Looking at Seattle from a literally aerial perspective, you can see a variety of hills and enough trees to reverse global warming. One of the most unique aspects of Seattle is the distinct culture within each neighborhood. Each one has so much to offer that it sometimes becomes difficult to leave the one in which you live. However, to become a well-seasoned Seattle-ite, it is crucial to at least know these major neighborhoods with a long walk.
To begin, there is the classic Downtown area. Of course there are shopping centers, towering skyscrapers, and business people on their lunch break, but downtown Seattle is unique in that it also offers tourist destinations like Pike Place Market– an outdoor market filled with local vendors selling products (honey, flowers, seafood, jewelry) that arrive fresh daily. Whether you are seeing a show at the grand Paramount, 5th Avenue theatre or a movie at the many theatres, there is a wide choice for entertainment. Additionally, if you’re tired of window shopping, the waterfront offers magnificent views of the Puget Sound and fresh fish and chips at a variety of waterfront restaurants.
If you walk just a bit south, you’ll run into the historic Pioneer Square. This is the oldest neighborhood in Seattle, which is evident through the distinctly-historic architecture and stately vibe. This monumental Seattle neighborhood stands aside two large stadiums. Home to many different galleries and restaurants, it is a definite tourist destination. A unique tour of Pioneer Square is offered here This literally underground tour walks through the first neighborhood in Seattle, before the devastating flood which caused the re-building of the city.
On a looming hill, scanning the city, rests the eclectic Capitol Hill. Home to many hipsters searching for vegan cuisine and politically- progressive people, Capitol Hill is an excellent place to thrift shop, as well as find a used book store, a pub and a yoga studio. The rustically elegant, award-winning Spinasse offers buttery goodness in the form of made-on-site spaghetti and many other to-die-for Italian specialties. On the other end of the spectrum, there are restaurants like Rancho Bravo, a hole-in-the-wall Mexican food joint with authentic dishes dripping with sour cream and garnished with house-made hot sauce. After a fantastic meal, our city walk continues into Madison Beach.
Madison Beach is an upscale neighborhood resting on the bank of Lake Washington. Covered with many parks and historic houses, Madison Beach and Madison Valley have a small, central location with excellent restaurants, boutiques and cafes. The grassy beach shore dives into cool but pleasant water, and swimmers can rest on a floating dock attached with two diving boards (one for the daring and the other for the classic relaxed dive). For the beach lover who loves a mellow walk and a small collection of diverse restaurants, this neighborhood is the perfect fit.
On the other end of Seattle, lined by more of the Puget sound, is another historic district–Ballard. The trailhead of the 27-mile-long Burke-Gilman Trail begins here aside various warehouses. Along the shore of Ballard is Golden Gardens Beach, a favorite summer destination with perfect sunsets and designated fire pits. Essential for the complete Seattle experience is a dinner at Ray’s Boathouse, a shorefront restaurant with fresh seafood, a beautiful dining room and a large deck. Ballard also has an excellent central district with fantastic boutiques and dining options such as The Matador, a chic Tex-Mex cuisine is offered here with a generous selection of tequila.
Looking directly across the Puget Sound from Ballard is West Seattle, known for it’s boardwalk-esque beach, Alki. Alki provides a long trail for bikers, roller-bladers, walkers and joggers. There are also kayak rentals available to paddle across the Sound. If you prefer a more sun-absorbing experience, the sandy beach on the shore of the ocean is dotted with a few restaurants ranging from burger joints, fish and chips and fine dining. However, you might be satisfied with many of the hot dog stands and ice cream stands that are conveniently located directly next to or on the shore.
Reclining on Lake Union, Fremont is home to many music aficionados, art galleries, local food options and the famous Summer Solstice Parade (known for its nude Solstice cyclers). Artsy and quaint, Fremont has a less-defined central area, but what it lacks in distinction it makes up for in its very unique Fremont pride. Known to Fremont natives as “The Center of the Known Universe”, Fremont is also famous for its “Fremont Troll”, a stone sculpture with a real Volkswagen Beetle in hand, located under the north end of the Aurora Bridge.
Nested on top of one of Seattle’s many hills is Queen Anne, a calmer neighborhood with breathtaking architecture and sweeping views of the cities. One of the best-known views of Seattle is Kerry Park, a favorite destination for romantic dreamers and wedding photographers alike. At the base of the hill is one of the city’s most prominent features–the Space Needle and Seattle Center. The Space Needle is a tall structure that looks similar to a UFO with a long and elegant stem base. Seattle Center offers a science center along with the striking EMP (the Experience Music Project); a hands-on music museum/play center. The EMP is distinctly known for it’s unique architecture, which looks somewhat like a large cloud of brightly-colored metal.
Seattle has much to offer for the outdoorsman/woman, foodie, nature-lover, adventurer, music and theatre expert, avid shopper, and more. Being as varietal and diverse as possible, it is definitely a place for almost anyone to enjoy. My advice is to start out with a steaming cup of Stumptown Coffee, a Hot Pot doughnut and no direction whatsoever; you will find yourself in a great spot wherever you go.