Archie McPhee is the most novel of novelty shops you’ll likely ever find, filled with items you most certainly never knew you needed. A unicorn horn for your cat, a mustache for your baby, bacon products out the wazoo, and just about anything else you can think of is all at this iconic Seattle store. Even if you’re not a fan of novelty shopping, stop in and take a look. Enjoy the weird.
Location: 1300 N. 45th Street, Seattle
2. Bob’s Java Jive – The Giant Coffee Pot
Bob’s Java Jive looks like a giant coffee pot. You might assume it’s yet another espresso stand, but you’d be wrong. The coffee pot houses one of Tacoma’s coolest dive bars and restaurants with karaoke seven nights a week, live music and DJs, and cheap food and beer. The building was originally built in 1927 as a restaurant and was designed by Bert Smyser.
Location: 2102 South Tacoma Way, Tacoma
3. Fremont Troll
The Fremont Troll lurks underneath the north end of the Aurora Bridge near N. 36th Street. Created by artists Steve Badanes, Will Martin, Donna Walter and Ross Whitehead, the troll is constructed of steel rebar, concrete, wire, an old hubcap and an actual Volkswagon Beetle. The troll arrived in Seattle in 1990 and has guarded his bridge ever since.
Location: 3405 Troll Avenue N, Seattle
4. Giant Shoe Museum at Pike Place Market
Okay, so it’s not exactly a museum. The Giant Shoe Museum is a wall of vintage coin-op displays where, for a few cents, you can get a peek at a shoe worn by the world’s tallest man, some shoes of mystery, the greatest shoe on earth.
Location: Pike Place Market’s lower floor
5. Bicycle Tree on Vashon Island
In the forest on Vashon Island is an odd sight—a bike that goes right through the middle of a tree, about twelve feet off the ground. You’ll hear plenty of local legends about how the bike got there, about a young man chaining the bike to the tree and heading off to war, or that someone put the bike into the tree somehow. No one put it there on purpose. Instead, the story goes that a boy left a bike behind and the tree somehow grew around it over time.
Location: Close to 20312 Vashon Highway SW., Vashon Island. Takes some exploring and perhaps a chat with a local to find it.
6. Vladimir Lenin in Fremont
Fremont is home to a few of Seattle’s coolest and weirdest attractions, including the 16-foot-tall bronze statue of Vladimir Lenin. Sculpted by Bulgarian Emil Venkov for the Soviet and Czechoslovakian governments, the bronze colossus was just one of many large-scale sculptures used as part of the Communist propaganda machine. A local man named Lewis E. Carpenter was working in what is now Slovakia and found the statue ready to be discarded. Carpenter saved the statue and after much effort and expense, brought the statue to the U.S., but died before he did anything with it. His family placed it in Fremont.
Location: Corner of N. 34th Street and Evanston Avenue N, Fremont Neighborhood, Seattle
7. The Rocket
Just a few steps away from Lenin is another Cold War-era relic—a 1950s rocket fuselage that was formerly perched atop AJ’s Surplus in Bell Town.
Location: Corner of N. 35th Street and Evanston Avenue N., Fremont Neighborhood, Seattle
8. Gum Wall
The Gum Wall is probably the most disgusting attraction in all of Washington state. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Passers-by have been sticking wads of gum to this wall since the early 1990s and now there is gum as far as the eye can see. You’ll spot some gum shapes in the mess as well—gum hearts, gum smiley faces. Add your own gum, if you please.
Location: 1428 Post Alley, Seattle
Ye Olde Curiosity Shop is part of the touristy strip along Seattle’s waterfront. The shop sells fun novelties, curiosities and Seattle souvenirs, but also functions as a bit of a museum. The store is home to a number of very cool antiques from narwhal tusks to totem poles to two mummies—Sylvester and Sylvia. Sylvia was found in a cave in Central America, but was likely a European immigrant. She was naturally preserved and looks a bit scarier than Sylvester. Sylvester is one of the best preserved mummies anywhere and UW Medical Center scientists discovered he was purposefully preserved with an arsenic solution sometime over 100 years ago.
Location: 1001 Alaskan Way, Seattle
10. Wallingford Wall of Death
While it’s not a wall and it’s said that no one has actually died here, the Wall of Death is an interesting sculpture tucked under the University Bridge. A huge orange ring reads “The Wall of Death,” just so you know for sure what you’re looking at. Massive spikes rise out of the ground and hold the ring up.
Location: Under the University Bridge near Northlake Way
11. Museum of Glass
Tacoma’s Museum of Glass is a modern and beautiful building, but still makes sure to keep a little bit of quirk to its façade. Towering above the building and providing a major focal point to Tacoma’s skyline is a giant cone. It looks a bit like a space pod or the Apollo Command Module. The cone is functional, though, and houses the museum’s Hot Shop where glass is blown live on-site during museum hours.
Location: 1801 Dock Street, Tacoma
12. Hat ‘N’ Boots
The nation’s undisputed largest pair of boots and accompanying cowboy hat are in Georgetown’s Oxbow Park. Originally part of a 1950s cowboy-themed gas station, the sculpture has become a roadside attraction and even made an appearance in “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” Oddly enough, the hat was the gas station building and the boots served as the restrooms.
Location: 6427 Carleton Avenue S., Seattle