Life

Surprised In Seattle: How The City Defies A First-Timer’s Expectations


I only know Seattle for three things: The Seattle Seahawks, The Space Needle, and Grey’s Anatomy. The last one doesn’t really count because the show isn’t even filmed in Seattle. The point is, my knowledge of the Emerald City was about as scarce as black people living there. Seriously. By the end of my trip I just assumed the other black people I saw were either family/friends of a Seahawk or tourists looking for the fun to be had in the “coolest city in America.”

Lack of visible black folks aside, it was impossible to deny that there really is fun to be had and that Seattle really might be the coolest city. It was perfect for me in particular — a person who usually gets bored by day two or three of being someplace new and wants to revert to staring at the same four New York City walls.

Here’s what I recommend for any first timer to Seattle looking to hit the standard spots while also being surprised.

DOWNTOWN

First, you’ll need a place to stay, obviously. I skipped Airbnb and went with the Motif Seattle, A Destination Hotel due to its location. Property is situated in the downtown area of the city and has plenty of shops within walking distance. There’s also a dope outdoor bar/restaurant called Frolik Kitchen + Cocktails that occasionally has a live band as part of their live concert series. As someone who’s with her headphones for the better part of every day, I forgot how much I enjoyed live music. The food was great too, and because it’s Seattle, a port city, the seafood was particularly excellent.

Here’s a tip: if you want a potent drink, ask for The Log Cabin. I couldn’t take two sips without feeling like I was about to grow a full beard and become a lumberjack.

I found the best thing about the hotel, however, was how they’ve uncovered unique ways to integrate elements of Seattle into its design. They apparently work with local creatives who make cool little artwork for the hotel. One instance is a decorative pillow that bears titles of popular songs written in Seattle. The bathroom also includes a vinyl album cover portrait of iconic albums by Seattleites. This place won’t let you forget you’re in a Seattle, but in a good way.

For a more contemporary option, there’s the Thompson Seattle. It’s also the place to stay if you want to harass celebrities for Insatagrammable selfies. I spotted Issae Rae coming out an elevator and it took all of me not to start singing “Broken Pussy” to her in the lobby.

As far as convenience goes, the hotel is also located a block away from Pike Place Market, the nation’s oldest farmer’s market still operating today. Yes, the market is a congested tourist trap, and if you hate people, like me, you’ll hate it. But you also won’t hate it, because even locals can’t resist the seemingly endless varieties of seafood, meat, and cheeses. Downtown is also home to a particular little spot I was put onto by a local. Biscuit Bitch. They make the best biscuits in the city, but I was already sold on the name alone.

They were blasting Lil Kim’s “Queen Bitch” when I entered the establishment, and I immediately fell in love. “What a wondrous place of joy!” Being #onbrand as fuck, all food options had “bitch” in their name. Buttered-up Bitch, Straight-Up Bitch, Smokin’ Hot Bitch, and their most popular item, the Gritty Scrambled Cheesy Bitch. I ended up choosing the Bichwhich, a biscuit sandwich with egg, cheddar, and bacon. I added a hotlink to my order since I fancy myself a “spicy bitch.” The hype was real as the biscuit sandwich was satisfying.

A trip to Seattle must include a stop at the Space Needle for FOMO reasons. Fear of missing out is why I continue to visit tall ass buildings when visiting a city. There’s literally zero thrill in being high up and seeing the tops of other buildings. None whatsoever. But yet I still stuffed myself in the crowded elevator and reached the top floor, walked outside and pretended to be amazed by buildings shrouded in overcast weather. I’m fake as fuck.

INDUSTRIAL

Just 20 minutes south of downtown is the historic section of Georgetown, known for its many breweries and brewpubs. Check out the Georgetown Brewing Company where they offer ten free samples of beer. Unfortunately, no pints for purchase but there are good amounts of kegs, cans, and growlers of Manny’s, Lucille, Johnny Utah and more available. If GBC doesn’t do the trick, just step outside and take your pick of other local breweries.

