The Hornet Guide to Gay Seattle
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Seattle is the fastest growing city in the United States, perhaps because it’s a stunningly beautiful seaport city on the West Coast. Surrounded by water, evergreen forests and mountains, Seattle is a thriving city that rivals Los Angeles and San Francisco in its beauty and cosmopolitan draws.
Seattle inspired both grunge music and Sir Mix-A-Lot’s paean to the human butt.
If you’re a foodie, Seattle offers a variety of cuisines — from fine dining to hip hole-in-a-wall spots — for a top-notch culinary experience.
Seattle also has an active LGBTQ community. Capitol Hill, east of downtown, is the epicenter of queer life in the city. Home to local artists, hipsters and students, Capitol Hill also has great restaurants, coffee shops and live music venues to explore.
If you want to experience local culture and learn about the city’s history, Seattle also has plenty of famous sights to visit. Beyond the iconic Space Needle, local gems like the Underground Tour or the Living Computer Museum are also worth checking out during your visit.
Seattle Museums and Sights
The Seattle you know and love today isn’t the original Seattle. Like San Francisco and Chicago, Seattle burned to the ground in the 19th century. But the city bounced back, and after jacking everything up one story, Seattle built on top of the remains. Luckily a lot still survived, and you can take a walk through old Seattle on the Underground Tour!
If you prefer a more recent sort of history, you might give The Museum of Pop Culture a try. MoPop is one of the strangest sights on the city skyline. The building was designed by star architect Frank Gehry and is meant to suggest an electric guitar from above. (If you ask most locals, they just call it “that ugly red blob.”) No matter how you feel about the building’s exterior, the interior is amazing. As an added bonus, MoPop is located in the Seattle Center, which is also home to the world-famous Space Needle.
MoPop used to be called “The Experience Music Project,” later adding the “Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame,” and those are the two biggest aspects of the museum. If you’re a fan of sci-fi, you’ll want to check out the historical exhibits, which include film props like Margaret Hamilton’s original witch hat from The Wizard of Oz and one of Bram Stoker’s original drafts of Dracula.
Music nerds will be thrilled by the history of Seattle music — from Jimi Hendrix all the way up to today, with special attention given to the grunge and alt-rock scenes. But it’s not only big acts represented here. While there’s plenty of Nirvana and Soundgarden memorabilia, there are also items from Seattle hometown heroes the Young Fresh Fellows, Fastbacks and TAD.
One of Seattle’s biggest tourist sites is the Pike Place Market. If you call this “Pike’s Place Market,” you’re likely to get many a glare from Seattleites. It’s so named because it’s on Pike Place — not due to anyone named Pike, and The Market (as locals call it) is one of the oldest continuously operated public markets in America.
One of the most famous shops inside the market is the Pike Place Fish Market, known for throwing fish. Even if you don’t feel like sampling the city’s amazing seafood, you’ll love the sight of these flying swimmers.
Don’t be fooled: Though the Market is touristy, there are several great shops. Many locals shop here for fresh fish and produce — not to mention stopping by the bookstores, collectible shops and the magic store. It gets particularly crowded on the weekends, so take it from us — go on a weekday.
The Market is also home to The Gum Wall, attached to the Market Theater. It’s exactly what it sounds like — a wall absolutely covered in “ABC” gum. Is it fun or disgusting? Make your own call!
Being a seaport, Seattle’s waterfront — which is pretty close to the Market — is thriving. Not only are there a number of outstanding seafood restaurants in the area, but there are shops galore and the Seattle Aquarium. Seattle’s Aquarium is the ninth largest in the United States and features an undersea dome where you can watch fish swimming through Puget Sound. There are also tanks for sea mammals, including everyone’s favorite — otters! (Sorry, not this kind of otter.)
If you’re looking for a less touristy part of town, Seattle’s International District is huge. In addition to its number of small shops, there are tons of great restaurants. (We suggest the Seven Stars Pepper — particularly anything with its special hand-shaven noodles!) The ID (as it’s called) is also home to the Seattle Pinball Museum, which features a rotating selection of pinball machines from their early days up through today. The ID is also in walking distance to Pioneer Square, Seattle’s very first neighborhood.
Finally, if you’re coming to Seattle because it’s a tech mecca, you’ll want to check out the Living Computer Museum in Seattle’s SODO neighborhood. The LCM has a collection of computers spanning history that you can actually use. They even have a working Xerox PARC — the first computer with a graphic user interface. (In other words, the PARC is the reason why your Mac or Windows PC looks and runs the way it does.)
Nightlife of Gay Seattle
There’s always plenty to do in gay Seattle. Neighbours, the city’s longest running gay nightclub, is a fun place to start your party. Neighbours boasts two levels of fun, an expanded lounge and offers a full food menu. This club also has a state-of-the-art sound system and light show, plus one of the largest dance floors in the city. Some of the Northwest’s best DJs have spun here. Every Sunday, Neighbours hosts Noche Latina, Seattle’s longest running Latin Dance Music party.
R Place, another gay Seattle staple, offers three floors of fun. You can dance the night away at level three, lounge with friends on level two or socialize with bar patrons at level one. Every night R Place hosts different themed parties. If you love hip-hop, Turn Up Tuesday spins nothing but the latest hits. Looking for hot dudes in underwear? Cheer on the go-go boys and applaud the contestants of Wednesday’s wet underwear contest.
The Cuff is a one-of-a-kind Seattle bar. It’s a dive bar in the front, but it turns to a happening club in the back on weekends. The bar’s diverse clientele means you’ll catch the eye of leather daddies and glitter twinks, and besides local DJs, The Cuff regularly features internationally known DJs playing techno and house music for the Seattle crowd.
Prefer a casual place to hang out with locals? Madison Pub offers up a friendly environment and serves some of the best local beers in town. Madison Pub also hosts different game nights and entertains local sports fans.
Pony, Seattle’s most popular gay dive bar, is a tribute to the great West Village and Castro bars of the 1970s. It’s in a building that used to be a 1930s-era gas station, and now it’s one of gay Seattle’s most beloved hangouts. It’s also one of the few stand-alone bars on Capitol Hill. Pony hosts different parties weekly and monthly. If you love retro underground tunes, you won’t want to miss Beefcake, taking place every first Friday of the month.
Featured image by RyanJLane via iStock