A guide to the Emerald City by touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell
The taste of Seattle coffee and the scent of Douglas fir and hemlock in Discovery Park; the views of Mount Rainier, the sound of seaplanes, the feel of the wind in your hair as you walk along the waterfront…the Emerald City is amazing no matter which sense you hone in on.
Take a look at Seattle’s best opportunities to taste, smell, see, feel, and listen, and start planning your time here with the idea that you’re definitely going to see the sights — but you’re going to indulge your other senses as well.
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Seattle is known for three big flavor profiles: coffee, beer, and seafood. Yes, there are awesome burgers. Yes, there’s incredible pho. But if you’re going to go on a true tasting tour of Seattle, you need to make sure to sample at least one item from each of the Big Three.
For beer, start with a place like the Pine Box in Capitol Hill. This well-frequented pub has dozens of hyper-local and regional craft beers on tap, and will provide the perfect introduction to who’s brewing what in the Seattle area. With this primer under your belt, it’s time to go directly to the source and visit one of the city’s microbreweries. In Georgetown, Machine House Brewery does great English-style ales in small batches, which you can try in the onsite tasting room. Just up the road, Georgetown Brewing Company puts out locals’ favorite Manny’s Pale Ale. You can also head north to Fremont Brewing, a family-owned brewery focusing on sustainability and artisan beers.
As for coffee, well, this is the city that invented Starbucks. Check out the original Starbucks in Pike Place Market, or visit the new Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room, a true shrine to all things coffee. Then stop by any of the other famous coffeeshops in the city, from Victrola Coffee Roasters to Ballard Coffee Works to…you know what? No matter where you are in Seattle, there’s a great cup of coffee within two blocks. You can probably see it from where you’re standing.
And then the seafood. We profiled Japonessa Sushi Cocina in our list of 7 amazing places in Seattle you’ve probably never heard of, so start there — or visit its sister restaurant,Billy Beach, in Ballard. You could also head straight for Pike Place Market (that’s where they throw the fish, after all) for a plate of shellfish or a halibut sandwich at Matt’s in the Market. Etta’s is right there too, a place so seafood-focused it hosts “crabby hour” from 3 to 6pm on weekdays. For seafood and pasta dishes, there’s upscale Anchovies & Olives, or for half a dozen oysters on the half shell, follow the locals to The Walrus and the Carpenter in Ballard.
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The saltwater wind that caresses you as you wander through Olympic Sculpture Park, the earthy perfume of evergreens and fertile soil that accompanies a hike inDiscovery Park…Seattle smells good.
We’ve already mentioned Pike Place, but trust us — there are plenty of aromas to savor and enjoy there, from fresh fish to fresh crumpets. Go inside the market and smell the tinctures and perfumes at Tenzing Momo, and stop for a Tarot card reading while you’re there. Head to Le Panier for the scent of freshly baked bread and pastries; MarketSpice for a bouquet of delicious teas, spices, and coffee beans; Pike Place Flowers for the honey scent of lilies; and Pike Place Chowder for the rich, savory aroma of clam chowders, lobster bisques, and smoked salmon rolls.
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Even if Mount Rainier is clouded over when you’re in town, it’s worth taking a trip to one of Seattle’s lookout spots to get incredible views of Puget Sound and Lake Washington. The Space Needle is the go-to — and if you’ve never been to the top, you should check it out — but there are plenty of other lookout points you can visit for free.
There are even great views right at sea level at Alki Beach Park. With sand under your feet and a panorama of Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains, and the city itself, you’ll have plenty of opportunities for gazing and relaxing.
If you’d prefer to stay downtown, go to the Sky View Observatory in Columbia Center. It’s the tallest public viewing area west of the Mississippi, and you’ll be able to see everything Seattle and its surrounding landscape have to offer.
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People don’t generally think of Seattle as a beach city, but we’ve got a lot more sand-between-the-toes options than we’re given credit for. There’s the beach at Seward Park in the city’s southeast, and two miles of protected shore at Discovery Park. Just a little farther north in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, Golden Gardens Park awaits.
At the piers near Waterfront Park, you can sign up for one of Seattle’s numerous sailing opportunities. Take the Clipper Vacations’ Whale Watching & Sealife Search Day Trip, and you’ll feel both the wind in your hair and the waves beneath you.
For more tactile experiences, consider blowing your own glass at the Rainier Glass Studio, or painting your own pottery at the Dancing Brush Studio.
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There’s so much to hear in Seattle — after all, this is the city that invented grunge and gave us Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and the Foo Fighters. Of course, that’s all ancient history now. For the current lowdown on the local music scene, check out Sounds by the Sound, a series co-produced by REVOLT TV and Visit Seattle featuring performances by and interviews with artists who have a special connection to the city. To see who’s playing on Seattle stages during your visit, grab a copy of The Stranger.
Don’t skip a trip to the EMP (Experience Music Project) Museum. Although its recent evolution has seen it take a more pop-culture focus, you’ll still find a lot to listen to here. Record your own scream in the “Can’t Look Away: The Lure of Horror Film” exhibit, or grab a guitar and jam out in one of the soundproof rooms at Sound Lab. The best place to listen? The Sky Church, which provides a space for guests to relax and watch experimental films or classic music videos.
Really though, wherever you are in Seattle, there are fascinating sounds to tune into: the buzz of seaplanes coming in for a landing on Lake Union, crowds deafeningly cheering at Seahawks and Sounders games, or just the general hustle and bustle of one of America’s most vibrant cities.