There's a few things that everyone needs to see when they visit Seattle for the first time: the incredible selections at the famous Pike Place Market, the astounding views afforded by the Space Needle, and the relaxing tranquility of Gas Works Park. However, Seattle is home to some wonderfully quirky stops that make for a much weirder visit to the Emerald City. Buckle up for a tour of the stranger side of Seattle!
You might not know that the Seattle you visit today is actually built on top of the original streets and storefronts, and on the stellar Seattle Underground Tunnels Tour, you can roam the subterranean passages that few ever get to see. The tour begins inside Doc Maynard’s Public House, a restored 1890s saloon, before taking deep beneath the current roadways to see the former home of Seattle's pioneers.
Tips: This is one of the most popular tours in Seattle, so be sure to show up early and buy your tickets. If you've got trouble walking or breathing in dusty spaces, you should probably sit this one out.
One of the weirder shops in the city, Ye Olde Curiosity Shop has been creeping out visitors for over a century and is the proud owner of a shrunken head collection, mermaid corpses, and even Sylvester, one of the best preserved mummies in the world. This place will make you squirm, but where else can you buy taxidermy, replica shrunken heads, and fudge in the same place?
Tips: Admission to the shop is completely free! If you've got kids in tow, consider their ages before visiting. They're going to see lots of dead people, and you're the one who has to deal with the nightmares.
Tucked away in an alley just off the Pike Place Fish Market lies one of the weirder monuments in all Seattle: the Market Theater Gum Wall, where for years, locals and visitors alike have been sticking their used wads of Bazooka Joe, creating a massive monument to mastication. Head over and stick your own piece of gum on the wall, but beware the smell... it's funky.
Tip: Yes, it's totally legal - and encouraged - to slap your gum onto Seattle's grossest landmark.
Ballard | Madrona | West Seattle | Capitol Hill | 108 Pine | Queen Anne, Seattle, WA, US
Gourmet cupcake shops are all the rage, but when it comes to weird flavors that actually taste incredible, Seattle's Cupcake Royale takes the, well, cupcake.
Sure, they've got the classic vanilla or chocolate frosted cupcakes, but you're here for the exotic tastes like lavender, tiramisu, or peanut butter sriracha. Yeah, you're gonna want a dozen.
Tips: Be sure to ask what their limited seasonal flavors are. They often come with crazy toppings and hilarious themes.
Seattle just can't help but make everything a little weird. The beautiful Alki Beach, where the first white settlers arrived in the Emerald City way back in November 1851, makes a beautiful place to watch the sunset in the shadow of Seattle's very own Statue of Liberty replica. Alki Liberty, as she's called by locals, was dedicated by the local boy scout troops in the 50's. She's not nearly as big as the one in New York, but you'll still be able to fool your friends with a well-snapped selfie.
Tip: This is a real-deal beach, complete with roller-bladers, sunbathers, and volleyball, so bring the sunscreen and enjoy the atmosphere.
The Olympic Sculpture Park, situated along the Seattle waterfront, holds loads of interesting contemporary art sculptures, from gigantic erasers to strange metal sculptures that might take some time to figure out.
The views are incredible, the Space Needle is just a short walk away, and it's totally free to enjoy.
Want the best view of the Seattle at sunset? Hit the SkyCity Restaurant at the top of the Space Needle for dinner in rotating saucer high above the city. You'll get a 360 view of every part of the city, with a view that stretches to the mountains. You won't find another dinner experience like it.
Tips: The fixed price menu starts at $80, so count on a two person meal running you $200+ after drinks and gratuity. Not cheap, but your dinner comes with a complimentary visit to the Space Needle Skydeck (normally $22 a person) and you get to skip the long lines and use a private elevator.
Be sure to book way in advance if you want to visit on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday evening. With a view like this, they fill up quick.
The Queen from Aliens, proton packs from Ghostbusters, and blasters from just about any flick you can imagine - they're all here at the Science Fiction Museum at EMP, easily the best science fiction museum in the country. While you're there, make sure to pop next door to the EMP Museum, where you can see relics from some of Seattle's greatest music legends like Nirvana and Jimmy Hendrix.
Tips: Cost is $20, but make no bones about it, this place is worth every penny and a grown nerd's paradise. If you've got kids, they might not be as thrilled as you are. Be sure to keep an eye on their schedule, because you might get to catch one of their excellent temporary exhibits like their Halloween Horror Film displays.
Hotel Max is easily the most effortlessly cool hotel in the Emerald City, which is saying something for Seattle. Not only do they have crazy perks like a free craft-beer happy hour every night, they've got some of the weirdest amenities of any hotel out there. From "Spiritual Room Service" menus, to a pillow menu, to an iPod pre-loaded with your favorite tunes, they've thought of everything no one else has. They'll even find you a local pet psychic for your dog. No joke.
You might think that a place like this would cost you an arm and a leg but get this - the average room runs just $125 a night.
