Seattle

Parks, Part 2

The other night I went with a couple friends to dinner and a lecture. (Yes, that’s right. We’re old fogies and went to a lecture.) Anyway, after a supremely delicious meal at Mamnoon we wandered over to the Seattle Town Hall to hear James McBride speak. We ended up taking this kind of weird route that entailed much confusion and just a little bit of adventure. We wandered down (literally down a hillside) this weird, poorly lit, slippery path between apartment buildings, and then continued to have to go through alleys and possibly off-limit staircases to finally get to our destination. But after some wandering, and midway through our little adventure, I realized we were in Freeway Park!

I had been to the park before during a conference at the convention center (which abuts the park). The conference was ridiculously boring, but it was so glorious outside and I remember loving the confusing and at times Escher-like paths and stairways throughout the park. I didn’t take any pictures this time around (mostly because it was dark, and we were running late), but I have some from the first time I was there.

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In all — I fully recommend Freeway Park, but maybe avoid the hilliest portions (at least after dark, and not in the rain!).

 

 

Seattle’s art scene: a (very brief) introduction

On cloudy days it’s tempting to want to stay in and cuddle up with a book and a cup of coffee (and for where to go for that definitely check out Emile’s post), but I’m going to suggest an alternative: this is perfect opportunity to go and check out some of Seattle’s great museums! There are plenty that could be included, but here are a smattering that I strongly recommend:

The Seattle Art Museum (SAM):
You may have seen this guy lurking around downtown…

Courtest of modernvespa.com/forum/topic21942.html

Courtesy of modernvespa.com/forum/topic21942.html

But fear not dear readers, he only represents the entrance to the SAM! Located right in the heart of downtown at 1300 First Ave., it is a convenient and awesome way to spend a morning, afternoon, or evening (open ’til 9p on Thursday and Friday!). Even the lobby gives a hint of the greatness to be seen within this museum:

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Although this is one of the more pricey museums on my list, it is absolutely a Seattle classic, and I highly recommend it. Their student prices are $11 for general admission or you can pay $17 for the student-priced admission to the Rembrandt, Van Dyck and Gainsborough exhibit (which I haven’t seen yet, but really want to!). The SAM does free first Thursdays (which, unfortunately, was last week), but keep that in mind for future Seattle visits! Last little note about the SAM: there is a SAM art gallery  that happens to be hosting a FREE event tomorrow night! From 5:00-7:00p in the SAM gallery, the opening of an exhibit to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the SAM will take place. It should be exciting with lots of new artists showing work (and, again, it’s free to go!).

Okay enough about the SAM. Next recommendation…

Olympic Sculpture Park!
The Olympic Sculpture Park is located right on the water near Seattle Center. It is always (always!) free, and open 365 days a year. It has sculptures that range from the giant to the tiny, and being right on the water provides an even better setting to enjoy the art. If you want to get some outdoor time, but still take in some art, and not have to pay any money… well, I couldn’t think of a better way. Take a gander at this photo snapped by a friend:

Courtesy of A. Kuchinsky

Courtesy of A. Kuchinsky

More than my praise, I figured a picture would probably give you all the convincing you need.

Other great options…
As those two are located downtown and are some of my favorites, I wanted to include them. Want to go a little farther off the beaten path? Try the Frye Art Museum! It is always free! (And no, I never get tired of sharing that fact.) It’s also located near downtown, right across I5 between James and Madison. Also worth a mention is the Henry Art Gallery located on the University of Washington campus. A quick bus ride on the 71, 72, or 73 will take you right there from downtown. Like the Frye, admission is always free (to students, $10 suggested donation for non-students)! And like the SAM, it’s open ’til 9:00p on Thursdays and Fridays. Last suggestion, the Seattle Asian Art Museum, located in Volunteer Park, is another great option. A suggested fee of $5 for students is entirely reasonable, and it also affords you the perfect opportunity of wander the park, see the water tower and conservatory, and experience a little of Capitol Hill while you’re there.

