The Ultimate Seattle Travel Guide
When we embarked on our grand Pacific Northwest road trip earlier this year, we decided to save Seattle for last. And we’re certainly glad that we did because it ended our epic vacation on a high note.
Located between the saltwater Puget Sound to the west and Lake Washington to the east, the city is almost entirely surrounded by water. It’s full of hills, which provide amazing views of Mt. Rainier on a clear day. The seafood is the freshest you’ll find in the country.
If you’re planning a trip and wondering what to do in Seattle, there are a few things you must eat, drink, and see. Luckily for you, we’ve outlined them all right here so you can spend less time planning and more time enjoying.
According to Scandinavian folklore, ferocious, ugly trolls are known for living in clans in caves, forests or under bridges. So when the Fremont neighborhood arts council was approached in 1989 with a request to create something imaginative under Seattle’s Aurora Bridge, it makes sense that the winning idea was a massive sculpture of this type of creature. And so the Fremont Troll was born, designed with rebar steel, wire and about two tons of ferroconcrete. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and snap a photo with the troll—it’s an impressive sight to see.
Mount Rainier National Park
Located about 90 minutes south of Seattle, Mount Rainier National Park is worth a visit if your view from the city isn’t enough. There you can bike, climb or hike to take in the nature around you, and there are opportunities for boating and fishing if that strikes your fancy. If you visit in winter, activities like skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling and ranger-guided snowshoe walks are all on the menu.
Pike Place Market
Just like catching a glimpse of the Space Needle, when you see the Pike Place Market sign, you know you’re in Seattle. Established in 1907, Pike Place stretches across nine acres and is undoubtedly one of the largest and most famous urban markets in the world. There you’ll find everything from local produce to fresh pasta stands to the flying fish stand where you can watch fishmongers toss the day’s fresh catch back and forth across the counter. Set aside a couple hours so you can take your time checking out all of the stalls Pike Place has to offer.
Eat & Drink
The Whale Wins
Chef Renee Erickson has a good thing going. She’s opened six successful Seattle eateries and just won the 2016 James Beard Award for Best Chef Northwest for The Whale Wins. And deserving of the title she is, as it was one of the most thoughtful meals we’ve had in awhile. The menu changes daily and focuses on vegetables with highlights of local meat and seafood. Plates are meant for sharing, so no one at the table gets fomo. We started with the Sea Wolf Bakery bread and butter, moved on to shrimp with pickled green strawberries, and finished with a salt-roasted half-chicken with smoked grape and spicy cashews, a next-level poultry dish we couldn’t stop eating until bursting at the seams.
You’re going to get one of the most memorable meals of your life when you dine at Six Seven, and not just because the food is absolutely on point. The staff is one of the most attentive, knowledgable and friendly that you’re going to find anywhere—they care about connecting over a meal rather than simply serving it, and it makes a world of a difference. They gave us advice on everything from pre-dinner cocktails, to how to navigate the local wine list, to which amari would be perfect to end the meal.
Seattle offers some of the freshest seafood in the country, and Six Seven is one of the places preparing it best. Their king crab legs were the most succulent we’ve ever tasted and the oysters were wonderfully plump and briny. A perfectly cooked blue cheese-crusted filet satisfied our meat cravings, as did the crispy lemongrass chicken we snagged from the lounge menu as a starter. Everything from the bread service to the sides was executed with attention and care. Whether it’s a special occasion or you simply want to experience the wonderful food, staff and view for yourself, make sure Six Seven is at the top of your Seattle priorities list.
Seattle is brimming with authentic Vietnamese food, so there’s no shortage of mom and pop restaurants and hole in the wall pho joints. But if you happen to be spending your weekend day in Capitol Hill (which you absolutely should be doing), Monsoon has a dim sum brunch you don’t want to miss. Crispy shrimp and chive dumplings and steamed barbecue pork buns will keep you satisfied while you wait for bigger plates like crab congee or the pork belly and shrimp banh xeo.
We always encourage sharing when dining out, and Stoneburner is the perfect place to bring a small group of friends so you can taste a little bit of everything. Located inside the beautiful Hotel Ballard, Chef Jason Stoneburner takes inspiration from all over the Mediterranean while utilizing the fresh bounty of ingredients the PNW has to offer. Eating your vegetables is easy here with things like roasted heirloom carrots and a gem lettuce caesar with smoked jalapeño parmesan dressing. Move on to homemade pastas and pizza, topped with everything from Calabrese pepperoni to Yukon potato and chanterelle mushroom. Wash it all down with an expertly crafted cocktail or bottle of wine from their extensive list.
Related: The Ultimate Portland Travel Guide
No Bones Beach Club
Like many of our favorite eateries in the PNW, No Bones Beach Club started as a tent and food truck before opening their brick and mortar restaurant. Step inside their tropical oasis and order yourself a classic tiki drink before grabbing some snacks from their vegan menu. Trust us, you won’t miss meat at all with dishes like crispy cauliflower wings and jackfruit flautas, which taste so much like roasted pork, it’s almost scary.
