Spend a Day in Seattle

It’s that time of the year again: you’re scrambling to find a friend’s house to decamp to for part of spring break, lest you get stuck at home without any of your high school friends to hang out with. Well, whether you have a couch to crash on or not, The Thrill‘s crack travel team has you covered. This is the fourth of five guides to cities around the United States that we’ll be rolling out this week (check out Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Atlanta as well). Safe travels!

If that skyline and that mountain aren't beautiful, I don't know what is. (via livingamused)

Being a Kenyon student from Seattle can be a trying experience. People in Ohio always want to talk about rain when I bring up my hometown, like by mentioning the most prominent Seattle stereotype, they can make a profound connection. Guess what: Seattle actually ranks 44th nationally in annual rainfall, falling behind cities like, say, New Orleans, Miami, Boston and — what’s that? — New York.

With that myth dispelled and that gorgeous picture up there tempting your eyeballs, why don’t you come pay Seattle a visit this spring break?

Can you top that view combined with this much good food? I think not.

Yeah, it’s a cliche, but there’s absolutely a reason Pike Place Market is such an iconic part of Seattle. Since its opening on Aug. 17, 1907, Pike Place has provided a home for local farmers, artisans and small business owners to tap into the  10 million annual visitors eager to see Pike Place Fish Market employees throw feet-long fish like they’re made of feathers. With breakfast starting at 6:00 a.m. and the official market bell at 9:00 a.m., Pike Place is the perfect place to start your day.

You’re a college student, so I’m assuming you don’t eat breakfast. Instead, just wander up and down Pike St., taking in the smells and sights of the market, maybe grabbing a pastry from Three Girls Bakery or just accepting the inevitable samples of fresh food vendors will press into your hands. While you mull over your options for lunch, stop to see the Gum Wall (unless you’re a germophobe — yup, it’s pretty much what it sounds like) or to peruse the selection at Golden Age Collectables, which claims it’s the oldest comic shop in America.

Once you’re ready for food, there are dozens and dozens of option at your fingertips, ranging from Polish to Chinese to seafood. I have two personal favorites. First is Pike Place Chowder, which legitimately has the best clam chowder I’ve ever eaten, and note that one summer on a trip to Cannon Beach, I made it my personal mission to try clam chowder at every single restaurant in town just to determine the best. Next up is Beecher’s, which originated at Pike Place and which serves what has frequently been called the “world’s best” mac and cheese.

Now that you’re stuffed beyond all possible temptation, you can stop for a brief and glorious moment to gaze upon the world’s first Starbucks, also located at Pike Place. It serves coffee that tastes just like all other Starbucks’, and it’s always crowded, so don’t bother going in — but it can be a good story to take home.

Walk a couple of blocks to Westlake Center. This is a reasonably generic mall, but it houses something far greater than itself.

This is the transportation of the future.

Yep. It’s the monorail. Originating as a centerpiece of the 1962 Century 21 Exposition/Seattle World’s Fair, it runs a glorious 1.2 miles and has been a point of contention among Seattleites ever since. It costs $2.25 to take one way, and it’s hokey but something you have to do if you’re in Seattle. From Westlake, it’ll drop you off at the Seattle Center, home to the Seattle Shakespeare Company, the Space Needle itself, the Bite of Seattle, Folklife and lots of other central aspects of Seattle’s thriving culture.

Um ... yeah, and this thing too. Thanks, Frank Gehry.

That hideous monster is the home of the EMP, or the Experience Music Project, which mostly houses rock memorabilia and interactive displays where you can make endless remixes of the same song, do weird things to your voice or pretend to learn how to play a musical instrument. It also houses the Science Fiction Museum. This is a choose-your-own-adventure moment: whichever thing you’re nerdier about, music or science fiction, you should go there. Luckily, the admissions fee does cover both museums … if you’re into that. As a geek, let me say: the Science Fiction Museum is seriously fantastic.

Getting tired of all this education and walking around? It’s time to hop a bus to the Chinatown-International District. Perhaps the main consumerist attraction of this portion of the city is just around the block: Uwajimaya‘s largest location, housing produce, weird imported trinkets, a food court and an entire bookstore, a branch of Japan’s largest chain Kinokuniya.

It’s easy to spend hours poking through all the stuff you can find here. You may walk out of Uwajimaya carting a giant pillow in the shape of a panda, copies of every movie Hayao Miyazaki has ever made and a T-shirt with Domo-kun’s face on it. Don’t worry, you’re doing it right.

Okay, okay, get out of this magical capitalist paradise and get back on the bus. Now you’re heading to Capitol Hill, generally considered the “cool” part of Seattle. As Wikipedia so dryly puts it, “It is the center of the city’s gay and counterculture communities, and is one of the city’s most prominent nightlife and entertainment districts.” Right now, though, you’re not here for counterculture: you’re here for Dick’s.

Just what the doctor ordered.

Dick’s Drive-In was founded in 1954 and it’s easiest to explain it by calling it the Seattle version of In-N-Out. Dick’s accepts only cash, will not customize your order and has no indoor seating. It’s also the most delicious burger ever, and I do mean that. The fries are hand-cut, the shakes are individually made and Dick’s gives its employees college scholarships. What more could you ask for? Get a Dick’s Deluxe with fries and a chocolate shake and enjoy your food.

If you’re a vegetarian, well, you’re in the hipster part of Seattle. If you can’t find a Thai or Indian restaurant nearby, you’re not trying.

To cap off your day in Seattle, go see a movie at the Harvard Exit. Seattle Weekly voted them “Best Movie Theatre to Wait In” in 2000 thanks to their lobby’s fireplace, grand piano and chandelier, and the Harvard Exit hosts both the Seattle International Film Festival and the Lesbian and Gay Film Festival each year. They’re usually playing whatever the staples of the indie circuit are at any given time. As one Yelp reviewer said, “This place is pretty dope.”

Unrelated to my post, but if you get an extra day or so in Seattle, you should explore Fremont and see the troll.

You have now scraped the surface of what there is to do in the Emerald City. Won’t you come back?

8 responses

  1. Mara, you blew our rain-filled cover! :D More seriously, looking at average rainfall charts for Seattle reveals it all — a beautiful curve of sunny summer and rainy winter, as opposed to steadier but lighter rain year round.

    And I am somewhat sad to say that the Science Fiction Museum has been absorbed into the EMP (I was there last week), the EMP having been declared a “pop culture museum with science fiction exhibits.”

    Downsides: You now have to tromp around the absurd, occasionally maze-like blob of a building to find the good stuff. Currently, almost all of the items which were on display in the separate SFM (Kirk’s bridge chair! Picard’s phaser! a Dalek! etc etc) are in storage (most will return in June 2012 in the exhibit “Icons of Science Fiction”).

    Upsides: There is now enough space (and money) for big traveling exhibits like those currently on display (Avatar and Battlestar Galactica!!). You’ll end up seeing unexpectedly cool bits of the EMP (development of the guitar!). You can find all sorts of science-fiction-related oral histories in the EMP’s “Sound and Vision: Artists Tell Their Stories.”

  2. Pingback: Spend a Day in New York City « The Thrill

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