Sure, there are multiple REI locations across the country these days, and of course, you can shop for their gear online, but the Seattle location 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 are just a helpless outdoor gadget geek, this is your place. The sheer volume of the place and the amount of gear 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 trying out hiking boots and mountain bikes before buying. Parkas can be pushed to the limit in the "rain room." Also, enjoy the towering indoor climbing wall (reservations required).
The International District, or the "ID," was originally settled in the 1880s by a group of Chinese railroad workers. Since that time, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Korean cultures have come together to form the Asian-American district of Seattle. The area also boasts a plethora of delicious Asian restaurants and authentic shops well worth your time and a visit. Particularly noteworthy is Uwajimaya, an enormous market where you can find everything from arts and crafts to live fish to fresh produce and herbs. Save some time for a meal after your shopping spree, as this district boasts some of the city's most delicious ethnic food.
The University District, as full of young faces as you would expect, features plenty of shopping venues, thrift stores, restaurants, cafés and cultural centers. The area was also the site of the Alaska-Yukon Pacific Exposition in 1909; a few of the buildings constructed then are still in use today. Aside from the gorgeous campus, the district offers museums, libraries, comedy clubs and bars for day and evening entertainment. In addition, the area boasts a farmers market and a veritable cornucopia of unique stores and boutiques. Find hip, young fashion at American Apparel and Buffalo Exchange or stock up on UW paraphernalia at the bookstore.
Wallingford Center carries the tagline "Life's necessities and little luxuries." This venue offers a pleasant and intimate shopping experience (in a former schoolhouse) and features more than 17 local and regionally based retail boutiques, many of which offer fair trade, organic, sustainable and eco-friendly goods. Among other gems, shoppers find handmade women's clothing, jewelry, gifts, handbags and home decor items at shops like Crackerjack Contemporary Crafts and Fair Trade Winds; craft supplies at Bad Woman Yarn; hardware and gardening goods at Tweedy & Popp; and culinary treats at Trophy Cupcakes and Party and Chutneys Bistro. Its location off 45th Street is easy to access by car or bus.
In the heart of downtown Seattle, this extravagant mall features five floors filled with high-quality shops, some standout restaurants and an eleven-screen movie theatre. Among the trendy retail outlets offering their wares: Tiffany & Co., Barneys New York, J. Crew, Brookstone, Williams Sonoma Grande Cuisine, Express, Game Stop, J. Crew, Ann Taylor, Michael Kors, Victoria's Secret, True Religion, Tiffany and Co., Guess, Coach and bebe. Several Pacific Place cuisine choices defy the usual connotation of "mall food," including Pike Place Chowder, Din Tai Fung and soon-to-arrive, much-anticipated hot pot mecca HaiDiLao. The mall's 1,200-space underground garage provides ample convenient parking. Happy shopping!
Entering this neighborhood, you're greeted by a sign that says, "Welcome to the Center of the Universe." Thanks to its bohemian and funky culture, some of Seattle's most famous public artwork can be found here as well, including "Waiting for the Interurban," the Fremont Troll and a statue of Vladimir Lenin. The area continues to accumulate new restaurants, cultural venues and unique boutiques. Shopping thrives in this zone, thanks to an array of friendly shops that stock desirable goods from trendy women's clothing to funky cowboy boots and charming stationery to stunning artwork perfect for the office or home. Find cute seasonal pieces and accessories at Show Pony, thoughtful gifts at Portage Bay Goods and sweet treats at Theo Chocolate. Also, check out the Fremont Fair that sets up shop along N 34th Street each Sunday!
Occupying multiple levels on the basement, street and mezzanine of a massive combination Microsoft office tower-and-condo complex in downtown Bellevue, the Shops at the Bravern is tony and upscale. This collection of high-end merchants and restaurants has elevated Northwest shopping by creating an environment that attracts international luxury brand retailers to the region. The prime example is department store Neiman Marcus, for which the Bravern is an initial outpost in this part of the country. Local bakery phenomenon Trophy Cupcakes, star restaurateur John Howie and Seattle Asian-cuisine institution Wild Ginger have all set up shop here. In addition to Nieman, heavy-hitting haute retailers here also include the likes of Jimmy Choo, Karen Millen, David Barton Gym, Louis Vuitton, Salvatore, Ferragamo, Tory Burch, Hermes and Wolford. On chilly evenings, the huge stone fireplace in the courtyard is a great place to gather.
Featuring anchor stores Nordstrom, Macy's and JCPenney, as well as more than 60 specialty shops, Northgate is one of the area's more popular traditional shopping malls. Broad corridors and a wide-open central atrium, punctuated by high white columns and contemporary skylights, create a comfortable setting for an afternoon of shopping. If you find that you've worked up an appetite while shopping, Northgate boasts a food court and traditional "sit down" restaurants like Cafe Pho and California Pizza Kitchen. Kids (and parents, too) will appreciate the play area. Other shops include XXI Forever, Lane Bryant, Finish Line, Gymboree, Old Navy and more.
It could be argued quite persuasively that Pike Place Market is Seattle's heartbeat. Sure, it's on everyone's must-see list, but believe us, it's worth the hype. Situated along the water, 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 in suits or tie-dyed t-shirts, wearing boutonnieres or strewn with wildflowers, people of all persuasions find the market a fabulous destination. 2017 marked the unveiling of a $74 million MarketFront project summer that realizes a long-held vision of Market advocates. The project boasts 30,000 square feet of open public space that offer picture-perfect views of Mount Rainier, the Olympic Mountains and sparkling Puget Sound, plus three public art installations, 47 new tablespaces for farmers and craftspeople and 40 low-income senior housing units.
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.