Pike Place Market in Seattle

Best of Seattle: Our Favorite Moments

Perched near the edge of the continent, Seattle is a town that has always reached for the future. A land of extremes, the Emerald City is caffeine-driven yet laid-back, practical yet dreamy, soggy yet obsessive about the great outdoors. This pioneer-spirited town is a mix of the old and the new: from the former brothels of the Gold Rush era to the take-your-breath-away architecture of the Central Library. And where else will you find folks planted at a crosswalk in the pouring rain, nary a car in sight, clutching their lattes and waiting patiently for the crossing signal? Seattle is a quirky, endearing town, and here are a few of the things we like best about it. 

Pictured above: Pike Place Market

The fish market inside Pike Place Market, Seattle
Epukas/Wikimedia Commons
Dodging the flying fish
Working the crowds just behind Rachel, the giant piggybank that guards Seattle's beloved Pike Place Market, fishmonger-entertainers noisily toss salmon back and forth across the counter. Watch out for the monkfish that has been known to snap at customers—with a little help from a hidden market staffer yanking a string.
The SkyCity restaurant on top of the Space Needle in Seattle
Lindsay Kennedy
Spinning at the Space Needle
On a clear day—or even a cloudy one—head to the Space Needle's SkyCity revolving restaurant for a uniquely Seattle dining experience. You'll view the city from every angle as you rotate your way through lunch or dinner. A trip to the observation deck is included in the price of your meal. Top it off with a fudgy Lunar Orbiter—complete with dry-ice Seattle "fog."
The Fremont Troll or the Troll Under the Bridge in Seattle
Lindsay Kennedy
Climbing on the troll
Hunkered under the Aurora Bridge in the funky Fremont neighborhood is a menacing, shaggy-haired troll, clutching a replica Volkswagen Beetle in his gnarly left hand. Ill-tempered he may be, but he's never harmed any of the tourists who scramble up for photo ops.

A tour of underground Seattle
Howard Frisk
Going down under

Seattle wasn't always on the level—at least, not the one folks walk on today. Down below historic Pioneer Square, guides with Bill Speidel's Underground Tour lead you through subterranean passages that were once Seattle streets, along the way relating spicy tales of the city's quirky and occasionally naughty early history. 

The ferry from Bainbridge Island to Seattle
Howard Frisk
Riding a ferryboat
Gliding across the Puget Sound is one of the best ways to experience this city, which is all about water. The passengers tapping away at their laptops are local commuters, taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi. Grab a scone and a latte on board, then head out on deck and enjoy the view. You can walk aboard or drive your car. 

Pictured: The ferry from Bainbridge Island to Seattle
The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Seattle
Howard Frisk
Watching the fish climb
At the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks—also known as the Ballard Locks—see the world's smartest salmon climb the ladders, determined to get from Puget Sound to the lakes and streams where the next generation will begin a journey of its own. Be sure to wave at the boats going up and down in the locks. It's a Seattle tradition.
John Legend performs at Bumbershoot in Seattle
Partying at Bumbershoot
Seattle celebrates summer like nobody's business. The mother of all the nonstop festivals is Bumbershoot, held at Seattle Center on Labor Day weekend to "welcome" back the rainy season. Expect most anything at eclectic Bumbershoot, from stilt-walkers to impromptu parades to sculptures made of junk.

Pictured: John Legend performing at the Bumbershoot festival
Tillicum Village in Seattle
Howard Frisk
Savoring salmon at Tillicum Village
The local Native Americans greeted Seattle's pioneer families warmly, and you'll get a taste of that hospitality at Tillicum Village. As your boat lands, you'll be handed a steaming bowl of clams, then set free to explore Blake Island while salmon roasts in the longhouse. During dinner, enjoy an entertaining show of tribal dances and legends. The high-tech special effects are not exactly traditional, but they're pretty cool nonetheless.
New Year's fireworks at the Space Needle in Seattle
Ringing in the New Year at the Needle

You've never seen fireworks like these. Exuberant explosions of color climb their way up the Needle as festive music booms in the background. Get to Seattle Center around 10:30pm and stake out the highest spot you can find on the west side of the Center House, near the front. Then send someone inside to fetch hot cocoa and popcorn. 

Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle
Curling up with a book at Elliott Bay Book Company

Get lost in Seattle's favorite bookstore, which packed up its tomes in 2010 and moved from its longtime Pioneer Square location to great digs on Capitol Hill. You'll find a jaw-dropping collection and a knowledgeable staff to help you navigate the place. You can grab a bite at the onsite Little Oddfellows Cafe

Rollerblading along Alki Beach in Seattle
Howard Frisk
Soaking up the sun at Alki Beach
The Denny Party pioneers credited with founding the city knew a good thing when they saw it, which is why they made Alki Beach the "Birthplace of Seattle" in 1851. Today, you can gaze across the Puget Sound at the Seattle skyline as you bike, skate, or walk along a 2-mile (3km) path skirting the sandy beach. Bikes, blades, and go-carts are available for rent. Word of warning: The water's chilly!
Sunrise in the Lake Union section of Seattle
Visiting the neighbors

Rent a kayak and explore the charming floating neighborhoods on Lake Union. About 500 Seattleites live on the water, in houseboats of every size and shape—including the one featured in the movie Sleepless in Seattle. Just like any city, there are some upscale areas and others populated by funky little vessels. 

Fliers posted to a wall in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood
Hollywata / Flickr
Reliving the '90s on Capitol Hill

The grunge era lives on in this colorful neighborhood, where college students and hangers-on from the '90s still cling to the heyday of Seattle's music scene. Piercings and mohowks abound, as do funky consignment shops, great little ethnic cafes with student-friendly prices, and some of the best coffee in town. 

The Landing of the Pirates at Alki Beach in Seattle
Ogling the pirates
Seafair is a month of merriment and mischief, kicked off in early July with the Landing of the Pirates at Alki Beach (pictured above). That's right, pirates—mostly the Viking kind, whose blood coursed through the veins of Seattle's largely Scandinavian settlers. Nearly every neighborhod has its own Seafair festival. The zany Torchlight Parade downtown is a highlight.
Seattle's monorail runs past the Space Needle.
Howard Frisk
Riding the monorail

Built for the 1962 World Fair, it's only a mile-long ride, but gliding above downtown is a truly memorable experience. The monorail starts at Seattle Center and ends on the upper floor of the upscale Westlake Center mall. In between, you zoom through the center of the bizarre but fascinating Experience Music Project, an innovative museum designed by Frank Gehry and inspired by Seattle native Jimi Hendrix. From the air, the EMP looks like a smashed guitar. 

The original Starbucks at Pike Place Market in Seattle
Sipping lots of lattes

You can't get a better cuppa joe anywhere in the world than right here, where the nation's espresso craze began. Even if you don't know your double-tall-skinny-no-whip from your venti-soy-half-caff, it's fun to make a pilgrimage to the original Starbucks at Pike Place Market. It's standing-room-only, so carry your cup with you as you browse the market stalls.