If you're not keen to 'shop till you drop' while hunting for gifts this festive season, you've come to the right place. (Let's be honest–the quicker, the better, when it comes to fighting holiday crowds.) Our list recommends a range of friendly, local spots and bigger emporiums, ensuring you will walk away feeling satisfied. The best news of all: Seattle is a superb place to find unique, unforgettable presents.
Thanks to the variety of venues that complete the Seattle shopping scene, you will find options that cater to the gamut of vast and eclectic tastes. Start with the iconic, must-see Pike Place Market, for example. At this one-stop-shop of a bustling bazaar, you'll stumble upon amiable vendors selling goods that range from locally-made art and Emerald City souvenirs to clothing, jewelry, books and edible goodies like chocolate-covered Chukar cherries, boxes of salmon and tins of regional tea.
Whether you prefer browsing the big shopping malls on the outskirts of the city or the intimate boutiques that showcase the various character traits of Seattle's distinctive neighborhoods, we've streamlined some of the best spots for you to explore in downtown Seattle and beyond. No doubt you'll find gifts that sufficiently represent the spectacular Pacific Northwest–good food, good drinks, good outdoor gear and, of course, good music.
The hub of the Seattle's University District shopping scene, University Village is an attractive open-air complex that features popular hometown outdoor clothier Eddie Bauer along with chains such as Barnes & Noble, Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, Gap, Athleta, Lululemon, Bluemercury and the Ibex Outdoor Clothing. More than two-dozen local merchants also maintain stores in this unique center, providing shoppers a touch of Northwest flavor. Among them are chic candle maker Glassybaby and Fran's Chocolates. Attractive garden areas, numerous restaurants and ample free parking prove additional draws. Among the restaurants, you'll find Veggie Grill, Elemental Pizza, JOEY Restaurant, Din Tai Fung and Ram Restaurant and Brewery, an outpost of a regional craft brewery that originated in Tacoma.
Sure, there are multiple REI locations across the country, but the Seattle flagship location of Recreational Equipment Incorporated is a destination in itself. Whether you're gearing up for a planned hike at Mt. Rainier National Park, looking for a kayak rental to ply Puget Sound, or you're a helpless outdoor gadget geek, this is your place. Shopping for your outdoors enthusiast family members and friends? Even better. The sheer volume of the place itself is a wonder, but before you get to the ice-axe handles of the giant wooden front doors, you wander along a miniature section of Northwest trail complete with pine trees, ferns and a waterfall. In addition to wowing first-time visitors, the area is meant for testing out hiking boots and mountain bikes before buying. And if it's climbing gear you've come for, check the performance of rock-climbing shoes and carabineers on the towering indoor climbing wall (reservations required).
When shopping for female friends and family members, consider a charming, neighborhood shop that guarantees unique gifts that won't match anyone else's. This Fremont women's boutique in one of Seattle's most popular, artsy neighborhoods, stocks funky clothing, jewelry, accessories and gifts–most items locally manufactured and designed. Among the venue's merch, find dresses by Suzabelle, handbags by Crystalyn Kae, jewelry by Lauren G Divine Designs and soaps by Estrella. Show Pony's merchandise is now also available online, so perhaps you can even save yourself a trip to the store. Recent arrivals range from Elysium hoop earrings to COA cozy sweaters and checkmate coats.
More than a generation old, this venerable bookstore in Capitol Hill is a Seattle tradition. Exposed brick walls and wooden floors lend a note of permanence to the establishment, which offers thousands of books and texts. You'll find new volumes (especially fiction), along with rare and out-of-print books and a selection of used books as well. The shop also offers enticing author events where the public may meet prominent writers and leaders–or hear them read from their books. A downstairs coffee shop makes a great place to browse, grab a bite or share coffee chats with friends among the store's rows and rows of books and magazines.
