February 2011

The Newcomer's Guide To Seattle: Theater


Down an unassuming alley beneath Pike Place Market there's a wall covered in years' worth of chewing gum. It's a visitor's tradition to "leave a mark" on the Gum Wall. Interesting (and gross) as that is, the bigger draw of that odd region of the city is the Market Theatre, a local institution that hosts of number of small but entertaining shows, such as the long-running Theater Sports improv comedy performance frequented by students and travelers. Seattle has its fair share of theater, and a lot of it looks like that. It's not big, it's not flashy and it won't be traveling around the country. It's a stage show for locals or to introduce visitors to the way live performance works in the city.

The Newcomer's Guide to Seattle: Pike Place Market

Tourism accounts for billions of dollars in revenue to the city of Seattle every year. Even in times of economic struggle the city attracts tourists from all over the world to the tune of $5+ billion annually. The downtown core is where a significant portion of that money goes, filling the rooms of various hotels, paying the bills at scads of restaurants and justifying an entire industry devoted to kitschy souvenirs of the skyline and mountain vistas of Seattle. In any given month, but especially in the Spring and Summer, the highest density of visitors can be found at Pike Place Market, the iconic farmer's market that has been serving the city since 1907. There are two things you need to know about Pike Place, primarily: 1. It's a great place for out-of-towners to get an understanding of the city. 2. It has more to offer the locals than the hordes of tourists would suggest.

The Newcomer's Guide to Seattle: Coffee

If you understand coffee in Seattle, you pretty much understand Seattle in general. That may sound like hyperbole, but bear with me. Seattle doesn't exactly have a long and illustrious history with coffee. Like so many other things that have been arbitrarily named symbols of the city, coffee was only ever a trend here. Sure, a trend that has lasted for a few decades in one form or another, but a trend nonetheless. That's the first lesson coffee can teach us about Seattle. It's a city that adopts trends, goes into them with a fervent dedication, then never really drops them. It's still possible to find little slices of many different eras throughout Seattle. There are bars and restaurants that grew out of the town's notable speakeasy scene during Prohibition. There are still vestiges of the hippie granola culture that raised the likes of Jimmy Hendrix just as there are still a few odd corners that maintain all the things people loved about Seattle's grungy period in the 1990's. None of those things constitute more than a small fraction of the city's culture, but none of them show any signs of really going away, either. Like coffee, each trend had its boom, only to survive its loss of novelty to settle into a more permanent, if less popular, place.