Seattle marked the best vacation I’ve ever taken, hands down. I joke with my boss how difficult it will be to top this when we go to Chicago and New Orleans; he reminded me it’s not about topping vacations, it’s about enjoying each individual experience. Thanks Nick.

My bestie and I planned this trip for months, and I researched it to death. I had such a lengthy itinerary, I didn’t imagine we’d cover everything and then some. But yes, we knocked out the entire list besides a few stores in Pike Place we couldn’t find. From Thursday to Monday, here’s what all happened in Seattle.

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First of all, the trip marked my 30th birthday. I had several locations in mind and settled on Seattle. So many times friends have relayed, “You would love you Seattle” and “It’s a city that suits your personality”. They couldn’t have been more correct.

I left Denver early Thursday morning and landed in Seattle around 10:30 a.m. Tika and I met at the airport and Ubered to Salty’s on Alki.

When I planned this vacation, what appealed most to me was the big-city-vibes on the edge of the coast. Plus I’d never been so far north or west before. When I realized a beach house was a real possibility, I booked our Airbnb on Alki Beach in Southwest Seattle.

I reviewed all the districts in the city leading up to the weekend and focused on a few main areas: Alki Beach, Capitol Hill, Fremont, Ballard, Pike Place, the International District, and what I lovingly referred to as “Downtown” and “The place between Pike Place and Capitol Hill”, which is actually known as Pioneer Square.

 

Sometimes my bestie and I go for months without seeing each other. This time, it had only been two and half weeks, thanks to my Nashville Christmas trip. I love running towards Tika in the airport for a dramatic reunion. Reunited and it feels so good! Also, this flight marked the first time I had ever sipped an adult beverage on a flight. Crazy, right?! Considering all the flights I took last year…it’s about time I get crunk on a plane.

 

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Thursday was all about Alki Beach and Pioneer Square. We had a few hours to kill before check-in, so we grabbed lunch at Salty’s, half a mile from our beach house. Salty’s was impressive from the get-go. They brought birthday balloons to the table, suggested tasty drinks, such as the OMG, and the apps were to die for. Now I can say I’ve tried black lava salt butter and coconut prawns. Tika and I ordered bread, two cups of chowder and split the trio. I’m telling you, I think my favorite meal of the trip was the very first one.

As if the food wasn’t awesome enough, our server was polite, accommodating and fast. He gave us the rundown on the Seagulls and advised us not to feed them, which I totally understand and applaud. Then, he relayed a pair of binoculars for us to watch the sea lions sunbathing in the distance. Salty’s offers expansive views of Puget Sound and Seattle’s skyline. I highly recommend Salty’s to anyone near Seattle; the food, customer service and views were unforgettable.

 

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Next, we headed to a shop and our Airbnb. Our little beach house was just so adorable; I would stay there again in a heartbeat. It was super close to the Water Taxi and an Uber ride away from the city. I loved our location with Puget Sound views. Puget Sound is the third largest estuary in the United States. I frequently referred to the Sound as the ocean; I suspect the locals let me slide. Whatever you wanna call it, I loved the sight, sound and  smell of the water.

We unloaded our belongings and settled in. Our host was super friendly, offered us beer and recommended things to do in Seattle. He also gave us a bundle of wood when I asked about bonfires on the beach. Mad props to this guy and his daughter for the hospitality.

We Uber-ed to the Water Taxi, and I got super excited. I’d never rode on a boat like this before; $5.00 for an 8 minute ride seemed fun and convenient.

Tika and I practically had the boat to ourselves. What I imagined was a small, open-roofed pontoon boat, but no, it’s closed in, and you can walk to the second floor to step outside. There’s several tables with chairs, t.v.s and plenty of space. I swear, if I lived in Seattle, I’d be looking for excuses to ride the Water Taxi all the time. I loved it!!

 

Thursday night, we took the elevator to the Colombia Tower to the 73rd floor. The Sky View Observatory was amazing. I had hoped to make it up before sunset, but we arrived in the dark to illuminated views. I wished I’d had a way to record traffic and time-lapse that shit. Something like this, but better, because we were so far up.

Afterwards, we booked it to Lunchbox Laboratory. I enjoyed their lab theme, turning everything into an “experiment”, but it was kinda pricey. I ordered a boozy milkshake and a mushroom swiss burger. Both tasted absolutely amazing. Not hating on the food whatsoever, just wish it was more affordable. This cannot be reconciled with 8 different types of salt to choose from.

