Content originally written for the Let’s Go: USA & Canada Guide by our researcher-writer, Graham Bishai.
1428 Post Alley; open 24hr
Youthful wonder becomes adult discomfort in Seattle’s most picturesque gum repository, leaving you with a weird intrigue that causes you to just stop and stare. There is stuff growing on the ABC goop, you can’t find a single stench. Instead, the sweet smell of watermelon Bubblicious graces the narrow confines of the alley, located just under Pike Place Market. Go down it and into the alley—on either side, thousands of pieces of gum make pointillistic colorful dots, resulting in a rainbow wall that would be fitting for Willy Wonka’s factory. Parents yell, “Don’t touch it!” to their wonderstruck kids. People snap photos trying to blow bubbles for the camera. After the photoshoot is done, spit your gum out, find a spot, and stick it right on there. Just try not to touch the gum that’s already there in the process.
Free; wheelchair accessible
Twice Sold Tales
1833 Harvard Ave; (206) 324-2421; www.twicesoldtales.com; open daily 10am-9pm
If you’ve got cat allergies, stay away. Cat hair lines the aisles of used books in this quirky local Capitol Hill spot. Cats make the store their home. With free reign of the place, it’s impossible to tell when they’ll come darting out from behind a shelf. The books might surprise you, too. They buy and sell used books, so you’ll find everything from Harry Potter in ancient Greek to old maps of Seattle. Not cat person? First, check yourself. Second, you can still go, free of feline interaction. They won’t disturb you. But seriously, pet a cat and buy a book. It will make you feel good.
Prices vary; wheelchair accessible
3015 NW 54th St.; (206) 783-7059; www.ballardlocks.org; Open daily 7am-9pm
For my next trick, I’ll boil down a complex engineering project into just a few sentences. When a canal was dug between the saltwater Puget Sound and the freshwater Lake Washington in the early 1900s, the difference in altitude and water type between the two bodies of water required that a physical barrier be built in between. But ships still had to get through. Enter the Ballard Locks. This facility, run by the Navy Corps of Engineers, is basically a boat elevator for boats going in or out of Lake Washington. Visitors walk right up close to watch. Its like watching your bathtub drain or fill, but this bathtub is giant and has real boats in it. Fish also needed a way to get through the barrier, so a fish ladder was built. Here, at the right time of year, from June to September, you can watch salmon migrate through glass observation windows.
Free public tours May-Sept M-F 1pm and 3pm, Sa-Su 11am, 1pm, and 3pm, Oct-Nov and Mar-Apr Th-M 2pm; wheelchair accessible
Pike Place Market
1531 Western Ave; (206) 682-7453; www.pikeplacemarket.org; hours vary by stall
This crowded Seattle landmark is rough around the edges—expect lines and narrow aisles. Most of the hot food places are over in the Corner and Sanitary Markets, across the street and to the right from the main Public Market Center sign on the end of Pike St. Cinnamon Works has a variety of made-from scratch baked goods, including vegan and gluten-free options. Ellenos Real Greek Yogurt serves family-recipe Greek Yogurt, (no, not fro-yo, just good ol’ yogurt) in a variety of flavors like rhubarb and orange turmeric. And yes, for all you coffee folk, this is the Pike Place of Pike Place Roast. It’s home to the original Starbucks location, which always has a huge line. It’s cool to see, but for the same cup of coffee available at its thousands of stores elsewhere, it’s maybe not worth the wait.
Some stalls cash only; wheelchair accessible
Seattle Great Wheel
1301 Alaskan Way; (206) 623-8607; www.seattelgreatwheel.com; open M-Th 11am-10pm, F 11am-12am, Sa 10am-12am, Su 10am-10pm
What are you waiting for? It’s a big ferris wheel right on the water. That’s basically all you need to know. Located at the Miners Landing at the Pier 57 waterfront, you’ll get great views of the city. You’ll get even better ones of the Puget Sound, the boats in it, and the mountains behind it. Each trip takes takes roughly 10 minutes. It goes quick, so snap some good photos while you can!
Admission $14; wheelchair accessible
Graham left behind the stressed-out chaos of Cambridge for the laid back life on the West Coast. A refreshing change of pace, he assumed, until the line for coffee on his first morning took 2 mins longer than he’s used to, and the Northeast nasty jumped out. Starting in Vancouver, Graham meandered south, toning his calves being a pedestrian on San Francisco’s hills and by navigating the monstrosity that is Los Angeles using just his feet and public transit (only resorting to Uber twice!) Graham’s love for the West Coast life only increased as he sat by the Puget Sound in Seattle, sipped kombucha in the crunchy cafes of Portland, climbed into a waterfall in Yosemite and stayed in an abandoned opera house in Death Valley. By the time he hit upper 80s sun of San Diego, buff calves and sun tanned, the words “West Coast, Best Coast,” almost slipped out of his mouth. Identity crisis looming, he figured it was time to go home.