Seattle is a destination with so much to offer. It’s a city that’s renowned for opera, jazz, and grunge music boasts plenty of cultural celebrations and festivals all year round and enjoys a strong Native American heritage.
Maybe you came to Seattle for the Seattle International Film Festival or maybe because, like Patrick Dempsey’s character in Grey’s Anatomy, you “have a thing for ferry boats.” Whatever your reasons, Seattle is an unforgettable travel experience for anyone in search of something novel but genuine.
This gift guide will help you on your search for uniquely Seattle souvenirs – all the better to take a little bit of the Emerald City with you!
How to shop for Seattle souvenirs
Given that you’re in a city rich in tradition, lore, and keepsakes, you might get so overwhelmed that you’ll just grab a dozen items at the nearest souvenir shop and call it a day! Here’s how to get the most of Seattle out of your souvenir gifts.
1 – Authentic
Mass-produced souvenirs are a dime a dozen in any tourist spot. When you visit Seattle, support local makers by buying genuine articles from Pacific Northwest artisans! Such thoughtfully crafted souvenir items hold more meaning than commercially made shirts or keychains, and you’ll be contributing to helping traditions of art persist.
2 – Portable
It’s a once-in-a-lifetime sight to see an entire salmon about to be grilled in front of your very eyes, but as much as you’d love to bottle up that experience and take it home, that’s not something you can load onto a plane!
Adjust your expectations when it comes to perishable items like salmon, clams, or berries. Although fresh goodies like these embody the wealth of natural resources in Seattle, remember that they might not retain their freshness after a long drive or plane ride home.
3 – Culturally significant
Take the time to listen to the cultural significance of your souvenir gift from Seattle. The Pacific Northwest is a treasure trove of history and tradition, and it’s worth choosing a keepsake that’s culturally valuable and has a story to tell rather than a random item that has merely the city name emblazoned on it.
Your Guide to Souvenir Gifts from Seattle
Travel down this list and find twelve unique gifts you can only get straight from Seattle!
For the support of local artists
1 – Glass blown souvenirs from Seattle
Don’t write these off as your run-of-the-mill glass blown souvenirs! Seattle has a thriving tradition of glass blowing – producing glass art that ranges from small vases and tabletop decorations to full-blown (excuse the pun!) installations made of glass. The city is home to Dale Chihuly, the most notable glass blower in the world. Seattle houses a showcase of his masterpieces at Chihuly Museum and Chihuly Garden and Glass.
Seattle features glass blowing schools that teach artisans and passes on the distinct Pacific Northwestern style of the city. Seattle’s perpetually cool and rainy weather allows artists to stay in the hot shop year-round, so these unique glass blown souvenirs are always in season.
Where to go:
Pop in on Seattle Glassblowing Studio, open seven days a week beneath the monorail at 2227 5th Avenue. Visit the store and take home beautifully-crafted glass art made by Seattleite artisans. Better yet, enroll in the glass blowing classes they offer and bring back souvenirs that you made with your own hands!
For the sweet tooth in Seattle, pt. I
2 – Sweets from Fran’s Chocolates
If you find your sweet tooth in Seattle, it’s imperative that you visit Fran’s Chocolate! With their elegant shops, classy packaging, and upscale offerings, Frans’s is a sweet shop that’s elevated to luxurious standards.
Fran’s Chocolates uses only the highest-quality chocolates from South America, Europe, and the Caribbean – and those are precisely blended according to Fran’s Chocolates secret specifications. Each chocolate is then handmade, hand-dipped, and hand-decorated. They may be pricey, but they’re not your pop-til-you-drop kind of chocolate. Fran’s sweets are meant to be savored slowly, and even the littlest of their truffles are so packed with flavor that they go a long way.
Sink your teeth into Fran’s specialty: decadent chocolate-covered caramels topped with smoked or gray sea salt. They also offer chocolate-covered fruits and nuts, chocolate bars, truffles, and even dessert sauces and hot chocolate.
Where to go:
Fran’s has three physical shops in Seattle: Georgetown, University Village, and Downtown Seattle. Pro-tip: Make the effort to visit the store because you’re bound to get a free sample while you’re perusing the menu!