We returned to our house to drink and do adult things and chill. With face masks, snacks and booze, ’twas a nice evening. We talked over our Friday plans, not understanding just how awesome the following day would be.

Watching the boats pass through early Friday morning–such a chill way to start the day.

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I found these Slaycation shirts at Target one day and knew we had to have them. I surprised Tika, and we decided to match on Friday. Our Friday itinerary included the Starbucks Roastery, Pike Place, Chihuly and The Great Seattle Ferris Wheel. Along the way, we found the Starbucks Reserve Bar (not the Roastery, but cool nonetheless), Fran’s Chocolates, and 1,547 Starbucks.

But of course, it’s not a true Seattle vacation without another trip on the Water Taxi. The taxi doesn’t run on Saturdays or Sunday’s, so we took the boat again for one least ride on Friday.

We Uber-ed from Pier 52 to what we thought was the Roastery. Turns out, we accidentally got dropped off at one of their reserve bars. This article indicates Starbucks is opening one thousand of these locations across the US, but I have yet to find solid evidence of this anywhere else. I guess we’ll see what happens. But if y’all could please bring one to Denver, that would be awesome.

 

Fran’s Chocolates: We found this place as we walked from the bar to the Roastery. Fran’s chocolate shop resembled a jewelry store. You could peruse a pre-assorted mix or build your own box. You can’t go wrong either way.

And next we have the Roastery. So glad we went Friday morning instead of Saturday night, like we originally planned. The Roastery wasn’t crowded at all, thank God. Between the three bars and drinks you can’t order anywhere else, it was hard to make a choice. I started with a mocha mint spitzer followed by an Ethiopian blend with a fancy sandwich. I thought I was gonna cry at one point. I was on cloud nine, a true manic whim, if you will.

The Roastery is huge. There’s a tour, a gift shop, and a huge sign hanging high that changes every 15 minutes. You also have baristas demonstrating three different brewing methods. Near the register in the gift shop, they have about a dozen different blends that are weighed by the pound for you to take home. It took me forever to choose a sweater and a coffee mug for myself, plus a pound of coffee for Keegan. Even the tissue paper at the Roastery is fancy. If there’s one thing you have to do in Seattle, it is definitely the Roastery.

 

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It was hard to tear ourselves away, but after an hour and a half, we headed towards Pike Place. I tried adopting a “go with the flow” attitude with the market. I researched places to go, but I never looked up a map to see where anything really was. We showed up and I figured, “If we find it, we find it. If not, it’s cool”.

I don’t even think we covered a fraction of what Pike Place has to offer. It goes on for like 7 or 8 blocks in one direction and 4-5 blocks east and west, I think. I had a huge to-do list; we might’ve found 5 places total.

We found Pike Place Chowder, Beecher’s, and people throwing fish. We found an endless supply of seafood, bouquets, a huge bakery, and cheese cones. We also discovered macaroons, the gum wall and live musicians throughout the market. I can’t even remember what all else we saw, but there was something for everyone. Pike Place has a way of overloading your senses. I found $5 prints from a woman painting her way around Seattle with her Mom; I bought the print with the sea lions to represent the fun we had at Salty’s.

 

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As with the Roastery, it was hard to leave the market. This vibrant, colorful space made me wonder how crowded it must be in the summer; we arrived on a dreary, chilly Friday in January, and it was still pretty crowded. We waited 15 minutes for some chowder, and rumor has it that the wait can span over two hours in July.

I thought we would shop at Pikes Place for several more hours, but as it turns out, the place is so huge, it’s overwhelming. After awhile, you need an escape; it’s too much to take in, and I couldn’t eat anymore.

We talked it over and opted for Chihuly next. Tika and I planned on Chihuly on Saturday, if we had time to do so. But a few hours of light remained, so we knocked it out on Friday.

The exhibits were absolutely beautiful! I’m not huge on art or pretend to be an art expert. But even for those of us with limited art knowledge, it’s impressive. My favorite exhibit was the one with the glass tucked in the ceiling. The way the light reflects on the walls makes you feel as if you’re truly in the sea. Chihuly possesses a style all his own; I’m so grateful to have caught the hub of all things Chihuly, especially after seeing his pop-up exhibit in Nashville several years ago.

