Seattle is hosting the 2019 MLS Cup! And the Seattle Sounders are even playing it in this time around, unlike the city’s previous hosting experience in 2009.
The Pacific Northwest is a gorgeous region with plenty to explore. Rolling hills and mountains. An abundance of rivers, lakes and sea. Great food. Coffee options at every corner.
If you’re in from out of town or just want some advice for things to do during MLS Cup, here are a few places we recommend visiting over the weekend.
Pike Place Market — It’s Worth the Hype
One of Seattle’s most famous tourist landmarks, you’d be smart to hit up Pike Place Market early on the weekend, as the market gets quick busy as the morning progresses. Try to arrive well before 10 a.m. when it feels like an actual market and less like a tourist attraction. There are plenty of places in the area to grab a coffee and breakfast. A personal favorite of mine is Piroshky Piroshky. Others swear by the mini donuts.
After snagging a bite, be sure to catch the fish tossing in the market’s main entrance. It’s entertaining, and you might even get the opportunity to try your hand at catching the slimy creatures.
Whatever you do, avoid calling this tourist stop Pike’s Place. You’ll be labeled an instant out-of-towner.
Take in the Views
If you start your morning at Pike Place Market, you may want to stay in the Downtown area to take advantage of a few spots that will provide a lovely view of the city.
While the Space Needle provides a F-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C view, it’s rather expensive to get up to to the top and snap a photo. You can save some money — and get the same great views — by heading up the Columbia Tower to their Sky View Observatory.
You could also hop on the Great Wheel. You’ll have a 360-view of downtown and the surrounding Puget Sound — plus, you’ll be under cover in case the rain (AKA Seattle Sunshine) starts to fall.
For one of the best views of downtown Seattle (and Mt. Rainier if its visible), there’s a free option! Head to Kerry Park in the Queen Anne neighborhood to take in the city at no cost (except the price of gas or a bus ticket).
Explore Fremont and Ballard
(AKA: Get out of downtown!)
Aside from Pike Place, a few viewpoints, and the architecturally interesting Seattle Central Library, downtown Seattle doesn’t have much more to offer. Just north of downtown are the Fremont and Ballard neighborhoods, two fun neighborhoods with lots of shops and restaurants to explore. They are easily accessible by car or public transit (the light rail that takes you from the airport to downtown unfortunately doesn’t reach Ballard or Fremont yet).
Here are a few Fremont and Ballard locations you might want to check out.
The Fremont Toll makes for a quick photo op. There isn’t much more to explore or soak in — so I’d recommend pulling up, snapping a photo, and then heading to your next location. But it’s worth it to make the stop and capture Seattle’s weird landmark, especially if you already have other plans in the neighborhood.
While you are in Fremont, you might want to take the Theo Chocolate Tour or sample local ciders at Schilling Cider House. Aslan Brewing — one of Bellingham’s best — just opened a tap room in Fremont and Fremont Brewing’s urban beer garden is hugely popular among the scads of tech workers nearby.
Over in Ballard, which is located just west of Fremont, the locks are one of my favorite stops. Visitors of all ages enjoy watching the locks help boats manage the transition between Lake Union and Puget Sound. The transition isn’t just from salt water to fresh water, the locks actually help balance the passageway between stretches of water that are at different levels.
Another highlight at the locks is the fish ladder used by salmon to travel upstream to Lake Washington and beyond. Their busiest season is September/October, but you might still see a few swim by.
Ballard is also Seattle’s craft brewery capital. There are about a dozen all within walking distance of one another. Some of the standouts include Reuben’s, Stoup and Maritime.
Explore Seattle’s natural beauty
If you’re less interested in buildings and more interested in natural surroundings, there are a few great spots close to the city.
Discovery Park takes you through trails encased in trees and native greenery — and you’ll likely walk past plenty of Good Dogs as you explore. It even has a trail that takes you down to Puget Sound, where you can soak in an even better view on a rain-free day. Be careful, it can be easy to get a bit turned around as you peruse through all the crossing trails. Don’t forget where you started!
The Arboretum, which includes a Japanese Garden, should still feature plenty of fall reds, yellows, and greens at this time of year. A bit further south, the Kubota Garden is more of a hidden Seattle gem — and it’s worth if if you can get there.
If it’s a nice day, take your lunch to Gas Works Park on the north end of Lake Union. There’s plenty of seating on the grassy hills and you have yet another view of the Space Needle and Seattle’s downtown skyline. Plus, you can get a unique Instagram photo of the weirdness that is the leftover components of the former Seattle Gas Light Company gasification plant (above).