There are even more museums and ways to experience art here in Seattle. Whether you want your art outdoors, in a small intimate setting, for free, or any which way you can get it, there are options for everyone. Perfect for brightening up even the cloudiest of days!

Ah, the bounty of farmers market season!

A true rite of passage into springtime is upon us: the beginning of farmers’ market season! Now, don’t get me wrong, there are plenty (PLENTY!) of markets in Seattle that go year-round, but springtime brings us the right feel for the market. Wandering leisurely imagining all the delicious things you could make with the fresh veggies, drooling over that vanilla lavender scone, scoping out an amazing locally-made cheese, and generally enjoying the musicians busking and people watching as the sun shines upon you. Not to mention, we can finally move on from those root vegetables! (I actually don’t have anything against root vegetables.) The point is that farmers markets just feel right in the spring. And although the products can be a bit pricey if you do all of your shopping there, wandering the market to get inspired, see the sights, and eat some free samples is a perfect way to enjoy it.

As I always seem inclined to do, below you’ll find a little list of some of my favorite markets in the Seattle area:

The mother of all markets: Pike’s Place Market

The famous view of the entrance to the market! (Picture courtesy of Pike's Place)

The famous view of the entrance to the market! (Picture courtesy of Pike’s Place)

Pike’s Place is the most famous of all Seattle markets. They boast being open 19 1/2 hours a day, 362 days a year. There are all sorts of crafts, foods, flowers, and restaurants to wander through, and on clear days it gives you one heck of an incredible view of the Olympic Mountains! There are many levels of shops in the market, and as you go farther into the market,  you’re  transported into new worlds of knick-knacks and collectables. Right at the entrance are the famous fishmongers. They really do throw the fish! You’ll also find the very first Starbucks right nearby if that’s your style. Another famous (perhaps, notorious) landmark is the gum wall (I’ll let you find that one for yourselves!). Also, it’s worth noting that the areas surrounding Seattle are famous for producing incredibly beautiful flowers, and amazing bouquets can be purchased at Pike’s for $5 or $10 dollars.

A Pike's bouquet I couldn't help but treat myself to!

A Pike’s bouquet I couldn’t help but treat myself to!

Find it downtown. On Pike St (not a coincidence, of course), right on the water.

My local market: The Ballard Farmers Market
I’m a little biased in favor of this market. It’s not so big as to be overwhelming or overcrowded, but just the right size to host a great number of vendors and entertainment. The Ballard Market is known for its musicians as well as its food! There are buskers (people who play music on the street) there regularly, often playing bluegrass and folk, providing the perfect soundtrack for wandering through the heart of Ballard.

The market closes off the main drag (Ballard Ave.) to cars so pedestrians have the run of the place!

The market closes off the main drag (Ballard Ave.) to cars so pedestrians have the run of the place! (Picture courtesy of Ballard Farmer’s Market)

The market runs year-round on Sundays from 10-3p. There are plenty of free samples and friendliness to be had here, and some great brunch spots if you work up an appetite (try Hattie’s Hat, Senor Moose, or Salmon Bay Cafe). Another sweet (literally) highlight: the mini donuts at the north end of the market. For $3/a half dozen, you don’t end up with too much guilt and it’s easy on the wallet. (And of course it’s insanely tasty!)

Find it in downtown Ballard (on Ballard Ave.), right off the 40, 44, and near the 15 bus lines (among others).

The Fremont Market is like the eclectic aunt of markets. It’s been a mainstay of the Seattle scene since 1990, and is equal parts flea and farmers’ market.

From kitsch to treasure! (Courtesy of the Fremont Sunday Market)

Kitsch or treasure? It’s all in the eye of the beholder. (Courtesy of the Fremont Sunday Market)

The Fremont market runs year-round from 10a-4p on Sundays, right by the canal in downtown Fremont. On sunny days, the views of the canal and the entrance to Lake Union under the Aurora Bridge are pure magic. Plenty of great restaurants and cafes line the nearby streets, perfect for recharging after wandering through the sizable market (up to 150 vendors each Sunday!).

