I went TDY (“temporary duty”-government speak for work travel) to Seattle last September for 2 weeks to take Boeing’s Structural Repair for Engineers course (more on that later) and quickly fell in love with this hipster Pacific Northwest city. I was told I visited during the least rainy part of the year (which generally runs from about May-September) and the crisp fall weather was widely welcomed by this North Dakotan native turned Houstonian. The trees were just beginning to change to fiery shades of orange, yellow, and red and if you’re a runner like me, the temperatures were just right for some incredibly scenic outdoor runs along the water.
I established one of my best travel tips on this trip. Based on recommendations and my own research, as well as discoveries I make during the trip, I update and maintain a Yelp Collection for each city I visit. This way I have a pre-curated list of highly rated suggestions for sightseeing, food and drink and, of course, a list of must-dos and must-do agains if I get the chance to venture back. I’m sharing my favorite things I saw, did, and perhaps most importantly, ate, during this trip.
- Eat & Drink
- Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room (1124 Pike St). An incredibly beautiful building inside and out, this is a Starbucks lover’s dream. Complete with a large collection of gift items, a mixology bar, roasting area which you can view through a window in the restrooms (WHAAAT?!), and Italian bakery, it is easy to see why I visited not once, but twice. I highly recommend heading to the Experience Bar for a Cold Brew Malt (!!) and the Whiskey Barrel-Aged Cold Brew!
- TNT Taqueria (2114 N 45th St). This place looks like a hole in the wall but don’t be fooled as we all know looks can be deceiving. I topped off my meal of some of the best tacos I’ve ever eaten (besides the street tacos consumed on a trip to Mexico City) with a couple hot, made-to-order churros. Incredibly delicious and inexpensive, my Cuban co-worker proclaimed these to be some of the best tacos he’s ever eaten.
- Bar Ciudad (1210 S Bailey St). I didn’t eat here but came for happy hour to celebrate the end of our 6 hour exam to finish out the 2 weeks of class. I sat in the courtyard and enjoyed a couple of delicious spiked slushies as, much to my delight, jumbo jets flew directly overhead into nearby Boeing Field.
- Fran’s Chocolates (5900 Airport Way S, multiple locations). Arguably the best salted caramel chocolates I’ve ever tasted. A friendly salesperson greets you at the door with a tray of their signature caramels. These make a great gift and their goodies come wrapped up in beautiful packaging complete with a satin bow.
- Barnacle (4743 Ballard Ave NW) and Percy’s & Co. (5233 Ballard Ave NW). Although a bit north of town, I met up with a couple friends for delicious craft cocktails in Ballard. Barnacle is an Italian aperitivo bar with a playful, upscale nautical vibe. At Percy’s I opted for the “Honey Bee” which includes rosemary infused gin and lavender.
- Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream (4822 Rainier Ave S, multiple locations). Although they have some more traditional ice cream flavors, Molly Moon’s also serves up a wide variety of unique and seasonal flavors for the more adventurous like Rose Milk Tea and delicious homemade waffle cones that make the whole place smell incredible.
- See & Do
- Chihuly Garden & Glass (305 Harrison St) and the Space Needle (400 Broad St). Home to a large collection of Dale Chihuly’s incredible blown glass art, this was definitely a highlight of the trip. I suggest buying a combined ticket for Chihuly and the Space Needle which is right next door and will allow you to see both at a discount. I visited Chihuly first because it closes earlier and then ventured to the Space Needle in time for incredible views of Seattle as day turned into night.
- Pike Place Market (85 Pike St). Whatever you do, do not expect to drive directly into Pike Place Market as you will waste an asinine amount of time trying to maneuver through crowds of people (luckily I did not fall victim to this). The expansive, iconic (est. 1907) market where you can see flying fish, get incredibly gorgeous bouquets of fresh flowers for $5-$10, and enjoy a wide variety of delicious food. This is also home to the original Starbucks Coffee.
- Gas Works Park (2101 N Northlake Way). Although quite windy the day I visited, this park offers a big hill overlooking Lake Union with great views of Seattle and the Space Needle. The perfect place for a picnic or to relive your childhood with a belly-laugh inducing roll down the hill.
- The Museum of Flight (9404 E Marginal Way S). Located at the southern end of Boeing Field, this is the largest privately-owned air and space museum in the world. I spent over 5 hours in this museum which is home to more than 175 aircraft and spacecraft and definitely didn’t get to see everything. A must-see for aviation/space enthusiasts!
- Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park (1201 Lake Washington Blvd N, Renton). Because I stayed in the Renton area, this park along Lake Washington was the perfect place to enjoy the sunshine after work with a run. I was able to run 10 miles on a trail that led me past the Seahawk’s training facility, Renton Municipal Airport, a Boeing facility, and the Cedar River. I also caught a glimpse of Mt. Rainier on a clear evening as the sun was setting.
- On My Bucket List for Next Time
- Hiking: Because I was in class during the week, I only had one weekend free to hike. It rained a bit too much and was going to be incredibly muddy (and I don’t own hiking shoes) so I passed on that in favor of exploring Pike Place Market. Hiking to see views of Mt. Rainier is definitely on the top of my Seattle bucket list for next time.
- Donuts: General Porpoise Donuts, Top Pot Doughnuts
- Pike Place: The Pink Door, Piroshky Piroshky, Biscuit Bitch, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese
So, it probably seems like I packed a lot in considering I was supposed to be working, right? The truth is that I wanted to make the most of my 2 weeks in Seattle so I did do a lot in the evenings and over the weekend. However, the absolute highlight of the trip was undoubtedly the reason I was there in the first place. I spent about 8 hours a day in class learning and practicing how to perform structural repairs to aircraft. This was the first in a three-part course aimed at teaching engineers everything about the basics of aircraft repair from fastener (bolt and rivet) allowables and the best materials to use depending on which part of the aircraft you’re dealing with, to skin friction drag and fastener spacing requirements. At the end of the first week they even bused us to Everett, WA (home to Boeing’s massive aircraft production facility outside Seattle) where we got to see every stage of the aircraft assembly process from the mighty 747 to the innovative 787 Dreamliner. The following two courses focus on more advanced topics and I hope to take those in the future.
If you’ve ever been to Seattle or the Pacific Northwest or are a Seattle native yourself, what is your one must-see place to visit?