The 5h Ultimate Seattle Guide
Last updated: 10/14/01
Considering a pilgrimage to the Holy City? Yeah, right. All kidding aside, Seattle is an awesome place to visit, with plenty of normal-tourist things to keep you busy for days. For the Pearl Jam fan, however, there are those additional sites that you won't find on any map, but you will find here. Five Horizons welcomes you to Seattle!
New! The 5h 24 Hour Guide To Seattle is something we just threw together for people who are in town for just one day. It is a companion guide to the Ultimate Seattle Guide. We also have a Seattle Mini Guide (PDF file), just like the ones we make available during regular tour season.
First things first...You need a map: if you're driving, stop by your local AAA and get a good city map. If you're not driving, the little tourist map you can pick up most places downtown is pretty good for your purposes.
The Free Ride Zone: most of downtown Seattle, from the International Districte (near Safeco Field) to *almost* (but not quite!) Seattle Center, is in what Metro calls "the free ride zone", meaning you can hop on a bus and ride for free. This is important because Seattle is the second-hilliest city in the country after San Francisco. Let me say that again. Seattle is the second-hilliest city in the country after San Francisco. (Now, don't write later and say, "You didn't tell us how hilly it was!") That said, it's a good walking city; everyone walks here. And you can cover downtown and Pioneer Square by foot no problem, which is good because....
Parking sucks . If you're from New York or San Fran or any big city, well, the parking prices won't cause you to have a heart attack. On street parking is tough to find, but there is some downtown; you need quarters for the meters. There's not a lot of on-street parking. A note: many of the lots here have this arcane system for payment: you stick rolled-up dollar bills into a slot, marked with your parking space number, in these metal (or wood) boxes. If you're from NYC, the first time you see one of those will be a cause for much laughter. But, they are for real, and if you don't pay, you'll get a ticket.
Jaywalking: They've finally calmed down on this, and you're not likely to get that $25 ticket and point on your license that you used to get. However, don't be stupid about it - if there's a cop on the opposite corner and you jaywalk in front of them, I can't say that you won't get ticketed. You will definitely get dirty looks from the locals.
Plan ahead: Seattle is a very popular tourist destination in summer, but due to the mild weather, is pretty busy throughout the whole year. Summer, however, is insane. Hotel rooms, especially inexpensive ones or hostel rooms, fill up fast. So plan ahead.
Weather: It could be 90 degrees, sunny and clear. It could be 50 degrees, cold and rainy. Or, it could be somewhere in between, or all three at once. Pack accordingly, and do bring rain gear. (And this applies to just about every season of the year.) We do get some "snow" in the winter, but if you're from back east, you'll just laugh. Any amount of snow whatsoever brings the entire city to a close.
Airport TransportationThere are many ways to get to downtown from Sea-Tac Airport, located a good 20-30 minutes south of the city. These are listed in order of cost, please visit the web sites linked from each option to get the most up-to-the-minute price information.
There are ground transportation desks open during the day at the airport if you need help selecting one of these options. The web sites above really do give you a lot of information on them, so you can plan in advance. Finally, Citysearch has a Airport Survival Guide with pretty detailed information on the airport & transportation to and from.
- There's the regular Metro bus #194, runs every 1/2 hour, and takes you right through the heart of downtown through the bus tunnel. There's nowhere you can't get to downtown on this bus. If you're staying near Seattle Center, you can take the bus to Convention Place, the last stop, and then go upstairs and take a cab, or get off at Westlake Center, go upstairs, and get the monorail. Keep in mind, this is not a special airport bus, it's just a regular city bus. There is no place to store luggage and it does get pretty crowded. The Metro Bus web site has a page just about the airport buses, as well as other local transportation info.
- Gray Line Airport Express: This is is a shuttle bus that hits all the major hotels. You could grab this bus somewhere downtown near your destination and walk or take a cab. Be warned, every time I put someone on this bus, they complain that it takes forever. I've never taken it so I can't say. Here's a web site about this option.
- Shuttle Express, a van service that will take you to any address in Seattle or the East Side. It's a shared service so it's kind of a crap shoot about how long it will take and how much of Seattle you will end up seeing in the process of reaching your destination. Here's their web site.
- Finally, you can always take a cab.
Traffic, and should I rent a car: If you've seen "Singles," you remember the concept of the SuperTrain, and you also remember how "people love their cars," right? Traffic SUCKS. Don't drive downtown if you don't have to, and avoid rush hours. Don't drive if you don't have to. Seattle now has the third worst traffic in the country. Believe it. If you are just planning on confining your visit to downtown Seattle, you don't need a car. Really.
