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Best area to stay for neighborhood feel

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Cleveland, Ohio
posts: 34
Best area to stay for neighborhood feel

We are visiting Seattle in July for 4 days and are looking at renting a apartment through Airbnb, but are not familiar with the city at all. We will not have a car so it is important that we can walk a lot of places (my understanding I that Seattle doesn't have great public transportation), but we really like to stay in places that have a lot of character and feel more like a neighborhood with local restaurants and bars than a sterile downtown area. Any suggestions as to an area that would be central and fit this description? Thank you!!

17 replies to this topic
Port Angeles, WA
Destination Expert
for Olympic National Park
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reviews: 5
1. Re: Best area to stay for neighborhood feel

Ballard.

Seattle, Washington
Destination Expert
for Seattle, Washington
posts: 4,947
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2. Re: Best area to stay for neighborhood feel

I would suggest Capitol Hill or Queen Anne for neighborhoods close to the downtown area. Metro has a good public transit system which is pretty easy to navigate. Visit their web site & test out the trip planner on the home page. http://metro.kingcounty.gov There is bus service to downtown from every neighborhood, so getting around just means coordinating your schedule with the bus times. Taxis are usually just a phone call away (and a 10-15 minute wait). http://yellowtaxi.net/

Seattle
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reviews: 12
3. Re: Best area to stay for neighborhood feel

<<(my understanding I that Seattle doesn't have great public transportation),>>

Don't know why you think that, but it's not true. Metro Bus is a decent system that will get you where you need to go. Plus Sound Transit, the monorail, Seattle Streetcar, etc.

The closest in (to downtown) neighborhoods are Queen Anne (north) and Capitol Hill (east). Ballard is a bit out of the way imo.

suze

Seattle, Wa
posts: 2,127
reviews: 20
4. Re: Best area to stay for neighborhood feel

I agree, Capitol Hill, Queen Anne Hill (preferably on top of the hill rather than in Lower QA, though Lower works), then Ballard third. Ballard is spread out so you'd need to be near downtown Ballard to be near stuff.

Seattle
posts: 27,838
reviews: 12
5. Re: Best area to stay for neighborhood feel

Ballard seems out of the way to me, as does West Seattle. I'd put Wallingford, Fremont, U-District, Roosevelt, Ravenna all as easier to get around from.

suze

Seattle, Washington
Destination Expert
for Seattle, Family Travel
posts: 5,323
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6. Re: Best area to stay for neighborhood feel

I tend to agree with suze2you. Who is traveling? Ages, interests?

For me I would base the decision on what you want from each area, then your tolerance for public transit and/or how much walking you want to do, and then what you plan to do on this trip. Some neighborhoods tend to be younger, more late night activity; other neighborhoods are more residential.

Transit can be quite good, but again, location matters very much. If you give us some more specific info from AirBnB we can provide a little more insight on which neighborhood would best suit your stay.

Edited: 8:46 pm, October 16, 2013
Cleveland, Ohio
posts: 34
7. Re: Best area to stay for neighborhood feel

Thank you for your responses.

We are in our late 30's and don't mind some walking. Ideally, we would like a neighborhood that is in reach of the major attractions by foot or some public transportation but that has it's own feel. I like both the Capitol Hill and Queen Anne recommendations as they both seem pretty close to downtown. Can someone tell me the differences between the two? Are they both pretty safe? We want something that has some restaurants and bars nearby, but we are not really into the "club" scene, so mellow is preferable to a party atmosphere (though live music is appreciated). We avoid chain restaurants and don't really care too much about shopping. Traveling without kids. Airbnb has a lot of offerings in both neighborhoods, so just looking for the one that is the better fit. Thanks everyone!

seattle
Destination Expert
for Seattle
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8. Re: Best area to stay for neighborhood feel