Westlake Center is a four-story shopping center and twenty-five story office tower in downtown Seattle that features 80 upscale shops on four floors of retail. Included in the retail venues is a wide range of specialty shops, which carry everything from Godiva chocolates to Romy Boutique shoes. Hungry shoppers will find a third-floor food court (with surprisingly varied options) and P.F. Chang's China Bistro at street level. The top-floor monorail terminal (that runs the short but enjoyable route to Seattle Center) and the underground parking garage provide easy access for shoppers. The shopping center is also close to the light rail, a great public transportation option in Seattle.
At PCC Natural Markets, a member-owned cooperative, you'll find fresh, local and organic produce, quality meats and sustainable seafood at 10 Seattle-area locations. And while these are certainly great places to do one's grocery shopping (or pick up a quick, hot meal on the go), they're also a lesser-known destination for stocking up on gifts (think journals, books, knitted goods and kitchenware) by local companies and artisans for your friends or loved ones. For example, everyone loves a Chinook Book coupon compilation that includes 700-plus offers for local and sustainable companies in the Seattle area. (Check out their interactive holiday gift guide on the new Chinook Book website.) Also consider gifting tasty local goodies from chocolate (Theo, Fran's and Seattle Chocolate Company's seasonal holiday bars) and Half Pops, highly addictive, "curiously crunchy popcorn" that comes in seven delicious flavors to local beers like those from Fremont Brewing.
On Stone Way, MiiR Flagship exists as a gathering space in which people can "connect, converse, learn and grow." The sleek venue offers a mix of merchandise for sale, tasty coffee, a huge selection of beers and kombucha on tap, snacks as well as information on the MiiR Give program. (The company donates 5% of revenue to trackable giving projects, and MiiR Give has already contributed to 55-plus water projects in Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.) Shop for bike-related gear, a small selection of camping goods from insulated bottles to food canisters plus growlers and coffee paraphernalia galore. At do-gooder companies like this, it's a win-win for everyone involved.
It could be argued quite persuasively that Pike Place Market is Seattle's heartbeat. Situated along the water in the city's downtown zone, the market was originally founded to allow produce growers to sell directly to consumers. Today, it's a protected historic district that inundates you with sights, sounds, smells and the best people-watching in town. Whether donning suits or tie-dyed t-shirts, people of all persuasions find the market a fabulous place to spend the day. The Market Foundation offers fun and informational, one-hour tours (visit www.publicmarkettours.com for schedule and pricing info). Whether you're there on a gift hunt or simply to enjoy the sights, tastes and sounds, Pike Place is a perfect spot to spend the day.
indi chocolate is a local bean to bar chocolate company that just opened the very first chocolate factory in historic Pike Place Market. (Find the welcoming shop in the new Pike Place MarketFront next to Old Stove and Honest Biscuit on Western Ave.) While the beans come from all over the world, everything at indi is produced here in Seattle. In addition to wonderful products that are perfect for any time of year, they also sell holiday gift sets that feature a wide range of cacao-based products including teas, spice rubs and body care products made from cocoa butter. At indi, watch your chocolate being made, enjoy ethically-sourced chocolate from around the world, savor indi chocolate drinks and other creations in the cafe, and join the friendly team for a wide range of classes.
Knack, a popular online destination for bespoke gifts, has joined the growing number of e-commerce companies with brick-and-mortar flagship sites. The Seattle startup recently launched a "tech-enabled showroom experience" in the Chophouse Row building in Capitol Hill. Here, the 750-square-foot space allows visitors to explore the stories behind Knack merchants (who are predominantly local) with interactive displays and is meant to be an embodiment of what's trending on the Knack site. Exuding the vibe of an art gallery more than a boutique, the showroom is meant to feel like walking into the Knack website with its minimalist product displays–organized by themes that rotate by season. Knack offers the best selection of Seattle-centric gifts, as evidenced by the company's recent collaboration with Visit Seattle; think goodies from local chocolates and wines to candles, scarves, journals, playing cards and leather items. The best news of all? Five percent of proceeds go back to helping the community.