Where To StayHotels
Many of the inexpensive hotels downtown are near Seattle Center: the Seattle Inn, the Vagabond, Holiday Inn Express, Comfort Suites, and several others. The Inn at Queen Anne is just across the street from Key Arena. You can easily walk, bus or monorail to the downtown sights from that location.
Downtown you can find all the major chains (Sheraton, Westin, etc.) and the corresponding major prices. However, if you do think you've found a deal downtown, be wary: there are several old 1940s hotels that cater to the Alaska fishing boat crowd and are not that nice, or particularly safe for women -- the hotel in the same building as the Moore Theatre is an example. One hotel downtown we can recommend (not cheap, but not too pricey) is the Warwick. Also, new in town is the ultra-hip Ace Hotel, with ultra-hip prices to match. [The Ace is most notable as the site of the reborn Cyclops restaurant (check your liner notes for the Temple of the Dog album!).]
Many friends of ours have gotten really sweet deals on downtown hotels through Priceline.com. There's also the new site, Hotwire. Finally, there's also of course Expedia.com, which will allow you to search for hotels in a particular area.
We get a lot of people asking us for recommendations and that's kind of hard because, well, we live here and don't stay in hotels. There are many many hotels in the city and aside for the warning about the bargains as posted above, it really depends on your pocketbook. If you have a specific question about a specific hotel, ask and we'll try to help, but remember we're not travel agents!
There is a Green Tortoise Hostel on Second Avenue, between Pine and Pike. They claim that you need a passport, but that's just to make sure that they get travelers and not "transients", as it were. You might call them and see if a plane ticket would get you in; it's a hostel, but it's in a great location and it's REALLY cheap: even private rooms are only $30 a night. The Hostelling International hostel is in Pike Place Market. The HI hostel does *not* have a curfew or a lock-out like many HI hostels do. They'll also pay for a cab from the train or bus station!
If you stay in the hostels, or anywhere else downtown, you can walk over to Westlake Center (Pine St., between 4th and 5th) and catch the monorail to Seattle Center; it runs every 15 minutes, and on show nights, they usually make sure it runs until the show gets out and it's a pretty cool, cheap and fast way to get to Seattle Center (it takes all of 2 1/2 minutes to make the journey from downtown to the Center)!
If you have a car, there's a whole slew of cheap hotels on Rt. 99, also known as Aurora Avenue. We can recommend the Marco Polo Hotel in Fremont, right after the bridge and only a few minutes from Seattle Center. However, be wary: many of the Aurora Ave. hotels, um, get most of their income by renting rooms by the hour. Got it? :)
There are also reasonable hotels in the University District, but it's not particularly convenient or attractive.
Many people always ask about staying near the airport. The airport is really a good distance away from downtown and this option is only feasible if you have a car. There is NOTHING in SeaTac and unless you have a super-early flight you're terrified of missing, you're better off staying in Seattle proper.
On that note: many people we have known come to Seattle and found "deals" north of the city, like Lynnwood or Bothell. These are further than you think, and unless you're really desperate AND have a car, they aren't good options. You CANNOT get to and from the city efficiently by bus from those areas.
ClubsYour best guide to live music in Seattle is the free "alternative" weekly, The Stranger, which you can pick up in most places around the city, like restaurants, bars, and news boxes downtown.
First, a note: drinking age in Washington is 21 years old. All of the clubs noted below, except for one, are only open to those people of legal drinking age. Yes, it sucks, and there are many reasons for the dearth of underage clubs in this town, which I'm not going to get into here in the interests of space. But this is important: do not try to get into a club in Seattle with a fake ID. In the best case scenario, they'll confiscate it and ask you to leave; in the worst case scenario, they'll call the cops. Don't ruin your trip to Seattle by trying this, no matter how good you think your fake ID is. =(
All ages shows in Seattle are few and far between. It's improved some, but that can change at any time. The Stranger does list all-ages shows.
Follow the links below for more detail and maps you can print out before you go!
The Crocodile Cafe
2200 Second Avenue
(Second and Blanchard)
Our second favorite place in Seattle, and one of the few live music venues attracting national bands, with the best sound system. Now infamous as the venue where PJ returned the favor by opening for Cheap Trick in 1998. Mad Season used to play here when they were known as the Gacy Bunch, Mudhoney's done surprise shows here, and if you don't know what to do with yourself, just head for the Croc and you'll find something to amuse yourself. It's packed on weekends, the line for the bar stretches the length of the room, and is probably the closest to the Seattle "scene" as any place these days. You can have breakfast, lunch or dinner in the cafe, and if you're under-age you can go for a meal up until 9pm. Weekend brunch recommended; park around the corner in the lot behind the Sit & Spin (see below).
