As Seattleites, we’re rather fond of technology.
Many of us look at screens all day at work, only to stare at our phones and TVs once we’re out of the office. You’re looking at a screen right now. Don’t get me wrong, I love my social apps and streaming channels as much as the next person. But once in a while my screen and I need a break.
And there’s no better time of year than summer to get reacquainted with our old friend Seattle — while looking up and looking around. So power down and get ready to experience the city IRL. And try not to post about it — I dare you!
Blast from the past
It’s easy to get sucked into the new and now. In an attempt to occasionally escape the trappings of modern life, I like to take a step back and examine Seattle’s history.
Start your day in the stunning the Suzzallo Library Reading Room on the University of Washington campus. Built in 1925, it’s a visual feast for the eyes with vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows and wood tables stretching for 250 feet. It’s positively Hogwarts-esque.
Though I usually pop in when I’m near campus, I often daydream about settling in on a rainy day and getting lost in an erudite tome — or maybe just a guilty-pleasure paperback.
Suzzallo Library, third floor; open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, 1–5 p.m. weekends; lib.washington.edu
Next, head to South Lake Union to explore the rich history of the city at the Museum of History and Industry. As someone with a passion for anthropology, I find the artifacts in the “True Northwest: The Seattle Journey” exhibit fascinating, covering events such as the Great Seattle Fire, the arrival of the railroad, the growth of the aerospace industry and, of course, the rise of grunge.
The breadth of items throughout MOHAI is throughly impressive, from the cheeky marquee of the iconic Lusty Lady (R.I.P.) to the 1930s silk butterfly Schiaparelli dress of my dreams — part of the can’t-miss “Seattle Style: Fashion/Function” exhibit running through Oct. 14.
Open daily; $22 for adult admission; mohai.org.
Did someone say food? Head to the International District to refuel at Japanese restaurant Maneki, which was established in 1904 and survived the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII.
The legendary spot is adorned with historic photos, Japanese art and waving maneki-neko cats. Noteworthy menu items include the spicy tuna and spider rolls, eel sashimi and the ice supreme for dessert. Be sure to request a private tatami room for the full experience.
Open for dinner, Tuesday–Sunday; reservations recommended; manekirestaurant.com
With its old-timey street lamps and brick sidewalks, Pioneer Square is a quintessential spot for taking in Seattle history. Chances are you’ve taken visitors on The Underground Tour to learn about the city underneath our city, but have you tried the nighttime, 21-and-older Underworld Tour?
A recent visit, led by a hilarious guide, revealed the city’s seedier side — such as the notorious figure Mother Damnable, who ran Seattle’s first brothel, as well as facts about opium use, corruption and other debauchery from Seattle’s early years.
After our history lesson, we stopped for a drink at Doc Maynard’s, included with our ticket. Order the Old Seattle to perfectly cap off your time spent reveling in the days of yore.
Tours daily through September; $25; undergroundtour.com
Off the grid
Nature is, of course, a natural antidote for technology overload. Just stepping outside is good for your health — and spending some real time outdoors can be downright therapeutic. Each of these activities can easily fill a whole day, so consider this a month’s worth of good mental health.
Recently, I grabbed my parental units and headed for The Center for Wooden Boats for an afternoon out on the waters of Lake Union. The center maintains a variety of boats for groups of different sizes and skill levels. We opted for a rowboat to seat the three of us.
Period films had led me to believe that rowing a boat would be a breeze. It isn’t. But even with my lack of finesse, I somehow managed to row us out of the livery in one piece for some fun in the sun and very memorable city views.
Open Tuesday–Sunday; $25–$65 per hour for nonmembers; cwb.org
I still find the ferry magical, even after living in Seattle for 11 years, and relish any excuse to ride one. Perhaps the best possible excuse is a visit to Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island.
With 150 acres of gardens and woods to wander, no two trips are ever alike. Head off down the meadow toward standouts such as the reflection pool and Japanese garden. I’m particularly partial to the stark grove of Himalayan white birches you’ll find tucked away near the Residence.
Open Tuesday–Sunday unless noted; $17 adult admission; bloedelreserve.org
Sometimes just being outdoors isn’t enough; sometimes you need to live in the present and — I don’t know — jump off a mountain. Seattle Paragliding is less than an hour from the city and just the ticket for a thrill and a view.
After signing a waiver and reviewing safety instructions, I was shuttled, with my tandem instructor, up to the launch site on Tiger Mountain. I’m not going to lie: The initial run toward the mountain’s edge is terrifying. But once in flight, the ride is pretty mellow and the view felt worth those few seconds of “OMG, why am I doing this?”
Extra advice: bundle up, wear close-toed shoes and pop a dose of Dramamine beforehand if you ever experience motion-sickness.
Ah, hiking! One of Seattle’s favorite pastimes. Trails are more crowded than ever (ugh, thanks, social media) so, in true Seattleite fashion, I am not going to reveal my favorite hikes and instead encourage you to choose your own adventure.
A few tips I’ve picked up along the way? Alpine lakes are always a good idea; rocks are stabby, so wear real hiking boots; and to avoid the riffraff (smokers, music blasters, jerks who won’t let you pass, etc.) head out before the rooster crows and drive at least an hour outside the city — preferably to a trail more than eight miles round trip.
Call me nostalgic, but I have a sweet spot for the technology of days gone by (like my VCR — that I still use). Luckily, Seattle is filled with retro-cool finds and opportunities to partake in media with others — IRL, not just in a comments section.
Start your old-media day in West Seattle at Easy Street Records. The vinyl-heavy shop, opened in 1988, is my kryptonite. I swing by on a regular basis and never leave empty handed (recent excursions had me walking away with Outkast’s “Stankonia,” “The Free Wheelin’ Bob Dylan” and a dent in my wallet).
If you don’t own a record player, there are plenty of CDs, cassettes and DVDs to browse while you wait for a table at the adjoining retro diner that serves breakfast and lunch (the “Bennie and the Jets,” “Runaround Sue” and “Hall and Oats” are some of my menu favorites).
Head into Pioneer Square next to hit up Peter Miller Books, a Seattle institution that carries the most gorgeous architecture and design books, including rare and out-of-print titles. As you might guess, this writer is a sucker for paper, and I enjoy a good, thorough browsing here as often as possible. It also has the added bonus of a no-cellphone policy.
Open Monday–Saturday; petermiller.com
Although, technically, movies do count as screen time, a flick at the Grand Illusion Cinema in the U District is more of a community event. One of the oldest indie cinemas in the city, it shows limited-run films from around the world and older films on 35 mm and sometimes even VHS. Know before you go: it’s cash or check only. How’s that for old-school?
$10 general admission; grandillusioncinema.org
End your night doing the most retro-social thing of all: playing board games with friends. Mox Boarding House, with locations in Ballard and Bellevue, loans out games to play in the store, restaurant (with full bar) or private game rooms.
A friend and I recently grabbed a cozy booth on the restaurant side of the Ballard location before picking out a game. I’m not an experienced gamer and the selection is vast. But the staff is helpful and we settled on a game called Niya, which, with the help of menu items like mead and biscuits and jam, entertained us through several rounds of competition.