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The Ultimate Seattle Guide

ultimate Seattle Guide

Now that I’ve been living in this city for more than six months, I feel like I’m starting to earn my title as a Seattleite. Even though I truly fell for this city two summers ago when I moved here for a buying internship with Nordstrom Headquarters, I seem to grow more attached with each passing day. Yes, it truly is that great.

The beauty of this city is staggering. The PNW is stunning in general, but Seattle in particular takes the crab cake. The food is incredible, the coffee is on-point (hello, Starbucks started here), the flowers are incredibly inexpensive and pretty and there are so many experiences to be had along scenic the way. But my guide is probably different that the guides you will find out there. I’m skipping the cliches – unless they truly deserve their glory – and sharing the most memorable experiences you can personally have. So without further adieu, here are the must-have’s for Seattle.

The Views >>>

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1. Kerry Park in Queen Anne: This is the jaw-dropping views you see when you put “Seattle” in Google Images. Queen Anne is on the very top of a hill, removed from the true Downtown area. So what you get in a 200 degree view of Downtown, the Space Needle, Mount Rainer as the back drop for it all and then the Sound beyond that. It is remarkable. Here and here are my Instagrams of the spot.

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2. The View from I-5 (coming from Bellevue) at Night: We chose not to have a car – opting for just a motorcycle – when we moved here. So I was robbed of this stunning view for the longest time, or was busy on Instagram when driving by it. So when we finally drove our bike from Bellevue to Seattle at night (and I was forced to pay attention) I was welcomed into Downtown by the most incredible view. On your right, you will see South Lake Union with yachts and boats parked, the Space Needle and the city it up at night in all of it’s glory.

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3. Sky View Observatory at The Columbia Tower: Everyone thinks the best view is at the Space Needle, but that is far from the truth. The Space Needle is very cool, but it’s a cliche novelty (and it’s expensive!). The best view is actually from Columbia Tower, on the other side of the city. It looks down at the Space Needle and is much less expensive. They actually have an on-going Groupon (found here) making it a mere $18.

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4. The Ferry Leaving Bainbridge Island (at sunset): It was the summer before I actually moved to Seattle and I was returning from a day trip to Bainbridge Island (a 35-minute ferry ride from Seattle) at the time of sunset (here is the Instagram post). I think it was the most awe-inducing sunset I’ve ever seen in my life. Plus, the city Skyline of Seattle on one side with Bainbridge Island and the Olympic mountains on the other is just so serene and beautiful.

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5. Gasworks Park looking to Downtown in the U-District: When I lived in the U-District the summer I was an intern, I ran two miles for this view every day. It is such a pretty place to picnic and drink coffee (or wine!) The park itself is full of character and there is a structure full of old gas lines (hence the name of the park).

*Please note that Puget Sound is a body of water. I never understood this until moving here (thanks to being from the Midwest).*

The Experiences >>>

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1. Pike Place Market: Oh, the flowers are so swoon worthy and the place is always buzzing with life, eclectic street musicians serenading you as the experience unfolds. This is one cliche that is worth all the hype. The flowers are unlike anything I’ve ever seen (even though I’ve been all over the world). Starting at $5, you can get a stunning bouquet of flowers. Make sure to walk the whole market before choosing your blooms – it’s part of the fun and my favorite flower stand (where you get the best flowers for the best price) are towards the right end if you are standing in front, looking at the market. My fiance got me these anniversary flowers for $20! Don’t forget to bring cash, most of the best flower stands are cash only. See Instagrams here, here, here, here and here (and basically every-other Instagram on my feed – it’s so pretty, I can’t help myself).

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2. Bill Spidel’s Underground Tour: I typically avoid these “tours” like the plague and begrudgingly went went my fiance and mom tag-teamed me and made me go. It was one of the truly most interesting, funny and informative tours I’ve ever had. Ask for the hilarious older man, can’t quite remember the name. Did you know that present day Seattle is actually built on top of the original Seattle? It’s pretty mind-blowing and will forever change the way you walk over a gutter.