Sit N Spin
2219 4th Ave
Club-restaurant-bar-laundromat (really). The showroom is tiny and loud and dark, but the food out front is pretty good.
1426 1st Ave
(between Pike and Union)
The Showbox recently remodeled, opening up the showroom and combining it with the bar area, which has improved the sound and the sightlines. What still has NOT improved is the attitude of the people who work there. We would rather not go see a band, sometimes, than go to the Showbox. It's not a hang-out kind of club, you go to see the band and then leave for a more hospitable location. PJ played the first gig of the 96 tour at this place.
925 E. Pike Street
Now legendary as the location of the 5/7/98 surprise gig, aro.space really isn't known for its live rock and roll. The club is in the same building as the late, lamented, Moe's Mo-Roccan Cafe (site of the secret Mirror Ball record release party) was, but the space is completely changed. They have great vegetarian food, btw, and are open for lunch, if you just want to check out the space.
FoodAll of the clubs above have good and reasonably-priced food, and there are bargains as well as great culinary adventures to be had around town - but that's not exactly our line of expertise. On the cheap, Taco Del Mar and various teriyaki places are your friends. There are supermarkets on Capitol Hill, in the Udistrict, and on lower Queen Anne if you are a do-it-yourself type.
This guide would be remiss without mentioning The Garage, the restaurant/pool hall owned by Mike, PJ manager Kelly Curtis, and some others. It is a VERY cool place to hang out at, but don't go there expecting to see Mike sitting at the bar, cuz you won't. Location of the yearly JAMPAC Celebrity Pool Tournament.
A note on coffee....
Yeah, well, it IS Seattle. But coffee in Seattle does not equal Starbucks or even SBC; if you want real Seattle espresso, try out any of the espresso carts around town; my personal favorite downtown is Monorail Espresso, on Pike between 5th and 6th. It also happens to be the first espresso cart in Seattle (although now they have a permanent location).
SightsObviously, we're not talking about the Space Needle (which you can't miss if you're anywhere near Seattle Center) or Pike Place Market, both of which you should check out if you're in town. We're talking about those sights that have special significance to PJ fans that you're not going to find on any map...
The OK Hotel: See "missing in action", below. While you're in Pioneer Square, if you're curious where they shot the cover to the album, check out the grungy (no pun intended) park (behind the Grand Central Cafe, where Stone used to work), but don't go looking for the bench: it was a plant for the photo shoot. (And don't go there at night, or on your own; it is kinda dangerous, even in daytime.)
The apartment building: Corner of 19th and Thomas on Capitol Hill. Take the #43 bus from downtown; it stops right in front. It's much smaller than it looked in the movie. Please remember that real people live there and respect their privacy.
Gas Works Park: At the north edge of Lake Union, best known for the location of an aborted free PJ concert (which was later rescheduled for Magnuson Park, see below). It is a very cool place and offers wonderful views of downtown, but you do need a car to get there.
Jimi Hendrix' grave: Not even in Seattle proper, aspiring Cliff Poncier wannabes can find this sight in Greenwood Memorial Park in the lovely suburb of Renton. It is accessible by bus, but we wouldn't recommend it. Follow the link for directions. Once you reach the cemetary, look for the sundial.
Other music-related sights:
The Off Ramp (now known as Graceland), 109 Eastlake Ave. E.: Right around the corner from the now defunct RKCNDY, this is where PJ played their first gig (as Mookie Blaylock) and also where the only official, full Temple of the Dog shows took place. Music most nights, but this club is no longer the center of Seattle nightlife it was in the early 90's, although the new management seem to be booking better acts than in its previous incarnations.
Discovery Park: Where the "Hunger Strike" video was shot. If you go, a car is recommended (buses do run there, but you have to walk really far from the bus stop); park in the lot on the W. Emerson St. side, and NOT in the lot near the main entrance. Walk out to the cliffs for fabulous views of the Olympic Mountains, and pretend to be Ed and Chris Cornell singing convincingly in the bushes; then, walk down to the beach if you want to see the lighthouse shown at the end of the video.
The Moore: Where the "Even Flow" video was shot, and still hosts live shows or theatre performances. People have written and asked if it's possible to sneak in or get inside during the day to check things out. The theatre has no official policy on this, but we do know people who have asked politely and have been allowed inside for a few minutes. If this is important to you, then please be respectful that this is a working theatre and try to keep this option available for other PJ fans who will visit.
