Nicole Martinez gives us a whirlwind tour of the Pacific Northwest's unofficial capital
I recently had the opportunity to travel to Seattle, Wash. I’d always been interested in visiting the Northwest but I never imagined I’d be going there on a last-minute trip with just two days to prepare! Needless to say, I did not have much time to research the city. So I did what any reasonable person would do: asked all of my friends for recommendations and promised myself that I would experience as much of the city as I could in just a few days.
I was fortunate enough to stay in the downtown area right off the water and experienced sunny summer weather throughout my stay. I quickly learned that though hilly at times, Seattle was surprisingly easy to get around. For a first-timer in the city, I think I did pretty well! If you’re looking to pack a lot in just a few days, follow my footsteps and try to cover Seattle in 48 hours!
Olympic Sculpture Park
This park on the hill is the perfect place to begin your tour. Not only do you get to experience 9 acres of gorgeous green space and sculptures, you also get amazing views of Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains, the downtown skyline and the famous Space Needle.
Head south on Alaskan Way and you will arrive at Waterfront Park. A must stop for tourists, the downtown waterfront park and pier is a hub of activity both on land and water – sailboats and ships glide across the Pacific Ocean while tourists line the pier, snapping photos of the massive container cranes, fishing locals and a majestic bronze fountain.
Pike Place Market
Getting to Seattle’s most famous attraction requires a bit of work but is totally worth the uphill trek! First-timers will be delighted by the market’s vibrant colors, sights and sounds. Tourists stroll through the market as vendors peddle fresh seafood, produce, flowers and art. Be sure to snap a photo in front of the original Starbucks, grab a pastry at Three Girls Bakery and try a bowl of clam chowder. If you make it to Post Alley just beneath the market, you must check out the famous gum wall: a strange but beautiful art installation visitors have been “contributing to” since the early ‘90s.
About a half mile southwest of Pike Place is downtown’s original downtown. Home to cafes, galleries and bars, this area is characterized by its brick buildings and a downtown square where you’ll find a century-old pergola and totem pole that dates back to 1940s.
When you’re ready to venture beyond Seattle’s touristy areas and experience local culture, take a short cab ride to Capitol Hill, home to Seattle University and Cornish College of the Art. Seattle’s gay and counterculture district is filled with lively places to eat, grab a cup of coffee or have a cocktail.
I checked out this area on a tip from a friend and was glad I did. This little neighborhood is home to unique bars, thrift shops, cafes and live music spots, including The Crocodile, the iconic venue of Seattle’s grunge rock scene. I would definitely recommend checking it out at night. My favorite nightlife spot was Shorty’s, a clown-themed pinball bar offering hot dogs and cold beer. Highly recommended!
Pike Place Market (Part II)
With so much to see and eat, I found myself starting my second day in Pike Place Market again. After a lunch of local cheese and bread, and many Instagram photos later, I decided to hop on the city bus and venture across the Lake Union.
After several friends mentioned that I must visit the Fremont Troll, I decided to make that my single mission for day two. To get to the troll, you have to walk down a hill under the Aurora Bridge. Your reward? A massive stone sculpture straight out of a fairytale. The concrete troll is large enough to crawl on, making it perfect for photo ops. The massive public art project is tucked into a gorgeous, well-manicured neighborhood that reminded me a bit of San Francisco.
Just a short distance from the troll is Fremont, a popular neighborhood filled with venues, charming cafes, boutiques and bars. The two things that caught my eye about this area were the many cyclists zipping up and down the streets and the interesting sculptures located all over the neighborhood. A favorite of mine was a 16-foot bronze sculpture of Bolshevik Russian Communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin. I visited in the late afternoon and noticed most places weren’t open yet, a sign of Fremont’s vibrant nightlife.
Gas Works Park
For my final stop, I walked 1.7 miles to Gas Works Park, my new favorite place in Seattle! The enormous 19-acre park was once home to the Seattle gas plant but was purchased by the city in the ‘60s, renovated and opened as a public park in 1975. Part of the original gas plant was preserved and sits near the center of the park. The rusty red structure stands out against the park’s emerald green hills and trails. I thought I had already experienced Seattle’s best views at Waterfront Park, but after climbing a steep hill that overlooked the park, Lake Union, the mountains and the glistening Seattle skyline, I immediately changed my mind.
Overall, not too bad for my first trip to Seattle. I discovered that with an open mind, some determination and a few bucks in your pocket, you can be your own tour guide!