Blast From the Past: Old-School Activities in Seattle

Turn back time by taking advantage of Seattle's old-school pastimes

By Kasee Bailey June 16, 2016

A row of pinball machines lined up in a room.

It seems that in terms of technology hubs, Seattle has got it all: Microsoft (of course), Amazon’s expansive urban campus, and now, the shiny sheen of a new Facebook office. The high-tech gizmos of Back to the Future-fame have all but become our reality. 

And while the city seems to be approaching a Jetsons-esque landscape at lightning speed, it’s not too late to turn back the clock. In addition to experiencing all that’s shiny and chrome in the Emerald City, you can also take a few steps back to a time when your phone wasn’t your constant companion, no one Instagrammed their meals, and you could at least fill up your gas tank for less than $15. Here are eight ideas for nursing that nostalgia.

Make an Impression
Need to connect long distance? Snail mail is still king. Go handmade in an age of hackneyed Hallmark greetings by ditching the drugstore card and giving your correspondence a personal touch. Handmade letterpressed cards are made and sold at Constellation & Co. inside the Seattle Fishermen’s Terminal, a more than 100-year-old institution that’s nearly as old as the machine presses inside the shop. And if you’re really looking to renew the vintage art, sign up for one of its workshops.

1900 West Nickerson Street Suite 101

Hot off the press: Workers at Constellation & Co. use vintage machines to create their one-of-a-kind cards. PHOTO CREDIT: Meredith McKee

I Scream, You Scream
Let’s go back to before there were drive-through windows. Instead, visit Bluebird Ice Cream and belly up to a counter stool to sip a craft drink (like the snickerdoodle soda) from the shop’s vintage, restored gooseneck soda fountain, or an ice cream shake from the ’20s-era milkshake maker. Bluebird also has a milkman-style truck that travels the town, so you can relive your childhood memories of chasing after the neighborhood ice cream man with your weekly allowance.

3515 Fremont Ave N

A vintage feel at the soda shop and ice cream parlor, Bluebird.


Say Cheese
By now, we’ve all but perfected our selfies. But there is something to be said for flashing bulbs, old-school cameras and not knowing just how a picture will turn out. Here in lies the magic of the photobooth. Tucked in the lower level of Pike Place at the “retro-kitsch” shop Orange Dracula, a vintage photobooth machine (with a friendly cardboard cutout of Elvis housed inside, no less) awaits your crowd of friends and funny faces. In four minutes, you get a sleeve of pictures still inky to the touch and infused with memories.

1501 Pike Place #319

Housed in Pike Place’s Orange Dracula shop, a vintage photo booth awaits. PHOTO CREDIT: Orange Dracula

Cheap Skates
The perfect way to party like it’s 199-whatever? Channel your junior high days and roller skate under a glittering disco ball. Southgate Roller Rink offers myriad themed skating nights, including family skate, pride skate, adult skate, and learn-to-skate. Our favorite is the 21+ Skate-a-raoke offered the second Wednesdays of every month for $10. Pick a classic tune (Boyz II Men, anyone?) and get a double dose of old school. Closed Mondays.

9646 17th Avenue SW

PHOTO CREDIT: EvelynGiggles (Flickr: roller skate) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Hit the Jackpot
Lace up your converse: It’s time to hit the arcade. Luckily for you, Seattle’s got an old-school gamer’s Shangri-La at the Seattle Pinball Museum, an arcade outfitted with more than 50 vintage pinball games. Adult entry is $15 per person and $12 for children. Closed Tuesdays. Bonus: This year Seattle plays host to SRGE 2016, a retro gaming expo held July 23-24 at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, so you can geek out with fellow PNW retro gaming enthusiasts.

508 Maynard Ave S

A classic game at the Seattle Pinball Museum. PHOTO CREDIT: Alan Alabastro

Order Up
If you’re nursing a hangover, enjoying a late night out, or are simply of the opinion that breakfast is the most important meal of the day (whatever time of day), visit Beth’s Cafe, a classic greasy spoon that opened in 1954. The diner serves hearty meals 24 hours a day, including all-you-can-eat hashbrowns and a 12-egg omelete that has earned them awards and TV shout-outs from the likes of Food Network and the Travel Channel.

7311 Aurora Ave N

A classic diner breakfast served at Beth’s Cafe.

Coming Attractions
In our humble opinion, there is no better place to watch the latest blockbuster then cozied up under the stars. Drive-in movies are slowly becoming a thing of the past as tricked-out cinemas take center stage, but Washington still claims a few gems that warrant a Friday-night excursion. Take the hour ferry ride to Bremerton to visit Rodeo Drive-in, or make the trek to Blue Fox Drive-in on Whidbey Island, a theater celebrating its 57th year. Tune your radio and enjoy weekend double features, go-karts, and a Really Big Mug of fountain soda. Oh, and don’t forget the food: You get to wait for it with a pizza-shaped pager.

​1403 Monroe Landing Road
Oak Harbor, WA 98277

In addition to weekend double features, the Blue Fox Drive-in offers food and a go-kart track. PHOTO CREDIT: Kelsey Bratt

Put Your Records On
In this day and age, even buying a CD feels antiquated. With the upsurge of online streaming services, you’d think that vinyl, and the dusty shops that often house them, would be music industry tombstones. But Seattle offers a surprisingly large number of record stores, many which offer a harmonious blend of both vintage vinyl and new release tunes. Sonic Boom Seattle has been around for more than 15 years and boasts a stock teeming with musical gems just waiting to be fan-girled (or fan-guyed) over. The shop frequently hosts in-store concerts, and was deemed one of the best record stores in the U.S. by Rolling Stone in 2010. Other record store stops: Easy Street RecordsSpin CycleJive Time Records and Singles Going Steady.

2209 NW Market St

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