Have you heard? We just released our first travel series, “Go, Be You,” with Alaska Airlines! So we’re spending the next eight weeks highlighting every city we toured across the West Coast. This travel series is about more than the destination itself; we’re taking a look at why certain cities have the power to unlock the best versions of ourselves. As you get to planning your next trip, we hope you enjoy the suggestions that follow.
And don’t miss the Seattle episode at the end of this post!
What is the magnetic pull that draws us to a place in time? The kind of pull that envelops your mind and soul like a thick fog upon the shore. You know there’s something there for you, it just isn’t quite clear. Seattle is and really always has been that for me, my direct line to community and culture. I fell in love with the city a long time ago and it continues to evolve and draw me in closer with its sea salt air, brilliant influence and non-confirmative spirit.
Seattle is its own rare breed, where the right and left brained intertwine and grow.
At the very middle of the Emerald City, you will find much more than just tourism. In fact, Seattle Center holds a wealth of communal activity. Several years ago, Seattle’s independent radio station KEXP, moved into a large space at Seattle Center, which they now dub the “gathering space.” Here, the station casts live broadcasts daily to an open shared space. It’s also here that you will find La Marzocco Cafe, who carefully select choice beans from around the globe to rotate monthly tastings in the cafe. With some of the finest coffee in hand and a live, on-air DJ setting the tune, it’s only natural to want to get lost in a vinyl dig through indie record label Light In The Attic’s pop-up music shop.
This whole collective space brings together creative and intellectual thinkers alike, as well as many young families, artists and an overall eclectic Seattle scene to share ideas with locals or for people just stopping by for a taste of what makes this city tick.
The Seattle Center is a hub of cultural stimuli. Each Memorial Day weekend, the Center transforms into a melting pot of live dance, music, food, crafts and learning. I have vivid memories of going to the Northwest Folklife Festival as a kid. There were so many sounds, smells, flavors and sights that were all new and exhilarating to me…full of wonderment and all at my fingertips. Now as an adult, I love that the city still keeps this tradition alive. It’s a place where you can get a snapshot of what makes Seattle so unique and really soak up the beauty of its humanity.
High above all of this, looking over her fair city, peers the Space Needle, standing like a beacon on the Sound. And as you continue to explore this area, you’ll find yourself immersed in fantasy, science fiction, music and film history at the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP). When it was built, most in the city didn’t understand what this giant chunk of unidentifiable metal was supposed to be. Designed by Paul Allen to resemble Jimi Hendrix’ smashed guitar from a bird’s eye view, the Experience Music Project (EMP) was introduced as a place to share Seattle’s strong musical heritage.
As it has evolved, it’s now called MoPOP and is still very much dedicated to the music but also with cataloging and displaying a wider expanse of pop culture history. Recently re-imagined and open to the public, I’m really looking forward to getting back and checking out the Nirvana: Bringing Punk to the Masses exhibit to see artifacts and learn more about one of the most notable bands to put Seattle on the map.
Would you like to know where brilliant design, innovation, peace, quiet and knowledge all reside under one roof? They can all be found at the Seattle Central Library in downtown. From the outside, it’s visual presence is breathtaking. Looking like a diamond-mirrored geometric geiser, it feels as though you are stepping into a palace of the future.
Designed by Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus and reopened to the public in 2004, the library remains one of Seattle’s most remarkable pieces of architecture, with 10 floors of hundreds of stories and non-fiction literature. Each floor has its own unique design element, but the overall aesthetic of this building is one of future meets function. Clean lines, vibrant pops of bright lime escalators, a hall made of nothing other than red materials and natural light panes strategically planned. The Seattle Central Library is truly one of the most magical places to find here and makes a perfect escape on an often rain-soaked day.
Speaking of rain… nothing, and I mean nothing, pairs as perfectly with the weather as this city’s love for coffee. This liquid of the gods is the blood running through a Seattleite’s veins. It’s a way of life and an entire culture has been built around this little caffeinated bean. While I could wax poetic on the seemingly never-ending list of coffee shops I think you should visit, I think it’s a lot more interesting to see just how that coffee is sourced and roasted to be poured over your cup. That’s why I think it is so fantastic what Conduit coffee in Westlake is doing.
Conduit is creating a more intimate learning experience of the Seattle coffee scene. You get to take a walk through the roasting process while you hear firsthand what it’s like to be in the business of coffee on both a local and global scale, how they source their product and what goes into running their show. Along the way, you’ll get a sampling of their different beans and various methods of brewing and get to take home more knowledge of your favorite morning beverage than you had going in.
