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Seattle See And Do

Art Galleries
Seattle , Washington

Many of the city's art galleries are clustered around historic Pioneer Square; to get a thorough overview of the neighborhood's offerings, go on one of the monthly First Thursday art walks ( One of the most respected galleries in the city is Greg Kucera. The two-story space gives you a lot to explore; it's an egalitarian mix of big-name artists (you might see a Chuck Close or even a Matisse) and local up-and-comers (212 Third Ave. S.; 206-624-0770; William Traver Gallery focuses on the Northwest's (and the world's) best glass artists, though it also shows some ceramics and mixed-media sculpture (110 Union St.; 206-587-6501; Seattle's coolest galleries are the sisters Roq La Rue (2312 Second Ave.; 206-374-8977; and BLVD (2316 Second Ave.; Both are owned by Kirsten Anderson, a champion of the Northwest's more experimental and countercultural artists; Roq La Rue specializes in contemporary pop-culture-influenced pieces, while BLVD focuses on urban street art. Photography buffs should head to Benham Gallery. There's no strict focus to the works shown here, but it leans toward the provocative or the political rather than landscapes or portraiture (1216 First Ave.; 206-622-2480;

Seattle , Washington

In the summer, Seattle's meandering shorelines are full of sunbathers. People come in droves to Alki Beach Park to swim in relatively warm, shallow salt water. On evenings and cool days, fire pits draw groups to roast marshmallows while watching ferries roll out from Fauntleroy Terminal. Just above the two-and-a-half-mile beach is a bustling bike path and narrow Alki Avenue, lined with restaurants and cafés that open onto the street (702 Alki Ave. S.W.; 206-684-4075). To the north, Ballard's Golden Gardens is 88 acres of forest, fields, and restored wetlands, lined by a rugged shore with both rocky and sandy beaches. Brisk winds off the sound lure kite-flyers, sailors, and windsurfers (8498 Seaview Pl. N.W.; 206-684-4075). For swimming, most people prefer freshwater Lake Washington, which warms considerably in the summer while Puget Sound stays cold. Many of the nicest beaches are in Bellevue and Mercer Island, across the lake from Seattle. Among them, Newcastle Beach offers a 300-foot dock, grass playfield, and shallow swimming areas that extend far into the lake (4400 Lake Washington Blvd. S.E., Bellevue; 425-452-6881).

Seattle , Washington

Boating is a favorite pastime in Seattle; locals race sailboats on the weekend and row before going to work. The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard are an engineering wonder. You'll get an up-close look as gigantic fishing boats are raised and lowered through narrow locks (like an elevator for boats) between the fresh water of Lake Union and the salt water of Salmon Bay (3015 N.W. 54th St.; 206-783-7059). Argosy Cruises' one-hour Harbor Cruise is a good way to get an overview of the city from the water, as well as fantastic photographs of the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges (Pier 55; 206-623-1445; If you're into self-propulsion, you can rent a kayak at the centrally located Agua Verde Café and Paddle Club and either head south toward the floating homes on Portage Bay or east into Lake Washington, where you can paddle through lily pads and lotus flowers on the arboretum's water trails. Afterward, pop into the upstairs café for incredible Mexican food (1303 N.E. Boat St.; 206-545-8570, ext. 101;;


As befits a town notorious for its rain, Seattle has some standout theaters. Saved from impending destruction in 1999 by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the retro Cinerama has a massive 90-by-30-foot curved screen (for three-strip films) and a wave-shaped ceiling to optimize the theater's surround-sound system. The subterranean Big Picture has the feel of a super-stylish living room, complete with leopard-print sofas and curlicued mirrors in the lounge area. Grab a martini from the bar and settle into a rocking chair in the theater, where first-run art-house films play weekly. Lines snake around the block each spring when the Seattle International Film Festival—a three-week series of about 400 films—comes to town.—Updated by Aaron Barker


