Head on Down to Lower Queen Anne

As published in the Winter 2013 edition of etc magazine.


The whole world knows Seattle for our iconic Space Needle — and, hey, it’s pretty awesome to zoom up that elevator and scope out the Emerald City at cloud-level.

But there’s even more to explore in the Needle’s beloved neighborhood: Lower Queen Anne. Just over a mile south of Seattle Pacific University, on the opposite side of Queen Anne Hill, Lower Queen Anne bustles with fabulous restaurants, unmatched people-watching, and Seattle Center, home to the Needle itself.

Seattle Center was built to welcome the World’s Fair in 1962, and the place just gets better and better. Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the World’s Fair in Seattle, and the occasion sparked all kinds of new growth and energy in already-bustling Lower Queen Anne. These days it’s home to incredible cultural offerings, thrill-a-minute sporting events, and world-class fun. The Seattle Center Armory, which used to be called the Center House, is a major hub for annual favorites such as the Cinco de Mayo celebration and Winterfest. The Armory has also become a buzzed-about foodie destination, featuring food truck-turned restaurant Skillet Counter (don’t miss the world famous bacon jam!), freshly baked pies at MOD Pizza, and dessert. Oh, the dessert! The Confectional bakes cheesecake that would make any New Yorker proud, and the brownies are good enough to take home to mom.

If you read Where the Wild Things Are as a kid, don’t miss Pacific Northwest Ballet’s annual performance of The Nutcracker, featuring set design by the Wild author himself, Maurice Sendak. The Seattle Repertory Theatre offers deeply discounted season ticket packages for patrons under 25, and, new in 2012, Chihuly Garden and Glass will blow your mind with its zany Seussian sculptures.

When you’re ready for a study break, cheer on the WNBA Seattle Storm. They practice at SPU and play in all their glory at Seattle Center’s Key Arena. And when you want to get practical about engaging the culture and changing the world — which is what SPU students are all about — visit the new home of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It’s the world’s largest private philanthropic foundation and employs more than a few SPU alumni.

Seattleites know how to eat well, and Lower Queen Anne doesn’t disappoint when it comes to chowing down in style and on a college budget. Toulouse Petit’s late night menu features Cajun nosh such as Creole Shrimp Linguine, and across the street, Pagliacci Pizza offers what has been called the world’s most divine slice of pepperoni by generations of Seattle Pacific students. (If you want to sound like a local, order a slice of “pep.”) SPU students often visit Dick’s Drive-In for no-fuss fries and shakes at student-friendly prices, and when they want to splurge, they venture to Boat Street Kitchen for a French-inspired brunch that Julia Child would applaud.

Famous for its indie music scene, Seattle dwellers flock to Lower Queen Anne every Labor Day weekend for the nation’s largest music and arts festival: Bumbershoot. Past artists include Macklemore, Katie Herzig, Keane, and SPU’s own, The Cellar Door. Another annual draw to the neighborhood is the Seattle International Film Festival, one of the nation’s largest for hard-core film buffs and dilettantes alike. You can be one of the 150,000 attendees to soak up cinematic magic in your own backyard.

Whether you’re stopping by the Pacific Science Center for a day of brainy adventure, picking up the latest Punch Brothers album at Easy Street Records, or just enjoying coveted afternoon sun by Seattle Center’s International Fountain, Lower Queen is handy, never boring, and promises something for everyone.

Posted: Wednesday, April 03, 2013