Simply idyllic. View of Lake Union from the Burke Gilman bike trail near the Fremont Market. (Picture courtesy of Matt McGrath)

Simply idyllic. View of Lake Union from the Burke Gilman bike trail near the Fremont Market. (Picture courtesy of Matt McGrath)

 

There are plenty of other fantastic markets  in the Seattle area (the University District has a great one on Saturdays, the Broadway market in Capitol Hill on Sundays…), the list could go on. I maintain that farmers’ markets are not just a way to get high quality, organic, local (etc. etc.) food. They give you a window into the vibrant culture in Seattle: live music, people watching, products that Seattleites are proud of…. Plus, what a great opportunity to explore new neighborhoods and eat all kinds of delicious free samples (seriously, I sample that Mt. Townsend Creamery Seastack cheese every single time). Yum!

The happiest of hours

Ah, the happy hour. One of the work week’s little treats. I think it’s fair to say that the vast majority of booze-serving establishments have them, but some have deals so sweet it almost makes up for the guilt you feel at cutting out of work/school/anything early for the day to get a drink. I certainly have my personal favorites in Seattle, and if you plan it right, you really can get a burger and a drink for < $10 including tax and tip. I swear.

HH1: Kate’s Pub
One of my favorite happy hours around is at Kate’s Pub, a great little dive right at the edge of Wallingford (near the University District). First and foremost, the details on the happy hour: Kate’s happy hour is every day (yes! weekends, too!) from 4:00-7:00 pm. All food (ALL FOOD!) is half off with a drink purchase. Some drink highlights include $3.50 microbrews and well drinks, $2 PBR if you’d like to harken back to your college days, and $14 pitchers.

Kate's main

A very merry St. Paddy’s at Kate’s

Kate's back

Perfect for pool & darts.

Kate’s is kind of cozy (and is decked out for St. Paddy’s above), but it doesn’t care too much about appearances. It’s the perfect place when you want to just grab a drink with friends; no pretentiousness, no super hipster bartender you feel like you need to impress (oh wait, that’s just me?). There’s a pool table and two dart boards that are free to use, and usually some sort of sporting event is on tv (but perfectly ignorable if it’s not your thing). All in all, Kate’s is a wonderful spot for a relaxed night of some drinks and games with friends, and you can have it all for half price if you get there before 7!

HH2: La Isla
Another great happy hour with a totally different feel is La Isla in Ballard. La Isla is one of those cool restaurants that not only has happy hour everyday, but in fact has it TWICE a day (3:00-6:00p and 10:00p-1:00a)! It’s a Puerto Rican restaurant with pretty tasty food and drink, served at a steal of a price. For between $2 and $5, you can find an array of tasty appetizer-sized dishes that are the perfect dinner or late-night snack. (Let me take this moment to personally recommend their yuca fries and various types of mojitos!) Mojitos are a mere $4 and cuba libres $3 during happy hour, and other delicious cocktails are also heavily discounted.

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A view from the outside! (Picture courtesy of La Isla)

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The bright colors and myriad of spirits would attract anyone to the bar (Picture courtesy of La Isla).

La Isla feels bright and colorful, and has a fair amount of seating, which is nice and inviting. Not so hip as to be intimidating, La Isla has just the right amount of cool to make you feel like you’re having a fun night out if you stop in, especially for the late-night happy hour. There is much to recommend here, and my only warning is that you’ll probably want to try everything, so bring your appetite!

HH3: The Lookout
The Lookout is located in hip Capitol Hill, and, as its name suggests, has a really (really, really) amazing view.

Not too shabby, iPhone.

Not too shabby, iPhone.

Happy hour features include $5 appetizers (that are often appetizers in name only: the mac & cheese was plenty for a full dinner), $4 wells and house wines, plus $3.50 microbrews! They also have happy hour at some point EVERY day (4-7p on weekdays, 12-4p on weekends, and all day monday)! Aside from boasting a great view and a sweet happy hour menu, the Lookout is cozy and cool. It also has its oddities like both Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean pinball games. They also have a little patio, so when the weather’s nice you can enjoy the view and the glory of cheap eats at the same time. Dream life status: achieved.

Arr, ye matey!

