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All the reasons you need to get thee to the Pacific Northwest, stat.
Ballard on a clear, blue day; photo courtesy of the author.
Pacific North Westerners have this long-running and very real joke: No matter when you go, the first time you visit Seattle it’s always beautiful, sunny, and completely irresistible. I grew up in Olympia, Washington—one hour south of Seattle—close enough to drive to the Emerald City for weekly ballet lessons at Pacific Northwest Ballet (go see a show if you can!). But it wasn't until I moved away (three times now) that the joke I’d been making to out-of-towners became very real for me. Every time I go back I seriously consider relocating. That’s how dreamy it is.
Downtown Seattle, photo courtesy of Tiffany Von Arnim via Flickr.
The best way to take advantage of your first visit to Seattle, even if you don’t make it until well after summer, is by way of water: swimming in it, picnicking near it, boating through it, biking over it, maybe even sleeping on it. Below is your incentive to book a long weekend—and yes, we think that weekend should start on Wednesday—in Seattle. A quick word from the wise: Seattle has easy-to-use public transportation, but if you want to really take it all in, a rental car or strong biking legs (read: so many hills!) are safer bets than buses.
Arrive in the afternoon so you can head straight for Sandpoint and take a dip in Lake Washington if it's warm enough. Bring snacks if you need them, but I recommend saving room for one of Seattle’s big name restaurants: The Walrus and the Carpenter and Sitka and Spruce are two of my favorites.
The kitchen at Sitka and Spruce, photo courtesy of Lucia Sanchez via Flickr.
Go to Alki Beach. Get a coffee and a cupcake from Cupcake Royale on the way; they open at 8 A.M., which gives you time to wander around West Seattle before the beach. (Love records? Don’t miss Easy Street.) If you like baseball or french fries (or both), plan to spend your afternoon at Safeco field watching the Mariners—while eating your body weight in famed Safeco Field garlic fries.
Capitol Hill was my home base when I lived in Seattle and I adored it. It’s full of great food, active nightlife, and it’s just a quick walk to downtown. (If you want to check out Pike Place Market, just walk all the way down Pike Street—the Crumpet Shop is a classic). Start with brunch on 15th street at Smith, then wander through Volunteer park with a coffee from Victrola while you digest.
Take lunch to go from Honey Hole as soon as it opens at 11 A.M.—the beach awaits. (Bonus points if you stop in the local Quality Food Center for a can of Seattle Ale to bring with you.) Drive or bike south to Lake Washington Boulevard Park where you can hang outside and admire the floating bridge.
Dinner should be at Dick’s for a Seattle drive-in burger experience; the Capitol Hill location is where Macklemore shot his White Walls music video and it’s a must-visit. If burgers aren’t your thing, head to Queen Sheeba, just a block away, for an Ethiopian dinner. Still out late night? Try Sun Liquor for top-notch cocktails or Elysian Brewing for local beers.
Pike Place Market, photo courtesy of Tiffany Von Arnim via Flickr.
Once you're caffeinated (I like Fremont Coffee Company), head to Theo Chocolate, buy a chocolate bar (or ten), and take a worthwhile factory tour. Then weave your way to the Fremont Troll or the Fremont Brewing Company and see what you find along the way— it’s a gem of a neighborhood. If you manage to wander until lunch, just cross the Fremont bridge and head west to Curbside, a food truck with amazing pho and bánh mì sandwiches.
For Saturday’s water, try Green Lake, a charming lake in the neighborhood of the same name where you can rent sailboats, paddle boats, kayaks, and canoes for an afternoon. Or just walk the entire lake perimeter and enjoy the breeze. After you’ve worked up an appetite, head to the University District, which is brimming with great Thai restaurants. Vegans will love Araya’s Place; everyone will love Thai Tom. Pestle Rock in Ballard is another good option.
The Fremont Troll, photo courtesy of David Herrera via Flickr.
Seattle knows how to do Sunday. Start with a coffee again (Caffe Ladro is a great bet), then head to Chuck’s Hop Shop, where you will find a huge selection of beer on tap and the Seattle Biscuit Company truck (just don’t go before 10:30 A.M. or you’ll find an empty parking lot). Then it's up to Ballard (only the cutest neighborhood in all of Seattle) for the Ballard Farmers Market (every Sunday from 10 A.M to 3 P.M.).
Sample local salmon, fill your basket to the brim with picnic essentials, then take a winding path through the neighborhood. Check out the shops, drink more coffee, and if you have time, a trip to the Ballard Locks is always fun. Looking for second breakfast? Hit up Vera’s or Beth’s.
Picnic basket and blanket in hand, make your way to Carkeek Park, where a beautiful tree-lined path will take you to a large secluded park overlooking the Sound. Walk over the quant bridge above the train tracks and you’ll find yourself on a sandy beach where sea lions have been known to sunbathe. If you’re ready for dinner, go back inland to Delancey for some of the best pizza you'll ever have—regardless of coast. (Full disclosure: Brandon and Molly, Delancey's owners, are longtime Food52 friends and contributors.)
One of the things that makes Seattle so darn wonderful is the proximity to nature. So take a day and go for a hike. Here are a few day hikes within driving distance:
- Mason Lake—a 6.5-mile round trip with the promise of sweeping vistas and a swimming hole! It will cost $20 per car unless you already hold a Northwest Forest Pass, but on a clear day you can see Mount Rainier—totally worth it.
- Rattlesnake Ledge is a 4-mile hike that has incredible views and doesn’t require any passes, but the lakes are just for looking.
- Snow Lake is a longer hike, clocking in at 7.2 miles round trip, but it’s a well-traveled, family-friendly trail. The lake at the end is worth the hike, but the Northwest Forest Pass is again required.
View from the Oyster Dome, photo courtesy of Peter Stevens via Flickr.
So the weekend ran a little long. But before you head to SeaTac Airport, stop at The London Plane for coffee, bread, and a bouquet for your cat sitter.
What is your dream day in Seattle? Is there a restaurant you can’t live without? Give us all of your suggestions in the comments.