Any two given days in Seattle will bring a combination of sparkling sun and pouring-down rain, with a high chance of natural beauty, a bayside Statue of Liberty, and some ridiculously good food. Back in March, one of my dearest friends and I found all of this on a weekend getaway to Seattle, the Pacific Northwest’s “Next City.”
Along the way, we also discovered the sweet beauty of a chocolate Space Needle. When I was invited to visit Seattle by (wait for it) Visit Seattle, my friend Dan was my first choice for a travel companion. Over the past decade, Dan and I have discovered that we can easily spend an entire day eating, talking, strolling through museums, galleries and shops, and never tiring of each other’s company. We listen attentively to each other’s stories, know when a little silence goes a long way, laugh at/are annoyed by the same things, and can count on each other for an honest opinion – in all things.
Plus: he’s really tall and can easily get a suitcase down from an overhead bin.
Dan had visited Seattle the year before, on a short business trip that hadn’t allowed him much time for sightseeing. I, on the other hand, hadn’t been to Seattle since way back in December 1997, and imagined the city had changed at least as much as I have since then.
We both wanted to take off no more than one day from work and get back at a reasonable hour on Sunday (allowing time for unpacking and a good night’s sleep), and knew that Alaska Airlines flights between Los Angeles (LAX) and Seattle (SEA) would take 2 hours, 35 minutes. We chose a Friday 10am departure flight and a Sunday 5pm return flight, giving us almost exactly 48 hours in the city.
It wasn’t quite enough for either one of us, but no one could say we didn’t make the most of it.
After an uneventful flight, we emerged from Sea-Tac Airport to find a gorgeous day full of sun and fluffy clouds. Hoisting our carry-ons , we hoofed it to the adjacent station for the Light Link Rail, a commuter train that travels from Sea-Tac to downtown Seattle in 35 minutes for $2.50. Electronic kiosks made it easy to purchase tickets, and our trip was seamless, affording glimpses of outlying neighborhoods along the way.
We soon pulled into the underground, mural-lined Westlake Center station (home to Nordstrom’s flagship store), headed topside and one block north on 5th Avenue, and voilà – we’d arrived at our home for the weekend.
Two soaring, cylindrical towers – one with 40 floors and the other with 47 – The Westin Seattle is a huge, 891-room, four-star hotel with a friendly staff that manages to make it feel like a much smaller property.
Anything above the 20th floor affords views of Seattle that will blow your mind. Our double room was 30-some-odd floors above the lobby, and we could see Puget Sound, the Space Needle and roughly 50 other major Seattle buildings. (See here for yourself.)
The Westin isn’t inherently romantic or especially stunning, but our room was huge and comfortable, with big, soft beds, one gajillion cable channels, and a wide marble counter in the bathroom. There’s a burger joint in the lobby (that we didn’t have a chance to try), Pike Place Market and the Elliott Bay Waterfront are about five blocks away, and the area is full of shops, restaurants and music clubs.
Also? One night we came back to our room and discovered a little plate of chocolates, including a chocolate replica of the Space Needle. It was a sweet and welcoming touch, and though we didn’t go into the Space Needle during our trip, the Space Needle went into Dan’s belly.
It had been our plan to head out and find our way across the bay to West Seattle, but about one minute after I posted the above photo of our Westin view on Instagram, our room phone rang. My friend and fellow travel blogger, Pam – with whom we’d already planned to meet for dinner that night – was on the other end of the phone.
“Soooo…I just saw your photo, and realized you’re right across the street from me! I’ve just finished up a meeting, I have my car, and I’m coming over to get you.”
Well, then – so much for public transportation!
After a round of hugs and a pause at the Bolt Bus station to fetch another friend, Jessica, who’d come down from Portland, Oregon for the day/night, we stopped for lunch at the amazing sensory assault of Uwajimaya, a huge Japanese and pan-Asian market and food court in Seattle’s Chinatown. After stuffing our faces with Vietnamese rice-paper rolls and noodles from Saigon Bistro, we marveled at a fanciful dragon strung clear across the market and wondered what on Earth you couldn’t find here.
Back in the car for a 10-minute drive, Pam skirted the bay and delivered us the West Seattle shores of Alki Beach, a narrow spit of sand with a drop-dead, kick-ass view of the Seattle skyline. (If you don’t happen to know Pam and still want to get to West Seattle, catch the King County Water Taxi at Pier 50 on the Waterfront (801 Alaskan Way, at the foot of Yesler Street). It costs about $4.75 each way, takes about 10-15 minutes, and lets you off at West Seattle’s popular Seacrest Park.)
At Alki Point, the dividing line between Elliott Bay and Puget Sound, be sure to check out the small replica of the Statue of Liberty. Turns out that when West Seattle was first settled back in 1851, it was touted as the New York City of the West. That promise was never quite realized: by the time the statue was erected in 1952, West Seattle was well on its way to being the cozy bayside district it is today. You’ll find Craftsman bungalows and boat houses, independent shops and cafés, and casual seafood joints with names like Spud Fish and Chips, which features a gallery of vintage photos of West Seattle. It’s no Manhattan, but I think the area is well worth a wander.
So is nearby Lincoln Park, where you can take a paved stroll with Puget Sound on one side and old-growth forest on the other. With the breeze at their backs, Dan and Jessica took off at a fast clip, chatting as if they’d known each other for years, while Pam and I slowed our pace, watching a curly-haired kid skip one pebble after another across the Sound. Late afternoon on a sunny Friday, the water rushing over the rocks sounded like a lullaby, putting the work week to bed.
Lincoln Park is about four miles from Alki Point, so it’s ideal to either rent a bike or jump in a cab. Or, if you want to head on over to West Seattle’s Alaska Junction, the commercial heart of the area, you could just hop on the free shuttle at Seacrest Park.
That evening, we headed “up the Junction” (as the locals say) for dinner at Ma’Ono Fried Chicken and Whisky, a low-lit, modern space that celebrates Hawaiian and Pacific Rim cooking. If you want the crispy fried chicken with an assortment of tasty sauces and warm, sweet Portuguese rolls (and if you ask me, you definitely do), it’s ideal to call ahead, because prep time can otherwise be pretty long. We were joined at dinner by our local travel-blogger friends, Kent and Canaan, and with great gusto, proceeded to tuck into sides like greens stir-fried with garlic, and apples with macadamia beer nuts and sriracha like it was our life’s mission. Only Canaan branched out and ordered the saimin, which is a heaping bowl of Japanese, Chinese and Filipino noodles with pork belly, a soft-cooked egg, fishcake, nori and more.
Afterward, rolling out the door and along California Avenue, neon lights glowing from brick storefronts, Dan and I felt we’d arrived in a big-city version of a very small town. Hugging our friends goodbye at the C Line bus stop, we smiled as a soft rain began to fall.
To be continued in
Rain And Shine: A Friends’ Weekend In Seattle – Part Two