On a regular basis people ask me what kind of coffee activities they should do, if they were to take a vacation to Seattle.  I get asked that question often enough that I thought I’d put together a list of 10 coffee-related tourist ideas.  Please be aware that not all of these ideas include Starbucks.


Here are Melody’s “coffee vacation in Seattle” ideas:

10. Visit the First and Battery Starbucks.  This Starbucks is famous for being the featured Starbucks on tens of thousands Starbucks cards!  Many people don’t know it, but the “Twilight” Starbucks card is a real Starbucks located at the corner of First and Battery in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood.  This is just immediately north of downtown Seattle.  I did a previous blog post on this store, and I highly recommend going back and taking a look at this beautiful and historic Starbucks:  First and Battery Starbucks blog post.

9Visit Trabant Coffee and Chai in Pioneer Square neighborhood of Seattle.  I don’t lightly mention this coffeehouse, but it makes the top ten.  Its location is just a block away from the Smith Tower which has a touristy top floor “Chinese” view room.  Outside of visiting a Starbucks, Trabant Coffee is one of the few coffeehouses that has a Clover.  They serve “49th Parallel” coffee which is generally more of a medium roast coffee.  Try a Clover at Trabant.  The Pioneer Square location of Trabant tends to be a slow, relaxing coffeehouse.  The service has always been very good each time I’ve been in.  It would be a little disingenuous of me to say that I ONLY drink Starbucks coffee.  I too drink other roasters’ coffee now and then.  It’s all part of a coffee education.  Don’t forget that if you are in Seattle the first Thursday of the month, you can join the Pioneer Square “art walk” too.  Make Trabant Coffee part of your touristing of the Pioneer Square neighborhood of Starbucks.  Don’t forget to do the “Seattle Underground” tour while touristing in Pioneer Square.

8Visit the Starbucks headquarters at 2401 Utah Avenue South and the 4th and Diagonal Starbucks.  The Starbucks headquarters is not open to the public. You cannot wander up to the 8th floor and expect to have coffee with Howard Schultz, but there is a Starbucks on the ground level, and you can take a photo of the pretty building.  If you are traveling by car, from there visit the 4th and Diagonal Starbucks and go through their drive-thru.  I rarely recommend the drive-thru but it’s a unique store.  I previously wrote a review of the 4th and Diagonal Starbucks highlighting its unique design features.  You can read that review here.  The address for the 4th and Diagonal Starbucks is 4115 – 4th Avenue South, Seattle, WA 98134.

(Edit on May 7, 2011:  The Starbucks merchandise store at the headquarters is now open to the public. Click here for more information.)

7Sign up for the “Coffee Crawl” tour in Seattle.  It seems a little pricey at $22 per person, but if you are looking for a guided walking tour of a  variety of coffeehouses in Seattle, this is an option for you. http://seattlebyfoot.com/?page_id=871

6Visit a Starbucks with an amazing Seattle view:  I have 3 main suggestions for this.

[1] In West Seattle, the “Alki” Starbucks has a view of the Puget Sound, and Alki Beach.  I don’t have much to say about this Starbucks because I rarely visit this store.  It’s pretty far away from my main stomping grounds.  However, as I recall, (not sure if it is still the case) the store manager “Mike” was a very coffee passionate guy who was previously an ASM at 1912 Pike Place, and then took over the Alki store.  The Alki Beach Starbucks (store #3306) is located at 2742 Alki Ave S.W. in Seattle.

(Photo of exterior of the Alki Beach Starbucks courtesy of Winter, from his blog StarbucksEverywhere.net)

[2] I also suggest the “Phinney Ridge” Starbucks which is North Seattle Starbucks with views of Green Lake.  This Starbucks is located at 316 N. 67th St in Seattle, 98103.  There is an East-facing window which probably in the summer time has a very nice view.  I dropped by this store today (11-6-10) and the view looked like the weather out:  November in Seattle. Grey. Overcast. Drizzle.  Another reason this store deserves a shout out is that it seems to have cultivated a bold brew base of customers.  I’ve never had any trouble getting bold coffee here, and even found it ready to go after noon, and on weekends.  Immediately next door to this Starbucks is a Red Mill Burgers.  This burger place is famous in Seattle and has burgers constantly ranked as the best in Seattle by the Seattle Weekly.  Come visit Phinney Ridge on a sunny day.  Enjoy the view of Green Lake and have a burger too!