If you’re still craving for their caramels long after you’ve left Seattle, Fran’s Chocolate’s online store does cover shipping all over the US – although there’s no replacing experiencing their store.
For the craft beer enthusiast
3 – Craft beer by Pike Brewing Company
The Pacific Northwest region has a booming craft beer culture – partly due to its cool climate that’s perfect for growing barley, and partly because the West Coast is a hotbed for new and creative trends.
The region has been home to pioneers of craft breweries that experimented with unconventional flavors and newfangled ways of fermentation. Seattle is no exception – in the city, you can find a smattering of microbreweries and nano breweries, each with their twist on beer. All you’re left to do is find the one that aligns with your taste!
Where to go:
Sample craft beer from the iconic Pike Brewing Company. Pike Brewing offers a range of year-round and seasonal beers with cheeky names like Naughty Nellie (named for the madam of the LaSalle where Pike Brewing was founded) and Kilt Lifter (a Scottish style ale). They also offer educational tours of the brewery where you can watch beer being brewed and fermented firsthand. Pike Brewing Company is situated on 1414 First Avenue in Pike Place Market.
For something decidedly different
4 – Geoduck clams
Get ready for the most peculiar souvenir idea on this list. Native to the Pacific Northwest is the world’s largest burrowing clam, the phallic-looking geoduck (pronounced “gooey-duck,” from the Native American word gweduc which means “dig deep”).
Geoducks have two parts: the body of the clam, composed of the massive shell and the meat inside; and the long neck, which hangs out in all its glory for up to baseball bat lengths. The meat of the body tastes close to a usual clam, but the neck has a decidedly unusual sweet taste as well as a crunchy, firm texture. If you cut the neck into very thin slices, they’re almost as crispy as chips!
About 90% of harvested geoduck in America is exported – geoduck is a celebrated seafood delicacy in China and other East Asian countries. Bring this home as a souvenir from Seattle and set jaws dropping and tongues wagging!
Where to go:
While these massive clams might make you giggle, the value of authentic geoduck is nothing to laugh at. Geoduck meat comes at around $20-30 a pound – three times more expensive than foie gras!
You can enjoy different ways to serve geoduck in Seattle: in ceviche, sushi, and sashimi, hot pots, pie, chowder, salad, or even raw. Taylor Shellfish Farms, the United States’ most significant source of farmed shellfish, prides themselves on sustainable farming practices and tide-to-table freshness of all their products – geoduck included! They serve Old School Geoduck Sashimi – raw geoduck served with soy sauce and wasabi. Find Taylor Shellfish Farms at Pioneer Square and Capitol Hill. You can also order geoduck from their online store.
For anyone who needs a gentle push out the door
5 – What Do You Do With an Idea? By Kobi Yamada
What Do You do With an Idea is a children’s picture book written by Seattleite Kobi Yamada. Yamada is the President of Compendium Inc., a publisher of greeting cards and inspirational gifts.
The story centers on a child who gets an idea, depicted by a crowned golden egg with two legs that follows the child around. Initially, the child tries to ignore the idea. But the idea will not go away, and as the child warms up to his idea, he grows in confidence as well. Eventually, he has faith in it enough to try and share his idea with the world – but it’s not instantly well-received. Despite the rejection, the child persisted and nurtured his idea, until it hatched and became everything it promised to be.
The clever illustrations by Mae Besom come into play here. The earlier pages are rendered in black and white pencil drawings but the more the child embraced and cultivated the idea, the more the world began to color in for him. The end of the story is a symphony of vibrant hues as the idea comes into its own.
What Do You Do With an Idea? is a marvelous story for anyone who’s brave enough to think outside the box. It tells us that no one is too old or too young to make a difference, and no idea is too small or too strange to be able to change the world. What Do You Do With an Idea? has won the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award, Independent Publishers Book Award, and the Washington State Book Award.
Where to go:
Compendium carries What Do You Do With an Idea? in its multiple stores in Seattle and all over the country. If one copy isn’t enough, you can also get What Do You Do With an Idea? off the Compendium website! The book is also available on Amazon for $12.06.
