5 In North America & Canada

The Ultimate Guide To Seattle

One year ago I wrote a blog post on Seattle (which you can find here), right before Sasha and I left our corporate careers to travel abroad for half a year.

Now we’re in Hawaii and I’ve been away from Seattle for 8 months and dare I say it…I miss it. I know, I know, I always complained about the constant grey doom and gloom, but there’s something so charming about Seattle despite its endless attempts to piss people off with its nine months of grey skies, horrible traffic, and not being able to walk anywhere without seeing someone in a 12th man jersey. But then, just like you change your mind like a girl changes clothes, it pulls the old bait-and-switch and damn it, it’s gorgeous. The air is crisp and fresh, vibrant flowers bloom, sweet juicy berries dot the bushes all over local neighborhoods, the mountain comes out, and people start to smile again. But most of all…the food…oh my God, the food. (Yes, I realize that wasn’t a complete sentence, but Seattle’s food has that effect on me.) Nothing compares to the culinary delights of the Emerald City. And this brings me to why I’m here, writing the ultimate guide to Seattle, drooling as I reflect on counts of oysters on the Sound, Beecher’s cheese curds, savory Piroshky and salted caramel chocolates. You might say I’m slightly obsessed with talking about and photographing food. Slightly.

I lived in Seattle for nearly four years and visit on a regular basis, and throughout that time, explored as much of the city and state as possible to come up with this list of all things Seattle! This post will include my personal recommendations on our favorite places to eat, what to do for date nights, day-trip adventures, and hikes in Seattle and the surrounding areas. With this list, you should find no shortage of fun or adventurous things to do, whether you’re traveling solo, with friends, as a couple, or with your family, and no matter what the weather or season! This is a mammoth of a post, but I promise you I’ve chocked it full with great information about all the things to do in Seattle!

Are you ready? Alright, let’s dive right in…

Oh, PS: you may not want to read this on an empty stomach. You’ve been warned.

Carry on…

Similar to New York City, Seattle has its own boroughs, each different and with their own unique flare. Some of our favorites are: Ballard, Fremont, Green Lake/Ravenna, and Capitol Hill (better known as Seattle’s “gayborhood”.) I love the street art and rainbow sidewalks! Frolic away!

All photographs are my own.

RESTAURANTS

Where are the best places to eat in Seattle?

Downtown Seattle

Beecher’s – Pike Place Market
Grilled paninis and homemade cheese, made fresh on location

Beechers Cheese, Seattle, Pike Place Market

At Beechers, they make the cheese right in front of you. Their macaroni and cheese will leave you forever a changed person.

Pike Place Chowder – Pike Place Market
TIP: go early and be prepared for very long lines. Is it worth it? Duh. Read on to the next sentence. 
Hall of Fame Chowder Cafes Voted Pike Place Chowder #1 chowder in America (sorry East Coasters, apparently we won this one)

Rachel’s Ginger Beer – Pike Place Market (Post Alley)
All-natural, seasonal herb-infused flavored ginger beer (non-alcoholic). But for the drinkers, don’t you worry, they’ve got plenty of adult ginger beers too!

Piroshky Piroshky – Pike Place Market
Russian sweet and savory pastries

Piroshky, Piroshky, Pike Place Market, Seattle

The cheese, ham and spinach with chives is to die for. Fluffy clouds of savory goodness.

Virginia Inn – Pike Place Market (one street above)
Fish & chips

Fran’s Chocolates (many locations)
Seattle-made local chocolates & drinking chocolate

Toulouse Petit – Lower Queen Anne
Cajun/Creole

The Pink Door – Pike Place
Great for date night – check their website for performance schedules and make reservations

Von’s 1000 Spirits – Downtown Seattle
Good for happy hour – famous for their sourdough noodles

Campfire – Lower Queen Anne
Korean-American fusion

Collections Café – inside Chihuly Garden and Glass (you don’t need a ticket to the Exhibition to dine here)
I recommend it for lunch; order the strawberry lavender lemonade

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The Ultimate Guide To Seattle

RESTAURANTS WITH A VIEW

Agua Verde – Lake Union
Mexican

Little Water Cantina – Eastlake
Mexican

Marination Ma Kai – West Seattle, Alki Beach
Views of the Space Needle and downtown from across the water – take the water taxi Hawaiian fusion

Matt’s in the Market – Pike Place

Westward – Northlake Union
Mediterranean seafood on the water (campfire on patio)

BAKERIES & DESSERTS (obviously my favorite and most well-versed category) 😉

Bakery Nouveau – Capitol Hill and West Seattle
BEST PASTRIES EVER – seriously, right on par with a true French bakery in Marseille, great for breakfast and tea/coffee. Sasha and I did a house sit in West Seattle for two weeks, and we may or may not have walked to this bakery every. Single. Day. (Bye self-control!)

