First time in Seattle? Make a beeline for its proverbial pantry: Pike Place Market. It was founded in 1907 to fortify locals with fresh Northwest produce, and its long-held mantra of ‘meet the producer’ still echoes enthusiastically around a city where every restaurateur worth their salt knows the name of their fishmonger and the biography of the cow that became yesterday’s burgers. It doesn’t take long to realize that you’ve arrived in a city of well-educated palates and wildly experimental chefs who are willing to fuse American cuisine with just about anything – as long as it’s local.
To outsiders, Seattle is an industrious creator of macro-brands. To insiders, it’s a city of micro-businesses and boundary-pushing grassroots movements. For proof, dip into the third-wave coffee shops, the microbreweries with their casual tasting rooms or the cozy informal bookstores that remain rock solid in a city that spawned Amazon. Then there are the latest national trends that Seattle has helped popularize: craft cider, weed dispensaries, specialist pie-makers, vegan ice cream that’s actually good, and chic donuts, to name a few. Hit the streets and you’ll see there’s far more to this city than Starbucks, Nordstrom and Boeing.
. Here a free-spirited cafe where earnest students sit around debating Che Guevara’s contribution to world revolution; there an avant-garde art studio where the furniture is as outlandish as the exhibits. From rural Viñales to urban Havana, it’s as if the whole country is slowly awakening from a deep slumber. Come now and ride the wave.
Seattle’s current reputation as the town that spawned Amazon and Starbucks won’t give you the full picture of the city’s oddball cultural heritage. Crisscross its urban grid and you’ll find all kinds of apparitions: a rocket sticking out of a building; a museum built to resemble a smashed-up electric guitar; glass orbs in wooden canoes; a statue of Lenin; a mural made of used chewing gum; fish-tossing market traders; and a museum dedicated to antique pinball machines (that you can still play). Need help acclimating? The city’s still-booming legal weed market will help you embrace your own weird side.