This travel guide will give you a sampling of a few of Seattle’s teeming scenes and subcultures. I’m going to be honest and tell you that this is a biased, limited guide because I like a dive-y bar with a “questionably-maintained” bathroom and a dance party with a lot queer folx and prismatic lighting effects. That’s just me. This is the guide I’d want if I was a tourist. Capitol Hill is full of bars and restaurants and things to do; however, these are the best of the best places in my opinion, and all for them are queer/trans-friendly and/or queer-owned. It’s tricky figuring out whether a place is “friendly” or not. Because I have straight, passing privilege and white privilege, mine is obviously a limited perspective; however, I have cross-checked this with some other peeps and done my best to vouch for these places among a diverse group of people so I’m hoping your visits to any of these locations are problem and judgement-free!
Start the day off with coffee. Go to Analog Coffee (roasted by Herkimer Espresso) or queer-owned Broadcast Coffee Roasters to see what’s current in the coffee world. If you love coffee/want to learn more, Stumptown has public cuppings every day at 3 pm inside their 12th Avenue location. For weekend brunch: Julia’s on Sundays at 2 pm has a famous drag brunch, Revolver has fried catfish/Jazz/$1 Bloody Mary’s, and Sun Liquor (the smaller location on Summit) offers a quiet brunch (read: easy to get seated) with classic brunch offerings AND an Egg in the Hole. For post-breakfast pastries, eat Crumble and Flake’s caramelized custard dream aka the Canele or their famous smoked paprika croissant. After that, check out, Ghost Gallery through a wooden fence off the street (locally made jewelry and artwork, etc) and CAIRO, an event space/retail shop with a DIY ethos stocking vintage clothes and handmade products (candles, jewelry, macrame…); offering classes on things like making your own sandals, tarot readings, and aura readings on a monthly basis; and providing space where bands can play shows throughout the month. It’s magic. Around the corner is another great vintage store, Indian Summer. Up the hill, on Broadway, there’s The Vajra full of crystals/incense/tarot cards/etc. My favorite little witchy shop. And further down is Revival, an affordable and gorgeously curated vintage shop.
If you like stuffed, dead animals or bones jangling in your apartment, stop at No Parking on Pike or Nevertold Coffin Company. Both have a lot of really unusual stuff. Visit Doghouse Leathers and Babeland for your sexual escapades. Get a tattoo while you’re in Seattle: Valentine’s Tattoo requires an appointment so book way in advance, but Perry’s color work is psychedelic and worth waiting for. Queer-owned Osprey Tattoo just opened and Johnston offers some gorgeous linework. Have lunch at L’il Woody’s where you can order ice cream for dipping your fries or Little Uncle for Thai food from the walk-up takeout window. If you’re up for a drive, this is my only recommendation off Capitol Hill, but it is WORTH IT. Go drink beer at Holy Mountain Brewery taproom in Interbay (try the White Lodge) especially if it’s hot outside. Stop in at Rachel’s Ginger Beer on 12th Ave; she typically has several flavors of ginger beer available (my fave is the white peach = heaven) as well as fries with all kinds of toppings. You can also find her ginger beer and Fernet on tap at the bar Montana (next to Crumble and Flake). If you get hungry, Kedai Makan is next door and offers delicious, Malaysian street food from a takeout window late-night only. Other bars to check out, Witness/Damn the Weather/ZigZag. These are for the craft cocktail peeps for sure, so be ready to spend $10+/drink. Side note: Witness has amazing chicken and waffles.
For late night snax, check out Nacho Borracho (They have tacos and blended drinks, and if you like fernet, get the coffee/cream/Fernet blended bev. So so good) and the 5 Point Cafe (open 24 hours meaning you can get a warm cinnamon roll at any ol’ time). There are five dance parties to check out if you’re queer, Night Crush @ Re-bar, Shade @ Highline, Queer Hip-Hop @ Kremwerk, free admission on Fridays at Vermillion which doubles as an art gallery/bar, and the Black Weirdo Party (location changes). Best dancing, best music. Other stuff to do, Kill the Keg every Sunday at Chop Suey at 3 pm, $1 drafts until the kegs are empty, $5 show with bands playing. Fuck Yeah, Bingo! is free Monday nights at 7 pm at Highline (vegan/punk/metal bar). There’s free karaoke at Pony on Tuesdays. The Cathedral series put on by Fremont Abbey Arts is a sound bath for your soul as live bands/musicians play music inside St. Mark’s Cathedral to mystical effect (occurs throughout the year so check the calendar). Go party at Cockpit. But don’t let that be the last thing you do before you go home. Instead, go climb the tower in Volunteer Park; it’s a gorgeous, free activity that will end your trip on an expansive note. Go bare at Denny-Blaine Park and Howell Park’s clothing-optional, queer beaches (where sun on bare skin is a summer staple). Three Dollar Cinema plays outdoor movies (queer cinema specifically during Pride Fest) in Cal Anderson Park during the summer. And as a final relaxing hurrah, I’d suggest visiting Hot House Spa (rhyme intended), a women’s only bathhouse for $18.
And finally, because seeing local bands play is a great way to get to know a city, here are some local acts who always put on an amazing show. When you get to Seattle scour The Stranger for their names and go see them play: Your Heart Breaks, Mommy Long Legs, The Wimps, SSDD, Gazebos, La Luz, Chastity Belt, Tacocat, The Shivas, Theesatisfaction, Shabazz Palaces, Lemolo, Lonesome Shack, The Moondoggies, Erik Blood, Briana Marela, Pickwick, Gifted Gab, KAIROS, Pony Time, Tomo Nakayama. and DJ Sassyblack (of Theesatisfaction). Enjoy your time in Seattle, don’t bring your car, don’t talk about the “Seattle Freeze”, know your sun AND your rising sign (puh-lease), and be nice to everyone.
photo (c) King5