On a side note, the Space Needle is right next to Chihuly Garden and Glass. We didn’t go to the top of the Space Needle, because the Skyview Observatory is twice the height. But we did get to see it up close, so that was cool.

 

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We finished Chihuly in like an hour and grabbed dinner in the International District. Our driver that took us from Chihuly to the ID was my favorite; his car was loaded with snacks and beverages, and he played good music. The ID was probably the third thing on our list for Saturday that we were seeing on Friday. We tried authentic dumplings, and good Lord, they taste amazing. Their soy sauce infused with garlic pulled all the flavors together. We strolled through the International District, and I realized it’s similar to Pike Place; there’s no way you’ll see everything in one shot. Exhausted from all the running around, we Ubered back towards the Great Seattle Wheel.

 

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We toured the pier and shopped before we hopped aboard the ferris wheel. We drank more coffee and came across supposedly the world’s largest Pacman game. The pier features all sorts of novelties and gift shops.

Despite the light rain, we had a blast on the Ferris Wheel. This was one those things I thought I could take or leave, but I’m so glad we did it. It’s nice to cut loose and feel like a little kid sometimes.

Once we exited the ferris wheel, we hurried towards the Water Taxi, the last ride of the evening. We ran in the rain, but it was too late. We sadly missed our last chance to ride the boat, which would’ve been cool in the dark. We Uber-ed home to change, recoup and grab dinner.

Tika wanted some white fish; not prawns, shrimp, clams or any of that. Just some basic white fish. Spud’s on Alki supposedly has good fish, so that’s where we went from dinner, not too far south from our house. The fish was good, but the customer service was weird. Maybe I was partially to blame for where I was mentally, but this would not deter us from drinking afterwards.

We walked down to Phoenecia–I read about this place online a few weeks prior. When we entered, the restaurant was full and crowded and small. We opted for Pegasus Pizza just a few blocks further south. Not only was their pizza good, the drinks were cheap, and we had plenty of room to stretch out. Surprisingly, this marked my first alcoholic drink of the day. I should’ve known I’d be more caffeinated this trip than drunk, considering Seattle is the coffee capitol of the country.

The following morning was all about Volunteer Park and Capitol Hill. We grabbed breakfast at Volunteer Park Cafe, a cozy restaurant located in a historical setting. As per usual, I had an iced coffee with my breakfast: Meat Strada with tomato soup. A meat strada is basically a quiche with meat and more bread than eggs. When warmed, the cheese, bread and meats come together to create a trifecta of flavors. I’d never heard of such a thing, but apparently it’s featured on blogs with different names such as egg strada and breakfast strada. Call it what you want–that shit is good. Our timing was even better. As we wrapped up, 20 people walked in. We were lucky to have our seats when we did.

Tika and I walked the wrong way as we tried to find Volunteer Park. But as fate would have it, we came across a wishing tree. I added my wish to a mason jar to be threaded and added to the collection of wishes in a few weeks.

 

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We finally found Volunteer Park Conservatory. I thought it was free, but admission was $8, and somehow I accidentally paid twice. I gave the guy behind me my free ticket and made my way into the lush, humid greenhouse. My glasses fogged immediately upon entry. It was a nice reprieve from the chilly weather. Everything was beautiful, and I especially appreciated the exotic plant that resembled a fistful of Q-tips.

 

Afterwards, we walked through Capitol Hill towards the rainbow cross walks. This was probably the most anti-climatic part of the trip. We probably walked a dozen blocks before we finally found the cool stuff in Capitol Hill. We should’ve Uber-ed, but we didn’t. We didn’t know any better.

Along the way we found an Urban Outfitters that connected to a weird mall with a gym. We also tried Honest Coffee and spotted a few cool murals.

After we found the rainbow cross walks, Tika and I Uber-ed to the Mystery Soda Machine. No one knows who fills the machine, and you never know what to expect when you push the button. All 6 of the buttons have question marks on them. I received a Mellow Yellow in a camouflage can–I can’t remember what soda Tika received. It was touristy but fun. The Mellow Yellow got me in trouble at the airport; apparently cans are not allowed through security.

 

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My favorite bar we went to all weekend was Unicorn. Located in the gay district, (which is apparently where all the rainbow cross walks are located), Unicorn is colorful, flirty and truly bizarre bar. The interior design lends itself to a carnival theme. I won’t name some of the inappropriate drinks they feature, but check out their website if you’re interested. I tried the signature drink, and for the record, the vegan quinoa tots are good.

