5 Ways to Find the Heart and Soul of Seattle

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In Seattle we live among the trees and the waterways, and we feel we are rocked gently in the cradle of life. Our winters are not cold and our summers are not hot and we congratulate ourselves for choosing such a spectacular place to rest our heads.
— “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein

I’ll be honest. Most of the time when I look at travel blogs, I just scroll through the pictures and hardly read the writing. Since most posts are generally either reviews or guides to visiting a city, I usually only go back and read the whole thing if I’m actually planning a trip there.

I love reading a travel blog and feeling like I’ve experienced a new place without even going there. But when I booked my recent trip to Seattle and pulled up some related posts, I was left feeling pretty lackluster about the city. The writing just kind of described exactly what was in the pictures and hardly skimmed the surface, using words like “amazing” and “must-see.” So where do you really find the heart and soul of this city?

When I travel, I like to experience new places through the lens of a local. I’m generally not as interested in the “go-to” places. I find them over-hyped, and I don’t like to feel lost in a crowd, especially when I’ve never been there.

It’s like being from Los Angeles. When people come to visit me and want to see the tourist sites, I have to warn them that it’s nothing like in the movies. I’ve never been to the Hollywood Sign or hiked Runyon Canyon, and I avoid Muscle Beach at all costs. Going to iconic places just to say that you’ve been there, I get it. But for me, it’s not as rewarding as really getting lost in a new city, feeling the vibrancy and seeing how people live.

I like to fall deeply in love with the atmosphere and culture of a new place, and I fell in love with Seattle, wholeheartedly. But I found this by not having a plan and literally just showing up not knowing what to expect.

My close friend was having a gender reveal party in her hometown of Seattle, so it was the perfect reason to visit. Through the most memorable things that I encountered during my trip, here are 5 ways to find the heart and soul of Seattle:

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1. Wander freely. It’s a huge relief how easy it has become to navigate a new city without renting a car. I used UberPool for all of my transportation, so I got recommendations from the locals who shared the rides with me. One suggested going to the Farmer’s Market in Ballard, a historic Scandinavian fishing town on the waterfront of northwest Seattle. I spent the whole day there, and that still wasn’t enough time to see everything.

Seattle is so walkable that it creates this vibrant rhythm where people seem to be in perfect harmony with each other. Walking around, I loved seeing the old, historic brick buildings. With so many hills, there are great views down to the water. During my trip, I visited Ballard, Pike Place, Capitol Hill, and Southwest Seattle. Overall, the city felt safe with a really nice, calm atmosphere.

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2. Follow a slower pace. My first encounter with the pace was when I ordered a latte to-go at a cute little bakery. It took about 10 minutes just to steam the milk (just kidding - I exaggerate every chance that I get). But people weren’t in a rush here, like I’m used to in LA. It was such a nice difference to experience! There is so much to do in Seattle and it’s very outdoorsy. It felt like people were just enjoying the essence of life and taking time to appreciate it.

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3. Look for handmade and local. Seattle has created a vibrant culture of community. Most of the areas that I visited sold local goods and celebrated local businesses, like The Palm Room. At the farmer’s markets, it was so refreshing to see vendors who are so passionate about supporting local. Meeting Chad at Seattle Canning Co, I could feel his strong connection to the quality of his products, and I admire how everything about his business is handcrafted.

The farmer’s markets had so much fresh, organic produce grown on farms throughout Washington. It was so easy to find healthy options and gluten free alternatives at the local restaurants (which I don’t always follow when I’m on vacation but ya know, I like the option).

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4. Enjoy colder weather. I loved seeing how people dress for the cold weather in Seattle. They look so cozy and bundled up - but in a cool and comfortable way. Coming from LA, I’ll be honest, we have perfect weather. So perfect that I’m always dreaming of overcast days, and there was no shortage of dark clouds in Seattle.

Packing tip: When I pack for a trip, I take into account the style of the place. I want to blend in and not draw attention to myself, and I definitely don’t want to look like a tourist (i.e. jeans and track shoes - I’m talking to you, Midwesterners). Once I made the mistake of fully packing all my rain gear when I went on a trip to Portland in the fall. Then saw that no one holds an umbrella or wears rain boots there, no one.

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The style in Seattle was natural and earthy, which I really appreciate. Many women wore minimal makeup and natural hair. The clothing colors were mostly forest green, browns, and black. I saw a lot of down vests and rain jackets, but it seemed like most people didn’t even notice that it was drizzling on this day - no rain boots or umbrellas in sight.

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5. It’s introvert friendly. There are so many cute coffee shops that I was in heaven. Especially walking around in Capitol Hill and Ballard, it felt like every other place was a coffee shop. I walked into Miro Tea, and everyone was in their own world, but in a good way. People were actually reading books, not just on their laptops and phones. My friend told me that the term for this keep-to-yourself mentality is called the “Seattle Freeze.” How funny.

Traveling by myself, I ate at some cool restaurants and sat in coffee shops alone and felt completely comfortable. The people were friendly and helpful in a very genuine way. They’re low-key and earthy, but not weird about it. Seattle has just the right amount of heart and soul, and I will definitely be back.

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