May 27 2012
Last week I had the opportunity to go to both my native hometown of Boise, Idaho and my adopted hometown of Seattle for a vacation. I had a lot of family to see, so I had to limit my time in Seattle to 36 hours, but there’s a lot one can do in 36 hours in Seattle! Recently, the NYT edited a book of the best of their feature “36 Hours” highlighting weekend jaunts across America. Of course, if you’ve never been to Seattle before, then Pike Place Market and the Space Needle are probably musts. But if you’ve lived in the Emerald City like me, and it’s been a while since you’ve been back, then your trip might look a little different.
So here ’tis, my 36 Hours in Seattle itinerary:
As soon as we landed, my husband and I were famished. Six hours on a plane with only crackers will do that. But we REFUSED to eat at the airport, and instead booked it for the nice new Link Light Rail, a high speed train that zips from Sea-Tac airport through South Seattle and deposits travelers downtown. They’re currently laying track to extend the rail to Capitol Hill and the University District, two hoppin’ neighborhoods with plenty to do. When that happens, the Link Light Rail will be a nascent T…one of the only ones out West. So, we hopped on the train for a mere $2.75, took the train downtown, hopped on the 43 bus that deposited us on Broadway Ave, the main street that runs through Capitol Hill, a funky neighborhood of awesome restaurants, lots of nightlife and a few great bookstores. It’s also where parts of Tom Robbins’ Jitterbug Perfume take place. From there it was but a mere block walk to Dick’s, the ultimate burger joint and a must for any Seattleite carnivore. Here there are basically four things on the menu and you can’t customize. So the line moves fast, you get your food immediately and it’s perfect every time. So magical.
From there we walked down Broadway, cut through Cal Anderson Park, stopped in at Elliot Bay Book Store (a local legend), grabbed coffee at Caffe Vita, my favorite of the many local roasters, and then hopped on a bus for the University District. Here we hit a couple of necessities: Magus Books, the best used bookstore in Seattle, University Book Store, which is affiliated with University of Washington, but is a fantastic new and used indie bookshop contained within the typical university bookstore. Then we hit Bulldog News, an extensive newsstand with a great coffee bar and Uncle Seth’s pink cookies, another local must.
From there we met friends, had bubble tea and then hit Gasworks Park. The city bought a factory that converted coal to gas, gated it off and created an awesome steampunk park with perfect views of the whole city and magnificent kite flying. Kinda makes a Cherie Priest novel come to life. From there we hit The Kraken, a heavy metal bar owned by two friends who book amazing shows almost nightly and keep a well-curated beer list rotating at all times. When we poked in, a heated discussion on the virtues of Game of Thrones vs. Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series was going.
This is another great thing about Seattle. You will notice that the first 18 of my 36 hours are winding down and I’ve hit three bookstores, a newsstand and overheard a conversation about a cumulative 17 books. Seattle is a super-literate city. When I lived there, there was a constant war between Seattle and Minneapolis for “Most Literate City in the US.” DC won last year, and Boston is usually in the top five, but there is a huge reading culture in Seattle. With tons of bookstores, tons of libraries, lots of readings, a lot of local authors and rain or shine tons of people walking the sidewalks while reading. Seems dangerous, but they’ve perfected the art. So if you like books, and especially drinking coffee while reading books, Seattle is a must.
The next morning we started early with our favorite breakfast: Portage Bay Cafe, and then took another bus downtown where we scoped the gorgeous view of Elliot Bay from Pike Place Market. Here, we smelled the cookies and fruits and flowers and fish. And with one last cup of locally roasted coffee we said our teary goodbye to the beautiful Pacific Ocean.