The Perfect Day in Seattle

Keep it local when you only have 24 hours in the Emerald City. A trip (by monorail, of course) out to the site of the 1962 World’s Fair will get you access to the magnificent Space Needle, a walk past the Chihuly Garden and Glass, and the rest of the morning to dawdle at the Museum of Pop Culture. Back into the city center, head to Pike Place Market to find some food, walk around the admire the fish and flowers and goods on sale, then walk up First Avenue to the Seattle Art Museum. A cocktail, a knock-out dinner, and you’ve spent your time in Seattle wisely.

400 Broad St, Seattle, WA 98109, USA
Far and away Seattle‘s most iconic structure, this U.F.O saucer on a stick is an Atomic Age baby—it only dates back to the 1962 World’s Fair. A 41-second elevator still whisks guests to the observation deck, which really ladles on the natural beauty when the clouds lift and “the mountains are out.” The Needle underwent a glorious $100-million “space-lift” in 2018. Innovations include floor-to-ceiling glass walls with benches that angle backwards (designed for great selfie angles—seriously!). The landmark also added the world’s first and only revolving glass floor, spinning under the Atmos Wine Bar. A café still serves quick bites, but the full-service restaurant has yet to reopen in early 2019. Below sprawls the Seattle Center’s carnival rides, science exhibits, world-famous glass art garden and the MoPop, a superb rock and sci-fi museum that resembles Jimi Hendrix’s smashed guitar when viewed from above
85 Pike St, Seattle, WA 98101, USA
Walk, cycle or people-watch along the shores of Elliott Bay, a downtown stretch known for its circusy flair and spectacular vistas. You can ride the Great Wheel or visit the beloved Seattle Aquarium, home to wolf eels, sea otters, and the world’s largest octopuses. Refuel with chowder from local favorite Ivar’s Acres of Clams, then hit the market’s 200 owner-operated shops, ranging from a radical book collection to the Northwest’s oldest magic store. Just don’t turn your back on the famous salmon-slinging fishmongers: They’ve been known to wallop selfie-photographers with a plastic decoy for yucks!
1428 Post Alley, Seattle, WA 98101, USA
Taking just the ‘right’ wrong turn on a visit to Pike Place Market can land you in Post Alley, where spearmint, wild cherry, and tropical punch bubble gum drizzles down the window panes and grape, peppermint, and lemon ice gum-cicles form from sills. It may be one of the lesser-known Seattle tourist attractions, but it certainly makes a big impression with plenty of chaotic color on a rainy day. And if you’re a gum chewer, be prepared to stick a drop of your own favorite flavor to leave a colorful mark on the city.
325 5th Avenue North
This sheet-metal fever dream by architect Frank Gehry is like a rock-and-roll Guggenheim, home to interactive exhibits that span music, sci-fi, fantasy, animation, video games, and other scrambled bits of modern life. A hands-on studio lets kids and grown-ups mess with real instruments and studio hardware. Originally intended to honor Jimi Hendrix, the building’s design echoes one of the legend’s smashed guitars (most obviously when viewed from atop the Space Needle). Critic Herbert Muschamp once accused it of “looking like something that crawled out of the sea, rolled over and died,” but visitors often enjoy the jumble of color and distorted reflections—perfect for quirky selfies!
1001 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98104, USA
Yes, you read that right... “Keep clam” is the motto at Ivar’s famous Seattle seafood restaurants. Ivar’s has plenty of locations around town, from the casual fish-and-chip stands to the fancier waterfront Acres of Clams and Salmon House, but all of them serve up piping-hot fried fish and chips, a classic Seattle dish. (Salmon would be the most Northwestern choice, but we like the halibut best.) For maximum local flavor, head to the Pier 54 walk-up bar for your chowder or shrimp cocktail, then feed leftover French fries to the grateful seagulls hanging around and begging.
1407 Alaskan Way
Seattle’s waterfront is a paradise for walkers, cyclists and anyone who wants to relax at a sidewalk café and do a little people-watching. Enjoy a drink or coffee and watch cruise ships and local ferries come and go. If you’re lucky, you might even see Mount Rainier. Get a different perspective on Elliott Bay from the top of the Seattle Great Wheel or wander down Alaskan Way to the Seattle Aquarium.
Built as a people mover for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, the Seattle Monorail is a surprisingly popular attraction, especially given that it’s not very practical. It goes from downtown to the Seattle Center and back, and that’s it. The ride is short—just a couple of minutes—but if you’re staying downtown, it’s an easy way to get to places like the Space Needle, the EMP and Sci-Fi museums, the Pacific Science Center, Chihuly Garden and Glass, and Key Arena. Its midcentury-futuristic design is charming, and the view of downtown from above is unique. The monorail is wheelchair accessible (by elevator at Westlake and by ramp at Seattle Center), and reduced fares are available for children, seniors, and U.S. military members.
305 Harrison St, Seattle, WA 98109, USA
This colorful, photography-friendly collection of the one-eyed glass artist’s work is more than just another tourist attractions. The Northwest room, with its ceramics, textile art, Pendleton blankets, and photography of Native Americans, is a nod to the traditional arts that inspired Chihuly’s work. Playful, brightly colored glass is everywhere: oversized spheres piled into a rowboat, sea creatures and undulating glass ribbons that evoke the movement of the ocean, and fanciful “flowers” in the outdoor garden. The gift shop is large, with a nice selection of gifts, novelties, and Pendleton blankets. King County residents get a $4 discount off admission. Great for visitors, residents, and anyone who has a nice digital camera they’re itching to try out.
1521 10th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122, USA
The Elliott Bay Book Company is the Seattle bookstore and, thankfully, survived its move from Pioneer Square to Capitol Hill with soul and towering cedar bookcases intact. Elliott Bay lost a significant chunk of square footage during the move but gained a home right in the heart of Capitol Hill. Which makes it even easier to execute the ideal lazy Sunday afternoon combo: new novel + Fonte latte and one of the book-size housemade muffins from the on-site café (if it’s sunny, make a beeline for the grassy Cal Anderson park, just across the street). The food is northwest downhome—unpretentious salads with local greens, wholesome soups—but the abundant outlets and cozy café vibe make up for any food misses.

Try it there: The lemon crepe

Bring it home: Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice and tickets to a Neptune Theater reading
1531 Melrose Ave, Seattle, WA 98122, USA
You’ll want to arrive early at Sitka & Spruce to allow time for browsing the other shops inside Melrose Market: Calf and Kid’s artisanal cheeses, Rain Shadow Meats’ sausages and steaks, Glasswing’s home decor, and Marigold & Mint’s fresh flowers. At Sitka & Spruce, chef Matthew Dillon features a rotating menu of hyper-local Northwest cuisine in shareable small plates and mains. The artfully arranged charcuterie platter is a must-try, and don’t skip the bread — the Columbia City sourdough loaf with whipped butter is a local favorite. Just want a snack? Try Bar Ferd’nand next door, also co-owned by Dillon, for a glass of wine and simple bar snacks, or take home a bottle.
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