The rainy, hipster world of the PNW: How to explore Seattle in 3 days after living there for 4 years
My, how this city has changed.
When I was in college, I was always fairly ready to get the f**k out of dodge.
Sure, I made some amazing friendships, had some amazing professors, and explored the amazing surrounding city, but the gloom from the near constant gray and the associated Seattle Freeze made it difficult to fully enjoy living there.
It wasn’t until I was approaching graduation that I began to realize that Seattle was actually pretty amazing as a whole (it was just my university that wasn’t so hot). So, in the two years since leaving, I have made a point of visiting a fair amount with open eyes and a desire to maintain some sort of home-base to the city I once lived in.
Since graduating in June 2015, I have visited Seattle in:
- September 2015
- February 2016
- July 2016
- March 2017
- Now — October 2017
That’s probably more than anywhere else I have visited in my life (other than the Bay Area). But, of course, these visits have been with good reason — I have an amazing cadre of friends in the city, many of whom I consider to be like family, and I always love seeing people in person rather than via Skype/phone/text/email.
Over time, however, more and more of these friends have had to move away from the area, due to rising costs, changing lifestyles and uncertain times. So, I used this most recent trip to see what exactly has changed and how the city can still be relatable and enjoyable to a solo traveler like myself.
Below is a list of new (and old and loved places) for you to check out and enjoy while in the Emerald City from a quasi-local. Enjoy! ☺️
For Coffee Drinks and Other Options:
Caffe Vita | 6 locations in Seattle
During my senior year of college, I was super privileged in attaining an awesome internship at a local film arts organization, Northwest Film Forum. The internship was unpaid (and I didn’t get college credit because I already had 50 credits more than I needed to graduate), but it did pay me in one of the best ways possible: damn fine (and unlimited) cups of Caffe Vita coffee.
Serving up deliciousness since 1995, Vita is a mainstay for the Capitol Hill area and us college kiddos, with the closest location on 10th Avenue and Pike Street providing space for students and locals alike to work, study and enjoy some great coffee. Even if you’re not a big coffee person, Vita has great treats for you in the form of lattes, chai and tasty baked goods from Grand Central Bakery.
Even if you are in too much of a rush to sit in one of their locations and take everything in, make sure to at least get a coffee — and read up on where they get their delicious beans.
Victrola | 3 locations in Seattle
When my mom first came to visit me in Seattle around 2013, I had to have her explore the area on her lonesome as I was in panic-mode over my absurdly dense schedule. In coming back together, I discovered that she had found a “new” coffee shop that she really enjoyed, just downhill Pike on the way to downtown: Victrola.
Victrola has been operating two coffeehouses in the Capitol Hill area — one on Pike Street and Bellevue Avenue, and the other on 15th Avenue and Harrison Street — since 2000. Compared to Vita, Victrola is a little bit more light in appearance, offering its consumers a brighter atmosphere in comparison to the constant grey weather, and it is a little more bougie (not necessarily a bad thing).
If you have time, I recommend getting one of their Americanos (the cups can be so tiny and cute!), and work in either of their CH locations with a good friend and one of the coffeehouse’s board games.
Joe Bar | 810 E Roy St., 7:30 AM — 9:30 PM M-F, 8:30 AM — 9:30 PM S&S
Hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the Pike/Pine Corridor, Joe Bar is a diamond in the rough (well, not necessarily rough, but still a true jewel fam). I came across the smaller, mom & pop type coffeeshop when I was visiting the Harvard Exit Theatre for a movie a few years back (RIP), and have made a point to visit every time I’ve returned to the area.
While Vita is my homegirl for coffee, Joe Bar is my one-stop-shop for some utterly delightful hot chocolate. For those who know me, I have a serious sweet tooth that I cannot seem to quell — and this friggin’ drink helps to satisfy my sugary needs.
Make sure to check it out on a cool fall day, and kick back in their homey atmosphere with a good book.
Where to Stay
Whenever I’m in Seattle, I’m very fortunate to have good friends to put me up a for a few days before the agitation in relation to my presence appears (#jokes). However, if you don’t know anyone in the city, these options may be ideal for your stay:
- A B&B near Capitol Hill
In order to retaliate against the rising gentrification issues currently taking place in the city, I recommend checking into an established bed and breakfast within the Capitol Hill vicinity, but far enough away from the Pike/Pine Corridor that you are able to get some much needed shut-eye (trust me on this — people go hard in Capitol Hill on the weekends).
Some nice recommendations I have heard of from friends and family include the 11th Avenue Inn, the Gaslight Inn, and the Mozart Guest House. Make sure to do a quick online search to ensure that your location and pricing needs are accommodated for your stay.
If you like the idea of a shared living space while you travel, but can’t quite afford a B&B, why not try one of the area’s hostels? There are quite a few in the city — more than I would have ever expected—and it gives younger solo travelers like *yours truly* the opportunity to meet new people and learn new things while traveling around Seattle together.
