Seattle is famous for a few things—coffee (Starbucks!), grunge (Nirvana!), a sleepless Tom Hanks and, of course, rain. While that’s a pretty impressive list, none of it—save for maybe the java obsession—highlights this Pacific Northwest city’s wellness-centric vibe—WalletHub even named it the second healthiest city in the country for 2018.
The aptly-named Emerald City boasts an abundance of green thanks to all that precipitation, and rain or shine, Seattleites like to be immersed in their city’s lush natural environments. Plus, residents favor fresh food and as such, the city is packed with farm-to-table restaurants and produce-packed stalls, including the oldest, continuously running farmers market in the country.
To help curate a health-centric highlight reel for visitors, I spoke with a couple of local food and fitness influencers. Below, find their recommendations alongside the rest of the best to use as your Seattle cheat sheet.
Keep reading for a city guide of Seattle’s healthiest places to sleep, eat, and play.
Located in downtown Seattle, the Kimpton Alexis is a must-stay for active travelers because of its 24-hour, 2-story fitness center, which counts stellar equipment, a bouldering wall, and monkey bars among its many amenities. The hotel also offers complimentary bikes, yoga mats in every room, and in-room dining, which includes healthy menu items such as vegan mushroom burgers, falafels, and veggie-filled lentil dishes.
This hotel has a pretty epic fitness setup as guests get access to the Bellevue Club, a wellness space that features two indoor pools, one outdoor pool, four workout studios, plus indoor and outdoor tennis courts. Scheduled classes include a wealth of fitness genres, too—yoga (hot, power, vinyasa, yin), barre, cycle, foam rolling, Pilates, and more.
If you don’t mind a 30-minute drive to Seattle proper, you can stay in actual houses nestled among the treetops of a forest (read: treehouses), local vegan influencer Rae Aflatooni of Raepublic tells me. The property, which resembles “normal” hotel lodging with respect to amenities (e.g. Wi-Fi, toiletries), offers 90-minute yoga classes, indoor and outdoor Tai Chi, and even hypnotherapy. Plus, all-you-can-walk forest bathing!
Aflatooni also tells me she’s dying to stay at this island property, which is accessible by ferry from Seattle. “It just looks so inviting and rejuvenating,” she says, and perhaps she’s in part referring to the soaking tubs and/or the indoor-outdoor showers, which boast heated flooring, found within its lodges. As Vashon is known for its artisan everything, all products featured in-room and on-property—from the coffee to the soaps—are locally sourced. The island itself is a wonderland for active travelers, too—biking, kayaking, and beach-hanging are among its top to-dos.
Aflatooni tells me this vegetarian restaurant, which offers vegan and gluten-free options, is tops in her books—the best in all of Seattle. “My two favorite meals are their Biscuits & Gravy and their Italian Burger, which is made from black beans,” she says. “Do not skip the yam fries; they come with vegan/gluten-free cayenne aioli and are life-changing.” Cafe Flora gets bonus points for plant-centric herb-garden and atrium seating options, buzzy non-alcoholic cocktails (passionfruit mango nog!), and Floret, the sibling restaurant its owners operate out of the Seattle airport (bye Panda Express, bye), too.
Taking the ferry out to Bainbridge Island is sort of a must for Seattle visitors, if for no other reason than that food at this acclaimed farm-to-fork restaurant is local, organic, and micro-seasonal—much of it comes from chef Brian McGill’s own land and livestock. Cheese, butter, pasta, and you-name-it is all homemade here, too. If you can’t make it out to the island, fear not: The restaurant has a new-ish all-day outpost called Cafe Hitchcock smack dab in the middle of downtown Seattle.
Local yoga instructor, nutritionist, and fitness influencer Karla Tafra, who’s recently adopted a plant-based diet, tells me this restaurant, and its sibling spot Little Brother, are among her new favorite places to dine due to their veggie-friendly offerings. “The owners have their own farm and farmer’s market, so you know everything is freshly-harvested, nutritious, and delicious,” she says. Indeed, the food here is locally-sourced, organic, seasonal, and made-from-scratch, and the restaurant offers eat-in dining, pre-made foods (e.g. salads, meatballs, etc.) to go, and baked goods. “Order the Farm Salad,” says Tafra of her absolute favorite thing on the menu. “Trust me on this one.”
“Another favorite is Jujubeet Cafe,” Tafra tells me. “It has amazing organic and plant-based dishes from wraps and salads to sandwiches and raw dessert!” Gotta love any place that offers a veggie-packed breakfast bowl in place of a two-egg scramble. Also on the menu: organic cold-pressed juices, nutrient-dense smoothies, acai bowls, extra-healthy lattes, and sugar-free treats.
Speaking of treats, Aflatooni has an ice cream-specific rec which she says can turn genre purists. “Frankie & Jo’s, a vegan ice cream shop, is seriously so amazing you might just feel the urge to hand them more money for the delight your tastebuds just experienced,” she says. “Even if you’re not vegan, you may not want any other brand of ice cream ever again.” Frankie & Jo’s uses alternative milks, e.g. cashew milk and coconut milk, seasonal vegetables (yes, vegetables), superfoods, and adaptogens to make ice cream flavors such as fire-roasted chocolate zucchini and jamocha chaga fudge.