For the literal bee’s knees
6 – Gourmet honey from Ballard Bee Company
Beekeeper Corky Luster founded Ballard Bee Company from lovingly-tended hives in his garden. Urban beekeeping right from their yard produces raw, unfiltered honey. The honey is blended with native Ballard, Washington plants to give it a special flavor that sets it apart from its contemporaries. And to make certain you won’t miss it on the shelf, Ballard Bee Company honey is dressed up in minimalist black and white packaging, making it stand out further among your usual country-themed food options.
Ballard Bee Company honey is ardently sought after for distribution by big-name stores, but the company limits supplying honey to specialty gourmet boutiques and restaurants. The setup is a form of mutualism – small businesses supporting small businesses. Luster is also looking into expanding the business. He’s working on teaching sponsors to house more hives in their yard and promote responsible urban beekeeping.
Where to get:
Ballard Bee Company honey is available at partner establishments around Seattle like A Caprice Kitchen and other local restaurants. Bottles of Ballard Bee Company honey are also available on Amazon.
For saving the planet by shedding some light
7 – Scraplights by Graypants
Let there be light! Despite gloomy skies over rainy Seattle, the absence of sun can be compensated for with Graypants’ Scraplights.
Scraplights are made from recycled corrugated cardboard – saved from the company’s production scraps from their earlier line of environmentally-friendly Scrap Chairs, as well as cardboard waste from around the community. The cardboard is laser-cut into circles, then manually assembled with a strong adhesive and non-toxic fire retardant. Since Scraplights’ beginning, the line has expanded into a wide array of pendant lamps in multiple colors, styles, and sizes. Waste not, want everything!
Where to go:
Graypants’ Scraplights full showroom is located at Suite 400, 3220 1st Avenue. Of course, if you’re not keen on hauling sizeable cardboard pendant lamps by plane or car, you can also purchase Scraplights from their online store! Scraplights are also available from the Graypants store on Amazon.
For the quintessential Seattle souvenir
8 – Smoked salmon from Pike Place Fish Market
Seattle, being a seaport city, is famous for their specialty smoked salmon dishes. Wild caught salmon is one of the healthiest fatty fish around; it’s filled with omega-3 and long-chain fatty acids that are good for the heart and brain. As salmon is a staple food in the area, you’re likely to find better prices in Seattle compared to salmon elsewhere that’s more expensive but not nearly as rich in flavor.
Choose from the three most popular kinds of salmon in Seattle: the soft but flavorful king salmon, the firm and dark red sockeye salmon, and the sporty Coho salmon. And you don’t even have to eat salmon the same way every day! Sample the various salmon delicacies when you’re in the area: salmon chowder, salmon spreads, salmon sticks, salmon jerky, and even caviar! You can also take home fresh salmon in coolers approved for airline use.
Where to go:
Pro-tip: if you need a last-minute salmon gift box, the treat is so popular even gift shops in Seattle airports carry them! Nothing beats fresh salmon, though, and there’s nowhere better to get it in Seattle than Pike Place Fish Market. They offer a variety of smoked wild king and sockeye salmon preparations. Each smoked king salmon order is approximately one pound and will last 2-3 weeks in the fridge and up to a year in the freezer.
For last-last-minute gifts, Pike Place Fish Market also ships overnight to anywhere in the US if you order via their website!
For the sweet tooths in Seattle, Pt. II
9 – Organic and fair trade chocolates from Theo Chocolate
Theo Chocolate (named for the Theobroma cacao plant) is the first fair-trade organic chocolatier in America, sourcing cocoa from Costa Rica, Ecuador, Madagascar, Peru, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, and the Congo. Theo Chocolate takes special care to use only organic ingredients grown sustainably and to ensure all their workers throughout the entire manufacturing process earn a living wage.
