CREATIVE HUBS: SEATTLE
As the birthplace of Nirvana, Starbucks, Amazon, ACE hotels and everybody’s favourite Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan love story, Seattle’s CV is about as diverse as it gets. This city is no stranger to innovation.
To understand Seattle’s entrepreneurial spirit, you need to look back. In the early part of twentieth century, much of the city’s fate was tied to the aviation industry – Seattle breathed in and out just as Boeing rose and fell. Over-dependence on aviation jobs ceased in the ’80s when a man named Bill Gates brought a software startup to town. Microsoft was born, and a few years later the world’s first Starbucks coffee house opened. Fast-forward to the ’90s: an era that saw the arrival of a Wall Street manager called Jeff Bezos. He figured that people might one day want to buy products on the internet. Cue Amazon – phew.
There’s a strong culture of paying good things forward in Seattle. Startup founders like Rand Fishkin organise dinners for budding entrepreneurs, while spaces such as Impact Hub provide individuals with the tools to build their businesses from the ground up.
That’s not to say the city’s credentials have come without cost: Seattle used to be a hotspot for underground music (it was the official birthplace of grunge), but now, thanks to rising rent prices, many artists have moved out. Creativity has found new outlets, however. Abandoned factories have given way to indie bookshops, dive bars and microbreweries in the village-like area of Georgetown. And no matter where you are, you’ll find coffee – Starbucks, yes, but also independent outlets like The Station and Slate.
Perhaps it’s the beauty of Seattle’s mountain backdrop that has made an awareness of the environment a key theme for many businesses here. The Fairmont Hotel has a string of beehives on their roof, while Pike Place Market – arguably the most famous tourist haunt around – has developed a sustainable method for turning food scraps into fertiliser.
Seattle is historically a city of success, and the enterprises that flourish here today offer more than just a product: they champion a progressive culture – which is mindful of both culture and nature – that feeds back into the city itself.
WHERE TO STAY
This hotel is intimately tied up with Seattle’s history – The Eagles once played in the penthouse and The Ramones staged a concert that has been credited with kicking off grunge. Today, The Fairmont is beacon of luxury of the city, full of sumptuously upholstered and old-world charm.
This sleek, glass-fronted hotel is located Downtown, and has first-class views over the Puget Sound Estuary. It’s a true reflection of modern Seattle, with patterned wallpaper, mid-century interiors, Edison bulbs and a rooftop bar that serves killer cocktails.
Seattle is where it all began for ACE Hotel Group. Back in 1999, they renovated the former lodgings of maritime workers in Belltown, and they have barely looked back since. You’ll find characteristic high ceilings, hardwood floors and local artwork galore.
WHAT TO SEE
Established in 1907, Pike Place is a market composed of hundreds of stalls of farmers and craftspeople flogging their wares. As well as being a hotspot for tourists, the markets services the local community, housing a food bank, childcare facilities and a senior centre.
For a close-up look at the Pacific Northwest region in all its glory, embark on this four-mile round-trip to Rattlesnake Lake. It’s a classic, escape-the-city hike, popular for its accessibility and stunning views. You’ll traipse through dense forest before climbing a series of switchback trails to the top.
SAM is home to almost 25,000 pieces of art, and the museum has recently received a grant to establish a centre dedicated entirely to the study of Asian paintings, which will be the first of its kind in the US. Visiting exhibitions have included Yayoi Kusama.
WHAT TO EAT AND DRINK
Located in the neighbourhood of Ballard, The Walrus is a pub-style restaurant that serves cocktails, seafood sharing plates and icy piles of oysters. Like the Alice in Wonderland poem after which it is named, this place is all about fun. They don’t reservations, so turn up early and prepare to wait.
This bar and bistro is big on brunch – try the homemade biscuits, scrambled eggs with cheese, or keep it light with a Nicoise salad. Oddfellows is popular during happy hour, too. Exposed brick walls, high bar stools and industrial tables give the place a retro-chic feel.
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A relative newcomer to the Seattle scene, Foreign National is a playful bar serving snacks and cocktails inspired by the flavours of Southeast Asia (try the Singapore Sling). It’s blackout-blind dark inside – look out for the spinning disco ball to light your way.