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3. Discovery Park in Magnolia: Discovery park is an oasis for nature lovers. Found in the corner of Magnolia, this beach is magical in its own way. The water is extremely shallow, the sandy beaches and the view of the Sound and Bainbridge Island are beautiful. It’s a great place for a picnic or just to admire the charm of the lighthouse that sits at the point. Here is the snap from above.

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4. Chihuly Glass Museum by the Space Needle: This museum sits right at Seattle Center, practically underneath the Space Needle. Even if you aren’t exactly an artist, you can appreciate the bold colors and elegant silhouettes that the glass masterpieces have to offer.

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5. Morning Run along Puget Sound: The air here is so clean. Running along the Sound is the most mind-clearing and peaceful workout you will ever have. It is never humid in Seattle and the weather is mild. So year round, this is a go. Start by the ferries, run down the boardwalk, past the ferris wheel, by the aquarium and by Olympic Sculpture park. The views are so breathtaking that you will hardly realize you are working out.

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6. Paddle Surfing in South Lake Washington: If you visit Seattle in the summer, this is a must. Lake Washington is filled with boats and yachts, so it is exciting to take a paddle board out to experience the lake in a new way. Not to mention, this is a serious workout.

The Coffee >>>

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1. Caffe Senso Unico in Downtown: The summer I was interning at Nordstrom, my mentor had us meet here and I’ve been coming here religiously ever since. The guy who runs it is from Florence, which instantly makes me feel at home (since I lived there for a year). My favorite is their hemp milk lattes, so rich with a nutty flavor without being too sweet. The first time I brought my mom here, she walked all the way back for another coffee – because it’s that good.

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2. Wheelhouse Coffee in South Lake Union: This place is a little gem on the edge of Downtown and South Lake Union (and two blocks from my apartment – score). In the summer, their outside seating is dreamy and they serve wine as well as coffee! My go-to order for this place is an almond milk latte with almond flavoring (I’m carrying that in the image above).

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3. Moore Coffee in Downtown: Known for their latte art (like this panda latte I had), this little spot is always a must-visit. The atmosphere is quaint and the coffee is Instagram-worthy every time. I love their matcha lattees with almond milk.

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4. Starbucks Tasting Room in Capitol Hill: Starbucks may be passe, but the tasting room is far from ordinary. If I had to describe it, it’s like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, but rather than sweets, they are making coffee. The whole space is littered with rose gold and you can actually see them roast coffee beans. It has a bar atmosphere, but rather than taking shots of tequila, it’s espresso. This is also where they test new flavors, but prepare yourself for the premium price tag. A cup of coffee is about $7, but the experience is so worth it.

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5. Bobachine in Downtown: Even though coffee may not be their specialty (even though they do offer it), their boba tea is so good. My favorite is the coconut-flavored, almond milk tea with bobas. Plus, they are right in the center of everything, so it is very convenient. Monday’s they offer a 10% military discount! Yay for me and my Marine fiance.

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*Note: the original Starbucks is a tourist lure like you wouldn’t imagine. It is located right across from Pikes Place Market. My all means visit it, have a selfie and a good laugh. But by no means get coffee there. You will wait in lines upward of two hours only to be disappointed. They do nothing special. It’s the same exact coffee you get at your local Target Starbucks.*

The Food >>>

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1. Plum Bistro in Capitol Hill: This 100% vegan and organic restaurant and is a favorite spot of ours. They have the best mimosas and brunch, we’ve made it a weekend ritual. Their “mac and yease” is so decadent, you would never know it is dairy-free. The apple sage sausage that comes with the Plum Breakfast Slam literally had my Iowa man convinced that it was real sausage. Here is a Instagram of one of our lunches.

