Seattle is an amazing place to visit – the architecture, the water views, Mount Rainier (when you can see it), but it will always hold a special place in my heart for the absolute weirdness. Here are a few of the weird attractions I visited in Seattle, but believe me, there are so many more.
The Fremont Troll is definitely a site to see, and as a bonus, it’s free. It is not directly in downtown Seattle, but in the neighborhood of Fremont. If you are staying in the downtown waterfront area, it is definitely walkable, but taking a taxi or ride share is probably the best idea.
The project to put an art installation under the Fremont bridge was a way to improve the area under the bridge since it had become an eyesore with a lot of illegal dumping and it was attracting illegal activities to the area. The Fremont Arts Council held a competition, and the winning project was an interpretation of the troll inspired by the famous tale Three Billy Goats Gruff.
It stands 18 feet (5.49 m) tall and has a real Volkswagen Beetle in its hand. A great photo spot, and a fun character for kids to visit.
Seattle Gum Wall
The Seattle Gum Wall is very close to Pikes Place Market in Post Alley. It started in the 1990s where people would stick gum to the wall while waiting to see some shows in the nearby theater. The building owners would try to keep the gum off of the wall, but just couldn’t keep up with the new tradition of the theater goers. It collected and expanded to both sides of the alley for over 20 years until 2015 when the gum was scraped off of the walls (well over a ton of gum) and cleaned.
This didn’t stop what has become an attraction in the area and soon the wall was covered again in gum. Another effort was made in 2018 to clean the wall, but as the photos show, it is full of gum again. It is an interesting part of the city and makes for some weird photos.
The underground tour was one of the highlights of my visit. The tour is located in Pioneer Place Park about a 15-20 min walk from the touristy downtown waterfront area. It costs $22 per adult/$10 per child, and it a guided tour of the old city of Seattle before it was built up higher.
The tour lasts about 90 minutes and starts out with a talk about the founding fathers of Seattle and the mistakes and corruption that was part of the city start. It is a very funny and engaging talk and really taught me a lot about the city that I didn’t know.
Before I went on the tour, I walked around Pioneer Place Park which was very interesting. It still has the trolley station from the World Fair in 1962.
Also featured in the park, was a totem pole which is a replica of a Tlingit totem pole that was installed in 1899 in the square. The original was stolen from the Tlingit village of Tongass Island by the members of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce when they were visiting the area on a tour to Alaska. The Tlingit totem pole was commissioned in 1790 to honor a woman by her family and is a great rare example of a totem pole dedicated solely to woman. In 1899, when the businessmen saw the totem poles, they decided to cut one down as a souvenir while Tlingit villagers were out fishing. During the process the totem pole was badly damaged and brought to Seattle as a gift. It was repaired and installed in the park that same year. When the Tlingit found out about this, they tried to sue the city several times, but were unsuccessful.
In 1938, the pole was damaged in an arsonist fire and had to be removed, and a replica was planned, which included members of the family that commissioned the original totem pole, to build a new one, and that one was blessed reinstalled in 1940 back in the park.
The first place we went on the tour is the open room with shop doors and other artifacts. One is a bathroom that was preserved in the fire. In this space, the tour guide will explain a lot of the fire history and the flooding issues that the city had with the sewers and tides. I also learned a lot about the decision to build the city over the old one and how that happened.
A lot of the underground is through built up walkways since the old sidewalks were in bad condition and there is a lot of rubble from the time period.
One thing that I really found interesting is the skylights in the underground that were installed. When we walked around Pioneer Square, we saw these purple glass tile inlay into the sidewalk. During the tour, we got to go under them and could see how much light they let inside.
Chief Seattle is one of the most well-known Native Americans from the area. While he wasn’t a chief in the literal sense (his title was inherited, but not practiced) and his name was not Seattle, but Sealth (how he was called by his Suquamish Tribe), the name of the city comes from him. “Doc” Maynard one of the founders of the city, which we learned a lot about during the tour, befriended him and in turn named the city after the closest pronunciation of his name. Chief Seattle was an eloquent speaker and one of his speeches is pretty famous has he called protecting the environment and respecting the lands. Through his later years, he was very unhappy (rightfully so) with how his people had been treated and how the city founders had used and abused the land.
One of the most interesting parts of the tour were the items that had been found in underground. Things like cast iron bathtubs, doors, old signs, chairs, school desks, type writers, seamstress items and even a Tesla coil from an elevator. As we walked through the tour the stuff that was left behind and found lined the walkways and were so interesting to look at
After the tour was over, we stopped for some gelato at Medzo Gelato Bar and Travel Cafe that had just opened. It was amazing. I tried the Rose gelato and it was rich, smooth and was fantastic.
The weird sites in Seattle were definitely one of the highlights of my visit there. I highly recommend the Underground Tour – well worth the price and a great way to spend some a rainy afternoon since you are covered most of the time. The troll and gum wall were must sees, and they are free so that is even better!