AQUA El Gaucho
If you dine at this waterfront seafood restaurant and steakhouse at sunset, make sure to step out on the outdoor deck to experience the breathtaking view over Elliot Bay—don’t worry, the patient staff won’t mind. We were lucky enough to dine at AQUA El Gaucho during the two-week Copper River Salmon season, and the tartare they had on special was to die for. But you can’t go wrong with any of the classic seafood dishes on their menu like the stuffed Sea of Cortez Prawns or Seafood Bacchanalia plate for two. Carnivores can experience the incredible steakhouse experience for which El Gaucho is known with cuts like the prime frenched rib steak, rilet and a lamb T-bone that’s not to be missed. The staff can suggest the perfect wine to compliment your meal, and the restaurant’s bourbon cart will stop at your table for sips of everything from Four Roses Single Barrel to Pappy 12-Year. Whether it’s a special occasion or you just want a fine dining experience, AQUA has it all.
This sun-drenched space is one of our favorites in Seattle. An elegant marble bar is surrounded by exposed brick and rustic reclaimed wood—in fact, 90% of the fixtures and furnishings in Oddfellows are recycled. Don’t miss their daily happy hour where you can tuck into a $6 Old Fashioned and snack on a charcuterie plate and caper-topped deviled eggs. If the sun is shining, stake your claim in the greenery-filled backyard.
Zig Zag Cafe
Tucked away on the Pike Street Hill Climb, Zig Zag might be a bit difficult to find depending on which direction you’re coming from—but we kind of like it that way. The cocktails here are expertly crafted and utilize spirits from all around the world. Take the Trident for example–a potion of Cynar, aquavit, manzanilla sherry and peach bitters–a complex cousin of the Negroni that hits Italy, Scandinavia and Spain in one sip. If you’re more in the mood for straight spirit, the staff can help you choose something to imbibe neat or on the rocks. Zig Zag serves food late from a Greek leaning menu so you can enjoy bites like ouzo steamed mussels and lamb meatballs in a spiced tomato sauce.
With more than 3,500 labels and counting, Canon Whiskey and Bitters Emporium has the largest spirits collection in the Western Hemisphere. The setup reminds us of an elegant home library, complete with a sliding ladder that allows bartenders to reach spirits that almost touch the ceiling. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by their large logs of spirits and cocktails, but the bartenders are there to help you choose the perfect libation. Go for an original like the Campfire in Georgia (mezcal peach-habanero shrub, fresh OJ, cinnamon French oak, bitters) or stick with a classic like the Golden Dawn (apple brandy, gin, apricot, orange, bitters). Whatever you choose, know you’re getting one of the best cocktail experiences in the world when you step into Canon.
As Seattle’s only waterfront hotel, The Edgewater is a pretty special place. It’s located within walking distance of the city’s downtown attractions, but you just might decide not to leave the hotel’s warm, cozy fireplaces and grand lodge-like surroundings. Each room is furnished with a plush bed, pine furniture and a gas fireplace to make you feel at home. The Edgewater is pet friendly and has a 24-hour fitness center, so you’ll feel at home even if you’ve traveled hundreds of miles. Onsite restaurant Six Seven is one of our favorites in Seattle (see above), which means a great meal awaits you an elevator ride away.
But perhaps our favorite part of The Edgewater is The Beatles Suite. The band stayed in this very room back in the day, and there’s a photo of them fishing out the window in Elliott Bay to prove it. A grand king bed and huge European spa-style bathroom will make you feel like royalty. Get cozy by the fire in a large living room with library or dine on a room service breakfast below the contemporary chandelier. Sweeping views and Beatles memorabilia make the experience extra fanciful.
Executive Pacific Hotel
Built in 1928, the Executive Pacific is a historic hotel that has many glamorous Seattle tales to tell. But just because it has a history doesn’t mean it needs to look old—in fact, the hotel just went through a multi-million dollar renovation to bring in all of the modern amenities we look for in a world-class property. The comfortable rooms are just what you need after a long day of eating, drinking and sightseeing in Seattle. Throw on a robe and cozy up to watch a movie on the flat screen TV or take a hot shower—with Pharmacopeia organic bath products—in the sleek tiled bathroom.
You don’t have to go far for a good meal either. We had breakfast every day at Vovito where the pastries are delicious and the coffee is strong. If you want to catch a game and drink a cold brew, The Lodge Sports Grill has 50 beers on tap and a killer burger to soak it all up. Being properly groomed, even on vacation, is important to us, so we love that Executive Pacific has European barbershop M Room on site. It’s a boy’s club of sorts where you can play ping pong and throw back a beer while you wait for a haircut or beard trim.
Before you step out for the evening, the hotel hosts a complimentary wine reception from 5 to 6 pm. But the best part about the Executive Pacific is the staff. They are more than happy to help with any questions or requests and always do so in the friendliest possible way. They made it feel like home every time we stepped through the lobby doors. If you’re looking for a classic and comfortable hotel in a convenient location, Executive Pacific is your best bet.
We want to give a huge thank you to James Wallish and the team at Emerald City Harley Davidson for taking us on a ride into the mountains to experience Washington state’s incredible natural beauty. Their location in Lynnwood is all about community. When we arrived at the dealership, we were invited to a lunch of grilled burgers, a weekend tradition that brings people together and simply asks for a charitable donation if you’re able to give. We were outfitted in Harley gear, hopped on a 2016 Fat Boy and rode alongside Wallish as he guided us to the small mountain town of Index where we enjoyed breathtaking views and even better company. Pay them a visit if you want to ride with the best guys on the road.
Original photography by Max Schwartz