As much as we love our town, it’s sometimes nice to get the hell out of it for a few days. If you’re anything like us, this feeling tends to strike right before, during or after the madness that is SXSW. While we prepare to play host to literally everyone ever later this week, do yourself a favor and plan — or at least daydream — about spending some time somewhere else as a tourist.
Our latest favorite city to lust after? Seattle.
With enough inked and bearded mixologists roaming around to make us feel comfortable, but not enough to make us feel like we’re actually in Austin, Seattle is a perfect travel destination for Austinites. While the foodie, environmental and literary values of Seattle make it full of places we’re into, there’s plenty of grunge and ocean air to set it apart from Austin and give us that "exploring-a-new-city" kind of buzz. Here are a few of our picks for a quick weekend of touring our rainy sort-of-sister city.
Drink with a view
Walking around the sometimes bitingly cold and windy Puget Sound makes us thankful we can jog around (and even jump into) our hometown body of water. But we’ll admit: in terms of scenic views, the vast beauty of Seattle’s waterfront puts our little lake to shame. There’s something striking about water that appears never-ending, but it’s especially true when you’re used to being surrounded by a whole lot of land.
Take it all in over a drink from the warm and cozy comforts of the Edgewater Hotel’s bar (2411 Alaskan Way). Fireplaces, and a long bar with even longer panoramic windows, make this a perfect spot to sip and see it all — from the iconic Ferris Wheel to the Olympic Mountains, and all the water in between.
Take in Seattle's bustling literary scene
The cold and wet weather you’re most likely bound to have in Seattle might seem like a harsh change from the sweat and sun of Austin, but it’s actually really conducive to a few things we Austinites like best: reading and drinking. A native of Seattle told us he’s pretty sure the gray skies are responsible for making Seattle such a booze-loving, book-loving town (overcast and chilly is ideal hangover weather) and the perfect climate for curling up with a good read. Here are some of our favorites for local liquor and literature.
The anarchist, anti-authoritarian vibe of Left Bank Books (92 Pike Street) takes you straight out of the consumerism of Pike Place Market and into a rebellious readers paradise. A great selection of local zines and hand-picked independent titles line the old wooden floors, shelves and a creaking staircase, which delivers you right at a cozy wooden window seat with views of the entrance to the bustling Pike Place Market.
Sidenote: Don’t skip Pike Place Market. It might be an obvious attraction, but sometimes things are touristy for good reason. Fresh produce, flying fish and steaming, delicious chowder are all displayed against the beautiful blue-gray backdrop of the water. Talk about fresh and local, huh?
Located directly in the center of the bustling Pike Place Market, the relative quietness of Lamplight Books (1514 Pike Place #14) draws you in for a welcome reprieve. Inside, the vintage typewriter display, carefully chosen titles and overflowing bins of worn paperbacks keep you interested.
Elliot Bay Book Company (1521 Tenth Avenue) is Seattle's BookPeople, but with fresh, coastal air. This haven of books is full of clean lines, open space and plenty of outward-facing books for ultimate browsing pleasure. Open until 11 pm, it’s a perfect place to duck into before a hearty happy hour in the hip Capitol Hill neighborhood.
Fruit of the sea, naturally
While you’re in Capitol Hill — actually, while you’re everywhere in town — take advantage of not being landlocked and enjoy some fresh seafood.
Taylor Shellfish Melrose Market (1521 Melrose Avenue) is a no-fuss, bare-bones spot of the wholesaler fish supplier Taylor Shellfish Farms. You pick out which oysters you want shucked from watery tanks that sit in the middle of the shop before hunkering down at casual round tables and stools with a carefully selected beer and a Dungeness crab leg from the fresh tanks. The service is just as down to earth.
The meal will probably just be the beginning of your oyster hankering, so go ahead and make plans to visit The Walrus and the Carpenter (4743 Ballard Avenue NW), too. Located in the old fisherman (now hip) town of Ballard, this joint serves up some of the best damn oysters you’ve had in your life.
If you insist on going anywhere other than an oyster bar, Sitka & Spruce (1531 Melrose Ave) in Capitol Hill is a major hit in the foodie crowd and perfect for a fancier, sit-down dinner.
Boozin' like the locals
If the wait’s too long or you don’t want to commit to a full meal, have a well-made cocktail and excellent charcuterie at bar ferd'nand (1531 Melrose Avenue) instead. Owned by the same folks behind Sitka & Spruce, bar ferd'nand is a lovely open-space bar housed under the same market building of S & S.
When you’re over all the fancy cocktails (after all, you came from Austin to experience a new scene, right?) head to Shorty’s (2222 2nd Avenue) — a great, dirty, grungy pinball bar with crowded booths and lots of regulars in chef pants and construction boots. Order an Olympia Beer in a can — an “Oly” — and fit right in with the locals.