clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
Exploring Downtown Seattle & The Pacific Northwest

Best XI things every Sounders fan should experience ahead of the CCL Final

Whether it is your first or 200th match, here is a travel and matchday primer ahead of the CCL Final at Lumen Field.

Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Sounders fans, how are you enjoying CCL Finals week? Feeling good? Feeling great? I am. Whether this Wednesday night is your first match ever, or your 200th, there might be something for you to experience for the first time or the 100th time to make your gameday experience perfect. Maybe you are a Pumas fan with an interest in Seattle or Sounders culture, or a neutral just coming to experience a packed Lumen Field and have a good time. Whatever your persuasion, we have you covered.

We are planning to follow this with a food and drink guide as well as a “what to know for gameday” guide on stadium specifics, so be on the lookout for those.

Is it your goal on getting to Seattle with a little extra time before the match? Maybe you are staying the night in town to enjoy yourself as late as possible with the fires of victory and championship and history burning in your heart? Perhaps you took a few days off and want to make the most of them? Or maybe you are working until early evening and only have time for a quick stop before the match? There should be something for everyone to experience on this list. We certainly don’t expect you to get to everything on Wednesday, this is a reminder of all the things we should enjoy. And, of course, a prompt for an even longer list of great things to do in the comments.

2019 Mo Pop Festival Photo by Scott Legato/Getty Images

1 — The sound (of music)

Seattle has a long and rich music history. There is live music happening all the time, there are world-famous acts that call the region home, there are entire genres that were developed or made here. You will hear us.

If you have a few hours: The obvious destination is MoPOP. Originally the Experience Music Project, the rebranded museum retained its musical roots and is currently running exhibits dedicated to Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Jimi Hendrix and hip-hop photography. For bonus points, you will be right at the Space Needle. No need to go up (there are definitely cheaper ways to get similar views), but take a bit to appreciate the iconic structure.

Getting out to live shows is also a must-do for most Seattleites, if you are comfortable being in a crowd these days. EverOut has you covered on upcoming shows.

If you have time: Stopping by the Jimi Hendrix statue for good luck isn’t the worst idea in the world. Donating a scarf to his memory can’t hurt anything, either. I am guessing the Sounders will be in their Hendrix kits on Wednesday so... Does Hendrix’s spirit care that people are paying homage to his statue? Maybe not but every little thing can help!

If you have a few minutes: Spend a few minutes listening to Sound Wave outside the stadium before or after the match. Perhaps a bit of a gimmick when they were initially conceived, they are excellent musicians and have a fun repertoire of marching band classic sounds and modern songs adapted for the Sounders. They are a gameday staple for all ages.

Additionally, listening to music born from the culture of our cities isn’t a bad way to go. Everyone has their personal favorite, but here’s a selection of some of our influential artists to listen to as you read the rest here or get hyped for pregame. It skews a little toward rock/hip hop to try and capture a pregame hype mood (sorry Fleet Foxes and Modest Mouse), so I hope you can enjoy.

Like Many U.S. Cities, Seattle Struggles With Crime And Homelessness During Pandemic Era Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

2 — The (Puget) Sound

What would a trip to Seattle be to watch the Sounders without experiencing the Sound itself? Puget Sound, part of the Salish Sea, is the body of water that defines our region. It defines the Sounders, too, I mean it’s in the name! You can smell the brine in Lumen Field when the wind hits just right, along with the cool air that is a refreshment in the summer and a “character builder” every other season. Without the deep waters of the Sound, giving easy access to the rest of the world, Seattle wouldn’t exist, and neither would the Sounders. So every Sounders fan should dedicate some time to truly experience these beautiful and majestic waters.

If you have a day or more: Take a trip to the San Juan Islands by ferry. Go see some whales with people who care to protect and conserve them (like a Pacific Whale Watch Association member). Enjoy the particular island’s culture and maybe go on one of the island hikes. There is no shortage of things to do.

If you have a few hours: You should definitely still make it out onto the water. A trip across the Sound from Seattle over to Bainbridge Island on the ferry is a great way to appreciate the water for not much money. Walk onto the ferry, get lunch and do some shopping over on Bainbridge, then come right back. Otherwise, you can take the water taxi over to Alki for a shorter trip or take an Argosy cruise around Elliot Bay. Bonus tip: Hit up Marination Mai Kai for some Hawaiian/Korean-inspired tacos. It has great views and is literally next to the West Seattle taxi unloading zone.

If you have a few minutes: Really there are a thousand different ways to appreciate the water. Take a stroll along the piers at the water, maybe with some Ivar’s fish & chips. Maybe you conserve a bit of water by cutting your shower short a few minutes or you clean out your storm gutter to cut down on pollutants getting to the water. Perhaps you take a few minutes to sign up for helping make local rain gardens or advocating for improving regional salmon runs with the removal of the lower Snake River dams (or ask for them to stay, I don’t know, you do you). Taking a few minutes to give back to the waters is a great way to call yourself a Sounder.

