Even though it wasn’t raining — and I’d been informed that it’s “always raining in Seattle” — water beads slid along the train-window lazily as I stared out into the lumberyards of SoDo (South Downtown). I was making my way in from the airport and absolutely astonished at how romantic this misty city was. It was late October and a chill had already overtaken the denizens of this Pacific Northwest paradise.
Paradise, of course, is subjective. If you find lots of trees, misty air, a bay, and a progressive city as delightful as I do, then you’ll know how I could find scarves and wool coats the perfect attire for paradise.
There was greenery everywhere you looked, from a coffee can someone threw out ages ago to plants reaching out from the sides of brick highrises. Ferns and mosses have their way, and it is absolutely beautiful. The Emerald City. Obviously. As you inch closer to the heart of Seattle, with its glittery skyscrapers guarding the cold, tranquil waters of Puget Sound, you get a feel for the heart of what Seattle is: A beautiful city teeming with stylish people who love a fresh cup of java as they mill up hill after hill to work. (Their geography puts most of the land at steep angles caused by waxing and waning ice sheets. Makes for good cardio and great calves!)
The people there dress in darker colors, mostly, adding just a pop here and there. It’s super chic, but what’s more: They all have the well-moisturized look on lock. Though it does rain in Seattle, my trip proved that the constant mist is what keeps everything so damp. While those who style their hair may run into issues, it’s really good for keeping the skin young and supple, like walking through a constant mist of the purest lotion available. There for four days, I only used my umbrella once.
On the waterfront, you’ll find plenty of touristy attractions that draw people for good reason. From the Chihuly museum of the most incredible blown-glass work to an art-deco cafe and Space Needle, there’s plenty to ogle. What I’d recommend is hopping on one of the ferries for a few bucks and riding away from the city to one of the islands about a half-hour out. Particularly? Bainbridge Island. It’s there that you’ll find the distinct feel of “away” as you traverse well-maintained streets lined with adorable shops and brilliantly crafted homes. The sunburst of leaves were falling that month and no camera could capture just how beautiful the Pacific Northwest is. Even better is the fresh catch you can count on when you eat on the water.
Once back on land, you absolutely must see what Seattle used to be. Believe it or not, the parts you’re walking on are above the first Seattle — the one that was sinking. Most settlers were called crazy for wanting to set up shop on the banks of the sound, and for good reason: Between the silt and the unpredictable waters and ice-melt (as well as being on a giant fault), the ground of Seattle wasn’t exactly the most stable. Logging was huge back then and brought in tons of lonely men who set out to stake a claim for themselves. It wasn’t too long into being settled that the town caught fire in a glue factory, burning her to the ground. Once Seattle was flattened, City Council had a meeting in which the mayor declared a waiting period to rebuild. He wanted to cure the city’s water-ills (think toilets that flushed up) by filling in the land with dirt and rocks to raise it well above the current water level. The result? There’s an city beneath the city filled with defunct barber shops, saloons, and brothels. There are tours that will take you along the old-timey boardwalks where you can see feet moving along above you in stained-glass skylights that are built into the sidewalks. True to form, ferns are hanging from these skylights, growing downward in their subtle glow. Quite beautiful.
Let’s talk about Seattle’s progressivism. The logging industry, as I mentioned earlier, brought in lots of lonely men looking for work and their own piece of the Pacific Northwest pie. By lonely, I mean the male to female ratio was 10:1. The ladies in town saw this as a business opportunity and opened up shop — brothels, specifically. It didn’t take long for a powerful coalition of ladies to gather steam. They were, after all, paying more than 80% of the city’s tax revenue before they could even vote! So what’d they do? They gave ample campaign dollars to politicians with the caveat that they stand for women’s rights and be pro-education. The power of the pursestrings was evident in early Seattle.
Back on the street, an easy place to kill a few hours is Pike Place Market. Loaded to the gills with fresh fish, fruits, veggies, eateries, gift shops, and other places to come off a buck, the goods are fresh and affordable. This venue is home to the world’s first Starbucks, if you’re into that kinda thing. Just up the way is Westlake Mall, which you can access by stepping off the sidewalk and on into the world’s first Nordstrom.
In this town, you’ll find lots of love for the NFL’s Seahawks. Their fans are known as the 12th Man and they’re so enthusiastic that during home games, their roars have been known to register on the Richter scale. (Their stadium is above the fault I mentioned earlier. Kinda freaky!)
Culturally speaking, the people here are incredibly cool. They’re enlightened and quick to laugh at a stranger’s jokes and observations. Though they walk fast, they were never too busy or too “above it” to provide directions to the LGBTQ district — Capitol Hill.
Stretching a mile or so is a wonderful little concentration of bars and clubs that lend themselves to LGBTQ clientele. Curiously, most of the bars here were perfectly “mixed crowd” more than niche affairs. That particular trip (my only one, actually), I found myself at more than one table, having been invited by friendly folks who saw I was flying solo. The people are eager to answer questions and give recommendations on where to go for a relaxing day out. The top two recommendations? Gas Works Park and Alki Beach. Both are super-chill spots for lounging in some grass and listening to small waves lap at the edges of a rocky beach. The view of Seattle and surrounding is nothing short of breathtaking from Gas Works Park.
The flight is more than six hours, but it’s completely worth it. If you can manage, grab a cabin on the sound via AirBnB. The hotels in the area are incredibly pricey. I’ve been to a good many cities in the United States, but Seattle is by far the most tranquil and beautiful.