This weekend I traveled nearly 4,000 miles from Miami to Seattle (read, from one polar opposite corner of the country to another). The reason for my trip was an annual professional organization gathering that last year gave me the opportunity to get to know L.A. for a weekend and that this year gave me the opportunity to visit Seattle for the first time. Although this annual gathering is always held at an airport hotel in the middle of nowhere, I always make it my mission to explore the host city, no matter my time and transportation constraints. My mission was particularly important this weekend given the long flight time and all of the excitement with which my Seattle friends talk about their city.
My flight from Miami left at 6 a.m. EST on Friday so I arrived in Seattle a jet lagged, hangry mess. Ergo, my (incredibly long) first day consisted of room service for lunch, a few hours of technical presentations that were impossible to absorb in my delirious state, and room service for dinner. Despite an apparent waste of a day, I considered it a win that I was able to keep myself awake until 10 p.m., staving off jet lag the remainder of the trip.
Renewed and refreshed, I powered through day two in the hotel's conference center through the annual gathering itinerary. My sister Lucy arrived mid-afternoon so, when my meetings ended, I promptly planned our escape to downtown Seattle. Her roommate Sonika knows she likes hard cider and recommended we plan our evening around a visit to Seattle's famed Schilling Cider in the historic Fremont District. I happily conceded when I discovered it is within walking distance of several restaurant options highly regarded by Yelpers, including Asian fusion favorite Revel where we ate an incredible dinner (short rib dumplings, pork belly pancake, dungness crab noodles) after splitting a flight at Schilling.
Our lessons learned? At Schilling, ask the bartender for recommendations before making your selection. We didn't and liked 2 out of the 6 we picked, one of which tasted like straight up olive juice. At Revel, be prepared to wait a long time. We were given an estimate of 40 minutes that turned into an hour and ended with us singing "Hello, it's me. I've been wondering if after all these year you'll let us eat..." to the tune of Adele's "Hello". The restaurant uses a system that lets you know how much time is left in your wait and texts you when your table is ready. If you're smarter than us, you'll take advantage of it by whiling away the time at Quoin (the bar in the back) or by exploring the nearby bars and shops.
On day three, Lucy and I picked three must-do activities: bottomless brunch, Bill Speidel's Underground Tour, and the Space Needle. We picked Vittles Neighborhood Bistro & Bar because it has stellar Yelp! reviews, offers bottomless brunch, and allows reservations. The eggs benny, mimosa carafes, and our singing server were worth the visit. The 30-minute wait despite our reservation and hands-off management of the quickly growing line at the door were major turn offs. But, I would be remiss not give them props for materializing a table out of nowhere to accommodate us in the end (at the recommendation of the singing server who was definitely the MVP of the morning).
The underground tour was well-worth our time and money, albeit a lot more crowded than we anticipated. There were approximately 100 people that joined us, split into three separate groups, through what were once Seattle's bustling street fronts and are now condemned basements. Turns out Seattle has been battling sea levels since the 1800s and had the vision—after an unfortunate glue fire that burned 33 blocks to the ground—to rebuild their city streets up to 15 feet higher and protect it from impacts from tidal flooding. (Sound familiar, Miami?) During the tour, we even explored the below ground configuration of the historic Merchant Cafe, the oldest bar on the West Coast above which our Airbnb apartment for last night was located.
The Space Needle visit, much like our adventures today at the Seattle Aquarium and Pike Place Market, was crowded and underwhelming. There's something about tourist attractions that doesn't sit well with me, although I will do them because, well, you kinda have to. (When in Rome and whatnot...) Of the three, the aquarium was the best, followed by the stunning vistas from the Space Needle's overlook deck. Pro tip: Budget an hour from the time on your Space Needle ticket for your visit because it takes about 30 minutes to get through the line to the overlook. Take the time to enjoy the very interesting history behind its design and construction.
Avoid Pike Place Market at all costs. Or, if you feel the need to visit, stick to the fish, flower, spice, and produce market areas along Pikes Place. Our time was better spent at the awesome specialty coffee shops scattered throughout downtown, namely Storyville Coffee, Ghost Alley Espresso and Cherry Street Coffee House. Other much more worthwhile alternatives were the running routes near downtown that the Seattle Running Club recommended, such as the 6-mile loop around Lake Union or the 7-mile route I ran this morning along the Elliot Bay Trail through Sculpture, Myrtle Edwards Park, and Centennial Park. Despite the 40-degree weather and rain, I was invigorated by the beauty of Puget Sound.
Compared to other cities I have visited, I didn't love Seattle. I blame it on limiting our rendezvous to the urban areas—after all, much of what my Seattle-dwelling friends love about their city is its natural beauty. If I come back, I will definitely be planning my trip around hiking, kayaking, camping, etc. Nevertheless, I am glad Lucy and I had the chance to get to know downtown Seattle and to do it together.