I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Seattle is a fantastic city to have friends or family in (or near.) It affords me the opportunity to explore the Pacific Northwest and get acquainted with what is now one of my favorite cities (other than our own, of course) and one of my favorite regions in the US. Puget Sound is chock full of culture, natural beauty, fantastic food and places to explore. So for this trip, I decided to take pages from my travel journal and go beyond just Seattle to show you around the sound.
One of my first stops this year, after flying into SeaTac late at night, was the beautiful, historical Bainbridge Island. Just a short ferry ride from Seattle, Bainbridge Island is full of natural beauty, with plenty of gorgeous places to take in the sights of the Sound, from parks to botanical gardens. Meanwhile, the Lynwood shopping district is a fantastic little Tudor style district. We explored Hammy’s, a kitschy and delicious burger and shake outpost, Pane d’Amore, a genuinely fantastic French pastry shop, and one of my personal favorites, Heyday Farm Store, which features local meats, produce and products-so local, in fact, that most everything comes from the island itself. You can visit the store, or choose to visit the farm itself, which also offers attractive lodging options.
Finally, after a full day, we checked out the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, another fantastic surprise which featured quite a bit of intriguing sculpture work by Ulrich Pakker as well as a gorgeous Women in Photography Exhibition. Both these exhibits have been replaced by others, but the museum is worth checking out in its own right, and has a fantastic restaurant to boot, with views of the Sound.
Of course, I did dedicate quite a bit of time to Seattle itself. It’s a yearly sojourn for me now, and one I savor. This year, I finally got a chance to wander Pike Place Market while it was open, and I have to concur with Cynthia to say that that market is second to none. I was able to find the gum wall, peruse the curiosities inside, grab a lunch overlooking the water at Sound View Cafe and come away with a beautiful armful of dahlias, lilies and more for only $10 from the famous Pike Place Flower Market.
We also made a quick stop to a place I’d had on my list since my last flight out of Seattle – Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. I’d been served some of their aptly named Flagship cheese as part of an Alaska Airlines cheese plate and, since finding out it was from Pike Place, made a note that it was not to be missed next trip. This gorgeous, nutty, aged cow’s milk cheese was worth it, and I’m still hoarding chunks away for a rainy day. We topped off our afternoon with a pilgrimage to the original Starbuck’s coffee and macarons and pain de chocolat at another wonderful French pastry shop, Le Panier, where a line stretching out the door confirmed that we’d chosen wisely.
Our second day out in the city was spent exploring some of Seattle’s neighborhoods. We started out a beautiful sunny day at Gas Works Park, located in trendy Fremont. Aside from having fantastic green space and some near unparallelled views of the skyline, Gas Works is unique. It rests on and is made up of parts of the only remaining coal gasification plant in the country, and, while it was in working order, was the primary provider of gas for energy. Once the plant shut down in 1956, and was acquired by the city in 1962, and turned into a 19 acre park with a quirky vibe. Now painted and partially sectioned off save for peeking at, it’s definitely a strange and wonderful place to find yourself.
Seafood reigns on the Sound, and you could spend plenty of time on a deep dive into the treasure trove of salmon, oysters, clams, and more coming out of the waters every day, but Seattle also has a booming Asian population and its food scene is littered with fantastic pho places. While in Greenwood, we stopped by Banh Town and tried their fantastically fresh corned beef bahn mis, earthy, rich beef pho, and egg rolls.
After we’d walked off some of our lunch, we took a trip to Couth Buzzard Books. This bookstore reminds me of my favorite bookstore in Chicago, Myopic. It’s got that beautiful musty book smell, real bibliophiles behind the counters, and a hopping coffee and sandwich counter. There are local artists’ works all over the walls, cozy chairs to sink into while reading something new and interesting, and concerts more days than there are not. New and shiny is one thing, but well-worn, cozy and homey is how I like my bookstores, and this fits that bill.
Greenwood has plenty of quirk and flair, from cute consignment shops like Beats and Bohos, a record store and consignment shop that had enough interesting vintage picks to clean out our wallet and spend all our time. There’s also more than a few fantastic food options, including a local favorite, Herkimer Coffee, and another fun blend of things- Bluebird Ice Cream, which labels itself a microcreamery and brewery – an idea more people should have had sooner. We wrapped up our evening with a trip to Hecho, a fantastic little cantina that produces delicious handmade tacos.
My relationship with Seattle and its surrounding environs echoes that of my relationship with my best friend Patty, who’s the reason I visit. Seattle’s full of unique color and flavor, laid back and homey, and always welcoming. Every time I touch down I know it’ll be a brand new adventure and a lovely exploration, and that it’ll feel like home away from home somehow. I can’t wait for my next trip and my next little taste.
One final suggestion to all those thinking of heading this way? Whether you’re staying in Seattle or the suburbs, take the ferry. It provides some truly unparalleled views for less than half the price of the Wendellas and First Ladies of our own waterways, and offers a great opportunity to get to and from the city in a much more relaxing way.
In case you missed it, don’t forget to check out a companion piece to this Seattle travel tale, a look at the Seattle Art Museum.