Starbucks, Torrefazione Italia Coffee, and Seattle's Best Coffee are among the chains that got their start here, but it's the smaller, funkier cafés that provide a glimpse into the city's renowned java culture. The fashionable Zeitgeist, in Pioneer Square, has high ceilings, warm wood shelving, and brick walls hung with art. It's always buzzing with beautiful people. Hand-painted murals and red-and-yellow walls make the Cuba-inspired El Diablo Coffee Company a sunny spot regardless of the weather. Try its robust Cubano, made with custom-roasted beans and sweetened with caramelized sugar. Capitol Hill has too many good coffeehouses to dare to pick a "best," but Victrola Coffee & Art stands out for lovely Art Deco–inspired digs, baristas who never seem to have an off day, and a commitment to hard-to-get specialty brews. Another great spot in the same neighborhood is the loftlike Capitol Hill outpost of Bauhaus (the brew of choice for Seattle's cool set), which houses a library of design books and has an upper deck with brilliant views of the Space Needle.—Updated by Aaron Barker

Experience Music Project
325 Fifth Avenue North
Seattle , Washington
Tel: 206 367 5483 or 877 367 5483

This multicolored blobular building, a 140,000-square-foot rock-and-roll museum designed by Frank Gehry, is home to the world's largest collection of Jimi Hendrix memorabilia—hand-scrawled lyrics, audio mixing boards, and psychedelic pantsuits among them. Adjacent galleries showcase guitars once owned by Bob Dylan and Hank Williams, and the interactive Sound Lab (complete with state-of-the-art instruments and recording equipment) will, for better or worse, bring out the rock star in even the most tone-deaf dad.

Frye Art Museum
704 Terry Avenue
Seattle , Washington
Tel: 206 622 9250

More like an overgrown gallery space than a museum, it's free and you can comfortably ponder all of its works in an hour. The three center rooms hold the permanent collection, many of the works once belonging to the founders Charles and Emma Frye, and more than a few 19th-century pastoral scenes. The outer rooms are dedicated to rotating contemporary multimedia exhibitions. A recent exhibit included a mix of Amy Helfand's bright garden-scene textiles and prints, alongside the sinister pencil drawings of Robyn O'Neil. The small café has outdoor seating and food that's much more sophisticated than average museum snacks. The best time to visit is late afternoon on a weekday, when you'll practically have the place to yourself.

Puget Sound , Washington

Puget Sound has a string of gorgeous islands, all easy day trips from the city, and all with their own distinct personalities. Washington State Ferries runs trips to all islands; note that spots on popular car-ferry routes can fill up quickly during high season (206-464-6400;

The easiest island to pop over to is Bainbridge Island. The ferry ride (35 minutes) to and from the island is an attraction in itself, as you get unparalleled views of the skyline, with Mount Rainier looming to the south. Bainbridge is something of an exclusive bedroom community, so it's not as bucolic as some of the other islands, but it's lovely in its own right and has everything from cute little ice cream shops to its own winery. There are two state parks (one on either end of the island) and several other protected areas and gardens, including the Bloedel Reserve, which shouldn't be missed; reservations are required to visit (206-842-7631;

Vashon Island (15 to 35 minutes by ferry, depending on which dock you depart from) is only 12 miles long; you could easily bike the whole thing in a day. Expect to find organic farm stands, galleries, and at least a few old-school hippies. Walks along the beach are a favorite activity out here, as each shore provides views of either the city and the Cascade Range or the Olympic Mountains.

Above Puget Sound in the Strait of San Juan de Fuca is the massive San Juan archipelago. Though many people come to the San Juans to relax, even more come to kayak, hike, play golf, or go whale-watching. The San Juans are extremely popular tourist destinations, so expect lines for the ferries and crowds at B&Bs and restaurants in the summer. San Juan Island is the place to go to book a whale-watching tour or charter a boat; Frday Harbor, the island's main town, is also the commercial hub for the archipelago. Orcas Island is the most spectacular of all the islands. Moran State Park has tons of trails that include everything from lakeside ambles to summit hikes. Orcas also has quite a few pricey inns and resorts perfect for a romantic overnight trip, with Rosario Resort & Spa, in a converted seaside mansion, being the most luxurious (360-376-2222; Washington State Ferries to the San Juan Islands leave from Anacortes (one and a half hours north of Seattle); if you want to leave directly from Seattle, the Victoria Clipper has limited service to Friday Harbor (206-448-5000;