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2. Zaina by Pikes Place Market: This is the best, falafel and gyro spot in the middle of the Pike Place tourism chaos. If you want cheap eats in a clean and friendly hole in the wall, this is your spot. If you blink, you may miss it because there are no signs, you have to be looking for it. The guy who runs it is the nicest and you will have your food in less than three minutes. I always order the falafel sandwich.

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3. Cafe Paloma by Pioneer Square: This place is a fresh breath of Mediterranean air as far as food goes. The first time I was here, I was with my mom and Zach. We all took a bit at the same time and said “oh my god.” It is light, filling and beyond fresh. The falafel salad was the best I’ve ever had (and I’ve been to Greece before). Plus the atmosphere is adorable. Five food stars.

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4. Cinnamon Works in Pikes Place Market: Right in Pike’s Place Market, this family run bakery is a haven for vegans and gluten free eaters. I live for their vegan cinnamon rolls with icing served hot (I’m practically drooling just thinking about it). Zach loves their super-sized cinnamon twists.

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5. Burgers in Assembly Hall in Downtown: This quick eats and coffee stand is deceivingly low key for the tasty meals this place dishes out. Fresh fruit juices, milkshakes (even ones with booze), coffee and burgers that are pretty inexpensive, quick and sooo good. Their dairy-free veggie burgers are to die for. It is the hardiest and most savory veggie burger I’ve ever had. They serve the lentil burger with a toasted bun, avocado and crispy onions (for $5.95!) Zach says their cheeseburgers are the best he’s had in Seattle. I always love their London fogs with almond milk too.

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6. Thai Tom in the U-District: This place is a definition of hole-in-the-wall but with the demand of a five star restaurant. Very frequently, you will see a line start before this place even opens on weekends. Get it as takeout and have a picnic at Gasworks Park (that’s not too far away). Any of their curries are incredible! Zach loves the fried rice. Generous portions at amazing prices. This is easily in the top three thai restaurants I’ve ever had.

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7. Cantina-Lena in Downtown: If you are in Seattle long enough, you will probably hear of the name Tom Douglas. He is the wacky, food-genius restauranteur that owns a variety of uniquely amazing food establishments in the area. Some of them are not vegan friendly, but this is the exception. This gourmet Mexican food keeps the margaritas strong and the nachos tasty. If you ask them to “veganize” a stack of nachos for you, you will get a delectable heap of a variety of beans, peppers, pickled something or another (Douglas’ signature) and guacamole. Man it is good. Zach loves their sandwiches.

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8. Blue Bell Ice Cream in Capitol Hill: It’s a good thing this ice cream hot spot is located on the top of Capitol Hill – because once you are there, decadence awaits. They have both dairy and non-dairy flavors but my favorite ice cream is the vegan horchata. Coffee flavored with cinnamon – amazing!

It is also right up the block from Plum Bistro, that is, if you can either waddle over there or control yourself (I typically leave Plum f-u-l-l).

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9.  The Teapot in Renton: Even though it’s not in Seattle, it’s just outside of it. Just a skip and a jump away from Bellevue, this place is a vegans (or meat-eaters) Asian food dream. Every time we stop here, we order an extra entree just for leftovers because it’s that amazing. The crispy mandarin tofu is the vegan equivalent of Panda Express’ orange chicken and the bounty of the sea tastes exactly like fish, using thin layers of tofu and seaweed.

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10. Bacco Cafe in Downtown: This Italian cafe is nested right around the corner from Pikes Place Market. This is a regular stop for Zach and I. The wait staff are so fast, courteous and go above and beyond. The food is savory and served hot. The lattes warm you from the inside out and the fresh juices are to die for. The Modena juice is my absolute favorite. See an Instagram here.

