I recently traveled to Seattle, as you’re probably all aware of. I wanted to recap some of the great things I saw and did while I was there as well as some of the things local friends recommended to me in case any of you are planning your own Seattle adventures. I should preface this post with a note on how things work in Seattle. It’s a pretty big city consisting of neighborhoods. It’s a tough town to drive around and park (but we did it, so it’s not impossible). Public transport is decent but doesn’t go everywhere, so when you’re planning your Seattle adventure you’re going to want to look into the things you want to see and do before you decide whether or not you are going to want to rent a car.
I have also included some information for travelers who need to eat gluten free while they are away. Since this is a constant concern of mine, I wanted to share with all of you out there who might have similar issues. Anywhere in this post you see the symbol, I’ve included information of particular interest to GF travelers.
Getting around Seattle by car.
Since this is the option we chose, I’ll write a little bit more about that here. I grew up in Los Angeles, a city known for having some crazy roads and even crazier drivers, so when I say that Seattle’s roads are crazy, I’m not kidding around. A good GPS device is an absolute must if you’re going to be driving in Seattle. If you have a phone with Google Maps, you’re good to go. However, if you don’t have a phone or you’ll be visiting from abroad and your phone won’t work here, make sure you purchase, rent, or borrow a GPS device if you plan on driving around the city. The roads can be confusing often times, and if you miss your turn you’ll find yourself in a maze of one way streets, unexpectedly curvy roads, and confusing road signs. Bring a GPS. I don’t mean to scare you as it’s not that bad, but seriously…bring a GPS. Or take public transit.
Staying in Seattle.
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The epic Vancouver-Seattle leg of the journey included a ridiculously long wait at the Canada-U.S. Border, tons of traffic, turning in our rental car and waiting for a series of shuttles, a long line at check-in, and a decent walk to get to our room…carrying heavy bags. We finally made it though! 4:30am wake up call to catch our flight tomorrow. I'm not moving from this spot until then.
I’m by no means an expert on all the lovely places to stay around the city, but I will say this: stay close to the things you want to do the most. Traffic can get bad so if you’re staying too far away you’ll spend a lot of time in traffic. We were in the central district and found it fine to suit our needs, but we didn’t spend that much time downtown and tended to explore different areas each day. It was a little far, but not too bad, and cost was a concern so keeping that in mind it was a good location. We also stayed one night at the Hilton right next to the airport before flying home. If you have an early flight out of SeaTac in the morning, you might want to consider staying at one of the hotels near the airport. Many of them have shuttle services to and from the airport as well, which was absolutely wonderful (since we had dropped off our rental car the night before and had to be at the airport by 4:30am). I should also note that the area right by the airport has a connection to the light rail, which will take you to some of the areas of interest around the city, so it might be a good option for you if you’re only staying for a short time or if you don’t want to rent a car.
Eating Gluten Free in Seattle.
***Mora Iced Creamery on Bainbridge Island had GF ice cream cones!!!***
Living in Southern California, I’ve become accustomed to being able to just wander into most restaurants and find something gluten free on the menu. I figured that Seattle, being a liberal West Coast city, would be similar. I was wrong. It was surprisingly difficult to eat GF in Seattle. I’m not saying it was impossible or that places didn’t exist that catered to GF diners, I’m just saying it took a little bit more research to find these places and a little bit more trial and error than I’m used to. Had I been traveling to another country or somewhere a little less like my own home, I might have better prepared for that. So, GF travelers, just know what when you go to Seattle you’re going to want to look up some places in the neighborhood you’re visiting that cater to GF diners ahead of time. They are certainly out there, but don’t hold your breath if you just walk into a place off the street and expect to have something on the menu for you. It was nice to be staying in an Airbnb with a kitchen because I was able to do a little grocery shopping and pick up some essentials, which was a lifesaver.
Also check out http://seattleglutenfree.com/
Pike Place Market is one of those iconic, touristy Seattle places so you pretty much have to go there and walk around, watch the fish throwers, grab a bite to eat, and snicker at all the people standing in line for three hours to get a coffee at the original Starbucks when there’s another Starbucks right around the corner, not to mention countless independent coffee shops at which to get your caffeine fix. (Still, if it’s important to you to grab a drink at the original Starbucks, go for it…who am I to judge?).
Do you like cheese? I know I do! If you do, too, you’ve got to go to Beecher’s! Located right across from Pike Place Market, it is a mecca for all things cheese! Sample some cheese, and get yourself some macaroni and cheese to eat. If you’re like me and you need to eat GF, they do have a GF version of their mac and cheese available, but only in frozen form. I bought one and brought it back to my Airbnb, popped it in the microwave, and ate it. It was delicious. I also bought a couple blocks of cheese…because cheese! Nom nom nom.
I would like to preface this one by saying that it was incredibly cheesy. It’s one of those tours where they lead you from place to place on foot while they make cheesy jokes. That being said, I still really enjoyed myself. We decided to do this tour on the recommendation of several people, and also because going down underneath the streets of Seattle and wandering in an underground room sounded pretty cool. It was. It was just the right amount of dank and creepy down there to make it exciting, and cheesy jokes aside, I ended up learning quite a lot about the history of the city of Seattle, which was pretty cool as well. If you’re in Seattle, you’re really missing out on something if you don’t do this tour, but just prepare yourself ahead of time for some cheesy touristy time.
If you want a view of the city without paying an arm and a leg to go up in the Space Needle, you might want to check out the Columbia Center.For about $15, you can go up to the top and catch some awesome views. You can also go to a coffee shop on the 73rd floor for free, if you’re looking at saving some cash.
