America’s coolest city?
Seattle, Washington (CNN) — Rewind to 1971, when Seattle was an isolated backwater. Boeing, the area’s largest employer at the time, had sliced 60,000 jobs and the unemployment rate skyrocketed to 13%. A now iconic billboard appeared near the airport: “Will the last person leaving Seattle — Turn out the lights.”
That scene can’t be any farther from Seattle’s booming present. Once known mostly for its rainy climate, Seattle is now associated with nationally recognized restaurants, major league sports teams and corporate heavy hitters like Amazon and Starbucks.
Here are the best ways to get to know Seattle in the 21st century:
Seattle chef Edouardo Jordan made a splash at the 2018 James Beard Awards, bringing home two medals for his restaurants, the Southern heritage-honoring Junebaby and free-wheeling Salare.
At Kamonegi, chef Mutsuko Soma makes labor-intensive Japanese soba noodles from scratch — one of the few such artisans in the US.
Head south to the eclectic, pseudo-industrial Georgetown neighborhood for grilled food galore at Ciudad, where chef Aaron Willis wields worldwide influences.
Little Neon Taco is a bright spot in Seattle’s hospital district, First Hill. Here, Monica Dimas shows off the rich flavors of her native Mexico, with handmade corn tortillas, tortas and grilled corn.
Award-winning architect Tom Kundig shows off his favorite Seattle buildings and tells the story of how a sixth-grade science teacher influenced his life’s work.
Cocktail power couple Chris and Anu Elford own two of the most exciting drinking and dining establishments in town. Their Belltown bars No Anchor (focused on beer and beer-themed cocktails, plus creative Northwest fare) and Navy Strength (a modern Tiki bar drawing on international flavors) are places you’ll want to linger.
No visit to the Pacific Northwest is complete without a foray into local seafood. Do it at Mashiko, an ardently local sushi bar, where only sustainable fish make the cut.
Seattle does urban parks well, showing off its forests, mountains and waterways. Glimpse the skyline from across sailboat-filled Lake Union at Gas Works Park, with its steampunk-leaning ruins of a former gasification plant.
Stroll through a dense old-growth forest in Seward Park, where you’ll be greeted with a view of massive Mount Rainier right from the parking lot.
At Discovery Park, perched on the Magnolia peninsula, driftwood-strewn Puget Sound beaches look out toward the distant Olympic Mountains. Ditto Golden Gardens, where fire pits keep visitors warm after a dramatic sunset.
Eager to get on the water? You can rent a canoe or hop on a sailboat for free on Sundays at the Center for Wooden Boats, whose living museum sits improbably next to Seattle’s tech-heavy South Lake Union neighborhood.
In West Seattle, paddle with Alki Kayak Tours, and you might spot an otter or seal in view of the skyline.
If bikes are more your speed, the 27-mile Burke-Gilman Trail passes breweries, parks and viewpoints.
Shop ’til you drop
Seattle’s myriad boutiques will keep shopaholics busy.
The Fremont Vintage Mall sports a well-curated collection of throwbacks, from clothes to collectibles to housewares. Need more vintage? The collection of men’s and women’s clothing and accessories at Lucky Dry Goods and sibling Lucky Vintage should do the trick.
Peruse men’s and women’s clothing, home goods and adorable plants at Glasswing, inside the Melrose Market collection of shops.
At Baleen, modern, handmade jewelry is surprisingly affordable in the trendy Ballard neighborhood.
Mid-century modern furniture, plus décor like frames, mirrors, and planters, rule the floor at Digs.
Pioneer Square’s impeccable Velouria stocks a diversity of Pacific Northwest-made pottery, jewelry, clothing and housewares.
Lucky Vintage, 4742 University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105, +1 (206) 523-6621
Stay in style
Sleep surrounded by sleek luxury, and wake up to waterfront views at the Thompson hotel, with its mid-century modern stylings and swanky rooftop bar.
Four-star boutique Hotel Andra greets visitors with a lobby fireplace and Scandinavian design. The minimalist décor helps insulate from the busy downtown setting.
Art and music lovers might gravitate toward Hotel Max, a trendy spot that features local photography on each floor. The complimentary craft beer hour, held daily in the lobby, doesn’t hurt.
When it rains
Yes, it rains a lot in Seattle, especially between October and May. But there’s plenty to keep you busy, starting with the city’s iconic Pike Place Market, a sprawling collection of artisan crafts, restaurants, bars, farm stands and various other oddities.
Step back in time with a Seattle Underground Tour, where you’ll get a glimpse of Seattle’s streets before they were consumed by the Great Seattle Fire of 1889.
Situated under the Space Needle, the Museum of Pop Culture collects eclectic Americana from musicians to science fiction writers to filmmakers in a Frank O. Gehry-designed building.
Chocaholics should hit Theo Chocolate’s fair trade, bean-to-bar factory in the Fremont neighborhood. You can tour the factory and stock up on edible souvenirs in the retail shop.