Day 1 – Staying in the City
We took a direct flight from Houston after work on Friday evening, arriving at Seattle-Tacoma airport around 12:30 am Friday night/Saturday morning and caught an Uber from the airport to Motif Hotel downtown. Of note, only Toyota Prius cars are permitted to pick up riders from the airport; this makes it a little more difficult to identify your driver as they pull into the ride share area. There is an option to take public transit from the airport to downtown (Link light rail, though the times are limited during late night/early morning hours). There are plenty of hotel and AirBnb options downtown at a variety of price points, we chose a hotel rather than AirBnb since we were arriving late and needing our luggage held after check out on Monday, and Motif was the best value boutique hotel when we were visiting. Taking a late flight allowed us to sleep on the plane, then go straight to the hotel to continue sleeping through the night and wake up for a fresh, full day 1 in Seattle the next morning.
First up on the itinerary, coffee sampler flight at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. While we’re not Starbucks super fanatics, we do appreciate tasty coffee and the reserve roastery offers a unique selection of small batch, Seattle roasted, limited supply brews. The roastery also happened to be a block away from the brunch spot we had selected in Capitol Hill and we had some time to kill before our 10 am reservation. While we wouldn’t call the Starbucks Reserve Roastery a “must see attraction”; if you’re in the area, it is worth the few minutes to stop in for a morning cup and gawk over the shiny equipment that is usually actively roasting and packaging the beans. We went around 9:30 am on a Saturday and were able to snag 2 seats at the bar, order a trio tasting flight, enjoy the coffee and explore the roasting room equipment all before our 10 am brunch, so this doesn’t have to be an all day ordeal.
There are plenty of weekend brunch options receiving rave reviews in Seattle, we settled on Sitka and Spruce using a combination of Eater Seattle and Yelp reviews which both tout this restaurant as being “quintessential Seattle” from a James Beard Award winning chef. They are known for using seasonal, local ingredients to create fresh and flavorful dishes. We split four plates between the two of us and were swooning over every one – lettuce and herb salad with toasted hazelnuts, seed bagel with green garlic goat cheese, morel mushroom and poached egg toast, and pistachio coffee cake. Sitka and Spruce is located within Melrose Market which is a unique establishment on its own, housing Taylor Shellfish, Honor Society Coffee, Rain Shadow butcher counter, and other small shops within the market.
After brunch we passed by Pike Place Market which was every bit as bustling as you would imagine a sunny, Saturday afternoon on a holiday weekend in Seattle to be. There are hundreds of vendors selling every kind of craft, souvenir, delicacy, floral arrangement, etc. and the sheer number of choices combined with the wall to wall crowds can be overwhelming. There are plenty of restaurant options and food vendors in Pike Place Market, we saw people snacking on shrimp with cocktail sauce, fried fish, fresh apple cider and farmer’s market veggies. You can also take in some decent views from the deck behind the market with the Ferris wheel, Mt. Rainier, and the bay all visible. Hours could be killed and many dollars spent wandering this market, however we decided not to collect any souvenirs on this trip and made it out of the market empty handed.
Chihuly Garden and Glass was our next stop, just a one mile trek north through Belltown (of note, there seemed to frequently be a congregation of homeless people lingering along 2nd Ave through Belltown). Tickets for the glass exhibit can be purchased at the machines outside of the garden entrance or at the desk inside ($29 per person), it is possible to purchase a combined ticket for the Space Needle (next door) and the glass exhibit ($49 per person). We opted to only visit Chihuly Garden and Glass; the tickets may seem pricey, but it is well worth it! Dale Chihuly is a famous glass artist from the Seattle-Tacoma area, his sculptures are on display all over the world. This exhibit in Seattle took us about 2 hours to wander through and it was chock-full of mesmerizing colors and shapes. We also caught part of a glass blowing demonstration inside the garden this afternoon which was a nice addition to the experience.
It is difficult to put into words just how beautiful the weather was in Seattle this weekend; but cloud-free, 75 degrees Fahrenheit with sunshine and a light breeze will get you pretty close. This might make it a little more understandable as to why our next event was simply laying in the grass. Right outside of Chihuly Garden and the Space Needle there is a big open, grassy area where many people were hanging out just soaking up the day; so we picked a good looking spot and did as the locals do. After an hour or so just laying, chit chatting and people watching, we decided to find a brewery.
There are dozens of craft breweries in Seattle, so take your pick. We walked through Cloudburst Brewing which seems popular, maybe a little too much so for this afternoon as it was crowded with no remaining seats. We found Local 360 nearby in Belltown, which is not a brewery, but instead a cafe and bar. One fun thing about this trip is that the common, local sparkling wine option is Domaine Ste Michelle which was the house bubbles selection at Cohen House (our wedding venue in Houston, TX); and this happened to be a first anniversary trip for us, a kind of cool coincidence to sip the same bubbles we had a year prior at our reception. After a drink at Local 360, we moved down the street to Belltown Brewing which is a sister establishment to Local 360 and has their own selection of beers on tap in addition to dozens of other beer options. We spent an hour or so on the patio here, again just people watching and trying the Belltown beers.