Good options for hostels include: City Hostel Seattle (starting at $33.76 + tax for an 6-bed dorm), Green Tortoise Hostel (starting at $35 for a co-ed dorm), and HI Seattle at the American Hotel (starting at $38 for a same-sex dorm).
Yummy Eats at all Price Points & Types
Located almost immediately next to one another on Pike Street and Harvard Avenue, there is no where I would rather have a delicious hot sandwich on a cold and rainy day. And this is coming from someone who used to eat Subway on a weekly basis.
Neither Other Coast nor Honeyhole are similar to Subway — they are epic on a whole other level. As a pescetarian, I can still find delicious meals at both of these locations, whether that be the Carla & Ben at Other Coast or the Emilio Pestovez at Honeyhole. If you’re searching for a great sandwich shop that’s also super mellow, head to Other Coast; if you want to eat at a place that is a little bit more kooky with ecletic decor, head to Honeyhole. Either way, you will be satiated, and (obviously) satisfied.
Plum Bistro for brunch or dinner | 1429 12th Ave., 11 AM — 9:30 PM M-Th, varying hours on F-S for brunch, lunch and dinner
The one place I always make sure to visit when I come to Seattle is Plum Bistro. I (sadly) did not discover how f**king amazing Plum was until well into my junior year, but there is absolutely NOTHING better than the offerings at this homey vegan restaurant.
That’s right, it is a completely vegan restaurant, but don’t let that discourage you if you’re not vegan. Plum has some of the tastiest mac ’n’ cheese (called spicy mac ’n’ yease) that you will ever have, alongside great brunch offerings, a stellar happy hour, and all around delicious dinner.
Make sure to get here early if you want to try their pancakes with cinnamon butter at brunch, their pesto grilled cheese sandwich or salad at lunch, and their skillet lasagna at dinner. You will NOT be disappointed!
McMenamin’s Six Arms for happy hour | 300 E Pike St., 11 AM — 1 AM M-Th, 11 AM-2AM F&Sa, 12 PM-12 AM Su
As broke college students, my friends and I were always trying to search for great places for happy hour that also were reasonably priced. As a current graduate student, I am still holding on to that mentality, and Six Arms has held true to that need.
The quirky corner restaurant—located immediately across from the Starbucks Gold Roastery in Capitol Hill — offers a happy hour menu with food deals at $4, $5, $6, $7, and $8. Try their cajun tater tots for sure, and pair it with a $13 pint of of McMenamin’s ale to split with your friends (or enjoy by yourself). The tastiness of the tots never get old — and neither do those prices!
Sweet Treats for your Sweet Tooth
Trophy Cupcakes | 5 locations in Seattle
One thing I always love treating myself to is cupcakes. Granted, I was in my late teens/early 20s when the cupcake craze was sweeping across the nation, so that definitely had an impact on my love of the treats, but the cupcakes from stores like Trophy Cupcakes definitely cemented that continued love of these sweet treats.
Trophy has risen in popularity and community connection since I have left Seattle, which makes for even more reason for you to visit. Check out their Facebook page before you go to one of their locations, and comment on their Friday photos to win some of their delicious treats. In person, grab some of my personal favorites to enjoy: the Red Velvet, the Hummingbird, and even the Vanilla Vanilla are all *stellar* options. As I always try to do: treat yo’ self.
Frankie & Jo’s | 1010 E Union St., 12 PM — 11 PM daily
The last time I was in Seattle, in March, this vegan ice creamery did not exist. Since it has opened in the last six months, Frankie & Jo’s has gained a high level of popularity with the locals and transplants to Capitol Hill.
Their store is one of the most hipster, nu-age Californian-types of stores I have ever seen; the store has palm tree fond wallpaper, succulents as decoration, and a mirror board to show the offerings and prices. It’s like Taylor Sloane’s dream house from “Ingrid Goes West”—and this is coming from someone born and raised in California, and who lived in the grungy area of Capitol Hill for 4 years.
Regardless of these aesthetics and their higher pricing for the frozen treats, the flavors are actually really good. If you can, make sure to try their “All the Trees” “California Cabin,” and “Salted Caramel Ash.” You very likely won’t find these flavors anywhere else.
NuFlours | 518 15th Ave. E, 7 AM—7 PM T-Th, 7 AM — 8 PM F&Sa, 8 AM—5PM Su
I myself am not gluten free (I love bread almost as much as Scott Pilgrim and Oprah), but I almost wished I was when I first tried NuFlours almond butter chocolate chip cookie at the local farmers market (more info below). That was in early 2014; I have spent an almost ungodly amount of money on their treats since.
