Get to know the city's deep musical roots and jam out with this weekend trip guide.
Music is inherent in Seattle’s DNA. From its grunge and punk rock past to its indie, folk, and Macklemore-fueled rap present, the city has proven time and time again that it is undeniably an epicenter of sound.
Pick your genre: Mozart's symphonies performed in the acoustically pristine Benaroya Hall, the ragged sounds of rock and roll at divey Parliament Tavern, or a thumping stadium show at KeyArena. The sound you seek is always on in Seattle.
History (in the Making)
Tune into KEXP (90.3 FM) for the best in independent broadcasting and interviews with local and visiting music acts, or take it all in in person at La Marzocco Cafe, a lofty open space at Seattle Center with coffee from small-batch roasters and immaculately prepared espresso drinks. The cafe looks into the KEXP sound booth, and the walls are often covered with posters for local shows.
Seattle Center is also home to MoPop, the Museum of Pop Culture. It’s not just music here—there are extensive sci-fi and fantasy exhibits—but the Sound Lab gives visitors a place to make their own noise. You don’t have to be a musician to enjoy this space. Hands on exhibits attract aspiring sound engineers and avid listeners, too.
While the encores have already played at Upstream and Northwest Folklife, it’s not too late to experience some of the best festivals in the West. Seattle Chamber Music Society’s Summer Festival brings together chamber musicians from all over the world for concerts at Benaroya Hall in addition to free outdoor shows and fun family programs throughout July.
Close the summer with a jam-packed three days of headliners, rising stars, and some of the best food the city has to offer at Bumbershoot.
Seattle has a dozen or more thriving record stores, but only one serves diner-style breakfast. The lines for Easy Street can be long on the weekends, but it serves a satisfying meal and the soundtrack is often new releases.
At RPM Pizza and Records, you can grab a slice and browse the bins for vintage vinyl. Looking for something with more pizazz? The Triple Door Theater has cabaret-style seating with full dinner service and features top Hawaiian music acts, singer songwriters, roots country, and a whole lot more. Two outstanding jazz venues—Jazz Alley and Tula’s—also have full dinner service.
Merch and Gear
Sub Pop Records, Seattle’s famous label that brought the world Nirvana, Mudhoney, Fleet Foxes, and so much more, has a store in the main terminal at Sea-Tac Airport, where you can buy new releases, stickers, T-shirts, and all kinds of cool Seattle music swag.
For vintage guitars, Thunder Road in West Seattle has a gorgeous selection, plus pedals, amps, and other accessories. Expand your CD and vinyl collection at the more than 30 record stores in the greater Seattle area such as Sonic Boom Records, Jive Time Records, and Wall of Sound.
The rooms on the 5th floor of Hotel Max in Belltown (walking distance from Seattle Center) are kitted out with Crosley record players and vinyl chosen by Sub Pop. Dance to live music and DJs in the Living Room Bar at the W Hotel (on 1st Avenue, downtown), or book the W Sound Suite, a recording studio with room for 15 of your closest musician friends, gear rental, and a sound engineer included in the price.
Get more out of your vacation: Book through AAA Travel for exclusive Member benefits.
This article was published in June 2018. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.