Northern Neighborhoods
Seattle , Washington

Fremont is probably the best known of the northern neighborhoods, and while its days as a haunt for starving artists and all members of the counterculture from hippies to bikers may be drawing to a close, it's still extremely laid-back and quirky. Exploring the shops along N. 36th Street and up Fremont Avenue makes for an immensely enjoyable afternoon. West of Fremont is Ballard, which used to belong mostly to Scandinavian fisherfolk, but is now the domain of hipsters. Ballard Avenue has an almost European or Old New York vibe, and great shops, pubs, and restaurants. On weekends, a mellow farmers' market pops up on one of the empty lots. Wallingford, east of Fremont, has a spate of specialty shops along N. 45th Street: Nowhere else in the city can you pick up gourmet Belgian beers, handmade stationery, an authentic aloha shirt, and a racy cake from the resident erotic bakery all within a few blocks. North of Fremont and Wallingford, Green Lake's main draw is its namesake, a beautiful lake whose ring road is thronged with joggers, bikers, in-line skaters, and happy dogs. The cozy triangle around N. 56th Street and Kenwood Place (off the southeast corner of the lake) has the best eateries, namely the excellent Eva Restaurant & Wine Bar and Zoka Coffee.

Seattle , Washington

Gas Works Park was once a belching natural gas production plant. Remnants of the site's industrial past remain (a tangle of towers, pipes, and catwalks), but the main attraction is a gigantic grassy hill, typically covered with kite-flyers and picnickers enjoying one of the city's best water views (N. Northlake Way at Meridian Ave.). Discovery Park is a local favorite in the charming neighborhood of Magnolia. At 534 acres, it is Seattle's largest preserve, with nine miles of footpaths, two miles of beach trail, great bird-watching, a lighthouse, and sweeping views of the sound (3801 W. Government Way at 36th Ave. W.; 206-386-4236). Washington Park Arboretum is home to an internationally renowned collection of trees and plants from the Pacific Northwest (N. of Madison St. on Lake Washington Blvd. E.; 206-543-8800). Volunteer Park is in the heart of Capitol Hill. This is a true neighborhood park but it's also home to the striking Seattle Asian Art Museum. In addition, there's a small conservatory, and an observation deck in an old water tower from which you can see the water and the Space Needle (1247 15th Ave E.; 206-684-4555).

Pike Place Market
85 Pike Street
Seattle , Washington
Tel: 206 682 7453

This bustling, labyrinthine bazaar is a wonderful place to while away a few hours. More than 600 stalls and stores spread out over nine acres hawk fruits, vegetables, seafood, flowers, clothing, and more. Don't miss the vast assortment of handmade crafts toward the market's north end—the largest such collection in the Northwest—the famous fish-flingers at the south end, or the flower market. Other must-stops include Left Bank Books, Sur La Table, and Mercado Latino. In addition to shops and stalls, the market and its immediate area have some of the city's favorite dining and drinking spots.

Seattle Aquarium
1483 Alaskan Way
Seattle , Washington
Tel: 206 386 4300

Though screaming kids throng the Underwater Dome whenever scuba divers feed the reef sharks and rockfish (1:30 pm daily), this excellent aquarium on a pier overlooking Elliott Bay is a favorite with adults, too. Neither can resist the antics of the playful otters in residence, and the indoor tanks feature a dazzling menagerie of jellyfish, sponges, anemones, fluorescent sea horses, and a live Pacific coral reef. The aquarium is also strong on regional exhibits, which include Washington tide pools, a few shorebirds and diving birds, and—perhaps coolest of all—a giant Pacific octopus from Puget Sound.

Open daily 9:30 am to 6 pm (last entry at 5 pm).

