Seattle’s onetime gritty seaport is now a cosmopolitan hub bursting with gourmet coffee, fine brews and an invigorating, trendy consciousness. The city’s splendid natural setting and lively community spirit provide plenty of fun that won’t empty your wallet.
With its multitude of fish markets, produce stands and dining options, Pike Place Market is the place to peruse farm-to-table foods at a variety of price ranges. Don’t miss the Can Can Kitchen & Cabaret, a hidden speakeasy located underground. Enjoy choreographed cabaret and burlesque dance shows; hand-crafted cocktails; and French and Italian dinner fare (served from 6 to 11:30 p.m. on Wednesdays through Sundays). Order small plates such as the bacon-wrapped prawns and crispy fries topped with lemon aioli, and pair them with the Moulin Rouge—gin, sweet vermouth and a dash of bitters. Craving Spanish-style tapas? Head to JarrBar, where you can savor matiz sardines; cured Spanish meats; and soft-cooked eggs topped with chorizo, anchovies, tuna and piquillo peppers.
Commute by ferry to Bainbridge Island or Bremerton. For less than $10, you get a floating adventure as well as a water’s-eye view of Seattle’s skyline. Embark from Colman Dock on the Seattle waterfront. If you’re headed to Bainbridge Island, check out Via Rosa 11, an Italian market and kitchen that serves fresh-made pastas, pizzas and sandwiches. Must-tries: pappardelle with wild boar sauce and their signature meatball sandwich. Stopping by Bremerton? Don’t miss the Toro Lounge, the area’s first gastropub offering locally sourced tapas and 20 available brews on tap. Order the mussels served with a savory celery and tomato sauce, or their famous lamb sliders topped with caramelized onions and horseradish aioli.
Step away from tourist traps into Seattle’s parks for low-cost adventure. Descend the Z-shaped footpath to the waterfront in the Olympic Sculpture Park, where you can admire works by artists such as Richard Serra and Alexander Calder while soaking in the sweeping views of Mount Rainier and Puget Sound. You can also explore native plants in Washington Park Arboretum, drink tea in the Seattle Japanese Garden or take a sandy stroll through locals’ favorite Alki Beach Park.
Into the Sky
The Space Needle is more famous, but the Columbia Tower Sky View Observatory gives you eye-popping views for less—a lot less. So board the elevator and push the “73” button for 360-degree panoramic views from the highest public observation tower west of the Mississippi. Keep your camera ready. You’ll get a good look at Mt. Rainier, Bellevue, the Cascade Mountains, Elliott Bay, the Olympic Mountains and—icing on the cake—the Space Needle itself.
Walk the Walk
Join the locals for a stroll around Pioneer Square’s art galleries the first Thursday of every month. The Artwalk is a Seattle tradition and one of the most successful gallery tours in the country. Head over between noon and 8 p.m., and take advantage of free parking deals. If the scheduling doesn’t work, try Belltown Artwalk on the second Friday or Capitol Hill’s on the second Thursday.
Seattle’s famous for microbreweries, but vineyards are not newcomers to the area. Locals enjoy tasting prize-winning wines produced in and around the city, and you can too, even on a budget. Taste four wines at the Bainbridge Island Vineyards and Winery for a $3 donation to an animal rescue organization. Or, visit Chateau Ste. Michelle for free guided tours and tastings in a French-style winery 20 miles from Seattle.