A few months ago, a friend and I decided we wanted to take a trip to Scotland in December. We started to come up with an itinerary and look for the best flight options. We found an ice cream shop we wanted to visit in Edinburgh—we were committed.
But soon enough, we realized that international trips should probably have a bit more planning put into them. Instead, we decided to travel somewhere a little closer to home (only about 1,000 miles less, it turns out).
Again, our characteristic over-enthusiasm took over, and thought we could do a trip of Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver in a span of five days (in case you’re wondering, there is a train that can take you from one city to the next). With this plan, we would lose more than a day with just travel alone, so it was back to the drawing board. Traveling for hours every single day was simply our not idea of a fun trip.
After much deliberation, Seattle won. See ya next time, Portland and Vancouver!
Look at some mountains
As a Midwesterner, any sight of mountains is awe-inducing for me. Even hills are impressive. We enjoyed the stellar views from our ferry ride, from Olympic Sculpture Park and the nearby Elliott Bay Trail, and near Volunteer Park. And had to point them out any time we saw them when in a car or when walking.
Basically, you don’t want to travel to the West Coast with a Midwesterner.
Take the ferry
We took the ferry over to Bainbridge Island on a bit of a whim. Someone told us that we were experiencing one of the clearest days that Seattle gets, so we knew we had to take advantage of it.
With zero preparation and research, we decided to plan our day based on all of the pamphlets businesses and other attractions leave at transportation centers and good, old-fashioned walking around. This resulted in: delicious pizzas at Bruciato (with our favorite discovery: pizza scissors); a lot of time in the exhibits at Bainbridge Island Historical Museum (this place is only two rooms, but we spent an hour and a half there); and a visit to the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art.
If your timing is right, you can enjoy the mountain views from the ferry in the daylight and the lit-up city skyline on your return journey.
Visit some museums
During our trip, we found ourselves in more museums than originally planned. But that’s what cold weather will do for you! Thankfully, many of the museums in Seattle are concentrated to one area. You can walk from the Museum of Pop Culture to the Chihuly Garden and Glass, passing the Space Needle along the way. From there, you can also easily visit the Olympic Sculpture Park, as we did, or head to the Seattle Art Museum.
Even after visiting all of these museums, I still didn’t get to see everything. My biggest disappoint was that the Asian Art Museum was closed for renovation during our visit.
Take in a film
Going to see a movie is not necessarily something people would think to do on a vacation, but it’s something I always enjoy. I especially love visiting really old movie theaters (with organs and amazing velvet curtains) or other unique set-ups.
We went to Cinerama, a one screen theater which was upgraded and refurbished by Microsoft’s Paul Allen. Because of this connection to Paul Allen, it also has a rotating display of props and costumes from his family collection (like Seinfeld’s puffy shirt 😱😱😱).
Fun fact: Many of the costumes and props on display at the Museum of Pop Culture are also from this collection.
To Eat and Drink
- Pike Place Market – This is a place that every tourist is required to go. Really. They don’t let you leave the city before at least walking through the stalls. Okay, that’s not true, but it definitely feels that way. In reality, Pike Place is actually a good place to go for food at any time of day. There is no shortage of options. We went to The Crumpet Shop and Rachel’s Ginger Beer, but I was also interested in Piroshky Piroshky, Pike Place Chowder, and Ellenos Real Greek Yogurt (wow, these vendors really know how to specialize). There’s always next time!
- The Wandering Goose – Ideally, every meal I eat would involve chicken and biscuits. The biscuit sandwiches here are exceptional and well worth a wait. After much internal debate, I chose the Sawmill with a poached egg (10/10, would eat again) and had to resist getting anything from the case of baked goods. This restaurant is also a short walk away from Volunteer Park if you want to try to walk off this hearty meal.
- Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream – Confession: We went here twice during our trip. That’s how good it is. My friend would tell you the honey lavender is the only flavor you should get, but I’m going to tell you that you probably can’t go wrong with any of them. First trip for me was Scout Mint and Cookie Dough topped with chocolate hard shell; second trip was Earl Grey with absolutely delightful sprinkles. Is ice cream tourism a thing? Because it should be.
- Bar Melusine – You can’t go to Seattle and not have seafood, I told myself repeatedly. We stopped by this mint-hued restaurant after a (very restrained) trip to Elliott Bay Book Company for my birthday dinner, which consisted of cocktails, fried oysters, frites, and a cheese plate. So pretty much my dream meal.
We stayed in the Wallingford neighborhood during our trip. Here are some neighborhood-specific recommendations:
- The Octopus Bar – I’m including this on the list only because we liked the drinks and the bartenders were cute.
- Yoroshiku – Get the ramen. I’m sure the other items on the menu are good and all, but trust me.
- Portage Bay Cafe – We had a very tasty breakfast here. Shout out to them for giving me TWO pieces of lemon ricotta coffee cake when our server found out it was my birthday.
- Molly Moon’s – Just go there whenever one is near.
One thing I have learned about Seattle natives is that they are very proud of Macklemore. Shocking, I know. I would have assumed everyone was still in the grunge phase.