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The Nerd's Guide to Seattle

Updated on December 19, 2016
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China is a Midwestern transplant, hot sauce enthusiast and recovering barista. She enjoys PNW life with her cat, husband and compost bin.


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Seattle is rife with nerd-friendly activities; be it trivia nights, film festivals or storytelling events - every neighborhood has its gems. I put together this handy reference to help you have fun on your next trip to the Emerald City.

The first tip I give to anyone visiting is to leave the umbrella at home. Seattle's rain is mostly misty and best deflected with a light raincoat. A popped umbrella will make you stick out like a sore thumb (plus, it's not terribly convenient to tote around).

Gamer?

Seattle has a robust arcade community. The Pinball Museum was born from our unique Storefronts Seattle program and has games as old as 1934. Storefronts Seattle is a nonprofit that pairs artists with empty spaces and resources to activate vacant retail spaces and their neighborhoods. Now a permanent fixture of the International District, you can beat the high score and celebrate with some no-frills authentic dumplings down the street.

If you make it over the bridge to West Seattle, check out Vidiot, a beercade with all the classics and a full bar. A Chuck E Cheese for adults, if you will.

On the north end, Ballard's Card Kingdom serves up board games and brewskies. Tabletop players - you can rent a room for your next dungeon crawl or Catan domination.

Film fanatic?

Kick back with a cocktail in the comfiest seats on the planet at our Sundance Theater in the U District. Beat the box office and order online - you can choose your seats and get there just in time to snag a drink before the previews.

If you're looking for a hidden gem or you're jonesin' for something with subtitles, hit up the Seattle International Film Festival. The SIFF theaters run year-round, but if you're lucky you'll be here during the nigh-month-long festival, which features over 450 films from almost 100 different countries.

You'll flip over the pinball scene.
You'll flip over the pinball scene.

Nature freak?

There are plenty of places to hike, but my favorite one in the city hands down has to be Seward Park. It's the only metropolitan old growth forest in the United States.

Other Seattlelites might suggest the Burke-Gilman trail - and how could you blame them? It's a beautiful bike ride or stroll along the water. If you find yourself on the north side, this is a must-do.

We also boast a beautiful Japanese Garden in Madison Park, but be sure to arrive early if you're planning a trip on a festival day, as there will always be little parking and a long line. The Japanese Garden is closed Dec. 1 through Feb. 28.

Night owl?

If you're a conference-goer by day but you tear up the dance floor at night, look no further than the Emerald City EDM calendar. Dance Yourself Clean and other fun dancing events hit the spot at Chop Suey or for LGBTQ-friendly dancing, Re-bar's Night Crush is a must-go.

Check out the jaw-dropping palettes at the Seattle Japanese Garden's Maple Viewing Festival.
Check out the jaw-dropping palettes at the Seattle Japanese Garden's Maple Viewing Festival.

Beer me?

The cliche Pacific Northwest craft brewery scene is a cliche for a reason. If you're not a teetotaler, you have to pop in to Holy Mountain, Elliott Bay Brewing Company or Fremont Brewing for their local libations.

If you're all about hard liquor and cocktails, The Whisky Bar ought to quench your thirst.

And if you're looking to wax up your mustache or put on your pearls, we've got a host of speakeasies around town - Bathtub Gin is nestled in the former boiler room of a brick hotel, the Knee High Stocking Company features Eurasian eats and inventive cocktails or dip behind a bank vault door for a prohibition-era drink at Needle & Thread (don't forget to make a reservation!).

Got spawn?

Seattle Children's Museum is perfect for you. I mean, how stinking cute is the "Eye Clinic" exhibition?

Not being a parent myself, I always refer visitors with kids to ParentMap's calendar to learn more about fun things going on in the area.

Washington state's Yakima Valley is one of the most fertile hop growing regions in the world.
Washington state's Yakima Valley is one of the most fertile hop growing regions in the world.

Unabashed tourist?

Did you nay-say the umbrella tip? Are you all about slinging your Nikon and pairing sandals with socks?

I imagine you may have heard of Pike Place Market, a year-round Farmer's Market and Seattle staple. Here you'll find over 85 regular farmers stands, an array of artisan shops and a bustling crowd of residents and fellow tourists. My favorite Pike Place pit stops include volunteer-run bookstore Left Bank Books, incense-laden Ten Zing Momo and every single fruit stand.

After spending a day at the market, set sail for free at the Center for Wooden Boats (Sundays only), get some ginger beer (cocktails available) at our famous Rachel's Ginger Brew, satisfy your sweet tooth with vegan soft serve at Sugar Plum or take a ghost tour of Pioneer Square.

Poet and you didn't even realize it?

Speaking of Re-bar, every Tuesday the fine folks with Seattle Poetry Slam put on the best show in town at this fab downtown beacon of old Seattle. Bring your Moleskine - each night kicks off with an open mic for you to litmus test your newest bars.

The Moth also holds Storytelling sessions at the Fremont Abbey, though if you want to ensure you'll snag tickets, sign up for their newsletter!

Hidden under the main level of Pike Place Market is Seattle's notoriously germy crowdsourced art installation - the gum wall. It's a great place for a pic and the only acceptable noncomposted compostable waste.
Hidden under the main level of Pike Place Market is Seattle's notoriously germy crowdsourced art installation - the gum wall. It's a great place for a pic and the only acceptable noncomposted compostable waste.

Through and through, Seattle is a nerd's paradise. Capturing everything a card-carrying geek could do in Seattle would take a tome - or perhaps a Player's Handbook.

Honorable mentions include our bevvy of trivia nights, such as Geeks Who Drink; mimosas at Julia's Le Faux drag brunch on Broadway; and visiting all the museums, my favorites being the Northwest African American Museum or the Kehinde Wiley installation at the Seattle Art Museum. Besides Pike Place, our neighborhood farmers markets will make you rethink produce. If you didn't make it to Left Bank Books, you'll need to go to local indies Elliott Bay Books or the University Book Store. Our Vietnamese cuisine is exquisite (have you ever had pho on a rainy day?) and our coffee culture is arguably the authority on how to process this delicious nectar of the gods (check out Vivace, home of the rosetta).

What of your favorites appeared on the guide? What's glaringly missing? What are you most excited to visit?

© 2016 China Levy

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    • srsddn 11 days ago

      chinaelevy, I visited Seattle more than a decade back. It happened to be a very hurried official trip. I wish I could get more time to visit a few spots suggested by you. Anyway it is always a pleasure to know more about Seattle.

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