Seattle Art Museum
1300 First Avenue
Seattle , Washington
Tel: 206 654 3100

SAM Downtown, the five-story limestone and terra-cotta building fronted by another Seattle landmark, the perpetually at work Hammering Man statue, designed by the husband-and-wife team of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown underwent a major expansion in 2007 that added 118,000 square feet of public and gallery space, as well as a bigger restaurant and store. The sleek office-tower addition's entry is now big enough for dramatic large-scale installations. The new wing houses modern and contemporary art, including a few pieces of note like Jackson Pollack's Sea Change, along with special exhibits and African and Islamic art. The addition connects to theoriginal building still has an extensive collection of Northwest coast Native American works as well as Asian and African, Mesoamerican art and textilescontemporary art. Admission is free on the first Thursday of each month. The museum has a sister collection, the Asian Art Museum (1400 E. Prospect St.; 206-654-3100), in Volunteer Park; and a nine-acre waterfront Olympic Sculpture Park (2901 Western Ave.; 206-654-3100), which includes granite benches by Louise Bourgeois that resemble eyes, Richard Serra's huge curved metal Wave sculptures, and Roxy Paine's towering tree made of stainless steel.

Open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays 10 am to 5 pm, Thursdays and Fridays 10 am to 9 pm

Seattle Central Library
1000 Fourth Ave.
Seattle , Washington
Tel: 206 386 4636

Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and Seattle-area native Joshua Ramus's groundbreaking design for the Central Library has turned what is often a utilitarian building into an architectural mecca. Its shape is hard to pin down; some call it a just-landed spacecraft; others describe it as a Rubik's Cube cinched by a corset. The library, which opened in May 2004, houses some one million books (the nonfiction titles are located in a "book spiral" that winds its way up four floors, a reference to the continuous, ever-expanding nature of information). The futuristic design incorporates some 400 computers (many available for public use in the fifth floor "mixing chamber"), lipstick-red hallways, shocking chartreuse escalators, and a cathedral-like reading room with brightly colored foam chairs.

Space Needle
400 Broad Street
Seattle , Washington
Tel: 206 905 2100

This iconic Seattle structure was built for the 1962 World's Fair. At the time, it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi. That's no longer the case, but it still boasts the best views in the city from its circular observation deck, 520 feet up. Free high-powered telescopes and colorful, detailed maps help you pinpoint all the sights. Insider's tip: Lines for the observation deck are shorter before 11 a.m. and after 7 p.m.

Seattle , Washington

Washington's reputation for great local and/or organic wine continues to grow. To do the full wine tour, you'd need to venture to Eastern Washington's Yakima Valley. However, there are about two dozen wineries in the Woodinville area, which is only 45 minutes northeast of Seattle. This group includes Chateau Ste. Michelle, Washington's oldest and most famous winery. Tours and tastings are available daily, and the grounds, which include a French-château–style building, make it a popular day trip (14111 NE 145th St., Woodinville; 425-415-3300; Within the city limits, swing by the Tasting Room near Pike Place Market to sample hard-to-find wines from a half-dozen small producers (1924 Post Alley; 206-770-9463). Also stop by the Queen Anne branch of McCarthy & Schiering, the city's best wine merchant, known not only for its comprehensive selection of local wines, but also for a staff that's down-to-earth and welcoming instead of snobby (2401B Queen Anne Ave. N.; 206-282-8500).

Wing Luke Asian Museum
719 S. King Street
Seattle , Washington
Tel: 206 623 5124

Seattle's diffuse and rapidly gentrifying International District has a powerful touchstone in this newly expanded museum. Exhibits include works by local Asian and Pacific Islander artists, as well as poignant artifacts from the Northwest immigrant experience (a baby bottle carried by a Korean woman as she journeyed here from Seoul as a child; furniture made from salvaged scrap wood by Japanese refugees in the World War II–era internment camps). Two second-floor light-filled landings between the galleries provide serene spots for reflection, and for appreciating the distressed-wood walls and floors that are remnants of the building's previous life as social hub for the community.

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 10 am to 5 pm, first Thursday and third Saturday of each month 10 am to 8 pm.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.