As people pour into Austin for hot fun in the summertime, locals are looking to get the heck out, and one new nonstop flight is making that easier. Delta launched nonstop service from ABIA to Seattle Tacoma International Airport on June 12.
The flight departs Austin at 7 am daily (arriving early enough to have your first mimosa by 10 am PST), and the return flight is wheels up at 5:05 pm. I grabbed a sweater and took the inaugural direct flight to the city that’s eerily similar to Austin — and also wonderfully different.
Here are all the reasons to visit the Emerald City.
The Starbucks Roastery is like Willy Wonka meets coffee. You’ll see the end-to-end process here, from de-bagging the beans to onsite roasting to grinding fresh for your beverage. They change the menu seasonally to include coffee and tea concoctions not found in any other store. After a sparkling espresso, take the Monorail to Seattle Center to marvel at the trippy Chihuly Gardens and the Jim Henson exhibit at Mo Pop (Museum of Pop Culture).
Of course, there’s the Space Needle too. With a 100-million-dollar renovation in the works, soon the observation deck will be all glass, as will the floors in the rotating restaurant. While the Great Wheel is kind of like any other Ferris wheel, the real standout is Wings Over Washington, an unbelievable "flying theater" experience.
Austin may have a robust food scene, but Seattle rivals it. Start your day with a biscuit sandwich at Cafe Hitchcock (add Hitchcock bacon!) or a buttermilk cake from Volunteer Park Cafe. In between photos of the rainbow crosswalks in Capitol Hill, enjoy lunch at Capitol Cider (100-percent gluten-free menu) or pop into the beloved Oddfellows for casual, decadent American fare.
For dinner, sample your way through a variety of oysters on a waterfront patio at Westward or head to New Luck Toy (Chinese food and karaoke) for an altogether different kind of night. Craft beer, inventive cocktails, local ciders, and, of course, an immense amount of wine abound. End your day with a rum old fashioned at Rumba, a sexy cocktail under a giant disco ball at Foreign National, or a Tiki toddy at Navy Strength.
Pike Place Market
You know that adage, never go grocery shopping when you’re hungry? Consider this place the exception. Pike Place Market is a permanent open-air market with a new waterfront expansion. Imagine a magical wonderland of foodstuffs — fish stands with deep red salmon, live clams and barrels of enormous lobster tails, produce vendors weighing out bags of locally grown cherries and chard, and flower sellers tying up bright blooms.
Equally incredible are the restaurants and food purveyors. Fresh fried doughnuts and steaming chowders and handmade cheese, oh my! With the new development, there are even more crafts and artisans clustered around a plaza space with stunning views of Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains. This is also the home of the famed gum wall.
The Pioneer Square neighborhood has a storied and shady history. Ten years ago, it was shuttered businesses and questionable corner trade. Now, the vibe is all locally owned businesses and bustling streets. Visitors will delight in eatery and flower market The London Plane, snap a million instagrams in colorful Copal, and brave the line for daily pasta from Il Corvo. Grab a cuppa at Zeitgeist, sample a regional wine flight at The Estates Wine Room, or belly up for a cocktail in the E. Smith Mercantile’s back room bar.
Satisfy your inner tourist by taking a little tour of the Smith Tower, hopping an old-fashioned elevator (with attendant!) to the 35th floor and indulging in something from the speakeasy.