Next weekend, some friends from Kansas City are coming up to watch Sporting Kansas City’s season opener against the Seattle Sounders, and naturally, this will be a Sporting KC victory. If you’re one of them, welcome to Seattle! Let me give you a few do’s and don’ts, as somebody who’s had a 4-month head start adapting from Kansas City to Seattle. Granted, your visit is temporary, whereas mine is more permanent – but – these tips should come in handy.
(These tips should also come in handy if you’re planning a visit ANYTIME of the year. They’ve also been lovingly fact-checked by some Seattle friends to make sure I don’t sound stupid.)
DO visit the Space Needle, but DON’T go up the thing, unless you really really want to. Admission is $18 (if you’re willing to commit to a time) or $24 (if you aren’t). Instead, hit the Columbia Tower SkyView; it’s cheaper ($12.50), taller, and you can see the Space Needle from there. (Granted, it’s a fully enclosed deck, whereas the Space Needle is outdoor/indoor, but it’s your call.) Keep in mind that, unless it’s a blue-sky day, you may not be able to see squat from up there. We do have fog.
If you do visit the Space Needle, DO also visit the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation across the street. The visitor center is pretty educational and talks about the work they do. Also, you may want to visit the EMP (Experience Music Project), which is a museum that combines rock-and-roll, science fiction, and pop culture. (At the very least, grab a photo or two of it.) Lastly, if you’re going to be staying downtown, I’m actually going to say DO take the Monorail to the Space Needle (and the Seattle Center, the name for the entire complex of things there). It’s touristy, sure. But the $4.50 r/t fare (cash only) gets you there and back in a direct route. Sure, there are other ways to get there, but it’s simple, and if you have kids along, they’ll like it.
DON’T rent a car, unless you have a specific need to. If you’re doing the basic touristy activities in the city, the light rail can take you from the airport to the heart of the city, Metro buses are pretty good at getting you to other places, and the entire core of the city is pretty walkable. If you think navigating downtown KC’s one-way streets and construction is obnoxious, wait until you see what we’ve got — plus — you’ll have to figure out where to park, and how to deal with all the pedestrians / bicyclists / etc. we have… yeah, don’t bother. DO sign up for Uber if you haven’t already, because compared to cabs, Uber can be a great way to get back to your hotel when you’ve had a few too many – you order a car on your phone, you know exactly when they arrive, you know how good your driver is (based on previous reviews), you don’t have to tip, and the amount is automatically deducted from your card. And, by clicking here, you get $20 in Uber credit to use (and so will I). Plus, you’ll already be signed up for when Uber comes to KC (and it’s gonna be soon). Fair warning: if you try to hit up Uber during a very very busy period, you may have to pay more in “surge pricing” – so buyer beware. (And don’t ask about the city council thing.)
DO stop by Kerry Park in Queen Anne if you want the “Frasier’s Apartment View” of Seattle (that view doesn’t really exist anywhere in the city, but it’s as close as you’re going to get). If you’re looking for another great view, DO take the water taxi across to West Seattle; it plops you on the waterfront, with Alki Beach a short walk away.
DO ask the locals about Big Bertha if you want a good laugh.
DO visit Pike Place Market. I mean, you’re going to anyway, so why the hell not. DO stop by Starbucks #1 in the market (it’s along the main strip of the market), but DON’T even think about trying to get coffee there. It’s a typical storefront, and the line is ridiculously long. Always. If you must have Starbucks coffee in that area, hit the Bux at 1st & Pike instead. It may be just as busy, but it won’t be quite as obnoxious a wait. While you’re in the market, DO watch the guys throw fish (because they will). If you want to actually buy fish, I’m told they pack it well for traveling. DO visit Beecher’s cheese shop because the cheese is just that good. But, for the most part, DO remember that a lot of the shops and restaurants in the market, as well as along the waterfront, are going to be touristy. That doesn’t mean they’re not good. That just means they’re going to be touristy. As for the waterfront, there’s the giant Ferris Wheel, if that’s your thing, as well as some touristy restaurants. (A friend who’s a local swears by Ivar’s, even if it does appeal mainly to out-of-towners; if you’re wanting the experience without the tourist trappings, consider the one on South Lake Union instead.)
DO be prepared to walk (because the city is walkable), but DON’T be surprised by all the hills. I mean, we’re talking steep 45° angle hills here.
DON’T freak out about how rainy it gets around here. Yes, it’s typically gray and overcast, but really, we don’t get big, giant, humongous thunderstorms (and certainly no super-severe tornadoes). If it’s going to rain, it’s a drizzly kind of rain. DO pack an umbrella just in case – but really, a hooded coat/jacket is probably OK, and an umbrella screams tourist. Also, DON’T be fooled by the temperature – 45° here is colder than 45° in KC. You won’t need a parka, but bringing only a light jacket may not be a good idea, ESPECIALLY if you plan on going out on the water on a ferry or a boat tour.
DON’T worry about safety as much as you would in KC. I mean, there is a crime rate, sure, this a major city. But it’s still generally pretty low-key and friendly. Having said that, DO watch your surroundings in some places after dark – Pioneer Square and the International District come to mind. Most of our after-dark crimes have to do with the homeless / mentally ill, rather than drugs and gangs. (A side note: DON’T freak out because of the folks with the tats / lip piercings / nose piercings / pink hair / etc. They don’t bite.)
DO get out of downtown and visit somewhere else in town, if time and circumstances permit. Anywhere. Queen Anne, Capitol Hill, Fremont, Greenwood, Greenlake, Lake Union, West Seattle, some other neighborhood around town. I mean, downtown is pretty awesome. But you’ll find that the neighborhoods are a great mix of residential and commercial, with their own unique character and flavor as well – and it’d be a crime not to go outside of that zone. DO ask around for suggestions – for the most part – the people in this city are ridiculously friendly and love to share their city with visitors.
No matter what – DO enjoy every last second of your visit. Because it’s a great place to be – and – it’ll make you want to spend more time here.