On this Only in… introductory post, we’re taking you for a hike up to the Pacific Northwest, where the hemlock-covered Washington Coast meets the sparkling waters of sound and sea. The PNW is unlike any other area of the United States, so while it’s difficult to distill it all down into one blog post, we’ve selected our favorite things to experience in Seattle and the surrounding areas.
Coffee, Coffee, & More Coffee
Coffee shops are everywhere in Seattle (see our previous blog on coffee), but while you’re driving outside of the city, take notice of the tiny stand-alone shacks at nearly every gas station or that pop up unexpectedly along a long lonely stretch of highway. Keep an eye out for those that go all out in expressing their individuality and with very creative names (one of our favorites: “Human Bean”).
While you might find some coffee shacks in other states like Oregon and Montana, you’ll want to catalog your unique finds in Washington state: from ladybug-inspired decor to buildings shaped like giant coffee pots!
Admittedly, Seattle cannot claim to have the only chewing gum wall in the world. Downtown San Luis Obispo’s claim to fame is their 70-foot-long Bubblegum Alley. But while California has the record for oldest and longest gum wall, Seattle’s is special in that it’s part of a marketplace over a century old. Hidden away beneath the iconic Pike Place Market sign in a dark, dank alley, the wall did undergo a thorough scraping in 2015, with a gobsmacking 2,350 lbs removed from the 50-foot-long stretch of Post Alley.
If that’s not enough allure for you, head up the stairs to Pike Place Fish Market, where you can see a time-honored tradition taking place: for decades, fishmongers have been delighting crowds by letting fly cod and salmon, with near misses and the occasional celebrity catch (August 2022 saw Amy Schumer giving it a go while on her comedy tour at the historic Paramount Theatre).
Prior to the arrival of the first white European settlers in the Puget Sound in the mid 19th century, Seattle’s hills were covered in trees, trees that would become an economic powerhouse for the early industrial city. To get an idea of what it might have looked like before the removal of thousands of hemlocks, cedars, and firs, take a bike ride up to Discovery Park, the city’s largest public park with plenty of easy trails to explore and with quite a lot of ongoing conservation efforts. Farther up, the smaller Golden Gardens Park offers a spacious beach with views of the Olympic Mountains, while in the Fall, you can watch as the salmon struggle to complete their upstream swim to spawn in the shallow waters of Carkeek Park.
If you have access to a vehicle, take a day trip out to the gorgeous Snoqualmie Falls, just 30 minutes outside of the city and well worth the trip.
Music For All
While it’s not necessarily where grunge was born, Central Saloon should be on any music fan’s destination list, being that this is where Nirvana performed its very first gig and which was a hangout spot for guitarist Jimi Hendrix. Around the corner is OK Apartments, so named for the OK Hotel that once hosted countless grunge bands decades ago, including Kurt Cobain and his band, who debuted “Smells Like Teen Spirit” there in 1991.
A few streets over in Pioneer Square, Jackson Street was at one time associated with a lively jazz scene. These days, you won’t find much left of this once-vibrant jazz era, but Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley in downtown has been keeping this scene alive since the 1980s. Nearby, you can catch live performances at Pike Place Market, where you never know what you’ll find: a cat playing an accordion, a dapper gentleman playing the pianica, or a virtuoso on a full-sized piano. And for more modern music, catch a show at the historic downtown venue The Crocodile or the intimate space of Neumos in Capitol Hill.
We’ll throw out an honorable mention for Space Needle, Chihuly Garden & Glass, and Smith Tower, the latter offering beautiful skyline and Puget Sound views, an experience made special with a great craft cocktail in hand!