McDonald’s and FIFA. If people were to ask me what my first impression was of Seattle, I’d tell them about that first night I flew in and met up with my college roommates and friends. That’s right, we ordered McDonald’s at 12 am and proceeded to play FIFA while chatting and catching up well into the night. Now that’s how you know you’re in the presence of good friends, when you can just unwind and enjoy the time together, without worrying about formalities or sleep.
My Seattle trip had been in the works for months now. I’d promised one of my college roommates, James, that I’d go visit him in Seattle once winter was over. Actually, the other roommates promised the same thing so we coordinated and picked the long weekend over Memorial Day to fly in. So Jay, Kevin, and I, along with our good friend Christina, found ourselves in the Pacific Northwest that Friday night, and over the next few days, we had a blast exploring the city with a local, eating tons of good food, meeting new friends, and just having a wonderful time. This post will cover the major highlights of our Emerald City visit.
Pike Place Market
After a few hours of sleep, we woke up decently early Saturday morning to grab brunch at a French restaurant and walk around the famous Pike Place Market. As one of the oldest continuously operated farmer’s markets in the US, the stretch of stores and arcades housed a ton of really unique booths, from fresh seafood to apple slush to bouquets of beautiful flowers. It was a touristy spot so the place was packed, but we had fun wading through the crowds and just watching the bustling market work. I especially liked the lit neon signs that some of the shops had, and I loved watching the craziness of the market unfold before me.
Right across the booths at Pike Place stood the original Starbucks, and being big fans of coffee we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go full-Seattle-tourist mode and line up for a drink and some swag. The line stretched outside the store but moved surprisingly quickly, and the atmosphere inside the shop was festive and warm. I grabbed a souvenir Pike Place Starbucks cup and a bag of their original blend whole bean coffee and ordered my go-to, a grande iced caramel latte. A cool detail I noticed was that the people taking orders would toss the empty cups to the baristas on the other side of the counter who would proceed to make the drinks.
Irish Pub & Soccer
Saturday was the day Real Madrid played Atletico Madrid for the European Cup. We found a pretty cool low-key Irish pub called Owl ‘n Thistle and proceeded to enjoy the game over some drinks. The game itself was a nail-biter, especially because we had some Real Madrid fans in the group. That 93rd-minute goal was ridiculous and the ensuing goals were also pretty fun to watch. There was definitely some stranger-hugging going on when Real came back late in the game.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
We made it to the Seattle Center, one of the most central and popular tourist spots in the city. The combo ticket we purchased included admission to Chihuly Garden and Glass and the Space Needle, so we went to the glass exhibit first. The glass artwork was jaw dropping – everything was created from blown glass, intricately built and rich in color and detail. From ridiculously-arranged glass sculptures in boats and suspended from the ceiling to colorful glass plants outside in the garden (mixed with real plants), the museum really showcased the talent and genius of artist Dale Chihuly.
This was it. We were finally in line for the observation deck of the most iconic structure in Seattle – the Space Needle. With a unique design reminiscent of a giant UFO, this tower was originally built for the 1962 World’s Fair and was once the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River. Our elevator ride to the top took a little over 40 seconds and we spent the next half hour enjoying the amazing panoramic view of Seattle, from the skyline to the water to the surrounding suburbs and towns. It was breathtaking and the buildings and lakes shimmered in the sun. After taking some pictures we headed back to James’ apartment for a quick break.
Capitol Hill & Bar Hopping
That evening the group met up with James and Jay’s mutual friend for a birthday dinner and celebration. We enjoyed dinner at a Greek restaurant in the trendy Capitol Hill neighborhood and spent the evening meeting new friends and bar hopping. I loved how all the bars were within walking distance and were all unique. We stopped by garage pool-hall themed bars, German bocce ball bars, and classy sit-down bars. Everyone was super chill and friendly, and we talked a lot about school, living in Seattle vs. SF, and what we were doing for work (a lot of Amazon and Microsoft employees, of course).
That Sunday, after a delicious lunch at Din Tai Fung (world-famous xiao long baos, Shanghainese steamed buns), we hiked a beautiful trail to see Snoqualmie Falls, one of Washington’s most popular scenic attractions. It was lightly raining but that didn’t stop us from hiking and even climbing down some tricky slopes to get to the base of the waterfall. The scenery was so beautiful – everything was green as far as the eye could see. There were a lot of people on the trails but it didn’t feel overcrowded. Everyone was just there to enjoy the great outdoors, and I’m glad we got to experience the sights and sounds as well!
EMP (Experience Music Project) Museum
We had a bit more time before dinner so we drove back to downtown and visited the EMP Museum at the City Center. Founded by Paul Allen (Microsoft co-founder), this museum is dedicated to contemporary music and pop culture. And Seattle has got to be the perfect spot, with an impressive music pedigree spanning the past century. We saw some really impressive exhibits of Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, and the history of guitars. A particularly cool exhibit allowed museum goers to learn and play their own instruments, with rooms we could rent out for 10 minutes to just jam and experiment. The exhibits were so impressive, well-executed and interactive.
Shiro’s Sushi Restaurant
This was it. After waiting for almost two extra hours (and watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi documentary while waiting), we found ourselves seated and ordering Shiro’s Omakase sushi dinner. As a protege of the world-famous sushi chef Jiro, Shiro had to be decently good, right? Decently good was an understatement. Over the course of almost two hours, we tried one amazing fish after another. Everything was prepared flawlessly, and the fish were so fresh they melt in our mouths. After getting our fill we even had fried ice cream. It was a meal for the ages, and we spent some time toasting each other with sake and reminiscing our friendship over the years and looking ahead to many more years of friendship in the future.
Seattle Great Wheel
It was getting late but we couldn’t skip the opportunity for a nighttime view of the city. We drove over to Seattle Great Wheel and bought tickets for the Ferris wheel, which took us pretty high up over the water and allowed us to get a pretty awesome night view of the city, all while chilling in a climate-controlled pod (it was awesome). We snapped a lot of pictures and picked out different buildings and landmarks while chatting and just having a good time.
It was a perfect ending to one of the most fun trips I’ve been on with friends in a while. Seattle was such a chill and beautiful city, and I enjoyed everything it had to offer, whether it was the touristy attractions or the hip restaurants or the amazing food. Special shout out to James for being an amazing host and putting up with us (four of us) at his apartment over the long weekend, and to Jay, Kevin, Christina, and James, here’s to many more years of friendship and fun trips!