The Sound Garden
The Sound Garden: The sculpture from which the late, lamented band derived its name is located adjacent to Magunson Park, on the NOAA grounds. Get on I-5 north, get off on 45th Street, and follow it around until it becomes Sand Point Way; keep going until you get to the light at Magnuson Park. You can drive in, turn to the left, and then right until you reach a parking lot; climb over the hill and you'll see it in the distance. Or, you can go in through the NOAA grounds; it's the first right after the park entrance on Sand Point Way. Just keep bearing to the right and you'll end up right next to it.
Fremont Antique Market: Where Ed bought his copy of the "Last Kiss" single, all those years ago! The Fremont Sunday Market, held year-round in the People's Republic of Fremont, self-proclaimed Center of the Universe. If you're in town on a weekend, you could do worse than to bus or drive to Fremont (just north of downtown), wander the market, and have brunch at the Longshoreman's Daughter.
Experience Music Project: By now you have surely heard of Paul Allen's effort to create a rock and roll museum in Seattle, within the shadow of the Space Needle; the monorail runs right through it. The building, designed by architect Frank Gehry, is notable in and of itself, but it's what's inside that is of interest to most of us.
The EMP is truly an incredible collection of rock and roll memorabilia from all eras. You could spend five hours and not see it all. However, we will warn you now that their Pearl Jam collection is woefully inadequate, bordering on pathetic. Considering the amount of money the EMP dropped buying up every bit of collectible memorabilia in the Pacific Northwest (which has its own special section of the museum), it's inconceivable that the only items they could come up with are the "Ten" promo basketball, a blow-up of the cover of Time, a "Singles" soundtrack CD and a copy of Five Against One, but that is exactly all you'll see displayed, and they don't have much more than that (although Ames Bros. recently donated a bunch of posters to them).
Having said all of that -- it's kind of hard to be angry at them because they are trying really hard to do something good, and preserve rock and roll history in a way that no one else is doing. They have lectures, they have movies, they have shows. They've got exhibits on everything from Seattle punk to SoCal skate punk, the origins of hip-hop and the history of reggae. It is worth the $19.95 to check it out. Hell, Mark Arm is the narrator for the NW punk rock exhibit.
missing in actionThe OK Hotel
212 Alaskan Way S.
(on the waterfront between S. Main & S. Washington in Pioneer Square)
The OK Hotel, which you all know as the Java Stop from Singles, was a victim of the March 2001 earthquake. There was so much damage to this 1900 building that it was more cost effective to knock it down than to repair it. =(
The Sub Pop Mega Mart: The mega mart, and the wall o' polaroids, is now MIA.
The Vogue: The MLB graffiti, shown above, used to be on the side of the Vogue, but was painted over a few years ago. =( The club has relocated to Capitol Hill, but as of 2001, the building has been reclaimed and is now the home of Vain International, the best place to get your hair cut in all of Seattle. There isn't much left of the original interior, but they do have photos of the graffiti before the renovation. They are very friendly and welcome tourists inside (there's a clothing and accessories shop in addition to the hair salon).
RKCNDY, 1812 Yale Ave: Where the live music was shot (and also where the "Alive" video was shot). RKCNDY (pronounced "rock candy") closed in October, 1999 and the building has been completely demolished.
Kurt Cobain's gravesite: Kurt was cremated, so there is no burial location, and we're not giving out the address of the house that he and Courtney lived in because there's a family living there now, and we feel strongly about not disturbing them. If you wanna find it, you're on your own.
Andy Wood's grave: Someone's written to let us know that Andy was not buried, but was cremated, and has a memorial plaque in Bremerton. If you're that interested, write us and we'll send you along to the gentleman who volunteered.
Don't come to Seattle looking for deals on PJ collectibles; prices here are often two or three times higher than anywhere else in the country. Why? Because stores know that fans come to Seattle, looking for deals. If you stop by any of the indie record stores, they have a map of Seattle indie record stores that is the best guide you can find.
Questions? Did we leave anything out? Write us and let us know!
However, please don't write us asking for "the inside scoop" because that's why we wrote this article - we were tired of people and writing and asking for "the inside scoop". If you have specific questions about specific things that aren't mentioned here, and don't violate anyone's privacy, please write and we will do our best to help. Please don't ask us for addresses we don't have and couldn't hand out if we did have them.
Thanks to Dan Grenough for the video captures, and to Seth Perlman for the Sound Garden image
Copyright © 2004 Five Horizons