s a quaint bar with a good neighborhood feel.
Start your second day in Seattle with a run around Greenlake and then breakfast at the neighboring Irwin’s Bakery , one of our favorite weekend casual spots. The scones are not to be missed, especially if you are lucky enough to go on a morning when they have lemon scones. Their daily quiche is also fresh and delicious and paired smartly with a salad. We are also big fans of their freshly baked bagel egg sandwiches.
Another breakfast option is Essential Baking Company. We are particularly smitten with the Madison Park location…it encourages lingering with free refills of deliciously strong coffee, great pastries, and yummy breakfast sandwiches in a window filled dining space. The barstools along the windows are a particularly great spot to sit.
Spend the better part of your late morning walking along the water and admiring the sculptures in the Olympic Sculpture Garden, a nine-acre industrial plot of land that has been transformed into an open air sculpture exhibition along the waterfront that is free to the public. There are stunning views here of Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains beyond.
For a late lunch, head to Melrose Market for a sandwich at Homegrown - all of the sandwiches are amazing but particularly the Ham + Beecher’s and the Squash + Snap Pea Pesto. After your satisfying lunch, take time to stroll through the Melrose Market stores heading upstairs to browse through all of the unique home gifts at Butter Home, tasting cheeses from The Calf and the Kid, smelling the flowers and indulgent soaps at Marigold and Mint, and then sipping a glass of wine and having a nibble of cheese, sardines, oysters, or pickles at Bar Ferd’nand.
Walk off your lunch and nibbles by strolling the streets of Capitol Hill, ducking into the fun and unique shops along Broadway.
When it’s time for dinner, pizza is on the menu. Head to the Ballard neighborhood for a wood-fired pie at Delancey. The pies are perfectly cooked and topped with seasonal, local ingredients. And, don’t miss the seasonal appetizers and salads. Oh, and save space for a dessert…they are always worth it here.
Or, head downtown to Tom Douglas’s Serious Pie where the sweet fennel sausage, pepper, and provolone pizza is to die for. While you are waiting for a table here, which will inevitably happen, duck into the bar next door,Dahlia Lounge, another Tom Douglas establishment (he’s a Seattle institution), for a deliciously stirred cocktail.
On your last morning, enjoy breakfast at a Wedgwood neighborhood bakery, Grateful Bread. I would suggest having a slice of quiche and black coffee, and picking up a chocolate macaroon to save for later. It is honestly not to be missed- it’s my favorite cookie in the city! From here, Magnuson Park is an easy drive (or bike) and you would not want to miss a walk among its shores of Lake Washington with sweeping views of the Cascade Mountains and the Eastside.
Whew, are you tired now? I am! Do you want to come to Seattle? I hope so!
Again, this is an entirely incomplete and extremely personal list of things to do here, and bear in mind that I have only lived here for one year, my husband is engulfed in a surgery intern year with limited free time, and my son is only 2! So, I haven’t been everywhere…no, not even close. I’m quite excited for more years here and for a more relaxed schedule…there is just so much to see and do. I will keep creating Seattle themed posts as we continue to explore!
I am guessing that Seattle can be a very hard place to leave…
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