The popular Fonda la Catrina also calls Georgetown home. The Mexican restaurant serves all your faves from south of the border including a heavenly queso fundido con chorizo that I completely devoured and still think about today. Get desert across the street at Fran’s, a Seattle-based family-owned chocolate company with mouth-watering salted caramels that I wish I bought more of.

While you’re in the neighborhood, get artsy at Equinox Studio, the home to dozens of artists including a world-renowned glassmaker named Julie Conway. I visited Conway’s glassmaking studio decked with beautifully designed glass sculptures and dramatic lighting fixtures. Conway was cool enough to let me play with concentrated fire hotter than hell and make a magic wand sculpture I named “Cinderella’s Escape.” It fell and broke into a billion pieces 24 hours later. Poetic.

WATERFRONT

To get your adrenaline pumping, head to Kirkland and jet ski along Lake Washington. Woodmark Hotel & Still Spa, A Destination Hotel was my best bet for lodging, as it’s right on the water. I don’t know about you, but I like when things are close in proximity because I’m also lazy as hell, don’t drive, and can’t spend all my time on Ubers and Lyfts.

Paddleboarding and kayaking are also options here if you’re not into going 40 MPH on a WaveRunner past Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos’ homes. They also have cool boat tours available if you just want to lay back and kick it while enjoying the majestic scenery. I took one of those tours with hopes of pulling up on Bill Gates and leaving with a sack full of money, but they said I couldn’t. Lame.

While it’s not quite the same as becoming an instant millionaire, I still enjoyed cruising aboard the Woodmark II, a 1956 28-foot Chris-Craft Sedan Express. I won’t pretend like I know shit about boats but this one was pretty impressive because it looked small on the outside, but it was pretty spacious inside with a lounge area, dining/kitchenette, bathroom, and bedding. Why ever go home?

I also don’t want to gloss over the fact that this place also has a spa on premises. I love luxury shit, and as a millennial, I absolutely feel entitled to a great spa treatment that’ll leave me feeling more relaxed than this country’s gun laws. I opted for a hot stone massage. I felt so comfortable I ended falling asleep for 15 minutes post-massage. Heated bed, heated rocks, low light, and the gentle hands of massage therapist Amber? I’m out!

Take a walk downtown Kirkland to check out the area and for some saltwater taffy at Lady Yum, because who the hell doesn’t love candy? Dinner can be eaten at Bottle and Bull. Tip: Their pork belly sliders are full of flavor and highly recommended! Head around the corner for dessert to Coffee and Cone for a cone of rich ice cream. Get whatever you want, but owner Sonny Vasquez will push you towards trying the cookies and cream flavor. Don’t push back. He’s right.

The cookies and cream on a waffle cone will make you want to go back for seconds.

If you’re in the mood for wine, take a tour of JM Cellars, a small but breathtaking winery in Woodinville, a town 15-minute drive from Kirkland. The owner, John Bigelow, is a gregarious, expert sommelier who will impress with his knowledge of wine all while showing you around his gorgeous chateau. I’m not a fan of wine but one must appreciate the passion it takes to speak about fermented grape juice.

COUNTRYSIDE

The end is near so everything is currently on fire. Really. Dozens of wildfires have gripped the Pacific Northwest with the strength of a million Vulcans. In fact, I encountered specks of ash floating right outside the airport.

“I expect my Seattle rain to be in liquid form,” I thought.

So for safety reasons, I skipped going to the Suncadia Resort. The amazingly picturesque resort is near Jolly Mountain which is currently up in smoke. The fire was sparked when Mr. Wednesday struck the area with lightning early August, and since then, the fire has consumed over 36,0000 acres and is still ongoing today. What a bummer because I was so looking forward to hiking, biking and doing all the other fun and adventurous activities I’m not able to do in the concrete jungle where my dreams are made of.

Maybe next time? One can only hope. Because I’m sure Seattle has a few more surprises waiting.

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