Ballard is 5 miles from downtown so it is not a bad trip by bus at all. It has a large number of indie restaurants (including several of the city's hot restaurants with more on the way), bars (including some notable beer and cocktail bars) and has several great live music venues (most notably the Tractor, the Sunset and Conor Byrne) -- largely centered on historic turn of the 20th C. Ballard Avenue, one of Seattle's hot nightlife areas, and adjoining Market Street and Leary. There are also currently 8 breweries in Ballard with two more on the way plus a number of small art studios, boutiques, many indie coffee shops, patisseries (particularly outstanding Cafe Besalu), good book and record stores, a well regarded indie movie theater, a small stage, etc. Ballard, unlike Capitol Hill or Queen Anne has Puget Sound and ship canal waterfront. There is a sandy beach at Golden Gardens where it is possible to see intertidal life and just in the last day or two a seal was spotted on the boat launch sunning. Nearby the locks, which connect Puget Sound with the ship canal, lake union and lake washington, are a big Seattle attraction. The grounds have a small botanical garden, a free museum and visitor center and a fish ladder that returning salmon and steelhead use to bypass the locks. You can also spot harbor seals, sealions, blue heron and eagles at the locks (although only the blue heron are mostly a sure thing). There is also a neat local museum, the Nordic Heritage Museum, celebrating Ballard's Scandinavian roots and on Sundays Ballard Avenue hosts perhaps the biggest year round weekly farmer's market in the city (obviously apart from permanent Pike Place Market) with farmer, forager, food artisan and flower stalls, prepared foods and musicians busking at various places around the periphery. Ballard has a very unique Scandinavian and maritime feel which I have posted about a number of times and I consider it one of Seattle's most interesting neighborhoods.

Ballard also has the advantage of being connected by a very convenient bus route with Fremont, another of my favorite neighborhoods which is also heavy on indie character, public art, bars, restaurants (which has had a streak of hot restaurant openings) live music venues, and more. Fremont is a bit closer to downtown (an easy 3 miles approximately) and convenient to Seattle Center, South Lake Union, Ballard and the University District. It is one of the neatest and quirkiest of Seattle neighborhoods and has a great feel with some of my favorite restaurants (Revel, Joule, Whale Wins, Agrodolce), bars (Brouwer's - perhaps the most exciting and influential beer bar in the city and Six Gill), one of my favorite breweries (the outstanding Fremont Brewing Co.) and good live music options (High Dive, White Rabbit, Nectar, Fremont Abby Arts Center).

Capitol Hill and Upper Queen Anne hill (like Ballard and Fremont) are safe. Queen Anne is the most upscale and quiet. However upper Queen Anne has a very nice hill top stretch running north south along Queen Anne Ave. There are many restaurant options including a couple very good ones like Lloyd Martin and How to Cook a Wolf plus some budget crowd favorites like Mescaleria de Oaxaca (sister restaurant to Ballard's La Carta de Oaxaca). There is also a great patisserie (La Reve), several good coffee shops, and a number of small indie boutiques. Just a few blocks down the hill is the excellent Kerry Park overlook of downtown. it is one of the iconic views of the city with the Space Needle in the foreground and the city and Mt. Rainier in the background (basically the Frasier view). It is walkable to Seattle Center but I would caution that the uphill return trip is a very steep hike. There are also no hotels on upper Queen Anne. There may be a few small B&Bs. I would have to research that.

In general Ballard, Fremont, Queen Anne and most of the desirable north and NW neighborhoods do not have a lot of hotel options. Ballard, which is developing rapidly, has a small European style inn and a brand new boutique hotel on Ballard Avenue. Otherwise there are just B&B options. I would carefully consider how close they are to the center of Ballard as Ballard is very large and hilly. Fremont has one hostel and B&B options.

Capitol Hill's hot area is mostly along the Pike and Pine corridors (particularly East of Broadway_, the area along the East side of the Seattle University Campus, Broadway, the area just east of I-5 between Melrose Market and Olive and up Olive. This part of the neighborhood is densely packed with apartments and condos. It is much more urban than the top of Queen Anne. There are a few hotels, mostly at the Southern fringe near Seattle University and First Hill. There are some very nice B&B's that are clustered closer to Volunteer park but you may find some other B&B's throughout Capitol Hill via services like Airbnb.

Capitol Hill has a disproportionate number of restaurants from our nationally lauded and award winning chefs. They also have a number of the city's best bars, close access to the city, indie boutiques, live music venues, coffee shops, patisseries, indie theater and film spots and one of the city's best bookstores Elliott Bay bookstore. It is the heart of the city's gay community and also arguably the most urbane neighborhood. It is safe but like all areas of town in which there is nightlife with people on the streets late (including Ballard and Fremont) I would exercise some situational awareness if you are out very late.

