Every Seattle resident has a ready statistic about how rapidly the city is growing — 75 people move here each day, you’ll hear, or maybe it’s a thousand new arrivals a week. Whatever the actual figure, the impact on residents is real: rising costs, housing shortages, increased traffic and herds of construction cranes — even the Space Needle has been under renovation. But for visitors, the tech-fueled growth also means new sights and flavors to explore. Wander far from the downtown core to discover niche museums and nature reserves, plenty of Pacific Northwest seafood and some of the best craft beer in the country.
Begin at the Nordic Museum, which reopened in May in a striking new zinc-cloaked structure in Ballard, the northwestern neighborhood and traditional home of Seattle’s seafaring Scandinavian community. In spacious, light-filled galleries, trace Nordic heritage and history from the Vikings to pioneer-era emigrants from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland. Current exhibitions spotlight contemporary Nordic artists (through Sept. 16) and the extraordinary life of Fridtjof Nansen, a Norwegian explorer, humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize winner (through Aug. 5). Admission, $15.
Pause for a taste of the Pacific Northwest at the Walrus and the Carpenter, a bustling restaurant run by the acclaimed local chef Renee Erickson. The popular order at this hour is a cocktail and oysters, as evidenced by the shucker surrounded by icy baskets of bivalves behind the bar. Start with something bubbly, like an herbal, pine-scented spritz ($12). Then proceed with a few of the day’s oysters, which often include Hood Canal favorites — sturdy Hama Hamas, saline Baywater Sweets — alongside other Puget Sound gems like plump Pickering Passages.
Welcome to I.P.A. heaven, hopheads. Craft beer enthusiasts will be delighted to find choose-your-own tasting flights offered at many of the excellent breweries situated around the Lake Washington Ship Canal, the waterway that bisects the city. Start south of Salmon Bay at Urban Family Brewing, a stellar microbrewery specializing in hazy I.P.A.s and sour ales, where the rotating taps recently included Lawn Darts, a double I.P.A. with hints of grapefruit and pine. Head north for more hops at Stoup Brewing, where a garage taproom houses a tangerine-colored bar with 20 taps pouring easy-drinking brews, such as the citrusy Northwest I.P.A. Finish with a flight at Fremont Brewing. The Lush I.P.A. is a standout at this neighborhood mainstay, where convivial crowds gather among blooming flowers in the pup-friendly beer garden. Four-taste flights, about $10.
The Ravenna restaurant JuneBaby, chef Edouardo Jordan’s homage to Southern food, has much of the food world fawning, but there are plenty of appetizing alternatives (without the hour-plus wait) within walking distance in nearby Fremont. Plan ahead and reserve a table at Kamonegi, chef Mutsuko Soma’s cozy 32-seat soba restaurant that opened last October. A recent meal included crisp sea-eel tempura, yakitori-style duck tsukune (meatballs) and bamboo baskets of hand-cut soba noodles with dipping sauce and wasabi. Or stumble a few blocks to Manolin, a nautical-themed restaurant with a large horseshoe-shaped bar, aquamarine-tiled walls and superb seafood dishes, such as rockfish ceviche with avocado and shoestrings of sweet potato. Dinner for two at either, about $60.
Put the digital devices aside at Analog Coffee, a laid-back coffee shop beloved by locals for its back-to-basics ethos: stacks of vinyl and cassettes, print newspapers and magazines, and an excellent cold brew on tap. On the way there, swing by Capitol Hill’s Bakery Nouveau for a superlative morning snack: a rich double-baked almond croissant filled with sweet almond cream ($4.25).
Seattle is no stranger to daring architecture (see the cage-like facade of the Seattle Central Library, or Frank Gehry’s multicolored metal armor at the Museum of Pop Culture). The latest addition is the Spheres, three interconnected glass-domed conservatories that opened on Amazon’s downtown campus in January. But good luck getting inside: Public entry to the Spheres botanical gardens requires a reservation, either for a bimonthly Saturday open house or for a guided headquarters tour (book online weeks in advance). Or skip the Spheres and instead spend the morning at the Living Computers: Museum + Labs, a fascinating technology museum filled with computing artifacts, like the Oregon Trail on an Apple IIe, and cutting-edge exhibits about convolutional neural networks and a 3D-printed self-driving car. Admission, $16.