One thing I adore about Seattle is its flourishing roster of bars and restaurants. This seaworthy city is making a name for itself across a vast array of culinary spectrums. Perched atop the list of best fine dining restaurants in town lies Canlis, a family-owned business that has been around since the 1950s. What began as a stylish, mid-century modern home overlooking Lake Union still resembles its original retro glamour while boasting spectacular views of the skyline. Everything about this establishment is about refinement and class. Their exquisitely curated menu, wine selections, sophisticated design and unparalleled attention to service are only a few of the reasons why Canlis remains one of the finest in the city.
One Seattle native chef has been making waves in the city’s restaurant scene for the past decade. Her name is Renee Erickson and she is the owner of not one, but six noteworthy locations. Her aptly titled project Sea Creatures consists of an identifiably decorated and critically-acclaimed collection of eateries, bistros and bars. She even has a delectable doughnut shop in the lively neighborhood of Capitol Hill.
Not only is Erickson herself a local, but she likes to keep her menus locally sourced as well. Her Whidbey Island-based farmland entitled La Ferme des Anes provides her six locations with farm-fresh meat, dairy and vegetables. My advice to you? Try them all. Seriously. Start with a delicious lemon custard donut at General Porpoise, perfectly-balanced tartness and sweet. Then go for happy hour at Bar Melusine, where you can imbibe rich French wines while you feast on oysters for half the price. From there, it’s off to Bateau for veal sweetbread and perfectly prepared steak cuts of your choice served with bone marrow butter…mmm.
Now, I’d like to take you to two of my personal favorites, nestled in the once-sleepy, turned hip and undeniably adorable part of town called Ballard. It is here you will find The Walrus and The Carpenter and Barnacle, both within walking distance of one another. You’re not going to get better seafood than right here in Seattle, and The Walrus and the Carpenter offers a dazzling array. Fried oysters with cilantro aioli, grilled sardines, Sea Cow fresh oysters on the halfshell, salmon tartare…the list goes on.
Once you have had your fill, it’s important to have a little post-meal digestivo, no? Barnacle is a cozy Italian-inspired bar that offers small bites and amaro tastings.
This northwestern corner of the city is where old world meets new. Ballard has long been known as a quiet, seafaring community with a primarily Scandinavian heritage. In fact, that heritage is about to be more accessible to the neighborhood with the reopening of The Nordic Museum. This Mithun-designed space opens its new doors this May and features a very minimalist, Nordic aesthetic with its sights set on teaching the community about Nordic-American history. Aside from its culturally rich art and artifact exhibits, this new version of the museum will also host live musical performances, literary readings, lectures, conferences and film nights.
If you’d like to keep the Scandinavian theme rolling, you’ll definitely want to stop in for a tour of the Old Ballard Liquor Co. and its Aquavit distillery, then stay for a tasting of the latest creations at pop-up shop, Tumble Swede. Owner and chef Lexi will cook you up an insanely delicious and creamy fiskesuppe, while you nosh on a platter of coriander-pickled herring and alder-smoked salmon, paired with your choice of any number of their perfectly crafted and herbed Aquavit variants.
Following the water east towards the Sound, the Ballard Locks serve as a gateway for boats to travel from the saltwater of the sea in to the freshwater of Lake Union. This plays an important role in Seattle’s access to some of the freshest seafood you can get your hands on. Watching the boats come in or out and observing the fish ladders is one way you can get a glimpse of Ballard’s vintage charm. But so much new life has been born upon the area. Now one of Seattle’s trendiest neighborhoods, you can find some of the best coffee, shopping, restaurants and cocktails in one tiny, walkable fishing town.
I’d like to end my love letter to Seattle with the most awe-inspiring view in the entire city. Enter: Discovery Park. If I had just one beautiful afternoon to spend in this city, I would have no regrets passing the time here. This is Seattle’s largest public park and green space, with miles upon miles of trails. You can pass through dense forest, cross streams, through open meadows and fields that will bring you to long stretches of sand dunes and shoreline.
This park is more than simply Northern exposure to the elements, it’s said to be an “outdoor classroom for people to learn about the natural world,” which is very much true. Discovery is immensely rich in geological and ecological offerings near the city. You can come here to find peace. You can come here to be reminded of the natural world that exists not so far from the bustle of the city.
But if there is only one view you take in the entire time you’re here, I hope you can take in the glistening Puget Sound from the lighthouse at the westernmost point of the park. You’ll look out over liquid gold onto the majestic scape of the Olympic and Cascade Mountain Range.
Breathe it all in. This is my Seattle.
This post was sponsored by Darling’s airline partner, Alaska Airlines. All thoughts and reviews remain Darling’s own.
Watch “Go, Be You” Episode 7 – Seattle
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Feature Image via Jeremy Perkins