Chic chambers, a buzzworthy tour and Minecraft zombies. Why the Emerald City makes for the perfect family getaway...
We were long overdue for a Seattle fix. Just a three-hour drive south of Vancouver, the Pacific Northwest’s largest city—and Washington State’s most happening hub—had been off our radar during a stint of holidays on home turf. Recently returning with teen in tow, we spent a long weekend catching up with Seattle’s latest family-friendly offerings while indulging in that big-city bliss we’d been missing.
Here’s why the time is ripe to visit the Emerald City...
1. Stay in revamped vintage digs
Kimpton Alexis HotelJust minutes after checking into our sprawling double queen room at the historic Kimpton Alexis Hotel, my 14-year-old son Thomas finds his perfect nook in the living area’s high-backed green velvet couch. Meanwhile, I can’t stop gaping at the soaring ceilings with massive crown moldings while my husband Dan peruses nifty details like pop-up headboard lights and cocktail trolley with treat drawer.
Indeed, merging a storied past with modern design was the focus of the downtown hotel’s recent $14-million renovation. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 1901 property has housed a variety of businesses over the years, including the Alaska Gold Standard Mining offices during the Klondike Gold Rush. While brass accents pay homage to that heady time, appointments like misty-blue drapes, wave-like bathroom tiles and Scandinavian-designed furniture reflect the region’s Puget Sound setting and cultural roots.
Lining the hallways of the 121-room Alexis, bright works of art curated by the Michael Birawer Gallery next door spark conversation. As do shelves of books along brick walls at the cozy in-house Bookstore Bar & Café. Taking a window seat, we toast our first night back in Seattle with a gin-spiked Page Turner for me, locally brewed Jellyfish Smack IPA for Dan and tall cool Lavender Spritz for Thomas. No sighting of Dave Grohl tonight though – the former Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters frontman reportedly drops by when he’s in town.
2. Taste the city on a teen-approved tour
Sheila HansenTaking advantage of our centrally located base, we happily leave our wheels in the valet parking lot to explore on foot. First up, a two-hour Chocolate & Coffee Tour led by Eat Seattle’s entertaining Chef John Brink.
“Pike Place Market is 112 years old and a lot of it is set in its ways,” John begins as we and a handful of other caffeine and cocoa hounds gather at the one-year-old Barque Brontes Bakery Café—the first of seven small passionate businesses that we’ll visit in and around the famous Seattle landmark. After sipping espresso (“my favourite in the whole city,” exclaims John) and munching on the richest chocolate macarons ever, we make tracks to MarketFront's indie chocolate bean-to-bar factory. Here, we glimpse a cocoa bean’s journey from pod to pot of swirling goodness, and snack on the shop’s single-origin product in the form of a mouth-watering Ecuadorian chocolate brownie.
Coffee, hot chocolate and “bits of buzz” are to be had at the laidback Joe Chocolate Co., the latter referring to the nine-month-old café’s signature coffee-infused chocolate. Then donning sparkly crowns at Seleušs Chocolates, we swoon upon tasting orange blossom honey chocolate ganache. Over at Shug’s and its original 1936 soda counter, we tuck into a cold brew coffee and chocolate ice cream concoction called affogato—it means “drown” in Italian—while Thomas cheerfully plows through his extra large scoop sans caffeine. An Obama-blessed gray salt caramel at Fran’s—the sea salt is harvested off the coast of Brittany—and a round of French press coffee at Fonté make sure we’re more than sufficiently buzzed by tour’s end.
3. Ponder pixels at the world premiere of Minecraft: The Exhibition
Dan ToulgoetTucked inside Seattle’s cavernous Museum of Pop Culture, or MoPOP for short, Minecraft: The Exhibition provides a quick yet deep dive into the best-selling game of all time. Opened last fall to mark Minecraft’s 10th anniversary and running till September 2020, the show caters to both fans and the merely curious with a game gallery, life-size creatures and interpretive panels.
Unpacking Minecraft in the introductory video, community manager Helen Zbihlyj (no, that’s not a typo) describes it as “a game where you can do anything. You can be anyone, you can build anything, you can explore. Anything you wish you could do in real life, you can do with Minecraft.”
On that note we step into the game’s trademark building-block landscape, strolling past a raspy zombie and hands-on crafting table, and through a diaphanous curtain into the fiery Nether realm. There’s even a bedroom decked out in all things Minecraft. Soon, Thomas is scooting from one game station to the next, even giving the education edition a go by combining elements in a lab and watching the (mostly fiery) results.
4. Scope out Seattle from the new and improved Space Needle
Dan ToulgoetSporting such colours as galaxy gold, re-entry red, astronaut white and orbital olive when it opened for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, the iconic Space Needle has come a long way. Today’s neutral white structure recently underwent a $100-million multi-year “spacelift,” which saw the outdoor observation deck outfitted with 3.4-metre-high tilted glass walls and 24 glass benches called Skyrisers. While the original glass barrier was only shoulder high, its taller counterpart still flirts with gravity—trust me, leaning back on a bench isn’t as easy as it looks.
After taking a turn around the top deck to spot city sights, sun-dappled Puget Sound and mighty Mount Rainier, we head down the half-moon-shaped steel, wood and glass Oculus staircase to discover another new dizzying delight below—the world’s first and only revolving glass floor. Called the Loupe, this 34-tonne ring of glass tempts with downward views of the 198-metre Needle while making a full rotation every 45 minutes. We sit a spell, gazing below and out at more 360-degree eye-candy vistas.
5. Dine at a fun-for-all restaurant
Sheila HansenSeattle’s eclectic restaurant scene is packed with places that add a dash of colour, fun or coolness to the menu—key ingredients when dining out with a teen. At the casual Cantina Leña just a half-hour walk from our hotel, we find festive folk art banners hanging from rustic wood beams, a bustling kitchen and Yucatan-inspired plates perfect for sharing. After sipping horchata (Thomas), a margarita slushy with salted rim (me) and That’s Haute IPA (Dan), we savour crispy Pacific cod, pork carnitas and grilled carne asada tacos, followed by a couple of hot churros with dulce de leche dippy sauce on the side—yum!
For brunch, Local 360 scores points for tall-backed booths and ingredients sourced within a 360-mile radius. And Lost Lake for its American diner charm, from the neon sign outside to the swivel bar stools, extra-wide tables and decidedly greasy-spoon fare inside.
For more information on family getaways to Seattle, check out Visit Seattle.