The Seattle Center encompasses the area around the Space Needle and includes a lot of other attractions, as well as a park, arts, and entertainment center, the EMP museum, the Chihuly Garden and Glass, and outdoor green spaces. I should note that there is a really awesome looking playground there as well, in case any of you parents are looking for a good place in the city to take your kids.
The space needle is about as iconic as sights in Seattle can get, so I’m sure if needs no introduction. Millions of visitors from all over the world have ventured to the Space Needle to make their way to the top in order to see the view. While I did venture over to the Space Needle, I did not ride to the top, and I’ll tell you why: it was expensive. Really expensive. Go up to the observation deck if it means that much to you, but do know that you’re going to pay a hefty price. Instead, I marveled at the needle from the ground and then checked out Chihuly Garden and Glass next door instead.
As an art lover, I was mesmerized with this place. There are so many incredible large, elaborate blown glass sculptures and it makes a beautiful, surreal world you can wander around in. Even if you’re not an art lover, this place is still pretty cool and you should probably check it out. Do be forewarned that admission is a little expensive at $27 per person for general admission, but I thought it was worth the price.
I did not go inside of the EMP museum, but I did walk all the way around it, which was pretty awesome. If you’re unfamiliar with the work of architect Frank Gehry, I suggest you Google him. The man who brought us such wonders as the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles has struck again with this incredibly surreal building. Inside the building is supposed to be a really fun museum dedicated to all things pop culture, which I would have loved to see, but we didn’t have the time unfortunately. Going inside will definitely be on my list for the next trip to Seattle.
Fremont is a hip and happening neighborhood full of tech businesses, cool buildings, and great little restaurants and bars, so it’s definitely worth spending an afternoon there. Here were some of the things I liked in Fremont…
Rejoice, cider is gluten free! And Schilling Cider House is a great place to enjoy a delicious cider. They have a lot of different flavors, and you can even order a flight if you want to sample multiple ciders. Yum!
This is a great park with an incredible view of Lake Union and downtown Seattle. Definitely stop here to relax for a bit and enjoy the scenery. It would be a nice place to take a picnic as well. Free.
In the Fremont neighborhood, there is an unusual sight…a statue of none other than Communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin. How did it get there? It was originally installed in Czechoslovakia in the late 80’s, but after the Velvet Revolution it was removed and purchased by an American English teacher, which is how it ended up in the United States.
I had lunch here when I was visiting the Fremont area. It’s a natural foods grocery store, so it’s a good place to pick up any natural foods and healthy groceries, and they have an abundance of gluten free items. This market is pretty expensive though, so I don’t recommend doing all your shopping here unless you have a lot of money to spend. What I liked about this market was that they had a prepared foods area and some outdoor seating so it was pretty easy to find some delicious food I could eat and then enjoy it outside on their patio. A good place to stop for a quick meal no matter what your dietary concerns might be, or just because it’s quick and they have a lot of delicious options.
The Ballard Locks are boat locks which are used to allow boats to pass from the Puget Sound into Lake Union and Lake Washington. The only thing is, the water is at a different level between the lakes and the Puget Sound, and the lakes are fresh water while Puget Sound is salt water. So, they built these boat locks that boats enter, wait for the water level to change, and then leave. It’s interesting to watch the process, if not kind of slow and not terribly exciting. Still, it’s neat to see once. Free.
As part of the Ballard Locks, there is also a fish ladder that they built to allow the salmon to pass through the boat locks. You can walk down into the little observation area to see the fish go by. Free.
The Alki area is the “beach” spot. It has a nice boardwalk and is also known as the ‘birthplace of Seattle’. Also great views of the city. Check it out. Free.
One of my favorite trip moments was taking the ferry from downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Island. It’s a wonderful ride across the water for about 30 minutes with some really incredible views of downtown Seattle. When you reach the island, you’ll be transported to an adorable little small town with cute little shops, restaurants, and nature trails to stroll around. It’s a small place, but is definitely worth visiting for a half day adventure.
We spent a little time in Bellevue, which is a beautiful area with tons of shops and restaurants, as well as a gorgeous park.
Discovery Park is an enormous park full of beautiful trails and sweeping views of the Puget Sound. It feels like you have left the city and been transported into a wonderful, wild forest. There is a beautiful beach there, a native american cultural center, a visitor center, and so many beautiful hiking trails. I suggest you spend at least an afternoon here, if not more time.
A relatively short day trip out of the city can take you to the absolutely gorgrous Snoqualmie Falls, where you can picnic, marvel at the beauty of the falls, and hike down to the bottom if you wish. There is free parking as well (and plenty of it) and plenty of comfortable places up top to rest and relax if you don’t feel like doing the hike down to the bottom. I definitely recommend checking it out.
I mention this place because it is on the way to Snoqualmie Falls and is a delightful little pit stop in Issaquah where you can stroll the Bavarian-Inspired grounds and of course feast on some absolutely delicious handcrafted chocolates.
We had an awesome day exploring Mount Rainier National Park and going on a truly epic hike with awesome views of the mountain as well as all the mountains around for miles and miles. The park also boasts some beautiful waterfalls which are definitely worth stopping for. Do this day trip! It’s a long drive (about 2.5 hours) but so worth it! I should warn you, however, DO NOT just put in ‘Mount Rainier National Park’ into your GPS and expect it to take you to the correct place. Instead, type in either ‘Paradise’ or ‘Sunrise’. Check the directions ahead of time to make sure it’s taking you to the correct place. Otherwise you’ll end up on a 1.5 hour long detour through some windy mountain roads, ending on some dirt road somewhere way off from where you’re trying to go. Don’t make our mistake! But even with that little snafu, our day on Mount Rainier was one of my favorite days of the entire trip.
Have you been to Seattle? What are some of your favorite things to do in and around the city?