Seattle is a city. It may not be as big as Los Angeles or New York, but it is still a city. You do not have an excuse to be bored, even if you are flat broke. My wife and I have lived in Seattle since 1999, and it still feels like we are scraping the surface of what this area has to offer after ten years.
This page exists to guide folks around Seattle, with pointers to some trivia and favorite locations in town. You may find something new or forgotten in these pages. You might not agree with my opinions. That is okay. Go ahead and tell me all about it. Many ways to contact me are on the top of this page.
NoteNot all of them, obviously. Just a few that I’m more familiar with.
You ever hear the term “Skid Row”? I’m told that phrase came from Seattle. Loggers used to skid logs down Yesler Way into the sawmill down near the waterfront. The street became sort of infamous for being where the worst of the city lived. 3rd and Yesler is still sort of the hairy armpit of the city, but there has been a lot of work to polish the street up. Pioneer Square is at the downtown end of Yesler. You won’t believe the amount of great food and music you can find around here. I’m trying to lose weight, so I avoid this neighborhood like the plague these days.
Here’s a bit of trivia that will resolve a point of confusion for my dad when talking about Fremont. The neighborhood was named by its founders after the Nebraska town that they came from. These days, it’s a rapidly gentrifying — but still very active and artistic — spot in the northern part of Seattle. The people are nice, but maybe a little full of themselves sometimes. The shops are bright and fun to wander in. There’s no pressure to buy anything, but you’ll find good prices if you do feel like spending. Be smart about crossing the street, though. There have been more than a few accidents as people try to rush across against the crosswalk lights while some car is trying to rush through the yellow light. Don’t be paranoid, just be smart. That’s all I’m saying. And pay your respects to Lenin’s statue while you are in the neighborhood.
Let me be honest. The only reason I know anything about Phinney Ridge is because we lived there for nearly four years. It is a gorgeous neighborhood at the very top of one of Seattle’s many hills. There are many expensive condos and older houses being remodeled by ambitious young families, but not much else.
Ha! Did you actually believe that? There’s not many shops here, but there’s still the Woodland Park Zoo! The sound of monkey loving late at night makes Phinney one of the most unusual city spots to live in. If you live in Seattle, you would be a fool not to get a membership to the zoo. It’s big. It’s beautiful. Membership is dirt cheap. You don’t even have to be big on animals. It’s nice to just come in and kick back for a relaxing bit of time on the grass.
As long as you’re in the neighborhood, you might as well walk up to Sully’s Snow Goose Tavern for a good pint of beer and a tasty veggie hot dog. I recommend their veggie dogs even if that is not normally your thing. They do have “real” hot dogs if you absolutely must have meat, but try the veggie version sometime. It’s good and tasty and leaves you wanting to ask if they’re sure that was the vegetarian version.
We have only explored the Central District a little, so I really only have one thing to tell you about: Ezell’s. It’s the best danged fried chicken I have ever had. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. Have you noticed that a lot of my neighborhood summaries mention food? Yeah, that’s how I’ve gone from being bone-skinny to needing to lose weight. Food in Seattle is really good and plentiful. You’ve been warned. Even Oprah Winfrey has to be careful. Back in the day, she loved Ezell’s, gushed about it on TV, and the story claims that she even had their chicken specially delivered to Chicago. Yeah, I’d say it’s about that good. Be aware, though, the quality is a little inconsistent. It’s usually the best fried chicken ever, but occasionally they throw a dud so bad you wish you’d gone for grocery store deli chicken instead.
International District / Chinatown
There is a minor identity crisis in this neighborhood. Some folks call it Chinatown, but it shows up on the map as the International District. Wander around a bit here. It’s nice. There are some great dim sum places, and Uwajimaya is a fun store with lots and lots of great food for local families — and curious pasty white folk like me. I’m a big fan of the Kinokuniya book store, even though I can only read about a third of the titles. Someday I will learn Japanese, I swear!
Joggers. That’s the first thing you notice when you visit this neighborhood. Bicyclists are probably the second. The last thing you notice will be either a jogger or a bicyclist, depending on who runs you down when you aren’t looking. You might notice a few things in between, though. The lake itself is pretty and well-maintained, with ducks and geese and an assortment of other urban wildlife varieties. There are a few good places to eat here, and at least one great coffee shop.
Most of the businesses in this neighborhood cater to the health-conscious sort of person: running supplies, bicycle shops, stuff like that. This obviously means that I haven’t been to half of the stores around me. As soon as they open a good shop for lazy computer geeks who like to knit, I’ll be there.
That’s it for the moment. Whenever I think of something else, I’ll add to this page. There is so much more that I would like to tell you about, but my typing fingers are already getting sore.