Standing in the heart of the U-District, you’re assaulted by sights, smells and activity. Double-long buses whoosh in and out of narrow streets. Throngs of jaywalking, textbook-laden students scurry between classes, stopping briefly – not for traffic – but for a quick mind-encouraging latte.
Drawing from a student body of more than 40,000 from the nearby University of Washington (UW), the University District is a dense and eclectic mix of bookstores, craft shops, ethnic restaurants and bars that range from the quiet haunts of professors to the raucous watering holes of undergrads. Originally settled by laborers and journeymen who worked the shores of Portage Bay, the University District blossomed with the addition of the University of Washington in 1895. Today, more than a century later, the U-District is one of the most vibrant and diverse neighborhoods in Seattle.
The focal point of the neighborhood is the University of Washington campus, whose 643 tree-studded acres house not only classrooms, but also dramatic landscapes. Picturesque fountains, plazas filled with cherry trees and rose gardens beg to be explored during an afternoon stroll. One block west of the UW campus you will find University Way, the main artery of the U-District. Commonly called 'The Ave', University Way is the main gathering point for students and local residents of the U-District. Start your day on 'The Ave' with a mexican mocha from Cafe Allegro, the oldest espresso coffeehouse in Seattle, tucked away in an alley between University Way and 15th Ave. Wander through shoe stores and spice and smoke shops before having lunch at Agua Verde, an outpost of truly authentic Mexican cuisine situated on the sparkling waters of Portage Bay. Grab a beer at Big Time Brewery, Seattle's original brewpub, before continuing up the street past used bookstores and vintage clothing shops. Dinner at closet-sized Thai Tom's is well worth the inevitable wait to sample the best Thai food in Seattle, before ending your day at the gritty Blue Moon Tavern, a U-District institution whose merit is often measured by its faults and is often revered as one of Seattle's best dive bars.
Despite all the grunge and grit of “The Ave,” the University District also has a shiny side. Just east of the university lies the sprawling shopping mecca of University Village. The U-Village may not be as original as “The Ave,” however, the shopping mall cannot be matched for its collection of shops displaying high-end clothing, houseware and electronics. Roam through the outdoor maze of trees, whose year round adornment of white lights sparkle and reflect in shop windows and wet sidewalks. After, stop for drinks and dinner at one of the fine-dining establishments that represent the very best of Italian at Piatti Ristorante, American at the Ram Brewery and Asian cuisine at Boom Noodle or Blue C Sushi.
The U-District is defined by a duality of old and new. While the gritty facade of 'The Ave' hearkens back to the U-District as a haven for grunge rock, party-hungry college students and broad-minded intellectuals, the University Village looks to the future with new stores, new ideas and new possibilities. A trip to the U-District gives you a sample of Seattle's character, moving forward while maintaining the spirit and traditions of the past.
- • University District Chamber of Commerce: www.udistrictchamber.org
- • University of Washington: www.washington.edu
- • University District – Seattle's Farmers Market Webpage: www.seattlefarmersmarkets.org/markets/u_district
- • Cafe Allegro: www.cafeallegromusic.com
- • Big Time Brewery: www.bigtimebrewery.com
- • Agua Verde: www.aguaverde.com
- • Thai Tom's in the Seattle P-I: www.seattlepi.com/food/151075_eat05.html
- • Piatti Ristorante: www.piatti.com
- • Ram Restaurant and Brewery: www.theram.com
- • Boom Noodle: www.boomnoodle.com/v2
- • Blue C Sushi: www.bluecsushi.com