Central Library + other Seattle Favorites

• 23 February 2012

Since moving here just over a year ago, I've tried to venture out as much as I can to explore this beautiful city and to discover her finer points (the weather has put a strain on our relationship so placing an emphasis on her positive characteristics is how we make it work).  I love stepping foot in the different neighborhoods and feeling the vibe original to those specific city blocks...and then driving 5 or 10 minutes to another neighborhood that feels completely different.  We enjoy living in the city so much and get such a kick out of Seattle's quirks.  It's a constant reminder to not take ourselves too seriously :) 

This week my children are all home for winter vacation and despite how hectic it makes things, I am loving having them home and following a more relaxed schedule.  I explained the term "staycation" to my kids yesterday and am trying to follow through by throwing in daily outings that we would all find fun and interesting.  One of our favorite stops was Central Library, the largest, most avant-garde structure in the Seattle Public Library System.  Designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and the OMA, this 11-story structure is definitely one of Seattle's most spectacular buildings.  In fact, I cannot think of a cooler library anywhere else--it's incredible in every way.  You must take a peek if you're a local or if you're an architecture enthusiast visiting the Emerald City.

Today I want to share my top 10 Seattle favorites, in no particular order.  If you live in Seattle, or have visited the city and have a favorite or two, I'd love to hear them.  When we moved here so many of you emailed me tips and valuable information for which I am grateful for to this day (thank you again!); here's your chance to share your expertise with everyone else too. 

1. The Walrus and the Carpenter - my favorite restaurant in the city, especially when we get to sit at the bar and watch the "behind the scenes" that aren't so behind the scene (read/see more here).   In fact, Ballard Ave in general is pretty fantastic.  Tucked away, slightly gritty,  industrial in feel, and ecclectic, it's probably our favorite street in all of Seattle.  

2.  Marie et Freres - when I want chocolate, this is where I spend my calories.  Try the frozen pops coated in cocoa nibs...

3.  El Diablo on Queen Anne for Mexican Hot Chocolate - be sure to opt for the whipped cream--this is the best Mexican hot chocolate I've ever had!

4.  Bakery Nouveau - amongst the handful of delicious, French bakeries in the city, this is hands down the best.  Worth the drive to West Seattle!  And speaking of West Seattle, we also love Slices on Alki Beach.  Yummy homemade pizza, fresh-squeezed lemonade and a killer meatball sandwich. 

5.  Discovery Park - 500+ acres within city limits is pretty unfathomable...add in the fact that some of it is beach front property and you've got yourself one heckuva park.  We live fairly close so we try to take advantage of it as much as possible.  I'm so grateful it wasn't handed over to developers...and this is coming from the wife of a former commercial developer :) 

6.  Ballard Bridge - the thrill of driving past hundreds of boats on a daily basis never ceases to excite me; and it's pretty rad when the bridge goes up, even if it makes me late to preschool pick up (I swear, every time I'm running a few minutes behind the bridge goes up and I'm stuck ;)). 

7.  Annie's Art & Frame - I've visited many-a-framing-shop and this is my favorite.  A good balance of quality, price and great product.  Also, they have a sweet collection of clocks and a little coloring table for kids.

8.  Melrose Market - home to a great butcher, cheesemonger and florist, this tiny market is a one-stop-shop for any food lover.  Technically it would take you all of 3 minutes to traverse the entire market, but you'll find yourself lingering for much longer as you attempt to absorb every detail.  Be sure to run upstairs to peek at Butter Lane Home and then catch a delicious dinner at Sitka & Spruce before heading home with a bouquet of fresh flowers from Marigold & Mint.

9.  D'Ambrosio Gelato - another Ballard Ave favorite.  Best gelato in Seattle (and many other cities too!).  Try the fig caramel gelato (even if you don't like figs, you have to at least sample it!)...it's the best flavor. 

10.  Ella Bailey Park - you've never seen a more amazing, more expansive city view than the one at this park. Prepare to be wowed and certainly plan on bringing a picnic so you can continue enjoying the view even after the kiddos are through playing. 

What are some of your favorites?  Do any of ours overlap? 

images by Stephanie Brubaker / stephmodo


Adriane said...

We love Carkeek park, probably more than Discovery. My son loves it for the trains! We live in Ballard, which also is a plus.

Adriane said...

oh, and the Ballard Farmer's market on Sundays!

engquist said...

I LOVE libraries! They're so intoxicating!

And I remember taking a great many staycations as a kid and loving every moment of them. We saw some of the coolest things.

Will @ Bright.Bazaar said...

Architecture porn - I love it!

yours truly said...

That library looks amazing. I'm definitely paying that a visit next time I'm in Seattle. And oooh, El Diablo is so good! I love driving through that neighborhood after too, such spectacular homes.

Liz said...

oh yay! i love extra places i need to check out!
don't you love seattle's quirks...:)
don't you love driving down a neighborhood street in order to jump on the freeway...?
we LOVE that library. i'm glad you got down there. it's GORGEOUS.
i echo the discovery park. we almost made it there yesterday until jack threw up. :(
i love just walking around ballard locks in the nice weather. the smell of the sea feels so good.
we also hiked around "st. edwards park" last saturday. gorgeous.
enjoy your last few days of break. don't you love the relaxed non-rushed week?
okay, now i want to get to marie et freres...!

Lisette said...

Hands down you must add Lincoln Park!!

Darcy said...

I've been meaning to visit that library the last couple of times we were in town, but have yet to make it. This post has just made getting there priority #1 for next trip up! (I was born and raised in Seattle, but have lived in CA for the last 12 years...and come home to visit at least every summer).

