Lifestyle

Actually Cool Things You Can (Still) Do in Seattle

All social distancing approved.

After months of being stuck at home, and then even more months stuck in Washington's endless phased reopening, you'd be forgiven for thinking there's really nothing to do in Seattle except watch YouTube videos and order takeout, but that's not actually the case. From al fresco dining destinations to Seattle secrets just waiting to be discovered, there are actually plenty of cool things that 2020 can't stop you from doing.

Get outside

Free
Anywhere
So the number one reason people move to Seattle, instead of just visit, is… well, tech jobs. But they also really like the great outdoors. Maybe a little too much. But you don't have to go trail riding or rock climbing to get in on the action (though we do have this list of some underrated hiking trails). All you really have to do is go for a jog around Green Lake, or ride the Burke-Gilman Trail, or hit any number of other outdoor exercise spots around town.

Spend a day at the beach. No, we're not kidding.

Free
Alki
The last thing most people expect to find in Seattle is miles of sandy beaches. And they're right Seattle doesn't have those… West Seattle does. Something else people don't expect? How glorious Seattle's summers are. So you see where this is going: to Alki, which is just minutes from downtown but somehow manages to feel like a charming little beach town complete with a row of bars and restaurants highlighted by West Seattle Brewing's Tap Shack, Sunfish, and El Chupacabra.

Find a Sound Garden and The Black (Hole) Sun

Free
Sand Point/Capitol Hill
Soundgarden is one of Seattle's seminal bands, and a pioneer of '90s grunge. A Sound Garden is a collection of towering metal sculptures in a park overlooking Lake Washington that turns the wind into an eerie, but soothing kind of music… and is the inspiration for the band's name. The inspiration for the title of the band's most famous song? Another art installation: this one called The Black Sun, overlooking the city from another local park.

Go see some art

Free
Various locations
Downtown Seattle -- from Seattle Center to SoDo -- features literally hundreds of pieces of public art that are still easily accessible despite the current pandemic, which the city has helpfully identified on a handy map. Prefer your art with a little more edge? Then take a tour of the city's street art with this map of more than 100 murals splashed on walls across the city. 

Watch the sunset at Kerry Park

Free
Queen Anne
Get all of the views that you’d get if you spent the money to go up the Space Needle, with none of the expense, at this iconic Seattle park. Or if you'd rather share the experience with fewer humans, head a few blocks away to the lookout across the street from Parsons Gardens.

Attend a virtual concert/dance party

Free
Anywhere
Sadly Seattle's innumerable concert venues are still closed, but many of the city's musical heavyweights are doing what they can to bring live music to you at home. The most notable is KEXP with their KEXP at Home series, while the most fun might be the Deck'd Out series from SoDo dance club Monkey Loft, which streams live DJ sets every Thursday. 

Go for a ferry ride

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Various locations
Washington State boasts the largest ferry system in the country (and fourth-largest in the world) with some boats sailing right from downtown Seattle, including the route to Bainbridge Island. Despite ongoing Coronavirus concerns, there are plenty of cool things to do on the island like renting a kayak or touring the stunning botanical gardens at the Bloedel Reserve. Don't have time for that? Don't worry, you can take a water taxi to West Seattle and stroll along the waterfront instead.

Eat a “life-changing” burger at Dick's

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Various locations
Sir Mix-a-Lot rapped about bringing his posse by for some burgers. Macklemore danced on the Broadway location's rooftop. Esquire called it the "most life-changing burger joint" in America. But the best recommendation? The people still lining up outside these old-school joints just before they close at 2am every night, even though you can now get Dick's delivered via DoorDash. 

