Thursday, August 11

Favorite Haunts: Vacation Edition

August is vacation season and since I'm about go to on mine, I thought I'd talk about my favorite haunts away from home to fit in with this week's TFC theme.

When I was a kid, my family had some regular vacation spots, mainly Door County and the Apostle Islands in Northern Wisconsin. Some times we stayed a bit closer to home and went to Starved Rock, a state park in Northern Illinois. Or there were trips to Michigan where my aunt had a cabin. We did a lot of camping. For someone who is terrified of spiders, likes the comforts of a nice indoor bathroom, and has lots of allergies and dislikes extreme heat, this wasn't usually very pleasant.

Fortunately, now I get to pick my own yearly vacation spot and that would be the city that I wish I could afford to move to:

Ah, Seattle. Sigh. City of my heart. I visited for the first time in 2004. It sounds kind of morbid, but I went on the 10th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death. No artist has had a bigger influence on me than Nirvana and since Kurt committed suicide when I was 14, it left a really big impression on me. I'd always wanted to go to Seattle since I was a teenager, so I went with some friends to pay tribute to Kurt and I also kind of closed the door on my own troubled youth in the process. It's hard to explain, but I tried to do so in this essay if you are interested.

Anyway I didn't expect to fall in love with Seattle. It was just a vacation, a trip with my girlfriends who were fellow music nerds. But as soon as I saw all the bright green trees (that rain is good for something) and all of the water (of course as a Cancer I would love a city that is surrounded by water on three sides), I fell in love. The air smelled better. The land had dimension. (I come from the abysmally flat Midwest.) And I just felt like I belonged.

One of these days (like when the economy turns around and we can sell our house), I will move out there and live happily ever after. But for now I make a yearly visit. Usually I go with two of my girl friends that I visited with the first time in 2004, who fell in love with Seattle like I did. The three of us live in different cities (me in Chicago, my friend Jenny in St. Louis and my friend Eryn in Denver), so it's like a little reunion. Normally we go in spring, but this year we head out on August 20th and I'm currently putting together a list of must-do's for us. Eryn and I have visited Seattle together 6 times and I've been there 2 additional times on top of that, so I definitely have my favorite haunts. Here are some of them:

1. The Waterfront:

The first time we stayed in Seattle, we were in a hostel just a block away from it so the first thing we did was walk along Elliott Bay. Now it's basically a tradition. We dump our stuff in the hotel and head directly there. Yeah it's touristy, but it's beautiful and there is nothing like it back home so who cars.

2. The Pike Place Market:

Also a touristy location, but I love a good farmer's market and this is pretty much the king of them all. We generally stay downtown so I like go here every morning for breakfast. Then I can buy fresh fruit and a vegan cinnamon roll at Cinnamon Works. (I definitely can't get vegan cinnamon rolls at home!) If I were a coffee drinker, I might grab a cup at the original Starbucks, but I'm a tea gal so I stock up at Market Spice. I usually will get one cup of Joe while in Seattle because well when in Rome... But I generally go for one of the smaller, local coffee houses.

3. The Seattle Center:

This is basically as touristy as it gets, but since the Space Needle symbolizes Seattle to me, we always have to walk by and get some cool shots of it (or totally dorky ones like the one above of me pointing to it), though I don't usually feel the need to pay to go up in it. The Seattle Center is also home to the EMP (Experience Music Project) and the SFM (Sci-Fi Museum), which is that super funky looking building pictured above. I geek out hardcore over both music and Sci-Fi so I do love both places and when they get exhibits I'm interested in, I go. Right now EMP has a huge Nirvana exhibit and SFM has a Battlestar Galactica exhibit. I am so there.

4. Thrift Stores and local crafty boutiques. It's weird because I don't shop much at home. Maybe because I grew up in Chicago now I'm cynical about it and nothing seems as cool as it used to be. But in Seattle I love to hit Red Light, my favorite vintage store at both of it's Capitol Hill and U-District locations and then I like to wander both of those neighborhoods and see what else I find. I also love the Ballard neighborhood which has this strip of boutiques where I can always find clothes by local designers. A lot of times we also hit up craft fairs like I Heart Rummage because I love to support local artists and find unique clothes and accessories. There's something wonderful about knowing that no one in your town will be able to get that hoodie or necklace.

5. Food and Drink. Since I work at a dive bar, I'm kind of a dive bar aficionado and Seattle has some of my favorites like The Comet Tavern in Capitol Hill, Nitelite downtown, The Central Saloon in Pioneer Square, and 9 Pound Hammer in Georgetown. It's also vegan paradise, especially compared to Chicago. I love the all-vegetarian Asian Restaurant, Bamboo Garden and Pizza Pi has the best vegan pizza I've ever tasted. Georgetown Liquor Company has these great vegan sandwiches with sci-fi names like Frac and the Picard. Umm yeah, that is pretty much the best thing ever.

6. Outdoorsy stuff. Seattle definitely has Chicago beat for this as well. I love going to the very odd Gasworks Park:

And visiting the nearby Fremont Troll:

Then there cool hikes like through Discovery Park to this neat little beach:

But this year I am really excited to check out Lincoln Park in West Seattle which has public pool right on the beach that is fed by Puget Sound waters.

7. Of course the big mama of parks for me is actually a very tiny park, Viretta Park. It's next to the house that Kurt Cobain owned, the house where his body was found. Fans gathered there in mourning in 1994 and my friends and I gathered there in 2004. It was where I had a bunch of personal epiphanies about letting my past go, fitting since like my characters in Ballads of Suburbia, I spent much of my time as a teenager hanging out in a park. So I do have to make a trek there every time I visit Seattle and leave a little hello and thanks for the music to Kurt on the bench where fans write messages to him and then have a little quiet reflective time for myself.

So those are my favorite Seattle vacation haunts. Do you take an annual trip somewhere? Or do you have a city that you wish you could visit regularly (or move to!)? What are some of your favorite places there?


Mrs. Dork said...

Oh, I just love Seattle! My dad lives there so I go visit every once in a while--it's been a while since my last trip, though. I love to go in the summer because the weather is perfect (75 degrees is "perfect" to a girl from Louisiana), but I like to go at New Year's to watch the fireworks display off the top of the Space Needle. My dad works across the street from it, so we get an incredible view of the show from the balcony.

Now you've made me want to go back soon!

Wendy Toliver said...

I really need to spend some more time in Seattle and now that it seems like so many of my friends have moved there or live there, maybe I'll be able to make it happen. There is definitely *something* about Seattle. Loved your post and your essay.

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Mrs. Dork, I am so jealous! If my dad lived in Seattle, I'd be visiting him all the time and I agree 75 degrees is perfect!!!

Wendy, yes, definitely spend more time there. It is fab. And thanks, I am glad you loved the post and esssay!

Rachel Pudelek said...

I live in the Seattle area and still haven't visited some of those spots! I need to!

I agree though, there's something about Seattle. I keep finding out how different YA authors in the area. Pretty cool. :)