Healthy pizza isn’t necessarily an oxymoron, and if you’re craving a slice, Seattle has you covered. “[Because of] celiac disease, I need to have a 100-percent gluten-free diet, so a good pizza place is hard to find,” says Tafra. “Luckily, there are two really amazing restaurants in the area—Razzis, where they make their own gluten-free flour blend, and MioPosto, with all domestically-sourced ingredients!” Plus, the latter has incredible breakfast options including a nutrient-dense chickpea-and-baked-egg stew.
This woo-woo-friendly—there’s a blessing before the meal alongside ritual gong-banging—vegan fine dining restaurant offers five-course prix fixe menus, which change every three weeks according to Seattle’s micro-seasons. This setup allows the restaurant to reduce its carbon footprint by creating as little food waste as possible. Beloved locally from its outset—Harvest Beat’s owners formerly co-owned a longtime Seattle staple, the vegan restaurant Sutra. Harvest Beat is a must-visit for plant-based-food fanatics touring the city.
Hikes: Olympic Penninsula and Kendall Katwalk
As previously mentioned, one of the best things about Seattle—despite its reputation for forcing people indoors with a steamy cup of coffee—is the outdoors. As such, hiking is a bucket-list activity for fitness-seekers on not-too-rainy days. “I love hiking and you really can’t go wrong in the Pacific Northwest,” Aflatooni tells me. “A couple of my favorites are the Dungeness Spit on the Olympic Penninsula and Kendall Katwalk [Editor’s note: There’s a Kar-Jenner joke begging to be made here, but I digress] in the Snoqualmie Region.”
For those days when you can’t climb on actual rocks (boo, rain) this indoor gym, which offers bouldering classes as well as yoga, weights, and other cross-training opportunities, will do fine. Plus, there are saunas! Seattle Bouldering Project is known for fostering community, too—it’s even got a beer-serving café stocked with board games—so gym time here may also be a great way to broaden your out-of-town social circle while visiting the city.
Tafra tells me she loves this gym, which has created signature interval and strength-training workouts. If you so choose, you can utilize something called MyZone technology here in order to motivate your workouts and exercise your competitive demons—with use of the tracking device, your stats are projected on a wall during class alongside your classmates’. At the end, one person wins (but everyone else gets a good workout, natch).
It’s not always easy to figure out which yoga studio is going to best fit your vibe when traveling. Luckily, my locals offer up a couple of picks to get you started. “The Ashram Studio is amazing for Bikram and power yoga,” says Tafra and indeed, the no-joke 60-to-75-minute heated classes draw mostly serious practitioners. Aflatooni’s favorite, Sangha Yoga, may be a better choice for those who can’t stand the heat, and the studio offers a variety of likely-familiar practices catering to all levels of experience. Meanwhile, Black Yoga may provide an experience you can’t get elsewhere; here, they play “drone, noise, stoner metal, ambient, industrial, and space doom” music during practice.
This is pretty much indisputably the best farmers market in the U.S., and Tafra insists it’s a must-see for visitors. Amazing food abounds here—it’s a nine-acre market—so bring an appetite. And though not all of the market’s offerings are healthy (enter the “Hot Mess Bitch” from Biscuit Bitch, for example ), foraging is half the fun. Don’t miss the passion fruit greek yogurt at Ellenos, raw oysters at Jack’s Fish Spot, and an anti-inflammatory flavor haul from MarketSpice. Oh, and the oldest Starbucks is here, too.
If you’re looking to feel awe (it’s good for your health!), Seattle’s most famous attraction might do the trick. “The Space Needle is a must,” says Tafra. From 520-feet up at the top, you’ll catch 360-degree views of the city, Elliot Bay, the Olympic Mountains, and Mt. Rainier. Occasionally, the venue offers an opportunity to walk the stairs if you’re looking to get your steps in—there are *just* 832 of them. If lines aren’t your thing, however, Aflatooni adds another view which isn’t to be missed. “Make sure to catch a sunset at Kerry Park—you just have to,” she says. That vista encompasses Elliot Bay, the central city, and sometimes Mt. Rainier as well.
Visit this 300-acre park for a little forest bathing on foot or by bike—there’s a 2.5-mile-long paved path around Lake Washington and innumerable unpaved paths from which to choose. Or, plan to lounge on its moody Pacific Northwest beaches (some are swimmable, with lifeguards, too).
Seattle’s nearby islands, e.g. Bainbridge, Whidbey, Vashon, and the San Juans, offer charm and adventure. Whale watching, gallery strolling, artisan-good shopping, hiking, guided nature touring, kayaking, farmers-market strolling, and more make agendas pop on these personality-rich mid-sea patches of land.
Where art and nature mix, the result can only be double-y therapeutic, right? A visit to this multi-gallery, wow-worthy glass art exhibition (which includes a garden space into which the featured work is integrated) is, according to Tafra, definitely one for the bucket list. Bonus points for this spot’s Instagram-ability, too.
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