Vietnamese, Japanese or Thai? For lunch, choose among three new stars on Seattle’s culinary scene serving flavors from the other side of the Pacific Ocean. At Pho Bac Sup Shop, a buzzy Vietnamese restaurant run by three siblings, natural wines are served alongside aromatic short-rib pho with oversize bones jutting from the steaming bowls. Fremont Bowl, which opened late last year, quickly earned a following for its donburi (rice bowls), particularly the sashimi-topped chirashi piled with a rainbow of tuna, salmon, yellowtail, shrimp, freshwater eel and masago roe. Or opt for a restorative plate of pad thai at Little Uncle, the new sit-down locale of a popular takeout window, where the silky noodles are served with peanuts, roasted chilies and sugar as seasonings on the side. Lunch, about $15.
The future of public broadcasting looks bright at KEXP, the city’s intrepid independent radio station. In 2016, the famed station — the first to play Nirvana’s debut single, “Love Buzz” — welcomed the public to its impressive new facility designed by Seattle’s SkB Architects; it features performance spaces, an on-site coffee shop and record store. Time a visit to catch a live show — the station holds over 400 a year — on the stage in the spacious lobby or in the studio’s intimate viewing gallery, which recently hosted the Breeders and Portland’s indie-folk band Horse Feathers. (Find upcoming events on KEXP.org.)
Brush up on your brewing terminology — mixed-fermentation, foudre-aged, oak-fermented — before visiting Holy Mountain Brewing Company, an experimental brewery whose funky saisons and wild ales altered how Seattle brews beer. In the minimalist, hangar-like taproom, a dozen taps pour innovative brews, many using wild yeasts, hops from the Yakima Valley, and oak barrels for fermenting and aging; the Covenant, a mixed-fermentation, barrel-aged saison, was a recent favorite.
Come as you are — in fleece, flannel or finery — to dinner at No Anchor, a casual downtown gastro pub. Since opening in 2016, this overachieving beer bar has earned accolades for pairing top-notch brews with refined plates, such as tempura-fried hen-of-the-woods mushrooms ($10), smoked pickled mussels with burned-garlic aioli ($11) and Russian-style pelmeni dumplings with fresh cheese ($16). Afterward, continue the night next door at Navy Strength, a summery cocktail bar pouring tiki standards and original tropical concoctions, like the Escape Hatch (dark rum, falernum, coconut water and herbs; $13).
You can find Columbia City Bakery’s award-winning loaves at restaurants and farmer’s market stands around town, but it’s worth an early-morning detour to the cafe, which last year began serving seasonal hand pies and hot-pressed sandwiches. Snack on some soft pretzel knots (75 cents each) while waiting for the main attraction: a fresh-pressed Vermont Club with turkey, bacon, Cheddar and apple-onion jam on pain de campagne ($11).
Whatever the weather, crowds convene at the Ballard Farmers Market where vendors peddle Washington state products— from fresh produce and shellfish to charcuterie, cider and cheese — in the neighborhood’s historic heart. Browse the seasonal bounty, jostle among buskers and street performers, and visit Prism, a market-adjacent boutique where offerings recently ranged from artwork by the local illustrator Sierra Graves to unisex perfumes from Ballard-based Blackbird. Then detour to Venue, a nearby art studio, gallery and shop where products from dozens of area artists include pretty hand-printed letterpress cards from Seattle’s Ilee Papergoods.
Save the best for last: an afternoon spent in one of the Emerald City’s myriad green parks. For fresh air on a wide sandy beach, head northwest to the peaceful Golden Gardens Park. Walk along the shore to revel in the views across the Puget Sound, where you might spot harbor seals floating belly-up in the calm water offshore, and on clear days, spy the Olympic Mountains beyond. Or if skyline views are what you’re after, head southeast to Gas Works Park, an unusual public park on the site of a former coal gasification plant, parts of which have been turned into a play area. Find a spot among the kite-fliers on the surrounding lawns to watch seaplanes land on the waters of Lake Union.
The Hotel Theodore is a refined 153-room property that reopened in 2017 after a style-minded renovation. In the Art Deco tower that formerly housed the Roosevelt Hotel, guests are now surrounded by Seattle-sourced products, from a collection of local art and artifacts to house-roasted beans in the on-site coffee shop (1531 7th Avenue; 206-621-1200; hoteltheodore.com; from about $250).
Another downtown option is the Hotel Andra, a Scandinavian-themed boutique property with 119 guest rooms, two restaurants and a Northwest-meets-Nordic design aesthetic featuring Alvar Aalto-designed lounge chairs and stacked firewood beside the lobby’s large granite fireplace (2000 4th Avenue; 206-448-8600; hotelandra.com; from about $300).
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