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11. Cafe Campagne by Pikes Place Market: This place makes you feel like you just got transported to Paris, even though you are very much in Seattle. The experience is authentic, charming and delicious. Great coffee, get the mochas here, they aren’t too sweet. The baguettes are delightful. Zach loves their omelettes. In the summer, they have a great outdoor balcony that feels secluded and romantic. My advice? Go get blooms from the market and get breakfast here. Or vice versa. You can see the French cafe in the backdrop of these blog pictures.

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12. Mighty-O Donuts: If it’s a little out of the way for you, go to the Whole Foods in South Lake Union, they carry them there. These are drool-inducing. They have a maple-cinnamon flavor that is perfect for fall and the sprinkle ones can make anyone smile. See an Instagram here.

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13. Hot Cakes in Ballard or Capitol Hill: Prepare yourself for on heck of a decadent dessert. Vegan (and non-vegan) molten lava hot chocolate cake with caramel and coconut milk ice cream on the side. Sooooo good. I’d recommend going to the newer Capitol hill location because it’s up a hill and you can feel a bit better about partaking in this delicious dessert, sipping chocolate or s’mores. Oh yes, the best dessert date ever, they have a fire pit and you can buy a gourmet s’mores kit there. See an Instagram of Zach’s sipping chocolate with coconut milk ice cream here.

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14. Vios Mediterranean in Capitol Hill: I know you probably see a theme here, I have a weakness for Mediterranean cuisine. Zach took me on a surprise date here last summer and the waitress was so charming and the whole place was refreshingly authentic in every way. They have fresh squeezed juices that are amazing and pair well with their salads. Above is a snap of a outdoor summer brunch – how cute are the tables?!

*Note: I am a vegan, so all of these places are slightly biased to cater to my diet. I hear there are many incredible fish places around, I’ve just never tried them. My fiance lives on this little stand across from the market called Jack’s that serves cheap, quick and amazingly delicious fish and chips.*

The Shopping >>>

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1. Nordstrom Flagship in Downtown Seattle: This place literally gave me my start in the fashion world. I was in a program to be a buyer for Nordstrom, but opted for full-time fashion blogging instead. This place just got a 8-figure makeover, so wander it in search of the famous Nordstrom customer service. See my Instagram of their Celine selection above.

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2. Aritzia in the U Village: I had never heard of this store prior to moving to the Pacific North West. I’d explain it as Zara meets a slightly higher quality and less mass-produced pieces. If you like my style, you will love this store because I want everything.

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3. Zara in Downtown: Speaking of Zara… They have a physical store in Downtown Seattle. I’ve been shopping here since I was 12, but mainly online. Shopping Zara in person is a treat for me and always enjoy the roomy shopping experience of weekday morning shopping sprees here.

The Seasonal Day Trips >>>

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1. Pumpkin Picking in Snohomish (in the fall): We go to Thomas Family Pumpkin Patch to find the most pretty pumpkins of all shapes and colors. Blush, orange, yellow and even light blue pumpkins are up for grabs. We’ve literally have got 6 pumpkins for $5 before. Plus there are fall-related activities as well.

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2. Skagit Valley Tulip Festival (in the spring): No, that’s not the Netherlands – that’s Washington state in the spring. I would say this is the most awe-causing experience you will ever have in this state. It’s like being in a dream for a day. Endless rows of tulips, a visual array of bright hues after winter. It is a must if you are here in the springtime.

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3. Weekend Trip to Orcas Island in the San Juans (summer through early fall): Orcas Island is the largest island in the San Juans, a chain of islands up near Victoria B.C. This part of the state makes you feel so serene and at peace with the world. The way to get up here is via the ferry. It’s a bit of a hike but still the perfect way to spend the weekend. Nature endeavors and orca whale watching awaits on the flip side of four hours of ferry rides and driving. It’s a Free Willy moment for sure, but Willy is actually free.

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4. Lavender Fields in Sequim (from summer to fall): The lavender festival is in Mid-July, but the beauty of lavender fields carries will into the fall. Who knew that Sequim, Washington was the “Lavendar Capital of North America.” It both feels, looks and smells like a dream. The bright purple hues with the mountains ominously in the background begs for a wine and cheese picnic between the rows.

