The world’s coffee-maker
In a city where it rains more than it shines, coffee is Seattle’s favourite ammo to chase away the blues. The java junkies of America’s coffee capital know their arabica from their robusta. And, they’ll patronise their local, artisanal espresso roaster that offers fair trade-certified coffee any day over Starbucks. Yes, the coffee behemoth was founded in Seattle, but don’t suggest going there to a local. Like them, head to Vivace, Victrola, D’arte, Umbria, Ladro or Vita. You won’t find a better picker-upper in the entire Pacific Northwest.
You’ll like this Pike
The world’s first Starbucks, in Pike Place Market, is a tourist trap. But, the market itself is a gastronomic haven and a technicolour wonderland luring you with fresh produce, flying fish, art, antiques and handmade chocolates. On a cold and rainy day (which is, duh, every day), thaw your insides with the market’s hot and chunky clam chowder. For dessert, bite into Piroshky Piroshky’s divine flaky-on-the-outside-gooey-on-the-inside Moscow Roll or cream cheese Vatrushka. And, just in case you’re chewing gum after your grub, stop by the Gum Wall under the market that’s turned masticating into outdoor art. Add your used gum to the wall and, hey, you’ll be in Pike Place forever.
Come as you are
If you’re a Nirvana fan, Seattle is your ground zero. Grunge was born and raised in Seattle by Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. A retrospective of their work and that of other legends such as Ray Charles, Quincy Jones and Jimi Hendrix (all got their start here) is often on display at the Experience Music Project. But, if ‘Smells like teen spirit’ or ‘Black hole sun’ are your musical poison, a show at music clubs The Crocodile and The Showbox is de rigueur. Venues such as Neumos, The Comet and Chop Suey assiduously promote emerging talent whose EPs are proudly retailed by Easy Street Records. Hailed as one of the best record stores in the US by Rolling Stone magazine, Easy Street’s plunder includes rare vinyl records and tons of music-related paraphernalia.
Sleepless in Seattle
When a bookshelf opens to reveal a Great Gatsby-esque manor, a nondescript door in a dingy parking lot is the gateway to a hip, candlelit cocktailry and an innocuous pink door is your ticket to burlesque, you know this city has nightlife worth boasting of. Seattle’s Prohibition-inspired speakeasies (Backdoor at Roxy’s, Needle and Thread, Bathtub Gin & Co and Aston Manor) and not-in-the-guidebooks watering holes (Knee High Stocking, E. Smith Mercantile, Tin Hat and The Upstairs) offer excellent hand-crafted cocktails. For something more risqué, the city’s sexy supper clubs (The Pink Door, Can Can, Unicorn and The Triple Door) offer an old vaudeville take on burlesque and cabaret.
Hitting the high way
Washington is one of the four US states to legalise recreational marijuana. Cannabis City became the first shop to sell it in Seattle, and now there are eight of them. All the shops sell different strains of weed in the form of flowers, pre-rolls, concentrates and edibles (marijuana-infused truffles, cookies, brownies, syrups and oils). You need to be above 21, and you can only consume it in a private property outside the view of the general public. Fail to do so and don’t be surprised if the feds come after you with pitchforks. A great source for local weedology is the websites dedicated exclusively to weed in Washington. To meet likeminded potheads, attend the Hempfest Festival (the world’s largest gathering that advocates legalising cannabis) that takes place in August, and check out the many weed tourism initiatives in and around the city.
A mandatory trip to the Space Needle isn’t exactly going to boost your street cred. But, something so spindly that it can withstand a 9.1 magnitude earthquake, looks like a UFO at the top and offers jaw-dropping views of Seattle truly ought to be eyeballed. The observation decks in Columbia Center (Washington’s tallest skyscraper) and the Smith Tower also offer great views and constitute Seattle’s architecture, which is an entertaining pastiche of styles. On the one hand, you have the eye-popping modernity of Frank Gehry’s Experience Music Project and Rem Koolhaas’s Seattle Public Library, and on the other, the antiquity of the Richardsonian Romanesque and the Renaissance Revival structures of Pioneer Square. Enrol for a walking tour conducted by the knowledgeable volunteers of Seattle Architecture Foundation or take a self-guided tour and end it at Kerry Park. The view offers a one-for-the-mantle-piece panorama of downtown Seattle.
Be the 12th
So, you’ve been in Seattle for a bit, seen countless establishments adorned with the number ‘12’, and wondered whether Seattle’s stuck in a time warp or, perhaps, is into numerology. The answer is connected to the reason Seattle houses one of the world’s loudest stadiums. CenturyLink Field is the stomping ground of home team Seattle Seahawks whose rabid, overzealous fans are called ‘the 12th Man’. They’re so loud that their decibel levels set off a nearby seismometer in a recent game. Their enthusiasm will have even you screaming ‘Go Hawks’. They might have missed the Lombardi Trophy at this year’s Super Bowl by a hair’s breadth, but for Seattle, they’re still champions
It’s a bird, it’s a plane
The locals might shrug their shoulders and feign indifference, but they’re actually mighty proud of its global giants Microsoft, Boeing, Amazon, Nordstrom, Corbis and Getty Images that were founded in (or closely around) Seattle. Boeing is now headquartered in Chicago, but still has a massive presence in Seattle. You can visit the Museum of Flight to see important artefacts from Boeing’s history such as the Air Force One that served presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, or watch test pilots effortlessly take off and land the latest Boeings barely 500 feet away. You can visit the Future of Flight, the only facility that offers a tour of a commercial jet assembly plant in the US. In their 90-minute-long tour, you can actually watch 747s, 777s and 787s being assembled in front of you. After the tour, you can pick your dropped jaw from the floor, wipe it clean and head to The Boeing Store for a souvenir model airplane.