In short the urban center of Capitol Hill is very urbane. It is literary, artistic, young, gay and has lots of options for entertainment. It is very close to downtown. You could walk although heading back uphill to Capitol Hill (depending on the location) can be a bit tiring depending on the location of your B&B and your shape. It is served though by a number of bus routes which you can take if you don't feel up for the walk. It can be loud at nights depending on where you are. I consider it safe but there is some crime and it adjoins areas where crime could be more of a concern so if out late just use normal city precautions.

Queen Anne is next closest. It is particularly convenient to the Seattle Center part of downtown and the bottom of the southern slope of the hill (lower Queen Anne) has additional shops, bars, restaurants, theaters etc. The top of the hill around the commercial center is more affluent (Queen Anne has a few areas among the most affluent in the city). It has a number of options for entertainment but I would say overall it would be considered quiet by comparison to Capitol Hill, Ballard or Fremont. The hill is very steep so walking back and forth will likely not be your regular preference but walking down is not so bad and the top of the hill is well served by bus routes serving the hill, downtown and Seattle Center.

Fremont is next closest. You could walk downtown from Fremont but it would be a long walk. It is a fairly easy bike ride via trails but there is also excellent bus service making the trip quick and easy. Fremont has more character than Queen Anne and arguably has more of its own unique identity than Capitol Hill. It cannot match the number of eating and entertainment options of Capitol Hill but is an increasingly hot neighborhood with lots of options for eating, drinking and other entertainment and it gives you easy access also to other great N and NW neighborhoods and their attractions like Ballard, Phinney Ridge/the zoo, the University District with the Henry and Burke museums etc.

Ballard is furthest from downtown of the options discussed here. However it is linked to downtown and other neighborhoods by a range of bus routes. In my mind it has the most unique identity of the downtown neighborhoods (with perhaps the exception of Pioneer Square) as it was its own thriving maritime and lumber industrial city with a strong Scandinavian identity. It was annexed by Seattle over 100 years ago but retains a strong maritime and Scandinavian identity today. It doesn't have the range and depth of cultural amenities that downtown -- or even capitol hill -- does but it is has literary events, theater, arts, and one of the city's hot neighborhoods for eating, drinking and live music and it is perhaps the most notable brewery district in the city.

Seattle
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reviews: 12
9. Re: Best area to stay for neighborhood feel

My issue with Ballard is it has a "you can't get there from here" situation, being out on a peninsula basically.

Queen Anne is a bit more upscale (less diverse population) and middle-class. Capitol Hill is more diverse (young, old, straight, gay, the pierced/tattoo crowd, etc.). Both are safe. Neither are party places.

suze

seattle
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10. Re: Best area to stay for neighborhood feel

Ballard is not central and neither is Fremont. Ballard is in NW Seattle. Fremont is North Seattle. However each would satisfy your criterion of an interesting neighborhood with a distinct identity. I can say in response to the concern that Ballard is somehow isolated that hardly seems to stop crowds from all around the city that come to Ballard for dining and nightlife. I would add that I live in Ballard and for the better part of 10 years I have used buses to commute downtown. I have also taken buses around the city putting less than 5,000 miles a year on my car. You can take single routes downtown (18E, D, 40, 29) without a transfer very easily. Ballard is also well connected by bus to Fremont (40), to Queen Anne (29) and the U.District (44) and really the main neighborhood that you might want to visit that requires one transfer is Capitol Hill. We frequently go downtown for a day and if you wanted to stay in Ballard you would have no problem. Fremont is even easier to downtown and would also enable you to quickly get to Ballard to see sights, to eat etc. From Fremont a quick cab to Ballard might also be a desirable option if you wanted to see some live music late.

I understand Suze lives somewhere on Capitol Hill (I thought it was more in the historic area and not the central commercial core of Capitol Hill) and I suppose standards for what might constitute a "party place" could vary but I would argue that central Capitol Hill is one of the places in the city where you are most likely to have sizable late night crowds drinking, going to clubs etc. There are not fraternity parties like the U.District but there are two college campuses at least, a lot of young people living in apartments and a lot of bars and clubs. In my visits to Capitol Hill (including to shows and house parties) I drew the firm conclusion that the central core of Capitol Hill has to be counted as one of the top party places in town (along with Pioneer Square, Belltown and the U.District). That being said in fairness although Ballard has only a few DJ spots and no real nightclubs to speak of, Ballard Avenue draws sizable crowds and can also be loud (particularly on weekends) with late night bar goers and people coming out of live music venues. Fremont also can get a bit rowdy in its core (particularly on weekends) due to its live music venues (especially Nectar) and bars.

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