Clothes. Books. Food. Coffee. Few college students can live without this quartet of necessities. In Seattle’s University District, these amenities are plentiful along University Way, or “The Ave” as it’s commonly called. Lined with early 20th-century urban architecture, The Ave’s popularity lies in its diverse offerings. Bubble tea shops, clothing boutiques, tattoo parlours, and bookstores are nestled among a wide variety of pubs, cafes, and eateries.
A staple of life for University of Washington (UW) students, The Ave is also a frequent destination for Seattle residents of all ages. Penny-pinching college students appreciate the numerous thrift stores and consignment shops located in this neighborhood. And vintage treasure-seekers strike gold on the upper blocks of The Ave, where the neighborhood Goodwill thrift store boasts an entire floor of vintage and name brand items. Look for the import shops that dot The Ave, specializing in wares from the Far and Middle East. For those with a few more dollars to spend, the fashion giant Urban Outfitters occupies one of the largest retail spaces on The Ave, while smaller fashion-focused storefronts are visible at every corner.
Not surprising for a university neighborhood, The Ave also possesses a respectable collection of quality bookstores. Seattle institution Magus Books offers sky-high stacks of used reads to indulge the most discerning bookworm. Seattle used-books chain Twice Sold Tales beckons readers with promising deals, a helpful staff, and two friendly in-store cats. The three floors of the UW’s University Bookstore maintain a comforting assortment of textbooks, popular books, art supplies, school supplies, chocolate, and sundries.
While The Ave is most popular for its array of clothing shops, bookstores, and restaurants, a few specialty shops render much-needed services to the university community. Smokeshops are aplenty. Shoe stores offering the most fashionable and rainproof Seattle footwear attract visitors from well beyond the neighborhood’s boundaries. Cell phone kiosks, photocopy services, flower shops, and electronics stores are snugged in between The Ave’s more glamorous storefronts.
When all that shopping whets your appetite, settle down for a bite, a pint, or a great cup of Seattle coffee. Even the most obscure culinary craving will find satisfaction along The Ave, whether it is for Thai, Indian buffet, traditional Vietnamese soup, a pint of local brew, a steaming café Americano, a meatball sub, or a French pastry. Ask any passer-by where to go to fill your particular pleasure.
Rain or shine, the University District Farmers’ Market draws locals and tourists year-round with fresh-baked breads, locally-made cheeses, crafts, and a large selection of organic, seasonal vegetables. Located in the University Heights parking lot between University Way and Brooklyn Avenue at 50th Street, the market is open from 9am to 2pm every Saturday. Parking can be difficult to find on the main roads, but plentiful on neighborhood streets north of 50th and west of Brooklyn.
The Ave spans an almost 20-block stretch from Ravenna Boulevard to Campus Parkway, but most of the destination shopping spots and restaurants lay between 50th and 41st streets. A few businesses are located a bit off of The Ave, so make sure to explore the side streets. Parking during the day—especially during the school year—is not easily come by, so keep an eye out for paid parking lots along Brooklyn and 15th Avenue, parallel to The Ave on either side.
The Metro buses come to the University District from all directions, so check the online schedules for the stations most convenient to your location. Metro bus from downtown: are the 70, 710 72 and 73. The #30 runs from Seattle Center, but does not run after business hours.
From Ballard, take the #44. The #48 runs from the Central District on the south side of the canal through the U-District to North Ballard.