Macrina Bakery – Belltown
Voted one of the best bakeries in the world(!!)

Cupcake Royale (many locations)
Salted caramel is my favorite

Top Pot Donuts (many locations)

Mighty-O Donuts (many locations)
Vegan, organic

Molly Moon’s (many locations)
Homemade ice cream with interesting flavors sourcing local, organic ingredients

Salt & Straw – Ballard
This ice cream shop originated in Portland, Oregon, and they opened up the first ever location in Washington State in Ballard in 2017! They partner with local chefs to provide the most inventive and unique ice cream flavors you’ll ever taste! Order the flight and try four flavors! Free samples!

Hot Cakes – several locations
The best chocolate molten lava cake you’ll ever have in your whole life. Yes, I realize that’s a big statement and yes, I still stand by it.

Theo Chocolate – Fremont
TIP: Sign up for a chocolate tour, but don’t go on an empty stomach, otherwise you’ll be buzzing on a total chocolate high when you’re finished!

Theo Chocolate Factory, Fremont, Seattle

Fran’s Chocolates (many locations)
Seattle-made local chocolates & drinking chocolate

CAFES, COFFEE & TEA

Chaco Canyon Café (many locations) – organic, vegan food

Cloud City Coffee – Maple Leaf
This small café is a local neighborhood gem with a very friendly staff.
TIP: Order the Theo chocolate mocha or drummer chai. If you’re feeling wild, get a mixture of both! On Sundays they make special cinnamon rolls fresh in the morning – go early!

Miro Tea – Ballard
Interesting loose leaf organic teas and an excellent location to work remotely
Miro Tea, Ballard, Seattle

Café Besalu – Ballard

Chocolati – several locations
Artisan chocolate truffles and drinking chocolate

Storyville – Queen Anne
TIP: At 4:00 PM on most days, they come around with a free slice of hot chocolate cake 

SURROUNDING NEIGHBORHOODS (University District/Ravenna/Ballard/Capitol Hill/Fremont/Edmonds)

Xi’ian Noodles – University District
Authentic hand-pulled homemade noodles
Order the shredded pork noodles (dry) and create your own sauce at the sauce bar.
TIP: You get a discount if you pay with cash
Xian Noodles, University District, Seattle. Chinese food and hand-pulled noodles!

Din Tai Fung – University Village (dumplings)

Morsel – University District
biscuit sammies (brekkie/coffee)
TIP: Order first, find a seat second. Don’t do this the other way around or you will get the side eye from local Seattlites. 
Morsel - Breakfast Biscuits, University District, Seattle

Portage Bay Café – Many locations
Farm-to-table brekkie

Heartbeet (formerly known as Thrive) – Green Lake
Vegan food, smoothies, juices, elixers (order the Buddha bowl)
Casual and cute ambiance – order at the register and sit down (indoor and outdoor seating), or order take away

Epulo Bistro – Edmonds (25 minutes drive North of Seattle near the waterfront)

Joule – Fremont
Korean fusion
TIP: Sit at the Chef’s bar to watch them cook for a more fun experience. Sit outside by the fire pit outside for dessert

Rock Creek Seafood and Spirits – Fremont
Excellent fish; menu changes weekly based on what is most fresh. A bit pricey but worth it for a nice night out/date night

Percy’s & Co, Apothecary Bar & Restaurant – Ballard
Bar with inventive cocktails and near all the live music on the weekends

Thai Tom – University District
At the time of writing this article, Thai Tom only receives 3 stars on Yelp. Normally I would not try a restaurant with less than 4 stars, but this place is really good. Don’t be put off by this tiny hole-in-the-wall with very limited seating. I promise, the food is way better than the outside appearance. For $10 – $15, you can get a large plate of food. The staff can be rude and curt.
TIP: Order your food for take away because it’s noisy, small, hot and smoky inside. This place accepts CASH ONLY.

