Electric Boat Company – Westlake, Seattle

When I got to Seattle, my girlfriend and I had a goal of the summer to find a friend with a boat. We never got around to it, so here in the dead of winter the last thing I expected was to find a boating option that didn’t require ownership or training to ride on it privately. Electric Boat Company provided both of those things.

We learned about this through a friend of mine visiting from the East Coast and his other transplant East Coast friends. They had been renting private boats to cruise around Lake Union all summer while we were out hiking the wilderness. We’ll soon be repaying the favor of them showing us this experience by taking them out into Washington’s bountiful  nature.

In order to rent a boat here, all you have to do is pony up the cash and watch a 5 minute video on how to drive. There’s no waiver. You can have up to 10 people on one boat and rent is by the hour. It’s a bring your own booze operation with the option to park your rented boat at lakeside dining establishments to get drinks there.

We were all pretty astounded with how easy this process was. Having a boat on the water feels like a huge privilege. The view from the water is incredible. We cruised to the Fremont Bridge and watched it raise as we were under it. We saw several sea planes land on Lake Union. We saw the sun set over Queen Anne, painting the sky line with golden light. We talked about which house boats were the coolest and how interesting and unique the architecture was.

The only downside to our experience was that the first boat we took out had issues. It began to make a noise as we headed out which only got worse. Our friend who was more familiar with the boats called it, then and there, that something was wrong and we turned it around. By this time I was already on my second beer and didn’t have the presence of mind to pee before we shipped off on the second boat. So this stretched our original planned 2 hours to 2 hours 30 minutes.

5 beers later. The minute my other friend mentioned having to piss it was the only thing I could think about. I thought about peeing off the side of my boat (risking indecent exposure), I thought about peeing in a recycling bucket (risking showing our new friends my privates the first time we’ve hung out), I thought about pissing my pants (wouldn’t be the first time likely won’t be the last). Luckily, everyone else understood the risks and shamed me to decide to wait it out, which I managed to do just barely.

Other than my pee dramatics. This experience was excellent. I loved that it was no frills, just rent a boat, bring some beers, and cruise Lake Union. There’s no doubt in my mind we’ll be doing this again several times.

Cost: $125 an hour / # of people you’re with
Rating: Very dope
Will I do it again?: Oh Yeah

Stampede Cocktail Club in Fremont

Through a drunken haze, I was drawn to Stampede Cocktail Club due to their music choice. Old school southern hip hop. UGK, Project Pat, Goodie Mob etc. I only heard it due to the speaker blaring it into the street in the whee hours of the night. As my visiting friends illegally smoked their legally obtained marijuana in the street, I ushered them toward this dark building that was blaring Wood Wheel.

The music that could be heard loud and clear in the street made speech between patrons inside nearly inaudible. This pleased me a great deal. Rap music is meant to be loud. The interior was very dark with a hue of purple light lining the corners of the wall and ceiling. The whole ambiance really worked. Felt like a place you go to cap off the night, exactly what the doctor ordered.

As we approached the bar, one of the patrons further down the bar gave us a once over and immediately knew we hadn’t been here before. She stood up on her stool and yelled something at us while her friends all grinned. Luckily, the music blurred her words and my friends were too drunk and high to perceive their environment so there was no escalation.

The hostility didn’t end there however. I took a look at the menu they provided and knew that this was no dive. Hand crafted cocktails were being served and the prices reflected it. Fair enough. I don’t know enough about fancy drinks to engage with those that do, so I picked something on the menu and relayed my choice to my friend who had this round. My friend had other plans, hitting the bartender with “What drink is your favorite?” The bartender responded to this like a slur, peppering him with requests for more details, relishing that my friend was  A. not his normal customer and B. wasted.

My friend didn’t let this stop him however, and ordered 3 daiquiris (I didn’t know they came in a non frozen variety) along with my request for a signature drink. We found a table in a side room with a similar ambiance and candle light. The drinks were delicious and the music choice never let up.

Let me be clear, while the bartender and some patrons weren’t “friendly” to us, I didn’t mind one bit. We were visibly drunk and reeked of weed. We needed to be told off and this place gave us what we deserved. Made me respect them more.

