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Seattle: What to do

September 25, 2013
Sunset over the Sound from Golden Gardens.

Sunset over Puget Sound from Golden Gardens.

This is Part 2 of my series on traveling in Seattle (for what to eat see Part 1). Besides there being an amazing array of things to eat, activities in Seattle abound. There are a lot of other quintessential Seattle sites that I left out just because they are in every city guide, but look here for an extensive list of points of interest.

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Gasworks Park.

Visit a park – To blend in as a true Seattleite and see what really makes this city awesome, visit one of the many parks.

  • Discovery Park (Queen Ann) – Seattle’s signature green space. It is huge and over looks Puget Sound. Great for walking or biking and lovely views.
  • Green Lake (Green Lake) – Great to walk around and it has lots of kid friendly activities (waterfront, playgrounds, skate park, basketball, volleyball, baseball). There is a paved path all around the lake, but can get crowded at peak times.
  • Fremont Peak Park – (Fremont) My favorite park in Seattle. It is a hidden nook overlooking all of Ballard and the Sound. It is small, but the sunset views are the best in Seattle and it is an ideal picnic spot.
  • Golden Gardens – (Ballard/Crown Hill) – This is one of the few true beaches in Seattle. There are fire pits, grills, and covered areas to have parties. When the tide goes down you can walk north along the beach for miles. It is beautiful year round, so venture over even if it is not summer.
  • Gasworks Park – This unique park is on the site of the former Seattle Gas Light Company gasification plant, and contains remnants of the plant which are preserved. It is the location for many a city event and local gathering (it is wild on the 4th of July), and has a great view of downtown. There are many regular events held at the park like movie nights, LARPing, hoopers, music, and BBQs.

Go to a market – Seattle has farmers markets just about every day of the week. See the full listing of locations here, and these are my favorites:

  • Ballard Farmers Market (Every Sunday, year round, 10am-2pm) – The best farmer’s market ever. A great balance of produce, scavenged items (like mushrooms), value added products (cheeses, baked goods, etc), prepared foods, and art. The only must is getting fresh donuts with cinnamon and sugar from the vendor at the north end of the market.
  • Fremont Sunday Market (Every Sunday, year round, 12pm-4pm) – This market is more about antiques and crafts, but there are a few produce vendors and the hot food vendors are more numerous and better than those at the Ballard Farmers Market. The garage has the best vendors for vintage clothes and trinkets, and the outside vendors have an awesome array of handmade goods. My favorite vendor is only there sporadically, but if you see Johnnie Smalls’ tent, do not pass it by. The hot food vendors are all great, but my 3 favorites are the tacos, falafel, and Indian food (in that order). My ideal Sunday started with a stop at the Ballard Farmers Market to get ingredients for Sunday dinner, followed by some shopping and lunch at the Fremont Sunday Market.
The wonderful Book Larder.

The wonderful Book Larder.

Fill your carry on with books – While there is lots of other great shopping in Seattle, I’m sure there are much better people to guide you there. If buying heavy books to lug home isn’t appealing, both of these spots host many regular author events.

  • The Book Larder (North Fremont) – This place warms my heart. It is the perfect store filled entirely with cookbooks and hosts regular author readings and cooking classes. I got to meet two of my absolute favorite food bloggers (Smitten Kitchen and Sprouted Kitchen), got a book signed by Ted Allen (though I didn’t get to meet him due to some personal scheduling confusion), and was introduced to  Sherri Brooks Vinton at a free event.
  • The Elliott Bay Book Company (Cap Hill) – While this store is big, it is beautiful with huge skylights and still has hidden reading nooks. Any place that takes the time to have staff hand write recommendations to put on the shelves always wins me over.

See a concert – Seattle’s has many small music venues that curate great acts. These 3 are my favorite, each with a great venue atmosphere and solid acts.

  • Tractor Tavern (Ballard) – Small venue, especially great for boot-stomping bluegrass.
  • Nectar Lounge (Fremont) – Another small venue, but with a great outdoor area and mezzanine.
  • Showbox (Belltown, SoDo) – Both are great, but Showbox at the Market is my favorite. They both get large acts but still have an intimate experience.

Brewery Tour (Fremont, Ballard) – There are a few hosted tours, but there are so many in Seattle it is easy to just organize your own. Just in Ballard and Fremont you could walk between Fremont Brewing Company, Outlander Brewery, Hale’s Brewery, Hilliard’s Beer, and Peddler Brewing and go a grand distance of 2.2 miles.

One of the incredible exhibits inside the Chihuly Gardens.

One of the incredible exhibits inside the Chihuly Gardens.

Museums and Exhibits – Real Seattleites do all activities rain or shine, but if you would rather stay dry there are many awesome museums that go far beyond endless exhibits of things in glass cases.

  • EMP (Belltown) – The Experience Music Project is Paul Allen’s brain child, and is a weird combination of Sci-Fi and music exhibits. The exhibits are all unique and interesting, and change regularly so repeat visits are worthwhile.
  • SAM (Belltown) – The Seattle Art Museum is right downtown and a short walk from Pike’s Place. It is even worthwhile just to stop into the foyer to see the awesome exploding car sculpture. There is free admission the first Thursday of every month.
  • Chihuly Garden and Glass (Belltown) – This exhibit is incredible. If you go on a day that there is an event, the price is discounted (and you don’t miss any of the exhibit).
Houseboat neighborhood on Lake Union.

Houseboat neighborhood on Lake Union.

Ride a boat! – Seattle’s geography is defined by many bodies of water which are also great spots for activities.

  • Ferry Ride and Bainbridge Island (Belltown) – The ferry provides an awesome view over the sound and of the city. The downtown area of Bainbridge is really just one long block, but there are cute shops and restaurants and wine to taste.
  • Lake Union – There are many boating options in Lake Union, including ferries, sail boats, small boat tours, and kayak rentals. Take whichever suits you best to see the awesome house boat communities, Gasworks park, the Space Needle and the downtown skyline.

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Visit a troll – The Fremont troll is by far my favorite Seattle landmark. It is less than a 10 minute walk from Fremont center…. and it’s a giant troll under a bridge crushing a Volkswagen Beetle. So awesome.

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