Seattle’s come a long way since its 1962 World’s Fair. If the 10 million visitors who flocked to the Space Needle that year had any foresight, they’d have never left, as Seattle now offers every type of food, drink, and activity an inhabitant could possibly ask of an urban center. But if you’re not yet ready to commit to a permanent move, here’s how to spend four days in a town one could easily devote a lifetime to exploring.
After rain, Seattle is perhaps best known for its contributions to music, and the Showbox and its little sister, Showbox SoDo, offer some of the best indie rock, punk, alternative, and hip-hop shows around. And the EMP Museum has lots to say about the history of the Seattle music scene (with plenty of emphasis on Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain, of course) in addition to hosting pop culture exhibits on everything from video games to horror movies. Meanwhile, if you’re an unabashed tourist who prioritizes sight-seeing, spring for a CityPASS, which will grant admission to EMP and more (including the Aquarium, Zoo, and gorgeous Chihuly Garden and Glass) for $74.
When you’re ready for a break from museum crowds, rent a bike from The Bicycle Repair Shop ($45/day for city bikes, $65/day for road bikes) and explore the city’s 135-mile bikeway network. For a scenic cruise, ride the 50-mile loop around Lake Washington. Or for a more adventurous challenge, take the ferry to Bainbridge Island for 33 miles of hills.
Seattle has some of the best seafood available in the country, most of which can be found within a two-mile radius. The very hyped Walrus and the Carpenter is, indeed, worth a visit — as long as you have an hour to spare waiting in line. Instead, your top priority should be stopping by RockCreek, where chef Eric Donnelly whips up some of the most interesting flavors found in seafood dishes anywhere. The menu changes seasonally, but the Neah Bay black cod, barbecued Alaskan octopus, and Hawaiian Tombo tuna crudo are must-tries if available. Stop by any one of three Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bars throughout the city for the freshest and best oysters in Seattle, perfect with a house oyster stout. Finally, round your seafood tour out at Bar Noroeste, a taqueria with cocktails as creative as their delicious fish tacos (the bar’s Masa y Aceite rum concoction — garnished with a braided corn stalk set on fire — is the way to go).
Seattle is a city to drink in. While coffee may have put the town on the map (when you’re done touring the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room, caffeinate like a local in the know at Storyville Coffee), Seattle has no shortage of fantastic cocktail joints such as Zig Zag Cafe, Herb & Bitter, and Canon. And Washington state produces some of the best wine in the country — check out Charles Smith Wines Jet City for a uniquely awesome urban winery experience. But Seattle’s true beverage star is beer. When Anheuser-Busch InBev bought Seattle’s Elysian Brewing last year, head experimental brewer Steve Luke left to start Cloudburst Brewing, where the creator of Elysian’s renowned Space Dust IPA now brews his own hybrid styles with unlimited creativity on a tiny 12-barrel system. Similarly, the new Holy Mountain Brewing is wowing locals with experimental sours and barrel-aged lagers, and a tiny brewery called Machine House is now cranking out British cask ales. And while these (relative) newbies are fantastic, don’t pass over Fremont Brewing, which has been kicking out killer IPAs, pale ales, and stouts for over seven years.
Stay at the Palladian, a boutique hotel from Kimpton in the heart of downtown, walking distance from Pike Place Market. Not only are the rooms classy and immaculate, they are adorned with portraits and pillows honoring modern celebrities as 18th-century Russian military generals. When you get hungry, shuffle downstairs to in-house restaurant, Shaker and Spear, where executive chef Carolynn Spence (formerly of Chateau Marmont and The Spotted Pig) recently took over to whip up delicious dishes like sage-roasted arctic char and seared scallops. Then stop by the hotel’s Pennyroyal Bar for well-crafted cocktails (ask for the Rambling Eagle, made with Eagle Rare bourbon, allspice, and St George Spiced Pear). But if all of this sounds like too much fuss, not far from the Palladian is the Hotel Max, which offers fewer frills at a slightly lower rate, in an equally awesome central location.
Don’t bother with a rental car when visiting Seattle, unless you plan on taking day trips. The city’s Link Light Rail will get you from the airport to downtown in 40 minutes flat for under $3. Once you’re settled in, Uber is cheap and plentiful throughout the city.