[3] Visit the Columbia Tower, 40th floor StarbucksThis is an idea for those on a budget who can’t get enough of views of Seattle from tall buildings.  The 40th floor Starbucks is open to the public.  Anyone can walk in (Monday through Friday during typical business hours) and get in the elevator and go up to the 40th floor of this building.  This Starbucks is actually a totally normal Starbucks – It does NOT feature a Clover, and will have the usual fare of Starbucks goodies found everywhere. But what’s unique is the view.  The view is fabulous.  Without paying any expensive admission, you can get a nice view.  If you need an even better view of the City, including a panoramic view of Lake Washington to the east, you can pay a few dollars and go up the 73rd Floor Observation Deck of the Columbia Tower. The Columbia Tower is located at 701 Fifth Avenue, which is between 4th and 5th and intersects with Cherry Street.  There is also a Starbucks on the ground floor of the Columbia Tower:  It is at the 4th and Cherry entrance of the building, and it’s a historic store.  I previously wrote a review of the ground floor Columbia Tower Starbucks: Click here for the store review.  There is a Clover located on the ground floor level Starbucks of the Columbia Tower.

(Photo of 40th floor Starbucks courtesy of Winter, from his blog StarbucksEverywhere.net)

5Get to a coffee cupping at Roy Street. This is a free idea, and the cuppings are held every day at 1:00 p.m. at Roy Street.  A cupping is a great way to experience a coffee tasting, and to further educate the palate on the nuances of various coffee profiles.  Don’t be late to this cupping!  This starts at ten and from what I hear, it’s always on time or even running a little early.  Believe it or not, I still have never been to a Roy Street cupping!  The other thing about Roy Street is that there are periodic “Indie Flix” showings.  If you’re interested in that, give them a call and confirm what’s playing and which evening.  As I recall, the “Indie Flix” are usually Tuesday or Wednesday evenings.  Here is the Roy Street official website: http://www.roystreetcoffee.com/ Roy Street was the second of the two “Street Level” Starbucks operations.  15th Avenue Coffee was the first.

4Get to a coffee cupping at 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea.  This store holds their daily cupping at 11 am.  My experience has been that the partners tend to be very coffee passionate, and they do an extremely good job at getting customer participation during the cupping.  This is a must do thing to do.  This store was the first of the two “Street Level” stores which are non-branded (meaning no green siren, missing traditional Starbucks things like green aprons on baristas) Starbucks stores.  Beer and wine are available for purchase.  The store uses a La Marzocco espresso machine too.

I have written about 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea a number of times on this blog.  The store had its one year anniversary on July 24, 2010, and I wrote a review of it then.  The previous blog post with the one year 15th Avenue Coffee round up is here.  The store’s address is 328 – 15th Avenue East, in Seattle.

3. Visit the “Olive Way” Starbucks (Store 3281), which currently is the only Starbucks with the Starbucks logo and a beer and wine bar.  It’s unique.  There are not many opportunities to pay for beer or wine with a registered Starbucks card and earn “stars” and this is one of those unique things to do in Seattle.  This store was under remodel during most of the summer 2010, and re-opened a new kind of “Starbucks with theater” on October 18, 2010.  This store is located at 1600 East Olive Way, in Seattle’s Capital Hill neighborhood.  The beer and wine service is available at four in the afternoon, and they have a slightly expanded food menu with a few non-standard Starbucks food items.

Click here for previous blog post all about the Olive Way Starbucks.

2Visit the “First and Pike” Starbucks and the “Fourth and Seneca Starbucks.  The First and Pike Starbucks is right at the entrance of the Pike Place Market.  It opened brand new March 13, 2009, and was one of the first of the Starbucks stores in a “heritage” design featuring LEED Registered building design.  It’s a beautiful big Starbucks, but busy all the time.  Like all activities right at the market, it’s best to go to this store first thing in the morning to avoid the large crowds of tourists.  As you are touristing in the heart of downtown, these two Starbucks shouldn’t be missed.  Great customer service can be found at these Starbucks and they’re an essential stop to try out coffee from a Clover coffee brewer.  In fact, that’s why these are “must visit” Starbucks: They are in the heart of downtown and perfect locations to go try your first Clover.

1Visit the Starbucks at 1912 Pike Place – The historic “original” Starbucks.  This almost goes without saying.  This IS the number one tourist thing to do for a Starbucks fan in Seattle.  It’s like making a pilgrimage to a holy place.  I did pretty thorough blog article previously about this store and I highly recommend looking at it, if you missed it:  A trip to Starbucks at 1912 Pike Place.  At this Starbucks you will find merchandise only available at this store, and you can get your espresso beverage hand-crafted on a La Marzocco espresso machine.  Best of all, the partners are incredibly friendly all the time.

Enjoy your coffee vacation in Seattle!

(This blog post might be a bit of a work in progress. It might still go through some edits.  What’s your suggestion if you were making such a list?)