Their chocolate offerings come in six categories: Classic, Fantasy, Baking, Holiday, Kids’ Crunch, and Limited Edition. Theo Chocolates are soy-free, gluten-free, and vegan (no dairy!). Despite their health efforts, they sure don’t scrimp on anything – Theo Chocolate bars come in generous serving sizes, and because they use only carefully-grown ingredients, there’s no sparing flavor either! Make sure their zesty Dark Chocolate with Orange bar, the smooth and cool Dark Chocolate with Mint bar, and the Dark Chocolate with Coffee bar featuring crunchy ground coffee bits are first picks on your list.
Where to get:
While you’re in Seattle, visit Theo Chocolate Factory at 3400 Phinney Avenue North to get wonderful chocolate treats straight from the source! Don’t miss the chance to join their factory tour, where you can watch Theo’s special process of turning cocoa into the fantastic chocolate treats that you enjoy – and even sample a few! No Golden Tickets required.
You can also order Theo Chocolate from their online store. (Regrettably, your chocolate will not arrive via Great Glass Elevator.) Theo Chocolate is also available from the Theo Chocolate store on Amazon.
For jam-packed Seattle delight
10 – Marionberry Jam by Maury Island
Billed as the ‘Cabernet of blackberries’, marionberries are dark purple berries with a tart and earthy flavor. The marionberry is a hybrid of other cranberry hybrids – the Chehalem berry and Olallieberry – and is named for its birthplace, Marion County, in Oregon.
Seattle Gourmet Foods began as a candy kitchen in 1993. As it expanded into gourmet foods, it acquired the Maury Island brand of jams, preserves, and other all-natural fruit-based products, including the region’s sought-after marionberry jam. Maury Island’s marionberry gourmet jam barely uses any sugar – it’s all genuine berry goodness down to the last drop. Take home a jar of marionberry jam for a delicious recommendation of authentic Pacific Northwestern flavor!
Where to buy:
Seattle Gourmet Foods goods are available at stores nationwide like Walmart, Costco, Trader Joe’s, and Safeway. You can also order marionberry jam and other natural gourmet foods via the Seattle Gourmet Foods website.
For the souvenir item collectors
11 – Seattle Space Needle
A major landmark and cultural symbol of the city, the Space Needle began as an observation tower in Seattle Center. The plan for its construction sprouted from the idea of building a tower with a rotating restaurant for the 1962 World’s Fair. The design was inspired by the Stuttgart Tower in Germany and the La Ronde revolving tower restaurant in Hawaii.
The Space Needle has since become the main attraction for tourists visiting the city, along with the current rotating restaurant in the tower, SkyCity. The Space Needle holds a yearly pyromusical fireworks show on New Year’s Eve. Now recognized as a vital icon of the city, the Space Needle is a favorite model for keychains, figurines, or fridge magnets for Seattle souvenirs.
Where to go:
Any self-respecting gift shop will carry some form of this crucial symbol of Seattle, but you might enjoy the craftsmanship of the Bronze Space Needle statuettes carried by Simply Seattle. The Space Needle takes on different incarnations – paperweights and figurines of different sizes, a bell, a pencil sharpener, and keychains – all made of bronze and rendered in attentive detail.
Bronze Space Needle items (as well as other Seattle souvenirs) by Simply Seattle can be acquired in stores on 1st Avenue, Pioneer Square, and Pier 54. They are also available on the Simply Seattle online store.
For you, if you can’t get enough of Seattle
12 – MakrBox Subscription
Get Seattle delivered to your doorstep with MakrBox! MakrBox curates specialty, handmade items from Seattle and the Pacific Northwest area sends them straight to your home every month.
MakrBox is an artful rebellion against today’s mass-produced, disposable-item lifestyle. Instead, MakrBox promotes sustainable production and deliberate craftsmanship. Each subscription box includes 2-3 handcrafted home and kitchen items made by local independent artisans in the Pacific Northwest. Leaflets detailing the story behind the products’ process and inspiration accompany each box.
Where to go:
Sign up for a MakrBox subscription on the MakrBox website!
Straight from Seattle
This gift guide features presents straight from Seattle that are guaranteed to be authentic, are filled with stories of culture and tradition, and will retain their Seattle flavor even when taken home. While the best souvenirs will be your irreplaceable memories of the city, it’s nice to have something to hold to remind you of your foray into the Emerald City. At least, until the next time, you come back!