Russell Brunelle (russellb) wrote,
Russell Brunelle

My "Best of Mainstream Seattle" Guide...


The Classic I-90 Road Trip. Interstate 90, which begins in Seattle, is the longest interstate highway in the United States. Getting on it and heading east is one of the best ways to experience Washington State’s natural beauty: you’ll enjoy forest, a mountain pass, and ultimately much starker terrain, and along the way you’ll pass near Summit at Snoqualmie, the Gorge Amphitheatre, the Columbia River, and Grand Coulee Dam.

Mount Rainier. It’s the highest peak in the Cascade Range, and a Seattle icon. Hike as much of the “Wonderland Trail” as you have time for, then enjoy the rest of the mountain's views as part of a scenic drive.


Grand Coulee Dam. This dam produces more electricity, by far, than any other electrical facility (of any kind) in the United States: my understanding is that the output from just two of its new turbines could meet the power needs of all Seattle. It's also the largest concrete structure, of any kind, in the United States. It’s awe-inspiring, and the tour is absolutely not to be missed: you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into something made by a long-lost race of giants from Lord of the Rings.

Boeing’s Everett Factory Tour. Boeing is the largest private employer in the Seattle metropolitan area, and the largest exporter in the United States. This factory is the largest building (by volume) in the world, and its tour is breathtaking.


Columbia Center Observation Deck. Columbia Center is the tallest building in the Pacific Northwest, and has an observation deck on the 73rd floor that’s open to the public. The panoramic view of Seattle is fabulous, and admission is only $5 (or $3 for students/seniors). Located at 701 Fifth Avenue, though for obvious reasons an address isn’t necessary to find it. Call (206) 386-5151 if you’d like to confirm the observation deck is open on a particular day, but it’s generally open 8:30am-4:30pm Mon-Fri.

Seattle Architecture Foundation’s “Modern Skyscrapers” Tour. This is a great way to gain familiarity with Seattle’s downtown. This particular tour starts at the new Federal Courthouse, and is probably the most useful, but they’re all good.

Suzzalo Library’s Graduate Reading Room. This is one of the more remarkable locations on the University of Washington campus. Frankly, it looks like "Hogwarts Hall” from the Harry Potter movies. In its north alcove it also features the Senate desk used by Warren Magnuson, the University of Washington School of Law graduate who served as Washington State’s U.S. Senator from 1944-1981. If you have a flair for the dramatic, you could always sit at his desk whenever you sign anything life-changing.


Washington State Capitol. The tours are good, and here's a tip: even if the legislature is in session, you'll have a much better chance of seeing something interesting happen in a committee meeting than on either the Senate or House floors. One good strategy might be to simply sit in on whatever meeting TVW is broadcasting at the time. If you like, you could visit the Museum of Glass on your drive there.

Outdoor Recreation

Summit at Snoqualmie. This is the skiing/snowboarding/tubing resort closest to Seattle.

Bicycle Rides (Organized). Although the Cascade Bicycle Club’s annual “Seattle to Portland” ride has the highest attendance, their “Seattle to Vancouver BC” ride is much more fun. It also sells out in a matter of days, so plan to register the first week in January if you’d like to participate. The Cascade Bicycle Club is the largest bicycle club in the United States.

Bicycle Rides (Unorganized). See the Seattle Bicycle Club’s “Maps Library” for free turn-by-turn cue sheets (“Gasworks – Redhook Brewery” is an example of a route which passes through the University of Washington campus).


First Thursday Art Walk. Starts in Pioneer Square. Free, and fun. Also, historic: this was the first Art Walk in the United States.

Museum of Glass. Not only will this museum show you amazing contemporary glass sculptures by artists other than Dale Chihuly, it also contains a working studio where you can watch new glass art get made.


Gorge Amphitheatre. This is regarded by many as the most beautiful outdoor concert venue in the United States, offering a wonderful view of the Columbia River.

Crocodile Café. Seattle’s innovative rock bands helped put it on the nation’s entertainment map in the early 1990’s, and this venue was central to that era. After a complete renovation, it is now even better as a concert venue.

Scarecrow Video. A beloved independent video store, with the largest rental selection on the West Coast.

Unexpected Productions. Nationwide, improvisational forms of theatre seem to be on the ascendancy. Unexpected Productions is Seattle’s oldest improvisational company, and has been attracting full and enthusiastic audiences for over two decades: start with “Theatresports,” and if you enjoy that give their long-form improv a try as well. Conveniently, they’re right around the corner from the award-winning Pike Pub (1415 1st Avenue).

Food and Drink

Musashi’s. A neighborhood sushi restaurant with an almost cult-like following: not only are the spicy tuna rolls and seared albacore the best in the city, but the prices are lower than anything else in the city. There’s really no explaining it.

Red Hook Brewery Tour. The brewery tour is interesting, and within walking distance are two wineries which also offer tours. All of this is reachable from the University of Washington via the Burke-Gilman and Sammamish River Trails, if you’d prefer to ride your bike.
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