It is a city known for roaming hills and metal high-rises nestled amid natural water and gray skies.
That’s right: Pittsbu—er, I mean, Seattle.
Despite its dreary reputation, Seattle’s natural and man-made beauty made for a lovely background to an exciting long weekend trip to the Pacific Northwest.
The history of the area shined through the city’s modern design and made me want to explore as much as possible in the 72 hours I spent there.
My Alaska Airlines flight took off from Pittsburgh International Airport around 2:15 p.m. on Thursday and landed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport by dinner time.
Quick piece of advice for anyone flying in: Pop open that window shade about 15 minutes before landing.
You’ll be greeted with striking views of Mt. Baker or Mt. Rainier—likely depending on where you come from—and the sheer magnitude of these natural landmarks does not disappoint.
Passengers flying from Pittsburgh to Seattle on Alaska Airlines can be treated to a view of Mt. Rainier from out the window while on approach to Seattle Tacoma International Airport. (Photo by Oscar Rzodkiewicz)
OK, one more piece of advice for any future Seattle-goers: Skip the Uber to your hotel.
The rail line adjacent to the airport is clean and simple to maneuver, and there are plenty of other public transit options to get you where you need to go.
If you ride the train, you’ll be treated with views of hills in the foreground and mountains in the background as you head toward Seattle. When you get downtown, natural beauty gives way to modern architectural landscapes.
But after grabbing a quick bite and checking into the hotel, it was time to decompress and get ready for a big day the next morning.
The main attraction of the weekend came at PAX West and Nintendo Live, two gaming conventions that ran concurrently at the multiple Seattle Convention Center buildings downtown.
Nintendo Live is a fan-first celebration of Nintendo franchises. Nintendo Live has previously been held in Japan, and this marked the first time the event made its way to North America, effectively joining forces with perhaps the biggest gaming convention of the year in PAX West.
Seattle became the first North American city this year to host Nintendo Live, a fan-first celebration of the Nintendo franchises that were previously hosted in Japan. (Photo by Oscar Rzodkiewicz)
PAX gives gamers—both video and tabletop—the chance to meet game developers in multiple expo halls, attend panels with professionals of many different talents in the gaming realm, meet up with online friends and play with others who share the same passion.
I, personally, used the events as a chance to take a picture inside Kirby.
PAX gives gamers the chance to meet game developers in multiple expo halls, attend panels with professionals of many different talents in gaming, meet up with online friends and play with others who share the same passion. (Photo by Oscar Rzodkiewicz)
For years, PAX has been held at Seattle Convention Center’s Arch building, but this year, part of the event was moved to the new Summit building, which opened earlier in 2023.
Even non-gamers can appreciate the new $2 billion addition that offers 1.5 million square feet of space, including 62 meeting rooms and a 14,000-square-foot garden terrace, overlooking the historic Paramount Theater right in the heart of downtown.
In fact, the building was large enough to fit about a 30-foot-tall Pikachu in one of the walkways.
After a nerdy day of fun and about 10 miles of walking, I met up with my girlfriend, who flew in after work on a direct flight from Pittsburgh to Seattle on Alaska Airlines.
The next morning, we went out for brunch at Portage Bay Café in South Lake Union, a local spot with plenty of variety for every palate, and then we were off to hit the seas.
We headed down to the docks and took a ferry ride over to Bainbridge Island, a quaint town across the bay.
Bainbridge Island can be accessed from Seattle by crossing the Pugent Sound via ferry service which offers multiple roundtrips each day to the island. (Photo by Oscar Rzodkiewicz)
The ride itself was gorgeous—water views on one side of the boat, and the Seattle skyline draped across the mostly sunny skies on the other.
The cute Bainbridge downtown is filled with local coffee shops and bookstores, and we even got lucky enough to see the local farmer’s market, open on Saturday mornings and afternoons.
It was impossible to miss all the references to pickleball scattered throughout the town, and that’s because pickleball was created on the island in 1965 and is the official sport of Washington state. (I’ve just won your next bar trivia night for you.)
As we shopped for some souvenirs, the cashier mentioned that just up the road, Bainbridge had its very own troll. You know, as any town has—or should.
Interest piqued, we headed that way and laid eyes on the 20-foot-tall troll sculpture made of recycled wood.
Bainbridge Island’s troll is one of six located across the northwest as part of a project by Danish artist Thomas Dambo supporting Danish-American relations and environmental sustainability. (Photo by Oscar Rzodkiewicz)
We learned the troll is one of six across the northwest as part of a project by Thomas Dambo to “support Danish-American relations with a focus on environmental sustainability,” according to their website.
Plus, we did not have to pay any troll toll to get in, as admission was free.
The next day was tourist time. The first stop was Pike/Pine to check out the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. I put my Dunkin’ bias aside to properly soak in the grand mechanisms used to create those delicious, caffeinated beverages.
The Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Seattle is a one-of-a-kind space that combines the art and craft of coffee in an immersive and thoughtfully design environment. (Photo by Oscar Rzodkiewicz)
After that, we made our way back down to the pier for one more good look at the Seattle skyline, so we hopped on the Great Wheel. The large Ferris wheel constructed in 2012 is one of just a handful in the country that rotates over water.
Then we took a quick jaunt over to Pike Place Market to bask in the famous organized chaos.
If you need fish or flowers, there is perhaps no better place to go. Or, if you didn’t get your Starbucks fix from the Reserve Roastery, feel free to stop by the very first Starbucks ever created.
We ate at Emmett Watson’s Oyster Bar, the self-proclaimed first oyster bar in the city of Seattle, and slurped down some shellfish.
With our flight still hours away, we killed time at Just The Tap, a self-pour bar just north of the market.
After sharing some drinks and playing a few games of pinball, we headed back to SeaTac, hopped on the Alaska Airlines red-eye and arrived back in Pittsburgh early Monday morning.
In about three days, we took in plenty of views, food, activities and Mario characters, but we left with plenty of ideas for more to do the next time.
P.S. It only rained for about 30 minutes the whole time we were there!