Thai Tom, University District, Seattle, Washington

They have a spice rating from 1 – 5. Unless you’re a beast, select 1 – 2. I have a high heat tolerance, and 2 is just one under unbearable.

La Isla – Ballard
Puerto Rican – really good after a hike because it’s salty

Billy Beach
– Ballard (sushi)

Momiji – Capitol Hill (sushi – better than Billy Beach with more options, but not very friendly service)
TIP: Go for happy hour (4 – 6 PM daily) for a way more affordable and less crowded experience.

Paseo / Un Bien – Fremont / Ballard
Caribbean sandwiches that you will dream about for years to come

The Other Coast Cafe – Ballard, Capitol Hill & Queen Anne
Order the Rajun’ Cajun for a delicious warm sandwich with a kick!

Gorgeous Gorges – Phinney Ridge
Israeli food, run by the sweetest married couple who will make you feel like family from the moment you walk in the door. Great prices and excellent food.

San Fermo – Ballard (Italian)

El Camion – Ballard (tacos, Mexican, free salsa bar)

Mkt. – Tangletown (isn’t that the cutest name for a town?)
Farm-to-table cuisine in an adorable small, quaint environment. During summer when the outdoor seating is open, sit at communal tables and chat with your neighbor!

Valhalla Sandwiches – Phinney Ridge
The Shrimp Po Boy is outstanding!

Poppy – Capitol Hill
Indian Thali

FARMERS MARKETS

A very common weekend scene is seeing singles, couples, families and dogs walking or biking to their local market, reusable bags in hand. You might even see a well-known chef doing their daily shopping for the restaurant at a neighborhood market. This is what I love about the food community in Seattle; everyone is so connected, sharing a deep love for food and the honest roots of where it comes from. Support your local farmers!

U District Saturday Market (9AM – 2PM every Saturday, all year long)

Ballard Sunday Market (10AM – 3PM every Sunday, all year long)

Ballard Farmers Market, Seattle, Washington

Always seasonal, always good.

Fremont Sunday Market (10AM – 4PM every Sunday, all year long)

Pike Place Market (hours vary depending on the season, open every day, all year long)
FUN FACT: Pike Place Market opened in 1907 and is one of the oldest continuously operated public markets in the U.S. Can you imagine visiting back in the day with a horse and buggy? 

SEATTLE ATTRACTIONS

Chihuly Garden and Glass
With its grand opening in 2012, Chihuly Garden and Glass has continuously been one of the top-rated attractions on TripAdvisor. This exhibition is dedicated solely to the glass art of local artist and sculptor, Dale Chihuly. You can also book your next event in the Glasshouse if you have the budget for it!

Chihuly Garden and Glass & Space Needle, Seattle, Washington

The view looking up above at the Glasshouse juxtaposed with the Space Needle.

The Space Needle – Seattle Center

Space Needle and Chihuly Garden and Glass New Years Eve Fireworks

The Glasshouse is an excellent place to spend New Years Eve to watch the fireworks from a unique angle!

I worked as the Tourism Development Sales Manager for the Space Needle and Chihuly Garden and Glass for 2.5 years, so if you have any questions, let me know! The Space Needle recently underwent a massive renovation to improve the guest experience. No more tacky lines obstructing the views! Now it’s floor-to-sky angled glass that makes you feel as if you’re falling into the sky.

Seattle Underground Tour
TIP: Do the daytime version. It’s informative, playful and interesting. We found the adults only X-rated night time version to be a bit lame

Savor Seattle Food Tours – Pike Place Market Tour, excellent for foodies!

MoHai (Museum of History and Industry)

Fremont Troll – underneath the Fremont Bridge
Fremont Troll, Seattle

Bike the Burke-Gilman Trail (over 22 miles of trail that connects with other interurban trails)
(LEFT: October when the leaf colors change / RIGHT: June when everything is green!)

TIP: rent a bike through Seattle’s many bike share companies (Lime Bike is the most common)

Climb at SBP (Seattle Bouldering Project) or Vertical World
I swear, a good third of Seattleites are climbers! Check out one of the many indoor climbing gyms, perfect for a rainy or cold day.

