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When people visit a city they have big ideas but limited experience. Seattle is no exception. So I have printed this free guide to touring my city on a shoestring. You’re welcome.

1. What people want to do: Get Around Town
What they do: Rent a Car
   What they should do: Take Public Transit
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Are you staying in the city the entire time? No side trips to Bremerton, Burien, Bothell, Bainbridge, Bellevue, or Ballard? (For some reason a large number of our suburbs start with ‘B’) Well then, don’t bother renting a car. Public transit in the Emerald City goes everyplace a tourist could want. It is easy to find your way around on and at $2.50 a ride it is way cheaper than cabs and rental cars. Plus, no extra fees for parking and it is much less stressful than trying to find your way in an unfamiliar city made of one-way streets and sudden exits.

WAIT!! I actually am taking a side trip to B-Town! No problem. Check public transit and if it still seems inconvenient try one of the many car services operating in the city. If you’re already a member in your town it will be extra cost effective.

Protip: Download the “One Bus Away” app, and always know where you bus is and when it will get there.

2. What people want to do: See the City from an Observation Deck
What they do: Go to the Space Needle
   What they should do: Buy Coffee at Columbia CenterImage

Did you know it costs $20 a head to ride the elevator up to the top of the Space Needle? Did you know it is not the tallest building in the city nor is it located in the city’s core? The Space Needle is a lovely landmark, but it can cost an arm and a leg to enjoy it. So don’t.

I mean, enjoy the Seattle Center. See the needle from the ground. In the summer there are many free festivals and events, not to mention that is where we keep the Sci-Fi Museum, but skip the ride to the top of the Space Needle. If you want to gaze down upon the city as it nests peacefully in between mountains, salt, and fresh water, go directly to 5th and Columbia. Look for a giant black building. It should be easy to spot as it is the largest building in the city as well as (according to real structure and number of habitable floors) the tallest building on the West Coast.

For the price of a cup of coffee, you can hang out at the Starbucks on the 40th floor. Read a book and check your email in a cloud, no really, that floor is often above or in the clouds. Because ya know, free wi-fi or go to the observation deck on the 76th floor. Where for just a few dollars, like six, you can see for miles.

3. What people want to do: Enjoy Seattle’s Coffee Culture
What they do: Go to the Pike Street Starbucks
   What they should do: Go Anywhere ElseImage

Starbucks is the McDonalds of coffee. I’m not saying it’s particularly bad and yes it was founded here. It’s just that no matter where you go, Beijing, Bristol, or Bothell, it is exactly the same. Why not ask the person at your front desk for a recommendation.

If they don’t have a recommendation, don’t worry, I do. Try the Black Coffee Co-Op  (501 E. Pine St. Seattle, WA 98122) They have wonderful coffee, treats, a selection of micro brews, wines, and a happy hour.

4. What people want to do: Take a Boat Ride Around the Puget Sound
What they do: Go on an Argusy Cruise
   What they should do: Ride the Washington State FerryImage

According to their website the harbor tours offer “the colorful waterfront, the spectacular city skyline, one of the world’s largest shipping terminals, the majestic Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges”. That’s pretty cool. but it’s not $24 a head cool.

For a third of the price, $7.70 for an adult 19-64, less for youth, children, and seniors, you can board the Seattle-Bremerton ferry.  You will see all the sights listed on the Argusy site, PLUS historical installments in the terminals, inside the boat, AND a better chance to see local wildlife. The fare is $7.70 to Bremerton, and free on the way back. You will have to get off the boat and get back on, but that shouldn’t be difficult. The ride is an hour each way. The ferry terminal is walking distance from Pike Place Market so you can grab a nice picnic lunch. There is plenty of space aboard to accommodate a meal, or consider staying for awhile in Bremerton and dining in the lovely waterfront park on that side. You can also see the free Naval History Museum while you are there.

Protip: Time your ride to correspond with sunset. Leave the city during the day and return to see it alight and sparkling.

5. What people want to do: Eat Something Quintessentially Seattle
What they do: Go to Ivar’s or Anthony’s
   What they should do: Go to the International DistrictImage

Skip the chains, you can get that stuff at home. There is a nine block stretch in my city where nearly everything is a restaurant and for the most part they are glorious. There is something for everyone, and many are very reasonably priced. Check your pick out on Yelp, but I can assure you, this will be the most “Seattle” food you can get.

Have good time in the city and don’t forget your hoodie. Umbrellas are for tourists.

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