Starbucks gon' run this town tonight. Literally.
If Portland is the Bachelor's degree in the Pacific Northwest, then Seattle definitely qualifies as a doctorate program. The final leg of our West coast I-5 drive ended in Seattle, and we only had to endure a few more rain droplets before we were in the clear. I came into this trip with a blank slate (and full stomach from my Aspen trip) so the sky was the limit. What I found there surprised me.
Surprise #1: Seattle is WAY hillier than I expected it to be. All of the city streets filter down to the waterfront, which makes for a tough climb when you need to head a few blocks north. Bring good shoes and be forewarned.
Surprise #2: The famous "Pike's Place Market" is a tourist trap...worth seeing. I knew this area would be crawling with people during the daytime, but I'm a dedicated Starbucks fan so I gave it a go (if you haven't read ceo Howard Schultz's book Onward, it'll change the way you see the company in the best way). The market is definitely crowded and filled with overweight tourists staring off at nothing, but there's something very charming about it. You get a very authentic Farmer's Market feel where you can chat with stand owners and try fresh fish and fruit. They'll charge you an arm and a leg for the goods, but it's an endearing tradition that I enjoyed.
Surprise #3: The Space Needle is pretty inaccessible. Now I had a connection who took me to an observation deck not open to the public, but from what I saw there were very few people milling around the Space Needle on a clear day. It's set just far enough north that you'd have to make a trek to get there, and there's not a whole lot around it in that particular neighborhood. Seems odd for your most recognizable landmark.
Surprise #4: Seattle has a much more defined downtown area from an architectural standpoint than expected. When I picture Seattle I think of Denver or Portland, with a small Financial District surrounded by the cultural neighborhoods that make the city great. While those neighborhoods do exist (sadly we didn't have much time to check them out), there are a lot more hi-rise buildings clumped together in the downtown are than I would've ever imagined. It's not stopping either as Amazon is putting up new headquarters close to the Space Needle. Seems like an odd choice, but I suppose the hilly areas to the north still get great views above the buildings.
Surprise #5: Whether you like it or not, Husky Stadium is awesome. I've always secretly admired the University of Washington's stadium despite them putting a licking on my beloved CU Buffaloes every year. The recent $250 million renovation that was completed last year certainly spruced up the stadium, but they didn't need a dime to preserve their best asset. The stadium sits right next to Lake Washington, so if you're up early enough you can pull your boat up to tailgate. Doesn't get any cooler than that ladies and gentlemen.
Other than those things, the trip went as expected. The seafood and local beer was excellent. It didn't rain, but looked like it was going to rain constantly. There were more Starbucks locations per square mile than I've ever seen anywhere (great for me, sucks for those who don't like "corporate" coffee). Seattle has a very "ends of the Earth" atmosphere, which makes it a great place to either end a trip or to pivot your trip. For us, it marked the end of the West Coast and the beginning of our trip back East. The West was certainly won, but it was time for some relaxation at home.