 

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If I remember correctly, Tika and I popped in a few shops afterwards before heading to the Fremont Troll. Our driver didn’t know how to get to the troll, as if we had any idea where we were. The troll wasn’t as big in person as expected honestly, but I was glad to see another touristy landmark. Then, we found a wine bar nearby. We wanted to try sensory deprivation tanks, but the place we found didn’t have any tanks available for another 5 hours, and we were drunk. Sensory deprivation is on my to-do list by the end of the year.

The Barrel Thief’s smoked salmon lox tartines blew my taste buds away. I wished I was feeling ballsy enough to drink some whisky, but with 175 wines to choose from, I was happily occupied.

 

Much like Friday, we were running out of things to do. We started drawing from my Sunday list and headed to Wallingford to try Ezell’s Famous Chicken, endorsed by Oprah Winfrey.

That chicken reminded me of Nashville. Unbeknownst to me, they offered no place to eat the chicken. It was a “grab and go” kinda place, so we ate our chicken in the Starbucks up the street. I tried to snap pics of every coffee I had that weekend to no avail. You can’t imagine how many coffee shops there are in Seattle until you see it for yourself.

Afterwards, we walked to Molly Moon’s ice cream. My cone hit the spot; by this point, I had tried every food I wanted in Seattle: Seafood, chowder, pizza, burgers, ice cream and fried chicken. My belly was happy.

We also found a sock shop, and I had to buy the socks with the cats in boxes on the socks. They were too unique to pass up.

 

I was pretty dead by the time we got home but determined to have a bonfire on the beach. I missed the sunset on Alki for the third night in a row; this would have to wait until Sunday.

 

I’ve traveled to the Gulf and visited several east coast beaches, but I’ve never had a bonfire on the beach before. We lucked out with the free firewood, but trying to find an open pit was tricky. For one, our driver drove too far, and the chick we were ride-sharing with said, “You should probably get out now”. Good thing we listened to her. And also, the beach was surprisingly crowded for January. We started from the south side and worked our way north. As we approached the last pit, we noticed a group of people leaving. Sure enough, the pit opened up just in time.

I came “prepared” with travel brochures and windex. I had no idea how we were gonna start this fire, but luckily we were good. The glowing embers in the pit gave us something to start with. We piled our wood on top, threw together a dilapidated teepee and lit a brochure on fire. I shoved it in the middle and voila! My bonfire dreams came true. I was grateful for many reasons; I was tired of carrying the cumbersome, heavy wood across the sand and worried we couldn’t start a fire with the wind and limited supplies.

I admired the sensory results: Smelling a fire on the beach is just weird and awesome. It reminded me of all the nights I enjoyed back home. Whether it was a bonfire at Clint and Casi’s or Brittany and Justin’s or our place in the ‘Boro or Nashville, I miss the smell and the feel of a solid fire. And to smell the water nearby, to hear the small waves crash and to feel the sand beneath my boots; it was all very calming, surreal and peaceful. I found a friendship pebble for Tika; I know she’s not big on the outdoors, so it means a lot to me to share these moments with her.

Tika and I met with Brendan, Julia and Felix Sunday morning for breakfast. Voula’s Offshore Cafe was visited by Guy Fieri of Diners, Drive-in’s and Dives. The salmon scramble I tried was different but in a good way.

Next, Julia and Brendan took us to Gasworks, the same park in the movie Ten Things I Hate About you. It felt nice to walk off our breakfast; I might’ve fallen asleep otherwise.

Afterwards, we strolled Julia’s alma mater, University of Washington. We were told the Japanese Cherry Blossoms in Spring are absolutely gorgeous. With a sprawling campus, I can only imagine. Julia also showed us this huge fountain with Mt. Rainer in the background. UW did not disappoint.

Tika’s flight was scheduled for Sunday afternoon. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye, but I knew it was coming. I chose to stay in Seattle through Monday for the extended holiday weekend.

Tika and I parted ways as I tried not to cry. I don’t know when I’ll see my bestie again. Until next time, I love you Tika!!

 

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Brendan and Julia dropped me off at the Ballard Farmer’s Market, yet another thing on my list I wanted to see but didn’t know if I’d have time. I did. The market is only on Sunday’s, so I was in luck. My purchase options were limited, since I didn’t need to buy fresh produce or meat. But I did find a woman who canned her own tuna. I bought the smoked tuna and ate it today, actually.