Exploring Washington’s Olympic National Park Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

3 — The Olympic Peninsula

We have the benefit of a hidden jewel in our region. The Olympic Peninsula is understandably overshadowed by Tahoma as a national landmark, but arguably is just as striking a presence to the Seattle skyline. Where else do you find beautiful beaches, temperate rainforests and impressive mountains all within a few miles of each other? The Elwha River is the site of one of the largest (or just the largest?) dam removal projects in the world, with salmon re-exploring the upper reaches of the river that had been denied them (I swear this is the last dam-related item on this list). Will the legendary “June hogs” return to the Elwha? It remains to be seen.

Seeing the Olympic Peninsula will likely require most of a day at least. The quickest way over is usually to take the ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island and drive up over Hood Canal towards Port Townsend, Sequim or Port Angeles. Alternatively, you could take the ferry from Edmonds to Kingston or drive around the south end of the Sound either to bypass the ferries by using the Tacoma Narrows Bridge or go the long way out to Aberdeen and then north by Highway 101 to the south end of the park.

There are thousands of things to do and see out on the Olympic Peninsula and you could easily spend a lifetime exploring out there if you wanted to do so. Very quickly though, I’ll go through a few things to see or places to visit.

First, you’ll want to see Port Townsend. It is a small, quaint, historic town now, but it had dreams of being much bigger. The town was once supposed to be the northwest extension of various major rail lines through Tacoma, but a depression over 120 years ago scuttled those plans and Port Townsend found itself on the outside watching Tacoma and Seattle prosper. It is a wonderful small town to visit.

The aforementioned Elwha River is a wonderful site and story of recovery. The salmon has a long way to go to reach the historic run numbers, but trout have bounced back and wildlife is quickly reclaiming the old lake bed.

The Hoh Rainforest is an awe-inspiring temperate rainforest with massive trees and about as dense a cover of greenery as you will find anywhere in the United States. The Hall of Mosses trail is a wonderful and short hike that anyone can enjoy.

Forks and the beach at La Push come as a sort of pair. You can’t mention this area without the mention of Forks as the Twilight capital of the world. La Push is beautiful and Forks is definitely weird. Both are well-worth a visit on your way through.

Like Many U.S. Cities, Seattle Struggles With Crime And Homelessness During Pandemic Era Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

4 — The mountains

Looking to the east, we are blessed with the Cascades that pile rain into our region, keeping us known as the Evergreen state. There are many ways to experience the mountains, whether that is just scoping out whether The Mountain is out or actually climbing up thousands of feet, there is something for everyone.

If you have a day: My personal recommendation for a day trip is to explore the North Cascades National Park. A little less traveled than Mount Rainier or Mount St. Helens, the views are just as majestic. You could make a fantastic day trip out of any of the three, of course. Hiking, sightseeing, or getting out to the water to relax or fish, there is a lot to explore.

If you have a few hours: There are a ton of trails around to enjoy. Rather than try and recommend the best hikes, I will direct you to the Washington Trails Association where you can find a trail suited to the kinds of things you like (short challenging hike? long but not so hard?). If you really need a recommendation, Mount Si is extremely popular for good reason. It is moderate or challenging depending on how you tackle it, but approachable enough and beautiful enough that it is worth the trip (as long as you avoid the busiest days and aren’t too put off by crowds).

If you want to be in the mountains not on a mountain: Leavenworth is a kitschy town built around the conceit that you have somehow traveled halfway around the world to find yourself in a small Bavarian town in the mountain, just in America. It is a silly concept, but the city thrives because it is all tongue-in-cheek, while the city does have cool shops are some great food in a beautiful location. Getting out to visit their year-round Christmas shop could be your new annual tradition.

Like Many U.S. Cities, Seattle Struggles With Crime And Homelessness During Pandemic Era Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

5 — Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market is a staple for tourists and locals alike, for very good reason. It is the oldest continuously operating farmers’ market in the United States, the birthplace of Starbucks and home to hundreds of farmers, crafters and artists who sell a diverse range of goods and services. You can really spend as much time as you want at the market. You can find spots for breakfast; take a bench or table to hunker down with a newspaper or book and alternate between reading and people watching; do a slow crawl through all the table vendors, chatting them up an appropriate amount before buying something or moving on; wait in line for however long it takes to get Starbucks, a Piroshky Piroshky, and some Beecher’s cheese; peruse the ample lunch and snack options; explore the bigger stores ferreted away through the harder-to-find corners of the market; and finally enjoy some afternoon drinks before dinner and then more drinks and possibly a show later. Maybe there is just one shop you want to hit and you’re in and out within five minutes. The market is what you make of it and I’ve certainly done pretty much all of the above.