If you have time, a ferry ride is worth it. You can drive, bike, or walk on (it’s considerably less expensive to go on foot). There are a few different ferry routes, but if you are tight on time, Bainbridge Island is a quick trip — and you’ll be dropped off right in the downtown, where there are boutiques and restaurants. It doesn’t always happen, but you sometimes get an Orca whale sighting on the trip.
Snap a photo with a few Seattle legends
A number of famous local legends called Seattle home for some portion of their life. Some are memorialized across town.
Up on Capitol Hill, a Jimi Hendrix sculpture sits on the corner of Broadway and Pine. (Also, if music is your jam, you’ll probably enjoy the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), which includes an entire section dedicated to music. It’s also got interactive exhibits for pop culture, science fiction and horror nerds.)
Also on Capitol Hill, you can find the grave sites for Bruce Lee and his son Brandon Lee at Volunteer Park.
Right next to CenturyLink Field — where MLS Cup will take place — you’ll find T-Mobile Park, home to the Seattle Mariners. On the corner of their Home Plate entrance is a Ken Griffey Jr. statue. The MLB great is a legend in Seattle sports.
We Came Here to Eat
Look, Susie. Views are great. But I really want to eat, drink and watch soccer. Fair!
Seattle has a number of tasty dining options and drinks. Here are a few places Sounder at Heart contributors recommend.
“Brouwer’s Cafe offers a great ‘Seattle’ food & beer experience. Their taplist is second to none in the city in terms of offering the best local & regional beers, as well as an excellent choice of Belgian beers. The food is incredible, too. If you’re looking for a unique dish that you won’t find anywhere else, I recommend the Stoofvlees. It’s like a Poutine dish on steroids. If you’re wanting a seafood dish, the Mussels and Frites is great too. You can digest across the street with a few Rainers and some pinball at Add-a-ball.” - Mark Kastner
“Foodies are probably familiar with Paseo’s sandwich shop. They’re famous for their chicken, pork, tofu and carmelized onions. But if you want the original version, you’ll need to skip the many Paseo restaurants around town and head to Ballard for Un Bien.” - Jeremiah Oshan
“I always recommend three places for happy hour downtown: Radiator Whiskey, Von’s 1000 Spirits and Japonessa. Radiator is right next to Pike Place Market, with a huge selection of whiskeys and some great food and atmosphere. Von’s serves an excellent scratch Manhattan that is regularly $5, and just $4 during happy hour, with plenty of great food and, per the namesake, around 1000 different spirits to boot. Japonessa focuses on sushi, with lots of great cocktails to choose from. While you might find better food at other locations, the price, atmosphere, and drink selection of each of these spots are hard to beat if you’re downtown and looking for somewhere to land during happy hour.” - Andrew Tingkang, AKA agtk
“Everyone should eat Seattle seafood, and Taylor Shellfish right near the stadium is going to give you some of the best local options.” - Andrew Beck
“As your Seattle resident SaH contributor that inexplicably finds himself living in Amsterdam for the past 16 months and the foreseeable future, I would recommend getting Dim Sum in the international district. There are a ton of places and the first place I ever went to was House of Hong and I’ve liked it ever since. Also Tamarind Tree (order the Tamarind Tree Rolls) is another place I specifically miss while living away from Seattle.” - Chris Tobin
“Portage Bay (any of the locations) for some serious brunch and because the French toast is really that good.” - MLS Watercolorist
“Marination Station on Alki. Great food, great view.” - Numerous Sounder at Heart contributors
“I will send every person I can to Plenty Of Clouds in Capitol Hill. It’s fantastic Sichuan and Hunanese food, the prices are reasonable, and the staff is incredibly accommodating.” - Tim Foss
“In the Bowl is a tiny restaurant without much seating or fancy decoration. But let me tell you, the food is delicious. It’s all vegetarian, but meat lovers should enjoy the stop as well (they are beginning to explore meat options as well). The food comes out as fast as the service and I continue to enjoy every noodle combination I’ve tried. If you don’t like spicy, be sure to emphasize that. They make stuff a bit hotter than most places.” - Susie Rantz
Oh, and don’t freak out if you see cars parked in both directions on seemingly one-way streets. That’s just how we do things here.
Got your own Seattle visitor tip? Share it in the comments.