Fresh Off the Boat (FOB) Poke Bar is a semi-new establishment (also in Belltown) getting a bit of attention, so we opted for a poke dinner. One key feature about FOB Poke is their signature rice infused with matcha and coconut, the flavors are subtle and delicious. There are so many different ways to enjoy seafood in this coastal city with global cuisine so you really can’t go wrong. After dinner we let the sunset on Day 1 so that we could rest up for a full day of hiking on Day 2.
Day 2 – Hiking outside of town
In the summer months, there are A LOT of daylight hours in Seattle, with the sun rising around 5 am and not setting until 9 pm. It seems like Seattleites take full advantage of these long days, rising before the sun and making their way out to their favorite hiking trails just as the light hits. We had to wait until 8 am when Enterprise Rent-a-Car opened to snag the ride for our mountain adventure. We chose not to rent a car for the full trip since parking in the city is expensive ($40 per night at Motif Hotel), and everything we did on Day 1 was walkable (~20,000 steps/8 miles total for the day).
We began day 2 with Top Pot Doughnuts, which we had read is a Seattle, cult classic, coffee and donuts joint. We aren’t regular donut eaters, but decided this fit the bill as local and quick with a location a couple of blocks away from our hotel and the car rental. A gentleman in line mentioned that Top Pot was voted best old-fashioned glazed donut in the city (we thought this one was pretty good, especially dipped in the coffee), the maple bacon doughnut bar is apparently pretty popular (we did not enjoy this donut, period.), apple fritter looked like a promising choice (it did not disappoint, this was by far our favorite!), and the cinnamon sugar raised ring (not soft and airy as expected, it was dry and cakey for being the “raised” version). All in all, we would not recommend Top Pot Doughnuts, but if you must try it out for yourself, definitely go for the apple fritter!
We got to Enterprise Rent-a-Car (convenient downtown location just a couple of blocks from our hotel) right as it opened at 8 am and there were already three people in line ahead of us. Everyone had reserved in advance so the line moved quickly, we were in our car by 8:15 am. They did not have extra cars available for walk-ins so it is recommended to reserve in advance if picking up a car from downtown. They also have an option for after hours drop off which is helpful since they close at 4 pm on Sundays.
We stopped at PCC Natural Market in Issaquah on our way out to Mount Si to pick up pre-made sandwiches for the summit and some electrolyte drinks. This market is really convenient along the route out of the city and has a large variety of pre-made foods to choose from including organic, vegan, vegetarian and omnivorous selections. Arriving at the mountain shortly after 9 am, we definitely struggled with parking. The parking lot was packed with cars in every nook and cranny they could squeeze into making navigating the rows very stressful. After 20 frustrating minutes of circling and cruising the road out front (which is lined with “NO Parking” signs), we saw a sign on someone’s personal property for “trail parking”. This woman charges $5 per car to park 1/4th mile down from the Mount Si trail head, this really saved our hike as we were wondering if we might just have to leave. If you are able to park in the Mount Si lot or some of the other trail lots, a Discover Pass may be required which you can purchase online and print out to display in the car dash, or pick one up from locations around Seattle.
Picking which trail to hike was no easy feat, I might even admit that I lost sleep over it. After lots of reading and contemplation, we settled on Mount Si based on proximity to the city (only a 45 minute drive), difficulty level (described as moderate, hoped for a good workout and less crowds), and the expansive views (Snoqualamine Valley, Mt. Rainier and Seattle). This trail was more incline and less vista than we had anticipated despite our prior research; not being seasoned hikers, we couldn’t appreciate what a 3,150 ft elevation gain over 4 miles would feel like, especially without the motivation of occasional interim vantage points along the course (it’s below the tree line most of the way up so thick forest preventing premature sweeping views). While this 8 mile round trip hike was a good challenge, we decided something less aggressive and more scenic might be more our speed next time.
After hiking, we dropped off the car and went back to Hotel Motif to get cleaned up for our dinner reservation. We were ready a little early before our 7 pm reservation, so we caught an Uber to nearby Canon bar where the cocktails are not cheap, but the clever combinations and intense flavors they are able to marry are exceptional. The attention to detail on each cocktail is impressive, the Banksy Sour comes out with a stenciled image of Bansky’s Balloon Girl sprayed onto the top, thin layer of foam; and the Campfire in Georgia is actually served in it’s own little smokey chamber. We loved this bar and even considered returning for a nightcap after dinner. We left Canon and headed down the block to Bateau, the steakhouse option in Chef Renee Erickson’s family of restaurants. We thought that a hearty steak dinner might be in order after a long day of hiking and decided that the 5 course beef tasting menu would be a fun culinary adventure. The tasting menu had surprisingly large portions, we left very full and a little tipsy from the beverage pairings. In the end we were feeling like maybe a perfectly cooked steak would’ve been more along the lines of what we needed this particular night, but we definitely had a really fun time at Bateau and loved the airy atmosphere and attentive wait staff. We were pretty wiped out and content at the end of Day 2.
