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A luxurious hotel, revolving cocktail lounge and Korean/Mexican fusion—plus the best new design shops.
Seattle, it’s been a minute. Travel has been tricky for the last few years, but during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic I wasn’t yearning for the big trips (read: airport panic and loopy jetlag). It was those last-minute weekend adventures I really missed—the let’s-just-go thrill of exploring a different place, just a few hours away.
So for me, a recent post-border-closure visit to Seattle felt like just what the doctor ordered. (Can you tell I’ve indulged in a few stress-fuelled rewatches of Grey’s Anatomy? On a related note, do Seattlelites really get impaled that often?) I had kept my distance from our rainy neighbours since early 2020. But, just like the Space Needle’s revolving restaurant, the world keeps turning, and since my last visit the city has launched a brand-new roster of fresh eats, shops and things to do. Here’s what’s happening just across the border.
Notable headlines from the Seattle Times (“Blast! Fall! Crash! Plot Hinted in Zeppelin Catastrophe” is my favourite) are splashed across the Onni Group’s newest Level Hotel and Suites outpost—it’s a tribute to the location, which is right next door to the newspaper’s former headquarters.
The space opened this spring, and guests can settle in for a couple of nights, a couple of months or even a couple of years: they specialize in “extended stays” for folks dealing with a renovation, visiting on a work contract or simply wanting to spend a stint living in luxury. Every unit (from the 523-square-foot studio to the 1,847-square-foot penthouse) has in-suite laundry and a complete kitchen—because, let’s face it: even on vacation you don’t feel like eating out all the time.
Now, let’s talk amenities. Level’s located in the heart of the city (a 10-minute walk to the Space Needle; less than 20 to Pike Place) but it’s tempting to never leave the hotel. On site you’ll find (deep breath): three swimming pools, a 10,000-square-foot gym, an exercise studio (including a Peloton room, of course), a children’s play area, a dogs’ play area, karaoke rooms, a basketball half-court and a rock-climbing wall. If you’re travelling long-term with kids, remember to give them the “sometimes-your-friends-are-only-your-friends-because-you-have-three-swimming-pools” talk.
Of course, the Space Needle has been around since long before the pandemic: it’s 60 years old, which is actually terrifying to think about as you hurtle 520 feet up in the elevator—especially if, like me, heights are not your thing. At the top, I did not take in one single gorgeous view as I kept my eyes firmly on the floor and debated between two humiliating options (admitting defeat and getting on the next elevator back to sea level, or crying in front of the hundreds of adults and young children who were happily touristing around me). Until, that is, my saviour appeared: the bar.
The Loupe Lounge reopened in April 2021, and their revamped and rotating (literally—the restaurant revolves) cocktail menu is served with a flair—think liquid nitrogen-cooled drinks that arrive with water vapour pouring out in a magical swirl. It’s almost entertaining enough to make the elevation-phobic forget that they’re a glass floor away from certain death. Almost.
A closer-to-the-ground alternative that’s right next door (and just as impressive on a cloudy day) is the Frank Gehry-designed Museum of Pop Culture’s Contact High: A Visual History of Hip Hop. The exhibit launched last fall and features greats like Missy Elliott, Jay-Z, Queen Latifah and Sir Mix-a-Lot. It’s a photography-heavy show, but there’s plenty of cool artifacts, too (think Tupac manuscripts and costumes worn by The Notorious B.I.G.).
Nothing wastes time quite like deciding where to eat. Make the most of the weekend and get a reservation at one of Seattle’s newest highlights.
Chef and owner Melissa Miranda opened this Filipino restaurant in Beacon Hill in January 2020 (dun dun dun) and it has weathered the pandemic like a champion, even opening a community kitchen serving various charitable organizations in the city. Miranda’s fresh takes on recipes from her childhood include pancit Canton (a vegetarian noodle dish that’s simple but special) and salpicao (ultra-tasty hanger steak with shishitos Worcestershire).
This Mexican-Korean fusion restaurant is a case study in “why not both?” Why not bulgogi fries and queso fresco? Why not burritos and kimchi fried rice? And why not emerald-green tile and pineapple-printed wall detailing? The spot opened in the Queen Anne neighbourhood in summer 2021, and continues to prove to guests that, sometimes, more is more.
Hamid Majdi opened this modern Moroccan eatery and wine bar in March of this year. Dine in the glass-walled patio for an al fresco feel, no matter the weather. The menu leans upscale, with options like d’jaj bi Zetoun (chicken with home-aged lemon and olives) and machoui (a roasted local lamb shoulder in a Moroccan saffron rub).
It wouldn’t be a proper WL trip without a rundown of the best new shops for interior design and homewares.
My Japanese heritage and almost-obsessive love of ceramics makes this shop a slam dunk—there’s handcrafted pottery, glassware and carved wood from Japanese artists aplenty. Do I need another matcha bowl? Nobuhito Nakaoka’s gorgeous glazing says yes.
Sparklebarn’s new Ballard location is right next door to the National Nordic Museum. It’s an apt neighbour for the museum’s Scandinavian design shop: owner Shane Bastian sells vintage mid-century modern goods, some of which he restores himself in the store’s back studio.
This clean-lined design store is a tactile treat—the millwork from Mwworks Architecture and Design is a stunning backdrop for the art prints, eco-friendly cleaning products, coffee table books, lovely textiles and more.