Take a ferry to any of the nearby islands (keep reading below for day trip ideas)

SAM (Seattle Art Museum) for museum-goers

Hiram Chittenden Locks – Ballard
See the salmon swimming upstream between June – August

Discovery Park for nice walks/trail runs/bike riding
TIP: go to the lighthouse for awesome views of Rainier when the mountain is out
Discovery Park Lighthouse, Seattle, Washington

Green Lake for a nice 3-mile loop run…or play with giant bubbles on the dock. 😉
Green Lake BubblesOlympic Sculpture Park

Argosy Cruises

Visit University of Washington (UW), especially during April when the cherry blossoms bloom

VISTAS & BEST LOOKOUT POINTS

Kerry Park – Queen Anne
Views of downtown and the most popular Seattle shot of the Space Needle
Kerry Park, Queen Anne, Seattle, WashingtonAlki Beach – West Seattle

Alki, West Seattle, Washington, Space Needle

This photo was taken in early June at 9:45 PM when the sun had just set and lights were beginning to come alive in the city landscape that is Seattle

Golden Gardens – Ballard
Great for sunset, beach volleyball and bonfires (first come, first served). Excellent views of leaves changing colors during Fall. The Burke-Gilman Trail ends here.

Snoqualmie Falls – 45-minute drive from Seattle
TIP: Hike down to the bottom for a closer-up view of the falls
Snoqualmie Falls, Washington StateGas Works Park – rent stand up paddle boards (SUPs) in the summer and paddle Lake Union, or go at night to see the city lights on a clear evening

Rent kayaks from Agua Verde Paddle Club and go out for a paddle on Portage Bay, then have a bite to eat upstairs when you’re done! Raining? Not to worry! They provide you with all the rain-proof and warm equipment you’ll need! Just bring your own rain jacket.

HIKES

Blanca Lake – 2-hour drive from Seattle
Location: Central Cascades / Stevens Pass
Round Trip Duration: 7.5 miles (but several years ago, a washout closed the road, adding 4 more miles to this hike. Prepare for a full day and bring plenty of food and water.)
Elevation Gain: 3,300′
Northwest Forest Pass required

Rattlesnake Ledge – 45-minute drive from Seattle
Location: Snoqualmie
Round Trip Duration: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,160′
TIP: This is one of the most popular and crowded hikes in this area, so go early and avoid weekends
No parking pass/fee required
Rattlesnake Lake, Washington

Melakwa Lake – 1-hour drive from Seattle
Location: Snoqualmie
Round Trip Duration: 8.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,500′
Northwest Forest Pass required

Discovery Park – Seattle
Trail system of over 20 miles both paved and dirt, good for biking, running and walking. Leads to a beach and a lighthouse where you can see Mt. Rainier on a clear day (easy and good for strolling, dog and kid-friendly)
No parking pass/fee required

Mount Rainier National Park – 2-hour drive from Seattle


Mount Baker
– 3-hour drive from Seattle
Mount Baker, Washington
Tolmie Peak Lookout & Eunice Lake
– 3-hour drive from Seattle

Location: Mt. Rainier National Park
Round Trip Duration: 7.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,100′
National Park Pass required

North Cascades National Park – 2-hour drive from Seattle

Snow Lake – 1.5-hour drive from Seattle
Location: Snoqualmie
Round Trip Duration: 7.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,800′
Northwest Forest Pass requiredSnow Lake, Washington
Lake Serene & Bridal Veil Falls
– 1-hour drive from Seattle
Location: Central Cascades/Stevens Pass
Round Trip Duration: 8.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,000′
Northwest Forest Pass required

Mount Si – 45-minute drive from Seattle
Location: Snoqualmie
Round Trip Duration: 8 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,150′
Discover Pass required

Olympic National Park / Olympic Peninsula (Rialto Beach, Ruby Beach, Hoh Rainforest, Hurricane Ridge) – 2-hour drive/ferry from Seattle

Mt. Angeles 
Location: Olympic National Park, Hurricane Ridge
Round Trip Duration: 6.25 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,254′
National Park Pass required


