Tips + Trends

Got an Eye for the Off-Beat? Where to Shop Weird in Seattle

Add a little quirk to your Seattle shopping experience at wacked-out Archie McPhee. (Photo: Courtesy of Archie McPhee)

While it owes its nickname, Emerald City, to an abundance of lush, green forests and vast parkland, it might not be too far-fetched to compare Seattle to its namesake from the Land of Oz, the Emerald City of fantastical imagination, particularly when it comes to quirky shopping. From downtown, head north to discover two of the city’s most weirdly-wonderful Seattle attractions that range from the goofy to the extra-terrestrial.

Where an Adult Can Be a Prank-Pulling Kid Again

Venture boldly to Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood where the cherry-red building with its sunny yellow awning on the corner of North 45th and Stone Way streets reels you in like a yo-yo on a string to the zany world of Archie McPhee.

Shop owner Mark Pahlow opened his doors in 1983, naming the business after his innovative great-uncle-in-law, who clearly had a unique sense of humor. Wander from floor to floor and marvel at the wildest selection of gag gifts and obscure party-theme supplies in Seattle. If you ever felt the need to purchase rubber chickens, bacon floss and an inflatable unicorn horn for your kitty, this crazy curio shop has your name on it.

The store even pays homage to neighborhood legends, like local librarian Nancy Pearl who is immortalized as an action figure that will even shush you like the real Nancy would.

And if you buy into the mysterious lore of Nessie, Sasquatch and the Goat Man, buy a bar of cat-food-scented soap and wind your way to the back of the shop where you might get to feed it to the creepy Wallingford Beast.

The elusive critter was first sighted in Seattle in the 1930s and has been “adopted” by store staff. Photographs are permitted, but don’t use a flash, as it may cause the beast to go into hibernation. And we can’t have that.

Geek Out and Get Your Dark Matter Here

In a galaxy far, far away – actually only a 10-minute drive from Archie McPhee – is Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co., where you’ll find everything the modern space traveler needs, including plenty of rocket parking spots available on the roof, ideal for when Seattle traffic gets a bit bogged down.

Undergoing renovation after a massive fire and set to reopen Summer 2016, this unique emporium is one of the few places you can purchase dark matter in a can or get your very own black hole starter kit, which makes compressed molecular empty space and distorted time trajectory problems obsolete.

And if you get all that, this place is for you. The shop carries trusty maps of the known universe, complete with regional and galactic attractions. Join the rebellion against the planetary injustice of Pluto’s demotion with your very own “I Support Pluto” set.

Yet where there’s talk of aliens, there’s altruism, too.

Of the many innovative products they sell, shop owners are most gratified with what is produced by visiting students who pass through the “atomic teleporter,” that leads to the back room and The Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center that prepares 6 to 18 year olds for a successful future by developing strong writing skills and motivating young people to share their stories.

All purchases from the shop benefit this program, which was founded by acclaimed author and philanthropist Dave Eggers.

While waiting on the finishing touches of the facility’s renovations, BFI operates all of its programs out of the nearby Phinney Neighborhood Association.