Now that NuFlours has a storefront in Capitol Hill, I make sure to visit their location every time I visit (and was able to do so once a month while I lived there). The tastiness of their cookies remains, but I have since favored some of their other treats. Try their seasonal bars (I love their rhubarb bar when I come in the spring/summer, and just tried their apple-spice bar), or even indulge in one of their slices of cake.
If you are looking for something that will open your eyes and stomach to the possibilities of vegan desserts, this is the place to be.
Capitol Hill Broadway Market | Broadway Ave. E and E Pine St., Sundays 11 AM — 3 PM Year-round
While Pike Place Market is what you see on your friends’ Facebook posts whenever they travel to Seattle, you need to know that no one actually regularly shops at PPM. It is a tourist trap—and a huge mistake to visit on the weekends, without a doubt.
Instead, visit a more localized, manageable, and reasonably priced farmers market in the city. I always enjoyed the Sunday market on Broadway Ave., where I was able to get samples from local bakeries (including my delicious introduction to NuFlours), chat with farmers from Eastern and Southern Washington, and listen to beautiful music.
Check out which vendors will be there during your visit, and enjoy!
Museum of Pop Culture | 325 5th Ave. N., 10 AM — 5 PM daily
Formerly known as the Experience Music Project or the EMP, the Museum of Pop Culture or MoPOP is a pretty cool place to visit. Seattle—as you may already know #Ihopeso—has a pretty awesome music history and current music scene, from Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Nirvana to Tacocat, Pony Time and La Luz. The MoPOP showcases an overview of the city’s musical offerings — but also has a lot of other cool and interesting exhibits.
One of my favorites? The Horror Film exhibit, with props and costumes and facts from a ton of your favorite horror films and television shows. Even if you’re not a fan of the genre, it’s pretty cool and *spoopy* to see, especially during the month of October.
Volunteer Park | 1247 15th Ave. E, 6 AM — 10 PM daily
There are a lot of amazing parks to enjoy (even in fall/spring) throughout the city, but one that is incredibly awesome (especially for tourists) is Volunteer Park.
Aside from being a beautiful big open space, Volunteer Park also has the following attractions: the Volunteer Park Conservatory, the Seattle Asian Art Museum (closed until 2019 for renovations), spray parks and wading pools, and the water tower. Just walking around the park itself is pretty darn neat, and can warm the coldest of hearts in the middle of February (speaking from experience). If you so desire and have the time for, you can spend hours or even the entire day here.
Make sure to head to the nearby Joe Bar for some delicious treats, or even hit up the Volunteer Park Cafe for a hearty and homey supper.
Elliott Bay Book Company | 1521 10th Ave., 10 AM — 10 PM M-Th, 10 AM — 11 PM F&Sa, 10 AM — 9 PM Su
I have many a time built a vacation around bookstores to hit up, and that is something I never plan on stopping. In Seattle, it seems like a lot of people have the same idea: books are dope, and reading is cool (especially when the weather is dreary).
I didn’t spend that much time or money at Elliott Bay Book Company until after college (hello, steady income), but I do blow wayyyyyyy too much money at this impeccable bookstore every time I come into town. This store is way more manageable than my beloved Powell’s in Portland, and can make you feel like you’re on top of the world. As someone who is still relatively cheap (and now a graduate student), I make a point of visiting their budget books section for deals at $7 and under, but I also love checking out their local artists’ wares and their booksellers’ recommendations.
If you aren’t in the mood to purchase a hefty book for the travels back home, at least pick one up to read in store — and buy some delicious coffee drink from Little Oddfellows, Linda Derschang’s most recent endeavor.
R.I.P. to a few of my faves: Piecora’s (2014), Harvard Exit Theatre (2014), Kingfish Cafe (2015), High 5 Pie, Capitol Hill location (2015), Po Dog (2015), and Remedy Teas (2017).
Things to Remember
- The city is very walkable, but you can definitely use public transit as needed: Seattle has really upped its public transportation game as of late, with a new Link Light Rail station in Capitol Hill, and more buses throughout the city.
If you must, grab an Orca card for the duration of your stay to help you get around; otherwise, walk around as much as you can. Getting from Capitol Hill to the famous Insta-location Pike Place Market is simply 20–25 minutes. You can get some dope calves in your time here.
2. Make sure to enjoy the community events, not just the tourist attractions: Sure, there are a lot of touristy things to do in Seattle (the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, a Sounders/Seahawks game), but you need to know that the people that live here do a lot of awesome stuff away from all those traps. Hit up an reading at Hugo House, or go to a gallery opening at Vermillion; there are a ton of fun and entertaining activities to do that teach you more about the area minus the tourists.
3. It may rain here, but don’t use a f**king umbrella: Seriously, no Seattleites I know use an umbrella. Just put your hood up or your hat on, and deal.
Now get on out to the beautiful PNW, and enjoy all that Seattle has to offer. Happy trails readers!