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
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.
Pictured: The ferry from Bainbridge Island to Seattle
Pictured: John Legend performing at the Bumbershoot festival
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.