Arr, ye matey!

HHBONUS: The College Inn Pub
The College Inn is the not-so-secret University of Washington grad student watering hole. It is dark, it is divey, it’s the perfect place to escape from that failed experiment, and, of course, it has a super happy hour. It certainly doesn’t rank on the list of Seattle highlights for tourists, but if you want to see grad students in their natural habitat, experience $4 pub nachos (delicious!) on mondays, drink $4 pints and wells between 4 and 7p, and have nightly specials 8p-close, this is the place for you. University District, under the College Inn.

For your occasional swanky night out

About two weeks ago I had a bit of a hankering to hear some jazz and to get gussied up and go out; there’s only so much flannel and gore-tex a person can take. I know it can be hard to have that kind of evening without feeling extremely guilty about the cost of food, drinks, entertainment, etc., but that’s why Jazz Alley was perfect: it totally satisfied my desire for a classy evening without being a budget-buster. This is possible because for first sets (~7:30p) on Wednesdays and second sets (~9:30p if there is one) on Thursdays, tickets for students are 50% off! You do need reservations (make sure to tell them you’re a student), and you do need to bring your student ID, but then you’re all set. It really is that easy. It goes from being kind of pricey — often $20-30 per ticket — to totally reasonable! Another plus: they have a free parking lot! In downtown seattle! Amazing!

Onto the actual experience of Jazz Alley. First, a warning: finding Jazz Alley can be a little tricky if you don’t know what you’re looking for. It’s entrance is actually *in* an alley, and although its name is therefore quite apt, it means you have to know where you’re going. (Pro tip: it’s actually in the alley off of Lenora between 5th and 6th.)

jazzalley

Okay, so you’ve finally found the entrance. You walk into a small entryway where you are greeted and given your tickets. You can’t see any of the club from there because it is actually down one level; it’s almost as if you’re entering some secret speakeasy. Anyway, down the stairs you go and you enter a large, beautiful, dimly lit room, and are taken to your table. The people there for dinner get the best seats, but all of the seats are good seats. (Pro tip: don’t get dinner at Jazz Alley! It’s quite expensive, and it’s totally fine to go and not eat.)  The music was superb, and they have a whole variety of acts and types of music that come through.

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Drinks, as with the food, are a little pricey, with cocktails in the $10-12 range. Since it was my swanky night out and I had gotten such a great deal on the tickets, I splurged and got a drink. The dim lights were making me a tad sleepy so I treated myself to a kahlua & coffee, while my friend got a seattle sazarac. Both were quite tasty.

Jazz Alley is a great gem of a jazz club downtown that is surprisingly accessible for students. Their other offerings (food and drink) are certainly more expensive but as a special treat it’s a great option. Everyone, even forever-casual Seattleites, wants to have a nice night out every so often, right? This is definitely a great spot to do it.

A quick romp in the park(s)! [pt. 1]

This past weekend Seattle chose to remind us how resplendent it can be when the weather cooperates. It seemed as if everyone came out of the woodwork as if emerging from hibernation, and came out to revel in the sun. In honor of such things I thought a post on a few of my favorite of Seattle’s many wonderful parks was apropos! Thus, in that vein and in no particular order, a brief primer on some of Seattle’s best outdoor spaces (part 1!):

1. Golden Gardens
As a Ballard resident I’m a little biased in favor of Golden Gardens (and no. 2, The Locks) as they’re especially nearby, but this park is a gem no matter where you live. Located on the Puget Sound in the northwest of Seattle, Golden Gardens is the perfect place to enjoy phenomenal views of both the Olympic mountains and the sound. I could use many flowery adjectives but I think a picture (or a few) will likely do the job better. (And yes, these pictures are instagrammed but it was only in an attempt to capture how gosh darn beautiful the moments actually were. I swear.)

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Specialties: beaches, mountain views, bonfire pits, volleyball nets, lots of cool trails in the adjacent hillside, located on a bike path, plenty of giant logs for perfect lounging, nearby paddle-boarding, & sunsets like so:

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Neighborhood: Ballard.