Some of our favorites include the Olympic Sculpture Garden and the little beaches next to it, the aquarium down the street on the pier, Molly Moon's for icecream, Pegasus Pizza (also in West Seattle) has the the most toppings on a pizza I have ever seen, Gasworks Park, renting kayaks in the U-District from Aqua Verde or canoes from U-Dub and paddling through the arboretum, and visiting the Seattle Center and spending time at that gigantic fountain, playing at the Science Center, or riding the monorail into downtown. But hands down our favorite thing to do every time we visit is to catch a ferry somewhere and spend the day exploring little towns like Paulsbo, Port Orchard, Port Townsend, or Whidbey Island....all soooo charming. My son just gets such a kick out of the ferry rides and I love that you can so easily go from the city to the country and back again and the drive is very pretty.

I will definitely be pinning this post to my 'Seattle Tourist' board. Thanks for all the great tips and recommendations, it will make our next trip up so much fun! Thanks again!

Emily Peck said...

These are all such wonderful spots! I second the Aqua Verde comment....it's one of our favorite hole in the wall places for fresh mexican...and a sunroom that over looks Lake Union. :)

Stephanie said...

Adriane, thanks for the reminder about Carkeek. It's been awhile since we visited, but you're right...it's a great park. My kids love the trains too...heck, I love the trains!

Enquist...I'm glad you remember staycations...that's about all we're doing this year :) It's good to know my kids will likely enjoy them too!

Will, :) Glad you like the images!

Yours Truly, I love that you know about El Diablo. Can you back me up on the Mexican hot chocolate? It's seriously soooo good there!

Liz, Ballard Locks is beautiful on a nice day...I feel like it's always misting when I'm there, but I will ahve to check it out on a nice day as well. Plus, boats are always in and out on nice days...

Lisette, please educate me...where is Lincoln Park? If you like it I'm sure I will too!

Darcy, thank you for the reminder to hit Aqua Verde and to rent a kayak. It's been on my list. Also, I'm with you on the ferry. It's one of my favorite things to do too--a day trip exploring the islands is one of the best parts of living in Seattle.

Emily, I'm in need of good Mexican...two likes for Aqua Verde and I've got to try it out now!

Abby said...

When I lived in Seattle one of my favorite places to go was the Ballard Locks. On a nice day we would take books and a picnic and spend hours there watching the boats. It was also a great way to get from Ballard over to Magnolia and then downtown via bike. And it is free - which was awesome!

Martha said...

i love when you share your seattle favorites. i cannot believe i haven't been to the central library yet! all the libraries surrounding our neighborhood are fabulous in architecture as well. i can't say enough good things about how much i love seattle's libraries. i can't wait to try some of your other faves.

i just found an adorable and delicious brunch spot in ballard (it just opened a few months ago) - the fat hen (across from honore, my favorite close-by french bakery - of course nouveau trumps all, but honore, to me, is a close second). if i'm remembering right, the couple that runs it was schooled in culinary arts in france. they do some interesting and yummy baked egg dishes. i can't wait to get back and try more. it's the cutest place ever. you'd love it.

Mair, Domestic Policy Czar said...

Ah, how I love thee Seattle.
Some favorites:
To drink: L'Africaine at Le Pichet (based on Coco Chanel's favorite chocolate drink at Angelina's Cafe in Paris). And yes, El Diablo has a great spicy hot chocolate.

To Eat: Matt's in the Market, Boat Street, Walrus and Carpenter, El Mestizo, Mistral's Kitchen, Le Pichet, Pink Door, Skillet....

Nature: Bike rides along the Burke Gilman, canoeing along the arboretum, Discovery Park, Golden Gardens.....

Romance: A walk along the wharfs or ship canal, sunrise or sunset at Kerry Park, the front deck of a ferry ride to Vashon or Bainbridge....

Fun: The summer watertaxi from downtown to West Seattle, Seattle Center's museums, Woodland Park Zoo, first Thursdays at the SAM and downtown art galleries, 4th of July on a boat in the middle of Lake Union....

Anonymous said...

Kudos to you for getting out with all four!

Stephanie said...

Abby, Yes! The locks are fun...in fact, today my husband took our kids over there to celebrate the sun's appearance this afternoon, while I cooked that roast chicken in the previous post...:) Great addition to this list! Thanks Abby.

Martha, you should visit Magnolia's branch too at some point. It won an architectural award when it was built. And thank you for the breakfast rec! I drove by there the other day (after picking up a canele at Honore!) and noticed they were open for business. Wondered if it was good...I'll have to give it a try now per your recommendation!

Mair, I can tell your list is a keeper...my favorite restaurants are your favorite restaurants :) Boat Street is a close second to the Walrus and I love the hot chocolate at Le Pichet. Will have to try dinner there soon, as well as the rest of the fun things on your list :) Thank you so much for this treasure trove of info!

Anon, you give me too much credit...I only had 3 of 'em with me at the library :) Not having the baby made it a doable experience and allowed me to actually take pictures!

Cannelle Et Vanille said...

Great round up!!

Stephanie said...

Aran/Cannelle: I hope to be enjoying it with you next year!

Not Just A Mommy! said...

OK, we must get ourselves to the library, how did I not know about it?

And we overlap on the Ballard Bridge...have you been to Honore Artisan Bakery out there yet? It's a tiny little spot, but the baked goods are to die for!

Stephanie said...

Dawn/Not Just a Mommy, yes you must! And yes, I like Honore too...pricey but pretty good :) Cute little spot for sure.

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