Cost: $13 per drink with tip
Rating: Dope
Will I Go Again: Yes

Pasta Freska in South Lake Union/Queen Anne

The same friend with the shitty idea to go to the car show so he could talk about his Tesla, made up for it big time with this restaurant recommendation. He took an Uber pool from the airport and heard from a fellow passenger about a restaurant with a revolutionary idea. NO MENU. You heard it right. The chefs make whatever they’ve got that night and just bring it out to you. It’s obviously an Italian operation given its name: Pasta Freska.

I have to say, just hearing about this concept made me ecstatic. A small part of me dies every time that I have to choose between two entrées, silently lamenting what could have been with the other dish I left behind. This experience promised to eliminate all of those psycho feelings, without being a buffet. I always think that buffet’s are the answer to my decision quandary, but my eyes are bigger than my stomach. I end up gorging myself and feeling shittier than I did when I was starving. The idea of a pre ordained set of meals would save me from myself.

Pasta Freska is right off of Lake Union with ample street parking. It’s interior is cozy and candle lit at night. We were given a table right by the kitchen so we could observe what was being brought out when and where, attempting to anticipate what our next plate would be. Our waiter was very friendly and made sure to ask us all if we didn’t like anything or we’re allergic to something. My girlfriend asked for no raw tomatoes, which they obliged on the opening salad while the rest of us were graced with the delicious fruit/vegetable. Swell service indeed.

What followed was an onslaught of small to medium dishes that ranged from mussels to lasagna to beef tenderloin to garlic bread served with perfect timing toward the end of a rigatoni dish with extra sauce that could not be wasted. I believe we were each served 8-10 dishes, with some varying by sex, males getting one dish and females getting another. The meal lasted about 2 and half hours and 3 bottles of wine. Since we were enjoying ourselves so much we opted for dessert and coffee before we went out.

I really can’t recommend this place enough. The concept of no menu was what I dreamed of and I wish more restaurants believed in their chefs enough to employ it. Food per person was around $33 dollars and no one felt under or over fed. Wine was more expensive and we probably could have done dessert and coffee somewhere else but I don’t regret it. Great night with great friends at a great restaurant.

Cost: $70
Rating: Amazing
Will I do it again: Hell Yes

Car Show at Century Link/Wa Mu Theatre

Cars aren’t my thing. I know a lot of people get off to them, but I don’t really get it. I can appreciate a good looking car , but my future goals don’t include owning a fancy car. Nor do I like driving. I can’t wait for automation to take the wheel. Some people find being behind the wheel relaxing but I find it to be a chore, and a relatively dangerous one at that.

So when my friend suggested we go into the car show we walked by, I wasn’t psyched. He, however, had just purchased a Tesla and wanted to hob knob with other electric car connoisseurs. I begrudgingly succumbed to his suggestion of entering this event, as to not kill the vibes of an already killer day.

So we go into the WaMu Theatre. It’s been transformed into a show room floor, with all of the major car brands with spaces occupied on the floor. For the most part they are your run of the mill street cars with a couple of luxury vehicles sprinkled throughout. I could see a luxury or futuristic car show being a tad more interesting but these were just your every day makes and models. You could sit in them to get a feel for the interior, but other than that there was not much else to do.

Given my aforementioned non interest in cars, this got old for me quick. I attempted to get a beer and was met with NFL stadium pricing with slow service to boot. After my friends got done looking through all of the brands they wanted to see we made our way toward the final section of the car show which included two military tanks. There were also booths where you could sign up for service, with soldiers showing onlookers what an IED looks like and how it works. Not sure about this as a recruiting strategy but hopefully they’re ahead of the curve on those devices by now.

To my excitement, we left shortly after the tank exhibit. I can safely say I will never go to another car show if I am not in the market for a new car. Hell, even if I am in the market for a new car, I’ll probably just go to the dealership and not deal with the crowded hell that was the car show. Too many people, too much gaudy crap, and not enough food or drinks to provide an escape from the floor show madness.

Cost $19
Rating: Certified Trash
Will I do it again?: Nah

Smith Observatory Tower

The Smith Observatory Tower was at one time the 4th tallest building in the world. That was in the early 1900’s. Now it is dwarfed by the growing Seattle Skyline, but still provides beautiful views of Safeco Field, CenturyLink Stadium, and Mt. Rainier when it’s visible. It’s a white building that stands out in the brick neighborhood of Pioneer Square.