Go on a brewery crawl

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Ballard
Seattle has a LONG and storied beer history (starting with hipster favorite Rainier), and is widely known as one of the best beer cities in the country. Seriously, there are so many good brewers here, it's almost impossible to pick just one to try. So don't. Ballard is a charming historic neighborhood with more than 10 breweries in less than a square mile, all of which are currently operating according to local health guidelines. 

hot dog
Bradley Foster/Thrillist

Eat a classic Seattle dog

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Various locations 
People are always a little horrified when you first suggest it -- “you want to put WHAT on a hot dog?!?” -- but once they try the admittedly strange combination of grilled onions and cream cheese on a lightly toasted bun, they understand why, for the last 20 years, the Seattle dog has  been a mainstay at street food vendors across the city. 

Do a self-guided food tour of the International District

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International District
From the Vietnamese food at 12th and Jackson to the stalls inside Uwajimaya, there are hundreds of dumplings, spring rolls, and snacks packing Seattle’s International District with big flavors and tiny price tags. Pop in and out of neighborhood shops and cafes, buying just a bite or two at each place.

Two words: road trip!

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Various locations
Whether or not you planned on leaving Washington this summer, COVID-19 probably obliterated your vacation plans. But in lieu of lamenting, consider this an opportunity to embark on a road trip: an all-American tradition that just so happens to be an excellent mode of vacation for pandemic times.

Ride the Great Wheel

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Waterfront/Downtown
Currently operating with a variety of safety measures, this massive, waterside Ferris wheel has become a tourist mainstay, and also a popular place for writers and former editors of a certain lifestyle website to get busted trying to sneak in booze. Oops. It's also a good place to give guests a glimpse of both Elliott Bay and the Seattle skyline -- which is mostly just cranes nowadays, but whatever. 

Explore Pike Place Market

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Downtown
It's the best farmers market in the country. Period. So now that it's reopened, it's a no-brainer. But figuring out what to do once you get there isn't. Luckily, our guides to the 50 best things to eat and the best secret shops in the market will get you started, but the still newish MarketFront and the myriad bars/restaurants lining Post Alley give you almost endless options. There are even options for people who aren't comfortable actually going to the market, including boxes of items from market vendors you can get delivered to your home.

Slurp some oysters

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Pretty much anywhere
The frigid waters of Puget Sound produce sweet, plump, and briny bivalves, which is why it seems like every restaurant in town has 'em on the menu and why we're lucky enough to have them pretty much year-round. But technically oysters are best in fall, which makes this the perfect time to try out a few spots on our list of the best places to eat oysters in Seattle

Brave the elements at a rooftop bar

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Various locations
People in Seattle seem to think that roofs are only there to keep the rain off them, not for frivolous activities like “getting a drink on” or “enjoying the sunshine atop of." But there are several establishments in our city willing to provide a sanitized, socially distanced place to drink with views of the city. Along with the current emphasis on al fresco dining, rooftops are the perfect place to go even in less-than-ideal weather.

Get some of the city's best cocktails at home

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Various locations
One of the underappreciated benefits of Washington's COVID-inspired shutdown is that the state now allows restaurants and bars to include booze in takeout orders. Our favorite? The make-your-own margarita and Bloody Mary kits available from equally underappreciated South Lake Union spot La Palmera.

Shop at Ebbets Field Flannels

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Pioneer Square 
This local purveyor of authentic handmade vintage baseball jerseys and ballcaps should have a throwback from whatever your favorite team is at their flagship store, which boasts a ton of old-school charm and an on-site production room where all the cutting, sewing, and letter-pressing that goes into making one of their flannels actually happens. (Or at their website, if you still prefer to shop from home.)

Splurge on a scenic flight in a seaplane

$$$$
South Lake Union
No matter how many tips and tricks to improve flying are thrown out there, nothing's gonna make your guests want to get back into a plane once they get here, right? Wrong. They're gonna want in on what has become a quintessential Seattle experience: a scenic seaplane flight complete with stunning views and the unbeatable thrill of taking off and "landing" on a lake in the middle of the city.

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Bradley Foster is a former Thrillist editor who you and your guests will probably run into at Dick's.