Day 3 – Fremont or Surrounding
A couple sitting next to us at Canon bar the previous night had suggested a few sunny day options for our last day in Seattle – Alki Beach, an actual sandy beach on the West side of Seattle, is perfect for relaxing with your toes in the sand and taking in skyline views of the city; Discovery Park, north of the city with hundreds of acres covered in walking trails with lovely coastal views; and finally, Gas Works Park, which is just across Lake Union from downtown, and incorporates old equipment from the Seattle Gas Light Company into a family friendly green space on the lake.
We woke up to cloudy skies and cooler weather, so we walked to Starbucks Reserve Roastery to try more of their specialty coffees and grab some quick breakfast bites while we waited for the sun to come out. Alternatively, Victrola Coffee Roasters is just a couple of doors down from the Starbucks Roastery and offers their own variety of specialty roasts. We chose to head to Gas Works Park after breakfast because we intended to kayak around the lake, but once we arrived we realized that we didn’t bring proper kayaking attire, this looked like a very fun activity though. Instead, we just sat on the hill with a hundred or so other people – there were high schoolers gossiping, parents chasing down their toddlers, elderly couples relaxing on benches, and yuppies lounging by the handful. Most people came equipped with a picnic blanket and sack lunch, some had kites or card games and others just laid as-is in the grass like us. Gas Works Park has a great view of the Seattle skyline across the water and the old gasification equipment adds really unique character to the site.
Shortly after noon we headed to Fremont Brewing around the corner from Gas Works Park. Fremont Brewing has a large tasting room and outdoor patio which was perfect for today and surprisingly not too crowded. We tried a couple of Fremont’s beers then planned to head up to Kisaku Sushi for lunch at the recommendation of the Canon bartender, sadly Kisaku takes a break from 2-5 pm and it was already 2 o’clock. We instead opted to head south, back down to Capitol Hill’s Taylor Shellfish Farms at Melrose Market and were really impressed with the shucker’s dozen oyster platter. These were possibly the very best oysters we’ve ever enjoyed, so fresh and flavorful; our favorites were the Kumamotos and Shigokus. Their oyster stew was really hearty and delicious too, we would definitely recommend visiting Taylor Shellfish Farms if you’re looking for some good oysters. Contrarily, we would advise against the happy hour oysters at Local 360 in Belltown, we made this mistake on Day 1 and were happy to have redeemed ourselves here.
Smith Tower was Seattle’s first sky scraper, built in 1914 and renovated in 2015 to the re-imagined 35th floor, open-air observation deck and speakeasy style bar that exist today. We had pinpointed Smith Tower as our answer to replace the Space Needle experience, we wanted a somewhat more obscure experience still incorporating sweeping views. We had Smith Tower on the agenda for Day 1, but we didn’t get around to it, so we walked downtown to check it out this afternoon. The observation deck is open air, but caged in as you can see on their website which does obstruct the view some. There are helpful placards situated around the observation deck that orient the surrounding features (Mt. Rainier, the Cascades, Elliot Bay, Bainbridge Island, the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, etc.). The interior of the bar, on the same floor as the observation deck, has a prohibition era feel and really friendly staff. The barrel aged mint julep cocktail was not very good, a little too sweet and simple for the $15 price tag; but wine is always a safe bet and they have a good selection of reasonably priced glasses. We would not call this a “must see attraction” but it was an enjoyable activity with great views of the city and surrounding, this could also be a reasonable attraction during rainy weather. We spent about 2 hours total at Smith Tower and were lucky enough to snag discount tickets on Groupon.
Still craving sushi after our failed lunch attempt, we found Shiro’s Sushi on Yelp and made our way to the Belltown location. Unfortunately, Shiro’s was closed for the Memorial Day holiday so we decided it wasn’t meant to be and walked the two blocks back to Belltown Brewing where we’d spent time on Day 1. We tried another couple of their signature brews and split a salmon snack board, smoked tri-tip sandwich and mushroom pizza. The food was pretty mediocre, but the beers were quite good and we were hungry. During dinner we tried to think of one last thing to do since we didn’t have to leave for the airport for another few hours. We aren’t typically moviegoers, but we decided to catch a flick at Cinerama before getting a 9:30 pm Uber to Sea-Tac Airport.
That’s a wrap on our 3 full days in Seattle – Day 3 could’ve been better planned and executed, but we had fun and fell in love with the Emerald City. Did we nail the tourist agenda or leave off your favorite attraction? What would you do differently?