How to Avoid Looking Like a Tourist in Seattle

Off the Beaten Path, Travel Tips — By Michelle Schusterman on August 26, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Let me preface this by saying I’ve got no problem with doing touristy things. If I’ve got limited time in Paris, the Eiffel Tower will probably make the list. One day in New York City? I will see Times Square. But if you’re heading to the far corner of the Pacific Northwest and you want to avoid the jacked up prices and insane lines, here’s what to do (and what not to do).

The Space Needle

The ultimate Seattle tourist spot. I’m not going to call it a trap – this is an awesome structure with an interesting history and a fabulous view. Depending on the time of day, you might be facing a line long enough to make this take up your entire day. And at nearly $20 for a trip to the top, you’d better make it last.

Instead of a downtown view from the north, try it from the south. Smith Tower is a gorgeous building down in Pioneer Square with a 360˚ observation deck. At $7.50 for an adult ticket, the price is significantly better, and it’s a much less cluttered with tourists. If you’re in Pioneer Square for the Underground Tour, bring your ticket and get a discount.

The Original Starbucks

Starbucks, Starbucks, everywhere, but you’ll never see a longer line for a $3.50 latte than the original Starbucks at Pike Place Market on a Saturday morning – particularly when another cruise ship has just pulled in.

If it’s not so much that you want a picture next to the brazenly naked Starbucks mermaid as a great cup of coffee, keep walking in any direction for about a minute and you’ll find it. The rumored number of cafes in Seattle is no exaggeration – next to Starbucks, the most popular chains are Seattle’s Best and Tully’s, and you’ll find tons of smaller businesses as well. Try Seattle Coffee Company on Pike, or take a right on 1st and check out Ancient Grounds.

Pike Place Market

I’m not saying don’t check it out – on the contrary, this is where I buy my produce pretty much on a daily basis. However, particularly in the summer, it is positively swarming with tourists.

If you’d rather just pick up some Rainier cherries and maybe find a sustainable-foods cafe for lunch, head up to Capitol Hill’s new Melrose Market instead.

Ditch the Rain Gear

Seriously – it’s not as bad as you think. Seattle gets less rainfall per year than New York City, but the way visitors arrive bogged down with parkas, ponchos, galoshes and umbrellas, you’d think the Puget Sound is the site of frequent tsunamis.

Know what to pack for your trip – durable, comfy shoes, a hoodie, a light jacket for chilly nights. You won’t get caught in a monsoon, I swear.

Tour Vans and Shuttles

I was walking down Pine a few days ago and overheard a family as their personal tour van pulled up. Where they were headed and the rate they were paying…it made me cringe. Save money on shuttles and cabs and give Seattle public transportation a shot – the bus/trolley/subway hybrid system we have going on here is pretty sweet, easy to get around, and way cheaper than any other option.

[feature image by Bjorn Giesenbauer, post image by INeedCoffee]

Tags: seattle, tourism, travel