Get there…
…On the bus! There are a few routes that get you pretty close, or allow you to transfer to get all the way there: the 40 and 15 from downtown, the 44 from the University District, and others.
…On bicycle! There are bike lanes and bike paths all through Seattle, including one that goes all the way to Golden Gardens.
…By car! If you have a car you may have to fight for a spot on the loveliest of days, but there are multiple large parking lots, so don’t despair too much.

2. The (Hiram M. Chittenden) Locks
Also located in Ballard are the Locks. Now, you may not instinctively think that watching boats traverse from the lake to the sound would be all that exciting, but you would be pretty wrong. It’s really cool! Firstly, the mechanics of raising and lowering giant boats in giant-er volumes of water makes this scientist’s heart swell. Secondly, there are all sorts of other non-boat-related things to do. There is a lovely botanical garden, a cool salmon ladder, and I can personally vouch that it has some great frisbee space. Also, if you’re in a nerdier mood, they have benches-a-plenty which are perfect for an outdoor board game. Yes, I speak from personal experience.

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Specialties: boats, awesome mechanics, perfect frisbee fields, botanical gardens, flowering trees, many cute dogs (on leashes), a fish ladder, proximity to some pretty good eats in the heart of Ballard (especially Red Mill burgers and milkshakes! yum.)

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(The water level on the two sides of the locks! So cool!)

Neighborhood: Ballard.

Get there…
…By bus! The 40, 44, 15, and others get within walking distance.
…By bike! On the same paved bike trail as golden gardens (the Burke-Gilman)
…By car. There is a parking lot with a rather minimal fee (but free on Sundays!)

3. Volunteer Park
One of the coolest parks in Seattle, in my personal opinion, sits right in the heart of Capitol Hill, which is a wonderfully vibrant, urban-feeling neighborhood east of downtown. One of the first times I came to Seattle a friend took me to Volunteer Park and I was so impressed by how verdant it seemed  even in the middle of winter (mind you, I was coming from a brutal east coast blizzard, but still). In addition to great green space, it has a water tower that affords spectacular views of downtown and the space needle when the weather is clear. It was a particularly blustery day in November when this picture was taken, but seeing the Space Needle over all those trees was awesome.

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Another great aspect of Volunteer Park: a great conservatory! The sheer number of varieties of flowers, plants, cacti, and trees they have is impressive. A personal favorite includes a cactus that looks as if it had recently been a scratching post for a sheep.

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Specialties: watertower with great views (and acoustics!), a conservatory with furry cacti, lush green space in the middle of the city, the Seattle Asian Art Museum (free on first Thursdays of the month!), a great reservoir, a great nearby cafe.

Neighborhood: Capitol Hill.

Get there…
…by bus! The 43 & 49 (from either downtown or the University District), and the 10 from downtown all take you right there.
…by bike! Once you’re on the hill it’s quite bikeable, but beware of seemingly short distances with steep inclines in this area.
…by foot? Depending on where you’re coming from, this one may be within walking distance.
…by car. There is street parking in and around the park, but it’s likely hard to come by on truly beautiful weekend days.

I know it’s hard to believe there could be even more, but we’re only halfway through my little list of Seattle’s best parks! Stay tuned for part 2…

A paltry introduction

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So, by way of introduction, I got asked (picked? hired?) to blog for ARVO (the Association for Research in Vision and Opthalmology) about all the amazingness Seattle has to offer on a budget, so that the students & trainees coming into town for ARVO’s conference would have some idea as to how to entertain themselves when not filling their brains with knowledge. As an ardent Seattle-lover and someone who frequently identifies as ‘broke grad student,’ I thought this would be a perfect fit. (Plus, the free conference registration and a little extra $ doesn’t hurt.)

It also felt like it gave me the impetus to keep something of the sort on my own. A little catalogue of my experiences here in this wonderful city, and this intense, awesome, and challenging time in my life. I know all too well that memory is a fickle mistress and seems to perhaps be rewriting itself many times over.  So here goes: I often try to do things, and occasionally succeed.

 

P.S. Sometimes I identify as a potato. Just for future reference.