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5. Road Trip to Mount Rainer (any season really, but I prefer spring): Even though you can get a jaw-dropping view of Mount Rainer from the city, it is something that really needs to be experienced in person. A three hour drive will get you up into the mountains and it is truly beautiful. About 45 minutes out of the city, you will arrive in what we like to call “backwoods Washington.” You will see what I mean. One of the charms about “lumberjack land” are coffee huts. Tiny little huts off the side of the road that you will get amazing, strong coffee from cheap. Going up the mountain itself is a glorious experience, but rent a car that can handle the job.

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6. Camping at Lake Wenatchee: I wouldn’t consider myself the “camping type” (maybe you would have guessed) but the reality is, my fiance is – big time. So Lake Wenatchee is where we have our compromise. Set in the middle of the Cascade Mountains, it’s beautiful (obviously from this snap above). The crystal-clear glacier water (see another IG snap here and here) and scenic ride there (we take our motorcycle through the mountains and it is unbelievable). I can swim, tan and get coffee at the cutest “coffee huts” – that’s a huge thing in Washington State.

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7. Leavenworth, WA (in the summer preferably): This was a gem Zach and I found while motorcycling our way to Lake Wenatchee (see above) last summer. Only three hours separates you from a surprisingly legitimate German experience. Nestled in between the mountains, Leavenworth is modeled after an authentic Barvarian town. Get true German cuisine, drink a pint, have a (vegan or non-vegan) bratworst and take in the surroundings. In the summer, rent a bike or go tubing down the river. In the fall, this town gets crazy for Oktoberfest. Here is the snap from above.

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8. Wine Tasting in Woodinville: Less than a week after first arriving in Seattle as an intern for Nordstrom was my 21st birthday. I spent it wine tasting in Woodinville and it was lovely. 40 minutes or so, outside Seattle, lies a holy-grail of wineries and tasting rooms that is a great way to spend a day with your best friends or man. There is over 100 different wineries and here is a map of them all.

I hope you all enjoyed this! If you have any more questions about Seattle or the PNW in general, feel free to comment below! I’d love to answer any of your questions.

As always, thank you for reading.

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10 Responses

  1. Stephanie

    Love all the recommendations! Thank you for the time consuming post. What hotel in Seattle would you recommend? We would be traveling with a 13 and 10 year ol.

    • Brenna

      Aw thank you, Stephanie. When I was visiting in Seattle, before we moved, I always stayed at the Executive Hotel Pacific. Good deals can be found, great service and within walking distance of everything (there is even a wine hour for you!)

      xo,
      Brenna

  2. Abby

    Oh my gosh yes, THAI TOM. Literally the Thai food I compare all other Thai food too, it’s that good. This post made me miss Seattle/Washington so much. You should also check out Leavenworth at Christmas time, they turn it into a Christmas village essentially. What a great post Brenna!

    • Brenna

      I know, right?! I crave it so much – they need to create one in downtown. And thanks for the great recommendation. We will have to do that next holiday season.

      xo,
      Brenna

  3. Char

    Excellent informative post. Great photos and unique recommendations. Thank you!
    Also, you’ve mentioned several times that you eat vegan. I’m not sure if I’ve missed it or not, but have you ever shared your motivation behind that and what the challenges and benefits are? Not sure you want to take your blog in that direction or not, but I for one am interested.
    Have a great week!

  4. What a great post! As a Seattle native, I like how you also listed places that are outside of the city. There’s so much to do and you don’t have to travel too far from the city to find some great places!

    Polly
    http://gemsandjoy.com

    • Brenna

      Thank you so much, Polly! And I totally agree, the PNW is beautiful!

      xo,
      Brenna

  5. togelpelangi >
    nice info

    • Brenna

      Thank you!

      xo,
      B