Seattle, WA

What to Do on a Day Trip to Seattle

Claire Handscombe

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Besides drinking in the views, enjoying the mild summer weather, and sampling the coffee, there's a lot to do in see in Seattle. Sometimes, with a day trip, it's hard to know exactly how to get the most out of all the options. But never fear: I'm here to suggest an itinerary for you.

Wander Pike Place Market

If you love flowers, Pike Place Market is a delight, with bouquets lined up on long tables, smelling and looking lovely. You'll also find paintings, jewellery, and Seattle memorabilia. If you go on a weekend or holiday, you'll find yourself deep in crowds -- yes, even in 2021, despite the signs pleading for social distancing -- and I enjoy the quieter days there, though, if you're vaccinated and masked, the hubbub and buzz of crowds can be part of the fun.

See the first Starbucks

The first ever Starbucks is opposite the market, too -- you'll need to line up for a while even in non-pandemic times, and if what you're after is coffee, there are far better options nearby, like my own favourite, Storyville. But 1912 Pike Place does sell unique merch, so you may deem it worth the wait.

Marvel at the Chewing Gum Wall

Until I'd seen the Chewing Gum Wall for myself, I would never have believed it could be as fun as it is. It's literally what you imagine: a collection of people's used chewing gum stuck on a wall. But the wall is massive, and people have been very creative -- stretching the gum into letters and collecting pretty patterns, though it's the randomness of the gum clumps that makes it beautiful in its own weird way.

By now, you're probably needing another coffee, so stop at the delightful Ghost Alley Coffee at the top of the hill after taking the requisite photos for Instagram. They even sell gum there, in case you wanted to add your own mark to the city.

Take a Tour Bus

There are lot of tours you can take, by both bus and ferry, and they'll help you get an overview of the city, as well as rest your feet. I really enjoyed the one we took -- perhaps a tad on the long side at three + hours, it did show us not just the centre of the city but various neighbourhoods. During one of the breaks, designed to let us have coffee and gelato, I even got to make a beeline for an independent bookshop and wander around for a few minutes.

Led by a local, our tour took us past various Amazon landmarks -- I had to grouchily admit that some of their buildings and even their concepts, like the four-star store, were kind of cool. But I was also glad to be drinking tea from my SHOP INDIE BOOKSTORES thermos mug in quiet (and doubtless ineffective) resistance. We drove across pontoon bridges and around various neighbourhoods, saw a giant statue of a troll and another, smaller one of Lenin(!), and heard about the lives and histories of various famous Seattleities including John W Nordstorm, who made his fortune in the Gold Rush in Alaska and returned to found a shoe store, which has since grown into a retail empire bearing his name.

Go up the Space Needle

If you grew up watching the Jetsons, the Space Needle will feel familiar: the family's then futurisic apartment was based on the Seattle landmark. In fact, the whole place has a "retrofuturism" vibe which is quite enjoyable, especially to Gen Xers and Boomers amongst us who remember it just as futurism. The elevator up takes just 42 seconds, but the view of the city and the water and mountains beyond is breathtaking. Those of a steely disposition can look down at the city through a revolving floor on one level of the tower, and a floor up you can wander around the tower, looking down at Seattle. If you feel like splashing out and lingering a little longer, the Drinks on the Deck experience is for you, too.

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Claire Handscombe is a British writer who moved to Washington, DC, in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA in Creative Writing, but really, let’s be honest, because of an obsession with The West Wing. She is the host of the Brit Lit Podcast, a monthly show about news and views from UK books and publishing; the author of Unscripted, a novel about a young woman with a celebrity crush and a determined plan; and the editor of Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives.

Washington, DC
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