There are food options to satisfy any craving, from delicious piroshkis to roasted nuts, fresh produce and seafood to cured meats and artisan cheeses, upscale dining to grab-and-go fare. In terms of shopping the two places I always recommend are Market Spice and Eighth Generation. Market Spice is widely known for their cinnamon-orange black tea, a truly divine concoction that is my and many others’ favorite tea. You can buy it in bulk in a variety of sizes or in the same teabag boxes you might find in grocery and convenience stores in the region. They have a huge variety of loose-leaf teas and spices in the store that are reasonably priced and high-quality, with an online store for some of their best-selling items. Great for gifts and even better for personal consumption.

Eighth Generation is a “art and lifestyle” brand owned by the Snoqualmie Tribe that features items designed by Inspired Natives (not “native-inspired”). The designs are gorgeous and evocative. I make sure to stop by at least once during Christmas season because I can always find perfect gifts for the people closest to me. Their merchandise is not cheap, but it is worth the price considering the quality, design and origin.

In terms of sights to see, there is the infamous interactive “art” of the Gum Wall, the “original” Starbucks, the Sleepless in Seattle stool as the Athenian Restaurant, Victor Steinbrueck Park with the Totem Pole and of course the market pig next to the fish-throwers.

If you really want dinner recommendations to go with your market visit, two favorites are Radiator Whiskey and The Pink Door. If you want some entertainment with your food, the Can Can serves up extremely fun cabaret shows that are a riot for people of all persuasions.

6 — The underground

Another of the most popular options for tourists and locals alike, doing one of the various underground tours is a fun way to explore the city’s history and transport yourself to an entirely different era. After the Great Fire of 1889 in Seattle, the city just built on top of many of the ruins. This has left an underground maze through the buried history of the city. The original tour runs every hour on the hour and lasts for about 75 minutes. They also run a 21+ “Totally inappropriate!” version that goes through the old red-light district as well as a paranormal experience version where you get to go through with ghost-hunting equipment.

It should be fun for all!

West Point Lighthouse, Discovery Park, Seattle, Washington. Photo by: Greg Vaughn /VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

7 — The parks

Seattle is home to some of the finest city parks you will find anywhere. Filled with greenery and beautiful views everywhere, it is hard to go wrong with whatever you choose. Here are some recommendations though.

If you want to get a little lost: Discovery Park in northwest Magnolia is a sprawling park with a variety of trails that go up and down and spiral around Fort Lawton and can take you down to the beach or explore the forested areas. Honorable mention to Seward Park, a weird spit of land that kind of looks like a densely-forested kidney attached to the rest of Seattle. It’s hard to get lost in the park, but walking through the center of the park might make you feel like you’ve traveled back in time to a different version of the city.

If you just want a view: The best view in the city award goes to Kerry Park. Nestled on the steep slope of Queen Anne, Kerry Park overlooks downtown with the Space Needle nestled into the rest of the skyline. The view from the park was immortalized as Frasier’s view from his balcony on his eponymous television show. Honorable mention to Sunset Hill Park just northwest of Ballard. This park has a perfect view of Shilshole Bay and the Puget Sound and is appropriately one of the best places in the city to watch a sunset. Neither of these parks has much to explore, but stopping by the view is worth the visit.

If you want something more active: You can’t go wrong with Green Lake Park. There are a pair of trails circling the park that’s the perfect distance for a run, walk or jog (no biking allowed anymore) plus there are some tennis and basketball courts along with some fields for various games played primarily on grass. Honorable mention to Manguson Park, which also has a variety of fields and long trails to stretch your legs.

If you want something thought-provoking: For this one we are going in a bit of a different direction with the Olympic Sculpture Park that sits just north of Pier 70 (site of the Real World “house” for the Seattle season). This is a nine-acre outdoor sculpture museum featuring modern and contemporary sculpture art. Some of the pieces are somewhat interactive while others are closely monitored to ensure people are not touching or otherwise abusing them. The park is open 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset and is totally free every day of the year. For this category we have a pair of honorable mentions with Washington Park that has the arboretum and Seattle Japanese Garden as well as Volunteer Park that has the Seattle Asian Art Museum and the Volunteer Park Conservatory.

Burn it; burn it good

8 — The March to the Match

The March to the Match is a Sounders staple that predates the MLS era, going back to 2005 with the Emerald City Supporters. Approximately 90 minutes before kickoff, supporters gather in Occidental Park, just a bit north of the stadium, and march down Occidental Avenue toward the south end of the stadium, banging drums and chanting and singing. It is a must-see spectacle and even more fun to participate in, even if you aren’t totally sure of all the words to the chants. Sound Wave usually brings up the rear of the March or just waits a bit to go on to give the chanters space, and it is totally cool if you just want to march along to the band instead. If you just want to watch, find a spot along the route and enjoy them going by.

