This is an ever-so-slightly version of the Seattle guide for business travelers we put together for CNBC.
Starbucks, Amazon, Costco Wholesale, Microsoft and many other major companies call the greater Seattle-area home.
So it’s no surprise that Visit Seattle reports that at times 25% of the city’s more than 14,000 downtown hotel rooms are filled with business travelers in town to take meetings and make deals.
If you’re in the Emerald City with a few spare hours after a meeting, these tips and ideas might help you make the most of your time in a city well-known for its caffeine-fueled culture, its seafood and its green spaces.
Take a pre-meeting walk or run through the Seattle Art Museum’s 9-acre waterfront Olympic Sculpture Park (Admission: free; adjacent to Myrtle Edwards Park) and be rewarded with views of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound while passing artwork by Richard Serra, Louise Nevelson, Alexander Calder and many others.
Or show up early at the historic Pike Place Market to stroll by fruit, vegetable, seafood and craft vendors setting up before the crowds arrive; especially during cruise season, which runs May through September. Guided tours and downloadable Market walking guides are available.
Starbucks’ first store opened in the Market in 1971 and you can grab a coffee, get a souvenir, and take a selfie at the 1st & Pike store that recreates the ground(s)-breaking first branch.
Better yet, skip the Starbucks (you can drink that at home) and pop into one of Seattle’s many independent coffee shops. Seattle Coffee Works (108 Pine Street), Victrola (3rd and Pine) and Storyville Coffee (1st & Pike; Top floor of the Corner Market bldg.) are all nearby.
For breakfast, grab a pastry at Le Panier, the Market’s French bakery. Or order a Dungeness Crab Omelet or Hangtown Fry with oysters at Lowell’s, a casual Market mainstay ($$) with a waterfront view that’s been “Almost Classy since 1957.”
Tip: Don’t miss the MarketFront public plaza, overlooking the newly revitalized downtown waterfront area. And be sure to bring along some quarters to view the odd and outsize shoes displayed behind sideshow-style curtains at the Giant Shoe Museum in the Market’s “down under” shopping area, next to Old Seattle Paperworks.
From the Market, head downhill (use the Pike Street HillClimb or take the elevators from the parking garage) to the Seattle waterfront, which is lined with restaurants, shops and attractions that include the Seattle Aquarium, the Seattle Great Wheel and the flying ride Wings Over Washington. An underground tunnel recently replaced a noisy double-decker freeway running along and above the waterfront and new park and public spaces are being developed in what is already a much quieter and far more pleasant part of the city to visit.
Tip: Tucked in among the waterfront shops selling mugs, magnets and Sleepless in Seattle nightshirts (still!) is the Ye Olde Curiosity Shop on Pier 54, which dates back to1899. Part souvenir store/part cabinet of wonder, the shop’s displays include natural history oddities and can’t-look-away objects that include shrunken heads, mummies and a four-legged chicken.
Want to see more traditional art?
More than 200 works of public art dot Seattle’s downtown neighborhoods. This guide will lead you to them. The Seattle Public Library system’s 11-story glass and steel Central Library building (between 4th and 5th Avenues and Madison & Spring Streets) is a must-see stop for fans of architecture and, of course, books. Designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and LMN Architects, the building has a multi-floor “Book Spiral,” one all-red floor and great viewing spots from the 10th-floor reading room.
The Seattle Art Museum (Admission: $29.99, including all exhibits) has a permanent collection of more than 25,000 works of art. SAM is free the first Thursday of each month and many downtown hotels offer packages that include museum passes for special exhibitions.
Tip: Save your SAM ticket. Should you have extra time, your Seattle Art Museum ticket is good for entry (within a week) to the Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. The museum reopens February 8 after a $56 million renovation.
Fun at the former fairgrounds
The site of the 1962 World’s Fair is now a 74-acre urban park known as Seattle Center. You can walk there from the downtown core, but it’s faster and more fun to take the 2-minute ride on the Seattle Center Monorail, another souvenir of the fair. Board at Westlake Center Mall (5th Avenue and Pine St.)
In addition to free attractions, such as the International Fountain, Seattle Center offers time-pressed visitors a cluster of worthy activities to choose from, including the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), which will appeal to fans of music and science fiction, and the Pacific Science Center, which is ideal if your family is in tow. Artist Dale Chihuly’s creations and collections fill eight color-filled galleries at Chihuly Garden and Glass and spill into the adjacent Collections Café, which has Dungeness crab cakes and other Northwest fare on the menu and is a charming and convenient place to stop for lunch ($$).
Seattle’s 605-foot-tall Space Needle, another, now iconic space-age souvenir of the 1962 World’s Fair, is at Seattle Center too. The Space Needle has two recently renovated observation decks, including one with the world’s only revolving glass floor.
Tips:Chihuly Garden and Glass and the Space Needle are often crowded, but both offer discounts for visits during less crowded off-hours. The 902-foot-tall downtown Sky View Observatory is a less expensive, less crowded alternative to the Space Needle.
Where to Stay:
Many business travelers land at Seattle’s large convention-friendly properties such as the Hyatt Regency (1260 guestrooms) and the Sheraton Grand Seattle (1236 guestrooms). Seattle also has a growing list of hip, boutique properties such as the 90-room State Hotel, with a rooftop terrace, wall of doorknobs and colorful multi-story mural and the Hotel Theodore where rooms and hallways are decorated with artifacts and images curated by Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry.
Where to eat
Seattle has an exciting and evolving dining and drinking scene, with many nationally known venues and chefs. Here are just a few to check out.
Start – or end – the evening with a cocktail at restaurateur Renee Erickson’s below-ground, curio-filled Deep Dive in the Amazon Spheres. The menu at this speakeasy-style bar includes upscale classic cocktails, rare spirits and creative concoctions with names such as Mixtape, Hans Solo, Curiosity Killed and Love through Space and Time.
There are excellent breweries. brewpubs and distilleries in many Seattle’s neighborhoods and a good selection right downtown, including Pike Place Brewing’s Pike Pub, Old Stove Brewing and Copperworks Distilling Co.
Move on to a downtown dinner at Loulay Kitchen & Bar in the Sheraton Grand Seattle (6th and Pike). The creation of Thierry Rautureau, “The Chef in The Hat,” Loulay’s menu favorites include French cuisine classics, crab fritters, seafood stew, sturgeon and cheeseburgers topped with duck egg or foie gras. ($$$).
Tip: If you haven’t quite mastered the art of dining out alone, make a reservation for Loulay’s balcony level table for one, which overlooks the busy restaurant and the kitchen.
To impress visitors, Brian McGowan, CEO of Greater Seattle Partners books dinner at “the legendary Canlis, whose view, cuisine and service are equally amazing.” The iconic fine-dining destination has views of Seattle, Lake Union and the Cascade mountain range and four course dinners for $135/person.
And what about the rain?
Yes, Seattle has a well-deserved reputation for being gray and drizzly. But the city’s annual average precipitation of 38.17” is less than Boston (43.13”), Houston (51.12”), Miami (59.61”) and New York (45.73”). More drizzles than downpours just give Seattle more days of moist and cloudy weather.
Tip: You won’t see many locals carrying umbrellas. To blend in, pack a rain jacket, a cap and wear water-resistant shoes.