This trip started out as one of those spontaneous "Hey, let's go to Seattle!" plans which come with excitement, but not fruition. The plans finally came to be three years later, in the form of two separate trips. While we were careful to plan our destinations out, we were also sure not to over-plan ourselves into a frenzy of ticking off items on a checklist.
There's something beautiful about a trip that's both orchestrated and improvised. A trip that has structure, yet still leaves room to explore something you catch on the side of your eye, room to relax in a particularly wonderful spot. I was bitten by the travel bug in LA, and it's clear that I'm allergic to the bite because the swelling hasn't stopped. (Sorry for the gross imagery).
As always, I generally prefer slightly less-touristy places for my travels, so here's a selection of some of the places we visited.
Yes it's touristy, but the Seattle Waterfront just has so many interesting little sights concentrated in a small area it would be foolish not to visit, especially if it's your first time there. It seemed like a smart idea for us to start our day here for both trips, but the earlier you arrive the better. This is the first spot tourists go so even by early noon, you'll have a hard time moving around with the number of bodies you'll be swimming against.
Also, there's a Japanese restaurant called Japonessa that's just a few blocks away from Pike Place that we found especially tasty; so much so that we ate there both times we made the trek.
Seattle Public Library - Central Library
I'll be a bit shameless in saying that ever since I saw Andrew Kim's post about this library, I was dreaming of one day seeing it with my own eyes. That plus the occasional photos from here on Instagram were what made me add this to our list of to-visit places as soon as we started planning. This library will awaken the inner architecture/design nerd in pretty much everybody, I don't think I've ever seen a library built like this anywhere else.
This oddball little park was built over a freeway, hence its name. It was a little grimy and sketchy, but it's just such an interesting little nook of the city that it's hard not to be sucked into its charm. It's also generally quite empty due to its distance from most conventional touristy areas, so if you're looking for a unique backdrop for photos, you know where to go.
This little square is the start of a pedestrian-only boulevard and is littered with cute little stores and cafes. It's the perfect area to take a pit stop after a busy few hours of sightseeing, and there's even a few outdoor ping-pong tables scattered around the square. It also looks like it would be absolutely magical during sunset with the way the lights are set up.
There's also the Waterfall building that's just a block or two away from the main boulevard. It's literally as the name implies: a building with an outdoor waterfall in the courtyard.
I'm honestly surprised that this isn't a better known landmark in Seattle. It wasn't on many landmark lists I found when researching places to visit, the only reason I found it was because I caught an Instagrammer's photo from here. It wasn't too crowded on a weekend afternoon either, which I guess is a huge plus of being not as famous as the many other landmarks of the city.
To me, it's a much better experience than the Space Needle was, and if you only have time to visit one or the other, I'd definitely choose the Columbia Center unless the other landmarks around the Space Needle appeal to you. This is the best way to see Seattle from atop, and regardless of what camera you bring, you'll be able to capture some pretty stunning shots here.
Forget the first Starbucks store by Pike Place, if you're looking for something truly unique to celebrate Starbucks' origins in Seattle, this is the place to go. The Roastery consists of a shop with all sorts of Starbucks merchandise (many unique to this store), two bar areas, not quite enough seating, and the roastery itself. Most of the food and drinks are made only for this location, and they're certainly better than what you can find in your neighbourhood Starbucks.
The only downside is how expensive everything is here. My cold brew float (which was quite heavenly) cost $9.00, and most pastries came out to be just over $5. Even the drinks you CAN find at normal Starbucks stores are marked up $1-2, although from the looks of the menu, they do look slightly modified. It's certainly worth coming into once or twice for the experience, but the fact is that there are simply smaller local cafes which can do much better than even the Roastery can at a much more reasonable price. The almond croissant I had was good, but at nearly $6, I was having some regret that money didn't get me a croissant from Beaucoup Bakery with some cash to spare.
Leavenworth isn't actually in Seattle, but about a 2-3 hour's drive away. It's the cutest little touristy town that specializes in Christmas stores and Barvarian things like bratwursts and beer. We weren't able to stay for too long, but it's definitely a place that's best enjoyed during an evening and morning, despite the town being just a few blocks long. If you're looking to stay the night here, be sure to book early. I think when I was looking a month in advance, there were no vacancies for the weekend we planned our trip for.
As I started working for my first co-op term, I've realized that with age, it becomes more and more difficult to travel. It's an extremely liberating thing to do, even if it's to somewhere as close as Seattle. In high school, I was very much focused on spending my money on tangible things like cameras, lenses, and electronics as at the time I thought of them as providing more long term benefits than travel or good food.
I've come to realize that to me, spending money on experiences is very much like investing on long-term relationships, memories, and happiness. Yes, it's the very opposite of investing if you look at things on a purely monetary basis, but experiential purchases can be the source for much greater joy than the instant gratification material things provide. What it boils down to is spending time with people you enjoy, and exploring new places, foods, and opportunities. With the right people, there's a whole lot of things you can do without paying a cent which could make you much happier than a big-ticket purchase like a TV or something like that.