Image result for smith observatory tower

The main draw of this experience is the bar at the top of the tower. Before you get there though, they have you walk through a museum that details the Tower’s history. It must have been a big deal back in the day because they have a lot of old timey crap in there that they want you to see. If history/ the early 1900s interests you then this will be fun. For me though, I wasn’t impressed and wanted to get straight to the bar.

After two floors of museum, my visiting friends and I finally located the elevator up to the observatory deck/bar. The elevator ended up being an attraction itself. Until recently it was a hand crank elevator. Although that charm was removed, it was still the type of elevator that closed with the metal grate that leaves all the floors visible as you go up. Maybe it was the edibles, but this visual fascinated me. We weren’t going so fast so that each floor was a blur, allowing for the foyer of each floor to be taken in by the passenger, only to be wiped away by a dark horizontal bar that led to the beginning of the next. It was trippy and made me feel as if I was looking through a view master that was out of control Not sure if I would pay for just an elevator ride but its a visual that I would appreciate if used right in TV or film.

When we reached our floor the elevator door opened to reveal a beautiful bar with late day sunlight pouring in. The swanky feel immediately left me wishing I wore something slightly more elegant. It didn’t feel like an overalls kind of place.

Image result for smith observatory tower

My friends and I quickly scurried to seats with a view facing south. After we sat down, one of my friends asked “Hey YT, where’s Rainier supposed to be?” I’ve  had 4 groups of people visit me before this group of friends came and Rainier had shown itself to none of them. Up until this moment. I scanned to my 2 o clock and said “Uhhhh I think there, before settling back on my 12 and there it was. A cloud had hidden the top but after a brief adjustment I saw it and quickly alerted my guests.

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, Rainier does not get old. Our drinks arrived just as the grandeur of the mountain was making its impression on all of my friends. They were impressed and we enjoyed a quiet moment gazing at the mountain while enjoying some adult beverages.

The second downside of the observatory tower aside from the museum part, was that you’re not allowed to have your drinks outside. The Space Needle has a glass enclosure on its deck while the Smith Tower has good old iron bars with large spaces wide enough to fit an arm and a glass. I guess the rationale is that you could potentially throw a glass over the side and kill someone. This is a fair safety precaution, but honestly it took away from the experience.

All in all it was a great time with great friends, I just wish it was a tad cheaper.

Cost: $19
Rating: Pretty Good
Would I Do it Again: Yes but not often

The Seattle Ferry to Bainbridge Island

When you visit Seattle, you will be enticed to buy a City Pass that gives you a variety of touristy options to choose from, bundled at a reasonable price. I’ll quickly highlight the good and the bad:

Good

  1. Space Needle
  2. Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop)
  3. Chihuly Garden and Glass

Bad

  1. Seattle Aquarium
  2. Argosy Cruise

Unknown

  1. Pacific Science Center
  2. Woodland Park Zoo

I bolded the Argosy Cruise, because the topic of this blog, the Ferry to Bainbridge, is a superior nautical experience.

The Argosy Cruise is ok. Costs $22. You have to wait in line and take a picture before you get on. You’ll be jostling with other tourists to find the best seat/view, with most of the best seats being outside. It’s narrated by an attendant who calls out some cool facts about the surrounding area. There’s a bar with limited food options. It’s nice to be out on the water, but all in all its just ok.

The Ferry to Bainbridge is awesome. Costs $10. The boat you’re on is huge, and you don’t have to wait in line to get on. There will be no jostling for seats because there are comfy booths throughout the lower deck in a temperature controlled area, with the option to go up to the sun deck to get a full view of the Puget Sound. I’m always impressed with how many people load onto this thing and yet there’s never a feeling of it being crowded. It’s very nice.

Commuters from Bainbridge Island arrive in Seattle. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

You won’t miss the narration that you would get with the Argosy Cruise. The Seattle skyline you sail away from is impressive on its own. Once you get closer to Bainbridge, beautiful waterfront homes can be seen along the coast of the island. They are a sight to behold by themselves. If you are a yuppie moving into that “starting to look at houses stage” you’ll love it.

