You Can’t Be That Cool, Seattle

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In high school, you know how there’s always that one person who comes off as intimidating and you don’t like them because it seems like they have everything you want in life but you secretly wish you were best friends? Then when you finally get to know them, you find out that they’re super friendly and talented, and on some level, it makes you even more jealous but makes you want to be more awesome than you already are.

That’s what Seattle was to me. Everywhere I walked, I kept thinking, “you can’t be that cool” and yet the city continued to stun me with each step I took. Seattle is a medley of NYC and Boston so naturally I felt right at home, and as each day passed, I fell asleep thinking “Thanks a lot, Seattle, for making the rest of the country look bad.”

It all started with a 3-hour Amtrak ride into King Street station with nothing but trees, water, and small towns to look at the whole way. Not a thing to complain about there. Walking up 1st Ave to the hostel, I felt intimidated. I knew I had stepped into another West coast gem of heavy influence and it instantly clicked with me why everyone loves Seattle. With cupcake stores, coffee shops, art studios, restaurants, museums, and parks galore, who wouldn’t be satisfied here?

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Everyone raves about Los Angeles being the place to be, and with all due respect, they’re wrong. California, in general, certainly has some attractive qualities, but places like San Francisco , Portland , and Seattle often get brushed out of the spotlight. So how can I stick up for a city I hardly know? True, I only spent a week here. However, in that time, I’ve seen some of the best and no so great parts of the city, and quite frankly, I’m jealous of all it has to offer.

Nestled away in the Green Tortoise hostel for a week, I was in close proximity to the the Pike Place Market and the waterfront with a waft of fish consistently coming through the lounge windows. It was a treat to be steps away from all sorts of markets and easy access to fresh fruit. The SEOmoz office was right around the corner as well, and I chuckled (that’s right, I said chuckled) to myself every time I walked by to see a cardboard cutout of Rand Fishkin in the window. The hostel is also conveniently located just blocks away from all sorts of restaurants and food joints.

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As for getting around, you have 5 options, you can walk, rent a bike, take the bus ($2.25), ride the Link light rail (the light rail will take you to/from airport), or take a cab. I’m not an advocate for cabs though especially when there are much cheaper options available. The bus is fun to ride and a great option for a cheap tour of the city without commentary. There is even a free-ride zone between Battery St. to S. Jackson St. and east at 6th Avenue to the waterfront on the west.

If you get the chance, spend a couple days and nights exploring the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Capitol Hill has the largest concentration of Seattle’s gay community, and it makes me feel so overjoyed to see multi-colored flags flying everywhere. To go someplace where people are comfortable with their sexuality and proud of who they are is amazing! I can’t forget to mention the ideal situation of having an entertainment district with shopping and bars mixed in with a quiet, residential neighborhood and a park. It’s a twenty-something’s utopia. They even have metal feet implanted into the cement so you can learn the steps to different dances like the tango.

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The more time I spend in Seattle, the more I could see calling it my west coast home. Having spent the last month on west coast, I can see that the East coast & middle America have some catching up to do in terms of culture and progressive thinking. Seattle has set the bar high, and I cannot wait to go back.

Where to eat:

  • Harried & Hungry (1415 3rd Avenue) – Small shop with cheap and mighty delicious soups, salads, and sandwiches.
  • Toss’d Salads (1420 5th Avenue) – Create your own salads with fresh veggies, and save the “tossed salad” jokes for someone else.
  • Pike Place Market – Indulge in the clam chowder especially on rainy days which, in Seattle, is pretty much every day.
  • Chinatown – For a variety of cheap Chinese restaurants, Chinatown is your best bet. Duh!
  • Baguette Box (1203 Pine St.) – All I have to say is Drunken Chicken Salad.
  • Red Mango – There was one right around the corner from the hostel, a very dangerous place to be.

Many of the smaller cafes and one-off restaurants downtown close between 2-4pm so if you’re looking for a nice dinner, the shopping plazas around 6th Ave & Pine St are the place to go. If you’re staying at any of the hostels, you can make your own meals, or you may luck out and find certain hostels serve a free dinner on some nights.

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What to do:

  • Walk through all 3 floors of Pike Place Market for farmer’s market food, fresh fruits & veggies, and antique stores
  • Walk or bike down by the water where you can stop and take a ride on the ferris wheel
  • On a nice day, ride to the top of the Space Needle and walk through Dale Chihuly’s Glass Garden display
  • Take a stroll through the Japanese Garden during a weekday afternoon. It’s quiet, serene, and a nice change of pace from the city foot traffic.
  • Eat lunch in Chinatown and admire the architecture. If you’re in town during the summer, don’t miss Chinatown’s weekend long Dragon Fest.
  • Spend a rainy day indoors at the Seattle Art Museum
  • Spend your nights out on the town in Capitol Hill – the most residential part of Seattle with the largest entertainment district
  • Catch a Seattle Mariners game at Safeco Field
  • Take a walking tour or bike around the city

Fun fact: As of July 1, in an effort to reduce environmental waste, stores will charge you 5 cents for a plastic bag to carry your items. Neat! It is also a law that the city of Seattle must recycle appropriate materials, and people can pay a hefty fine for not doing so.

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