I also purchased feta sheep cheese and a poem from some hipsters running a booth that said, “Name your price”. I told the woman my name and how I moved from Tennessee to Colorado. I also informed her that I was on vacation, enjoying my 30th birthday weekend. I returned about 15 minutes later, and my poem was finished. A typewriter poem is about as hipster as it gets.

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I left the market and walked to King’s Hardware, a supposed dive bar, I called it. Turns out, it really was a dive bar, and I loved it. Wells were cheap, and the bartender was friendly. The older couple sitting next to me asked for straws, and the bartender explained Seattle’s efforts in phasing out straws before the ban takes effect July 1st. King’s Hardware has already eliminated its use of straws, and I’m okay with that.

 

I asked the bartender and a few others their thoughts about the Locks. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the purpose of the Locks, but the bartender called it “nostalgic” and talked about how often she played there as a kid. I figured, “What the hell”. I was on my own for the rest of the day; may as well catch a ride to the Locks.

 

As everyone told me, it’s the place where the water’s lowered for the boats to get through. Apparently the Locks link Lake Union and Lake Washington. I never did find the fish ladder, but the park was unlike any other park I’d seen before. It was a mesmerizing process to watch. I took a few videos, for anyone interested in how this works.

I left very satisfied with my experience. It was well worth the $5 Uber ride to get there and to see something so cool and unique for free. Out of all my “back-up plans”, I was the most happy about this experience.

I had a moment of clarity on the swinging walkway: My life is awesome, and I am so grateful to be alive. Blame it on the rum and OJs, but I was having the time of my life. I’m unsure if I could ever man a solo trip for an entire weekend, but one day to myself in a foreign city is a major confidence booster. It reminds me of going to Oprah’s Life You Want Weekend tour once my Grandma dropped me off, or when I went to Boulder by myself before we moved to Colorado. For me, a small bit of solitude in an unfamiliar setting rejuvenates my spirit.

I booked it back to the beach for sunset, but not before the bridge in front of us went up. This only happens in Ballard on Sunday’s, just like the farmer’s market.

I finally got the sunset on the beach that I wanted. I cut it close but arrived on time nonetheless. I had one driver drop me off at the house long enough to freshen up. Then, another driver took me past the fire pits nears Spud’s Fish and Chips.

The sun setting on the water was serene. I was taking a video of a sail ship when two guys ran up beside me with paddle boards. Envious, I watched the two climb carefully on their boards, fully clothed without any waterproof attire. I scoffed as they both gracefully stood up and paddled into the distance. ‘What a life”, I thought, as the two faded into the Sound. I accidentally deleted the video from my phone, but it was one of those moments that will stick with me forever.

On the one hand, I’d give anything to live here. On the other, it took a lot of money and time to make it to Colorado. I think I’ll just have to visit Seattle again soon.

I talked to my Dad and Keegan while I paced along the shore. Dusk turned into dark, and I walked to a burger place called Blue Moon Burgers. Then, I grabbed my last cup of Starbucks before Uber-ing back to the house. It was nice to chill, relax and reflect before I started cleaning the place. The weekend was such a blur, but I had some swag to pack to show for it.

 

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Most of my stuff was packed by Monday morning. I vacated the premises, but not without saying goodbye to Alki and the Sound. The clouds over Alki finally parted Monday morning, giving way to mountain views I didn’t know existed.

I wanted to try Easy Street Records for breakfast on Saturday, but it was the opposite direction of Capitol Hill. I was eager to try Easy Street Monday morning on the way to the airport. An affordable cafe attached to a legit record store was unheard of; I ordered the Little Kim: One egg, one slice of bacon with one pancake. Paired with my iced coffee, it was heaven on a plate, for $7 total.

 

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And finally, I returned to the airport. My last coffee in Seattle was an iced caramel mocha from Dilettante’s; one of the sweeter coffees I had all weekend, it hit the spot. I got on the plane feeling extra caffeinated and read my books until we landed in Denver.

How can I sum up the weekend? It was absolutely magical. My three favorite things from the weekend (aside from spending time with the bestie) had to be the Roastery, Pike Place and the Sound. I thoroughly enjoyed the Water Taxi, the bonfire, and Salty’s. There’s really nothing about Seattle I didn’t like. Bottomline: Go visit Seattle if you can afford to.

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