Ross Dam Lake and Lake Diablo
– 2.5-hour drive from Seattle
Great for camping (recommended overnight because of the far drive)
Location: Sedro-Woolley
Round Trip Duration: 12.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,312′
Ross Dam Lake
Lake 22
– 1.5-hour drive from Seattle
Location: North Cascades
Round Trip Duration: 5.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,350′
Northwest Forest Pass required

Lime Kiln Trail – 1-hour drive from Seattle
Location: North Cascades/Mountain Loop Highway
Round Trip Duration: 7 miles
Elevation Gain: 625′
No parking pass/fee required
Lime Kiln Trail, Washington, Mountain Loop Highway
Oyster Dome
– 2-hour drive from Seattle
Location: Bellingham
Round Trip Duration: 5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,050′
Discover Pass required

Oyster Dome Hike, Bellingham, Washington

This photo was taken on Christmas Day with heaps of snow! During all other seasons, the trees are green and the water is bright blue.

Talapus & Ollalie – 1.5-hour drive from Seattle
Location: Snoqualmie
Round Trip Duration: 6.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,220′
Northwest Forest Pass required

Day Trips:

Bainbridge Island (take the ferry) – see my blog post here on how to spend the perfect day in Bainbridge island

Port Townsend (take the ferry)
– Better Living Through Coffee – café right on the water. Sometimes during harsh weather the waves splash up and hit the window making for an entertaining show. Full sun exposure if you’re lacking Vitamin D – windows all around.
– Sweet Lorettes – bakery with excellent pastries and outdoor patio seating with sun
– Velocity Café
– The Blue Moose
– Alchemy – dinner & wine

Port Angeles (take the ferry)
This is the jumping-off point for accessing Olympic National Park

Whidbey Island (take the ferry)

Bellingham – 2-hour drive from Seattle

Taylor Shellfish Farms, Bellingham, Washington

While in Bellingham, be sure to make a pit stop at Taylor Shellfish Farm for delicious oysters and this awesome lighthouse made of the shells!


Olympic Peninsula

Woodinville

Great for wine and beer lovers!

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival (April 1- 30)
Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, WashingtonLeavenworth
Adorable Bavarian town on the Wenatchee river
Leavenworth, Bavarian Inspired Town, Washington StatePortland, Oregon (2.5-hour drive South from Seattle)

Vancouver, Canada (2.5-hour drive North from Seattle)

Eastern Washington

Rainy Day Date Nights:

Paint Nite – many locations
Art Marble 21 is the most central – great for date night or girl’s night out!

Pottery Northwest ($40 per person)

Hot Stove Society – cooking classes ($50 – $100 per person)

Outlaw Swing Dance

The Red Hen (Green Lake) – country music and live dancing

Phew! If you’re still reading, I commend you! If you haven’t tried to jump through the screen to devour the photos of food, I commend you even more! Hopefully this has provided you with some good ideas for things to do in Seattle, things to eat in Seattle, and hiking in Seattle!

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! What would you add and what have I missed?

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The Ultimate Guide To Seattle

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5 Comments

  • Reply
    Nadia
    June 11, 2018 at 9:08 pm

    This is so comprehensive and useful! Sharing it with everyone I know in Seattle 😉

    • Reply
      culturalfoodies
      June 11, 2018 at 9:43 pm

      Aww, thank you so much for sharing, Nadia!! I appreciate that! 🙂

  • Reply
    Moani Hood
    June 14, 2018 at 5:28 pm

    Being a fellow foodie, this post 100% makes me want to start planning a weekend getaway to Seattle just to eat at all the delicious food places you recommended! I wanted to do the Theo tour last time we were there, but we were so short on time. I’m glad you included it as it reminded me about it. I have like 4 bars of Theo chocolate in the cupboard right now! Lol. I should know better than to read your posts on an empty stomach. Haha. I pinned this post to save for later. Such a great comprehensive guide!

    • Reply
      culturalfoodies
      June 14, 2018 at 8:53 pm

      Aww, thanks Moani, you’re the best! I hope someday we can time our visit to Seattle or Portland together and explore all the foodie and vegan things!! 🙂 We will do this soon on O’ahu!! I can’t wait!

  • Reply
    Seattle, Washington: The Emerald City - Cultural Foodies
    July 12, 2018 at 2:35 am

    […] out my Ultimate Guide to Seattle for all the best eateries, both new and hot and old-time favorites, along with all the other great […]

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