Tips: For a real treat, book a room on the fifth floor, which has been totally designed by local cult music label SubPop, complete with records in the rooms and concert posters on the walls. Be sure to use the free gumball machine on the way out. They've put it there specifically so you've got something to add to the Market Theater Gum Wall.
By this point in your trip, you've got to be getting thirsty, and what weirder place to grab a drink than a soda machine stocked by a ghost? This vintage vending machine sits on a lonely street corner and has been baffling locals for years. Not only has no one ever seen someone stock the Haunted Soda Machine, but you can never guess exactly what its buttons, labeled with giant question marks, is going to vend. Spooky!
Pay homage to the legendary martial artist-turned film star Bruce Lee and his son Brandon at their side-by-side graves in Lakeview Cemetery.
Since their deaths, the site of two of the city's most-beloved figures has become a sort of pilgrimage destination for fans from all over the world, so don't be surprised if you find a crowd laying flowers when you visit.
The big guy hiding underneath the Fremont Bridge might be a little worse for the wear since his appearance in "10 Things I Hate About You", but you can't find a much better photo op in Seattle. It's a weird, quick visit that you can knock out in ten minutes, but it's such an iconic site that you've just got to do it.
Tip: If you want to avoid a headache, snag an uber and have them leave the meter running while you grab your photos. Parking in the area can be killer, and it's not exactly in walking distance of any other attractions.
One part dinner, one part interactive show, The Dinner Detective has become one of the city’s most favorite events. What makes Dinner Detective better than other similar productions is the fact that it’s set in the current time, so you won't have to look past cheesy costumes and weird scripts to enjoy the show.
The Hollywood, New York, and Chicago trained actors blend in with the rest of the diners, so guests have no idea who is part of the show… until they die. You’ll have to solve the crime to find out who the killer is before you’re the last man standing. Winners get prizes and, most importantly, big time bragging rights!
Tips: The tickets can seem a bit pricy (roughly $150 for two tickets), but you'll get dinner, desert, and a show out of the deal, which makes it about the same price as a dinner and movie date night. The whole experience lasts about three hours. Sorry kids, due to the nature of the show, no one under fifteen is admitted.
The Emerald City has some pretty fantastic art museums, like the The Seattle Art Museum or the Henry Art Gallery, but when it comes to art, beauty is subjective. Unless, of course, you stop into the Official Bad Art Museum of Art, where pretty much everyone can agree that the art really sucks.
Tip: Admission is free, but you can grab a sandwich and a beer to support the museum.
Red Mill Burgers serves the best hamburgers in Seattle, hands down, game over, period. In fact, it was rated as one of the "20 burgers you must try before you die" by GQ.
This independent burger joint has a real thing for the Rolling Stones, the color red, and piles of thick bacon that stand as tall as a four-year-old kid. Grab the Bacon Deluxe with Cheese and thank us later.
Tip: This place is cash only, so hit the ATM before you visit. Don't worry, veggies, this place has you covered - you've got your own menu section.
Ballard is arguably one of the most offbeat little portions of Seattle already, so the imposing Statue of Viking Leif Erickson fits right in. Originally a gift from the Leif Erikson League for the 1962 World’s Fair, the strange statue now stands in honor of the Viking trailblazer that discovered America a full five hundred years before Christopher Columbus.
Tips: Not only worth a visit for the weirdness alone, the views are peaceful and gorgeous. Bring a blanket and a lunch!
In the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, there's a huge shopping mall with a strange hole in the center of the building. Inside that gap sits a tiny house with an amazing story that some say inspired Pixar's UP. Edith Macefield's Tiny House, has become a cherished part of folk legend in the city after the 84-year-old woman who owned it refused to sell her house to developers looking to build a shopping mall.
After Edith passed away, plans were set in motion to save her property as a public park, but until then, you can still see her tiny blue house in the shadow of a shopping mall.
Tip: While the park hasn't yet been finished (or started), you can still walk up to the fence for a good look at Edith's home.
Yeah, you could buy your friends a Space Needle keychain, but wouldn't they rather have a dress-up Bigfoot or cupcake flavored toothpaste? At Ballard's Archie Mcphee, you can find some of the absolute weirdest novelty toys you've ever seen in a store filled with stuff you don't need at all, but desperately want. Boxing nuns, unicorn horns for your cat, and boxes of old military equipment - you'll buy this stuff to give to friends, but we all know you're going to keep it for yourself.
Tip: Go ahead and gamble on one of their mystery bags. You'll get a load of insane goodies for half of what you'd normally pay. They've also got one of the last real photo booths in the city hidden in the back!
Whether you find yourself gawking at mummies on the boardwalk, meeting giant trolls under the Fremont bridge, or exploring the hidden underground of Seattle's past, The Emerald City offers more offbeat opportunities than nearly any other city in America for those willing to get weird.