The Sounders often put on pre-March activities in Occidental Park with speeches from front office members like Garth Lagerway or players like Brad Evans or Roger Levesque. Sometimes they will even announce the lineup even earlier than normal at the pre-March gathering.

Pay attention to the Sounders’ social media as they may have more information as the match gets closer including an earlier March time if they and ECS decide to do so for Wednesday.

9 — Learn the chants

There is no better way to experience the Sounders than to sing along with the indomitable Emerald City Supporters as they give their fully ninety chanting and cheering along the players at full volume. The song list is below and can be easily downloaded to your phone or printed out if you want to follow along.

Emerald City Supporters - Song List (weareecs.com)

The songs are generally pretty simple and you can pick up most of them just from listening to them a few times through. One of my favorites is listening to Roll On Columbia in the 12th minute, both as an homage to the Sounders’ first ever goal in 12th minute from our own Colombian Fredy Montero and the mighty river that defines so much of our state.

Whether you are on the opposite side of the stadium near the rafters, or right next to ECS, learning the songs will let you sing along and make sure Pumas hears us.

10 — Seattle-Style Hot Dog

One of the best pre-game bites—even better post-game—is a Seattle-style hot dog: your choice of protein with cream cheese slathered on one side of the toasted bun with grilled onions on the other. Regular dog, spicy polish, veggie dog, any of them work. From there you can customize as you like. Some swear by sriracha; I personally prefer brown mustard with some sauerkraut if I am in the mood. Anything you like is valid, my only recommendation though is to avoid burying the subtle flavor mix of the protein, cream cheese and onions in a pile of toppings. The Seattle dog isn’t some kind of chili-dog type of monstrosity.

You can get them from any of the hot dog vendors just outside the stadium along Occidental Avenue. They are impossible to miss if you walk along the west side of the stadium. While you can get a normal hot dog from them with a variety of fixings as you like, the way to go is to order it Seattle-style.

11 — Pregame

Perhaps the most important item on this list is to remember that you should not skip pre-game. There is a fundamental difference in your match experience between arriving 30 minutes before the game as the teams are still warming up on field and getting to your seats 5-10 minutes into the match after important moments have already happened. Trust me, I know from experience (ugh).

Getting into the stadium early lets you soak in the building of the buzz between the scarved Sounders supporters as the seats fill. You have to be there to shout “Who??” when the opposition XI is announced and scream our Sounders’ names in return, until the orca’s call signals the imminent kickoff (though likely missing on Wednesday with CONCACAF directing certain pregame elements). At the very least, you cannot miss the Boom, Boom, Clap.

Two wrinkles for Wednesday. First, the OL Reign’s Challege Cup Semifinal match kicks off at 5pm at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. (even though the Reign earned homefield advantage for the match). This means you will probably want to hunker down and watch as much of the match as possible at your pregame location. If that’s going to be dinner and drinks, we will cover some good spots in our next article in this series. However, there has been a push to have the match shown inside Lumen Field for a double-feature. Sounder at Heart has learned that this call is up to CONCACAF, who may nix it in favor of their own pre-game activities. Either way, the 5pm Reign kickoff runs right into the 7pm CCL Final kickoff. It will be essentially impossible to watch the whole Reign game at a bar nearby and then rush to the stadium for kickoff. You will probably want to plan ahead for what you want to prioritize and pay attention to any ways the Sounders will be able to ease this tension.

Second, the Sounders have said that pregame activities will start even earlier than normal at 6:00 PM, and they are opening the gates earlier than normal at 5:00 PM. I expect this is a mix of the magnitude of the match and the likelihood that the stadium gets to be about as close to a sellout as possible. Plan ahead to get to the stadium-area as soon as you are able and do what you can to help ease traffic by taking public transit or carpools as you can manage.

And that’s our XI things every Sounders fan should experience! Let us know what we missed in the comments so other fans can fill in their (already full?) itineraries ahead of Wednesday.

Ride of the Valkyries - An OL Reign blog

OL Reign clinch playoff spot with 2-0 victory at Houston Dash

#TheFuture: Tacoma Defiance and Sounders Academy

Tacoma Defiance have first trophy in sights as they enter playoffs

Ride of the Valkyries - An OL Reign blog

OL Reign vs. Houston Dash: Livestream, how to watch, schedule, lineups

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Sounder At Heart Weekly Roundup newsletter!

A twice weekly roundup of Seattle Sounders and OL Reign news from Sounder at Heart