See This, Skip That: Seattle

PHOTO: Its tough to beat the 360-degree views from the famous 52-story Space Needle. But the shore is a great alternative.Getty Images
It's tough to beat the 360-degree views from the famous 52-story Space Needle. But the shore is a great alternative.

For big city travelers, Seattle may well be the crowning jewel of the Pacific Northwest. After all, this town touts a youthful vibe, an urban chic attitude and a miscellany of offerings. There are famous must-see attractions here, of course, from the views atop the Space Needle to the spectacles at Pike Place Market. But Seattle's must-do list is much longer, and here are some of our favorites. And bring an umbrella, just in case.

Skip the Bookshop, Check Out the Library The Seattle Central Library – an 11-story structure made of angled glass and steel – is impressive on visuals alone. But inside, it's like a sanctuary for the culturally curious. Nonfiction books, DVDs and newspapers are housed on floors 6 through 9; the shelves spiral and are connected by ramps, so navigating the tomes is easy by design. And when it comes time to kick up your feet and read, the library offers wonderful venues, including the airy living room on the 3rd level and the reading room on the 10th floor, with its 40-foot ceilings, seating for 400 and lovely views of Elliott Bay. The library also houses hundreds of free-use computers and impressive collections that cover everything from aviation to genealogy.

Skip the Coffee, Savor the Tea Even if you're not a fan of the coffee at Starbuck's, you know the story: The giant coffee brand was born in Seattle and you can still buy joe-to-go at the original store inside Pike Place Market. So yes, the coffee scene thrives here. But don't overlook the tea. Cederberg Tea House in Seattle's Queen Anne neighborhood pulls finely ground Rooibos tea through an espresso machine, just like coffee, and concocts soothing latte, cappuccino and frappe drinks; their edible offerings are South African-inspired and include tarts, sponge cakes, scones, vegan cookies and, of course, finger sandwiches. Other area tea joints that get high marks include Floating Leaves, New Century and Seattle Best Tea Co.

Skip the Needle, Do the Shore It's tough to beat the 360-degree views from the famous 52-story Space Needle. This is a must-do landmark. But every Seattle native will share his or her own alternative viewing spot, and many of them exist on distinct spots along the shore. Kerry Park, with its benches and picnic areas, offers a slimmer perspective – more like 180-degree views – but you get to gaze at passing ferries and enjoy wide views of the Space Needle, itself, as well as Mount Rainier, Puget Sound and the downtown skyline. And it's free.

Don't Just Sip it, Make it Next time you belly up to the bar at Tommy Gun, you could try to learn how to make the perfect martini by watching the barkeep in action. Or better yet, take a class. This popular cocktail haven in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood offers Mixology 101 classes throughout the year. The interactive 90-minute lessons take place right at the bar and cover everything from which glassware to use and how to set up your own bar at home to bartender techniques and classic drink recipes. Themes vary – will it be Intro to Whiskey, Bitters and Vermouth, or Holiday Cocktails? – but you get to munch on black truffle popcorn and taste in earnest every time.

Skip the Beer, Sip the Wine The craft beer scene in Seattle is legendary, and sipping local brews is a favorite pastime here. But right in the heart of downtown Seattle, winemakers are giving brewers some competition. Known collectively as Seattle Urban Wineries, the group of about 20 wine producers offers visitors a first-hand look at how wine is made. Wineries like Omnivore Cellars, Mayfly Wines and Almquist Family Vintners use grapes from the famed vineyards of Washington State but craft their blends amidst downtown shops, restaurants and office buildings. The wineries are open at various times throughout the week, but look for a group-wide open house the second Saturday of every month.

Skip the Mainland, Do Bainbridge Picturesque islands abound around Seattle, and accessibility only adds to the charm of Bainbridge. You can get there by car; the 90-minute drive across the bridge takes you around Puget Sound. But the Washington State Ferry out of Pier 52 is quicker – a little over half an hour – and the views are gorgeous; you'll pay outbound but the return ride is free, and you can bring a bike or rent one in the town of Winslow. On Bainbridge, you can visit a farm, sip at a winery, fish, golf, hike or horseback ride. Restaurant Marché scores with its French take on seafood and Hitchcock Restaurant wins for its kitchen star: Chef Brendan McGill won the Food & Wine readers' choice for the country's best new chef of 2013.

Skip Going Solo, Take a Guide In such a pedestrian-friendly city, and with such an array of unique places to visit, a guided tour may be a smart move. Even at a popular spot like Pike Place Market, there may be facts and sights you'd miss if not for the guides at Public Market Tours; history and quirky anecdotes prevail during their one-hour guided expeditions, and you still get to see icons like the original Sur La Table store and those fish-hurling Pike Place Fish guys. In the funky community of Fremont, where unique street art reigns supreme and where locals insist they live in the "center of the universe," the walking Fremont Tour, which covers just half a mile in 90 minutes, shows you landmarks while turning every stop into a show-stopping performance.

Skip the Museum, Get to the Airport SEA-TAC Airport is a perennial favorite with travelers for all it offers (aside from taking a flight). Top of list for many is its impressive collection of art – more than 100 works by dozens of local, regional and international artists. And you'll find this artwork encompassing myriad media all over, from baggage claim to every one of the airport's four concourses. There are some rotating exhibits, though many of the best creations – like the mixed-media sculpture by Ralph Helmick and Stuart Schechter dubbed "Landing," suspended above the ticketing counters inside the Central Terminal – are here to stay. Extra incentive to show up for your flight extra early.

Gabe Saglie is senior editor for Travelzoo, which features local deals in Seattle at and exclusive deals on airfare and hotels.