And I haven’t even gotten started on the food and bar! There is a plethora of options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. From boutique baked goods to Ivars Seafood Chowder , you won’t have a problem satiating your craving when you get on this vessel. They have a plethora of beers and ciders that you can drink in the designated dining area, along with a true espresso bar, adding to its Seattle charm.

I was hesitant to bring my visiting friends on the Ferry as something to do on its own. After all, its purpose is to transport people and cars to Bainbridge Island. It’s not billed as a “thing to do” while Argosy was, but I figured I’d risk it. They ended up loving it. It was cheaper than any of the things on the City Pass. We got to talk to each other instead of talking over a narrator. It’s now on my list of “must dos” for friends visiting for the first time.

Once we got to Bainbridge we had to leave the ship so they could do a security sweep, but instead of exploring Bainbridge (there was much more of Seattle for them to see) we just hopped back on the boat and enjoyed the skyline on the way back.

Cost: $10
Rating: Awesome 9.5/10
Will I Do It Again: Several Times

Voodoo Fest Day 3: Drug Mule Miss

Early in the day we hit the French quarter as a whole group and scored some Pat O Briens followed by beignets. It was wholesome touristy New Orleans time that I will look back on fondly for years to come. People hate “touristy” stuff but often things become touristy because they’re fun, especially when it comes to New Orleans. The French Quarter is a national treasure that we almost lost during Katrina. If you visit New Orleans, make sure you go, even if you have other yuppie/hipster/trust fund friends who say its touristy. Be the judge for yourself.

After our morning came to a close, we prepped our entry for Day 3. My girlfriend and my friend’s fiancé decided they were sick of the mud and crowds and decided to stay in and watch the Sabrina the Teenage Witch reboot. More power to them!  My remaining 3 friends popped on some half baked costumes, grabbed our Spongebob totem and headed to the entrance.

Note that we got in fine the previous day with the totem. Today, my friend entered the line with Spongebob and when it was time for him to be scanned he was ripped to the side to be searched. According to him he basically had his grundle thoroughly explored while they screamed “WHAT’S IN THIS THING” at him.

Listen, I understand that a Piñata may be a creative way to bring drugs in. Just imagine that your at a festival and someone smashes a piñata and a bunch of baggies fly out much to the joy of those looking on. This was not one of those cases. They went ahead and destroyed the piñata after my friend answered truthfully that there was nothing in it. After coming up with nothing in their search (thus missing several other drug users smuggling in less blatant ways, shoes socks etc.) they tried to give back Spongebob’s mangled corpse to my friend. He denied and met us at the gate where he heatedly regaled his tale. I was bummed. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I love totems. They are functional, expressive, and fun to dance with. Strike against the Voodoo staff.

We went on to see 21 Savage. I went into this really not sure of what his stage presence would be like. He often raps in a very flat, cold tone and I wondered how it would translate to a live show. His DJ got the crowd going by playing Mo Bamba, a favorite among the kids nowadays. I mention his DJ because you could hear him loud and clear trying to hype the crowd. After a few more songs, 21 Savage finally came out and it sounded like he was whispering. He would spit a bar that we could barely hear and then you’d hear the DJ ring out a “LETS GO”. I want to believe it was a technical thing, but it only got marginally better as the show went on. Despite that, he played some hits that were fun to sing a long with, but he’s far from the best performer. Would not see him solo going forward.

We then headed to the last act of the festival, Tipper at the EDM tent. We only heard about this DJ because we listened to the Voodoo Fest playlist on Spotify. His music is very trippy and atmospheric while also being something that you can bob along too. When he came on the visuals immediately blew me away. From Voodoo dolls to witch doctors, the series of sinister images reflected the whole Halloween vibe. I am a big fan of this guy now. I likely won’t go back and listen to all of his albums, but if he comes to where I live I’ll make an effort to go (after consuming some sort of stimulate or psychedelic to be sure).

All in all, Voodoo Fest was fun but far from the best festival I’ve been to. The mud/ grounds really hurt the experience, but some of that was made up for with the offered experiences and art exhibits on the grounds. Despite its shortcomings, it’s price point is low enough to make it enticing for a lot of yuppies.

Cost (not including lodging and flights):$180
Rating: Pretty cool with a side of trash
Would I go again?: Probably not-