Seattle. The once-sleepy Northwest city has become a booming Pacific Rim metropolis, and longtime resident Jessica Cantlin had a ringside seat for it. Herewith, what's new and timeless in Washington's Queen City.
SEATTLE, Washington – Seattle is a constantly evolving city. The expansion of Microsoft, Starbucks, Amazon, and countless other companies has caused unprecedented urban growth, which has in turn transformed the demographics and landscape of the beautiful city. With the exception of a few years in the mid-'90s, I have lived my entire life in Seattle and have witnessed from a ringside seat its change from sleepy Northwest city to booming Pacific Rim metropolis. Put the rain aside, and you will find a lush city surrounded by mountains and ocean and full of incredible restaurants and friendly people. Here's the inside scoop on what is new — and timeless — in Seattle.
WAKE UP TO THE VIEW
The opening of the Thompson Hotel across from Pike Place Market brings high design and luxury to the edge of downtown. Designed by local famed architects Olson Kundig, the Thompson combines sleek contemporary exteriors with interiors influenced by the Pacific Northwest landscape. The Nest, the hotel's rooftop bar, has a cozy sanctum for dark and stormy nights and an expansive outdoor lounge for warm summer evenings that call for stargazing around a cozy fire pit. The View rooms command incredible panoramas of Elliott Bay and Pike Place Market. With the freeway a mile behind the hotel, the only noise comes from the ferries pulling in and out of the docks below.
Instead of lining up at the original Starbucks, stop for coffee at Storyville in Pike Place Market and sip an excellent espresso while enjoying second-story views of the market chaos. A half-mile away, the sunbathed space of Elm Coffee Roasters in Pioneer Square is another favorite for coffee breaks.
BRUNCH LIKE IT'S YOUR JOB
Arguably the most popular of restauranteur Linda Derschang's portfolio of local restaurants, Oddfellows is an all-day, everyday establishment for eating, sipping, working, and relaxing. Come weekend, pull up to the dock at nautical-themed Westward for a Greek-inspired brunch on the shores of Lake Union. Lounge in Adirondack chairs while enjoying a perfectly spicy bloody mary alongside a fluffy Dutch baby pancake or a fried Pacific oyster roll.
Stop in at Seattle Art Museum as soon as it opens to avoid crowds. The museum has an excellent permanent collection of contemporary and Native American art and regularly hosts wonderful rotating exhibits. Artist John Grade's jaw-dropping Middle Fork, a sculpture that echoes the contours of a 140-year-old western hemlock from the Cascade Mountains, was recently installed in the lobby. On the smaller scale, Pioneer Square is home to a number of wonderful galleries. My favorites are Stonington Gallery, which features a remarkable collection of Native American art, and Foster White Gallery, for its premier selection of painting, sculpture, glass, and photography.
On Capitol Hill, shop for luxury bath and body goods at Aesop, and peruse the wonderful collection of home furnishings and rugs at Homestead. Further up the hill is Totokaelo, Seattle's premier boutique for men's and women's cutting-edge designer clothing (an outpost recently opened in New York's SoHo). Totokaelo also sells a beautiful selection of ceramics. Next door, browse the shelves at Elliott Bay Book Company, a Seattle institution that recently relocated from Pioneer Square to Capitol Hill.
Venture south to SoDo to experience Filson's incredible new flagship store. In Pioneer Square, check out E. Smith Mercantile for the selection of goods and apparel carefully curated to spotlight quality American craftsmanship.
LUNCH IN THE PARK
When Weyerhaeuser relocated its corporate headquarters to a shiny new building adjacent to Occidental Park, the heart of Pioneer Square started beating once again. If the weather is nice, grab lunch from one of the food trucks and eat alfresco, or pick up take-out from Manu's Tacos. If it's drizzling, have lunch inside cozy mainstay The London Plane (the mezze plate is not to be missed) or the new Mexican spot Copal.
GET OUT ON THE WATER
A sunny day in Seattle calls for time on the water. Hop over to South Lake Union (SLU) and rent a boat from The Electric Boat Company for a self-guided tour of Lake Union. Or board the Sunday Ice Cream Cruise for a cone and a boat ride around the lake. Cruises depart the docks by the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) throughout the day.
FROZEN TREATS AND BAKED SWEETS
Kurt Farm Shop in Chophouse Row on Capitol Hill churns out delicious ice cream and fresh cheese made locally from Kurt's cows on Vashon Island. Next door, Amandine sells delicious French macarons and other small-batch pastries. Around the corner, Frankie & Jo's delicate plant-based ice cream is turning heads with flavors like Salty Caramel Ash and Date Shake.
DID YOU SMELL THAT?
Now that Washington state has legalized marijuana, Seattle is suddenly on the cutting edge of all things cannabis. If it's not your thing, don't act surprised or offended if you happen past others casually partaking. If you are curious and want to check out the hype, take a field trip to Uncle Ike's Pot Shop, one of the first retail stores to open after legalization. Bring cash and I.D. and don't be afraid to ask questions. For deep dives, book a session with Van der Pop, a modern cannabis experience that offers discretion, education, style, and the opportunity to purchase the best accessories to store, smoke, and share weed.
THE HAPPIEST HOUR
On Capitol Hill, stroll into Upper Bar Ferdinand in the back of Chop House Row for a glass of sparkling rosé and house-cured charcuterie. In Pioneer Square, you can sample the best wines from Willamette and Walla Walla Valley producers at Estates Wine Room. For a pre-dinner cocktail, The Nest at Thompson Hotel and Mbar in South Lake Union have excellent outdoor terraces with spectacular views of the city that call for a sundowner.
TIME FOR DINNER
It seems that every week a new restaurant opens in Seattle, which means it's hard to go wrong when deciding where to dine. Sushi Kashiba, hands-down the best sushi in Seattle, serves new and traditional takes on raw seafood and has excellent service. If raw isn't your jam, Matt's in the Market a block away has been around for a long time but is still one of the best for Pacific Northwest fare. (Be sure to order the chips and dip.) Feeling adventurous? Hail an Uber for the quick ride to Copine, where Per Se alum Shaun McCrain pairs contemporary American cuisine with classic French techniques and the finest local ingredients. Finally, you can't go wrong with Seattle mainstay Canlis. Since taking the helm of their family's restaurant a few years ago, brothers Brian and Mark Canlis have completely revamped the local institution, renovating the space and reorganizing the staff. Two years ago, they brought on Brady Williams, the acclaimed chef from Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta's and its two-Michelin-starred counterpart, Blanca. Williams has shaken things up by creating an inventive multi-course menu that marries the refined flavors of Asia with those of the Pacific Northwest, making Canlis as relevant today as it was when it first opened in 1951.
For after-dinner drinks, look no further than Foreign National on lower Capitol Hill. Bartender Adam Fortuna churns out amazing Southeast-Asian inspired concoctions. My favorite is the Foggy Negroni. in a space that's a throwback to 1970s Saigon. The throwback to 1970s Saigon has all the ingredients of a great tiki bar — without the cheesy Polynesian flair.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
Alaska Airlines' headquarters are in Seattle, making it accessible by direct flight from most major U.S. cities.
No need to rent a car. Between Uber, Car to Go, and the light rail system, Seattle is an easy city to navigate without your own wheels.
When to Go
Summer is best, when the sun is abundant. It can, as you've probably heard, get a little rainy at other times of the year.