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Fremont Neighborhood Walking Tour (Self Guided), Seattle

At the height of its counterculture days, Fremont renamed itself 'The People's Republic of Fremont' and later gave itself the moniker 'Center of the Universe'. As if to prove the point, there's a signpost showing the distances from Fremont to far-flung places around the globe.

The famous neighborhood is home to some of Seattle's most beloved and controversial sculptures, including the Fremont Troll who hides under the Aurora Bridge on Troll Avenue, the bronze sculpture of Vladimir Lenin, and 'Waiting for the Interurban', which features five life-size adults, a baby in arms, and a dog, all supposedly waiting for the electric trolley. All three sculptures are regularly decorated by the public, and Lenin is ceremoniously lit for the winter holidays.

Take our self-guided tour to explore the best that Fremont has to offer!
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Fremont Neighborhood Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Fremont Neighborhood Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Seattle (See other walking tours in Seattle)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles
Author: doris
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Fremont Troll
  • Center of the Universe Guidepost
  • Vladimir Lenin Statue
  • Fremont Rocket
  • Theo Chocolate Factory & Flagship Store
  • Waiting for the Interurban / Late for the Interurban
  • Fremont Bridge
  • Fremont Brewing Company
  • Essential Baking Company
  • Gas Works Park
1
Fremont Troll

1) Fremont Troll (must see)

When you reach the dark, shadowy space where the Aurora Bridge meets the ground look to the left. Here lurks the Fremont Troll, an 18-foot-tall steel and concrete figure busily munching on a Volkswagen Beetle with a California license plate, as if it has grabbed the vehicle from the bridge above.

Trolls in Scandinavian folklore are unsightly dwarfs or giants that live in caves, in forests or under bridges while preying on human flesh, and the one here was actually based on the Norwegian folktale, 'Three Billy Goats Gruff'. Reportedly, it does a good job of scaring off passing billy goats, as well as skateboarders and drug dealers.

The troll made his appearance in 1991, commissioned by the Fremont Arts Council. Visitors and nonprofits are encouraged to clamber over the sculpture for free and to attempt to remove the hubcap eye or – why not? - pull on the beard. It's not something you see or do everyday!

Why You Should Visit:
To see a fun and hip sculpture that totally fits Fremont's/Seattle's artsy vibe.
2
Center of the Universe Guidepost

2) Center of the Universe Guidepost

A tongue-in-cheek guidepost located in the middle of Fremont claims to mark the 'Center of the Universe'. It's just one of numerous outlandish statues and sculptures that decorate several square blocks on the edge of the neighborhood abutting the Washington Ship Canal (also known as the Fremont Cut). While not providing any concrete evidence of Fremont's intergalactic situation, the signpost helpfully guides passers-by to many of the neighborhood's colorful landmarks as well as a few far-off places.

Where else but in Fremont can you find a huge statue of Lenin, a massive carved troll under a bridge, and a heavily decorated statue called 'Waiting for the Interurban'? On top of it all, Fremont has its own drawbridge, which according to urban legend, is the one with the very highest number of bridge openings yearly anywhere in the U.S.

The guidepost at the Center of the Universe is there to show how far you've come and how far you have to go. Where you're coming from / going to is strictly up to you.
3
Vladimir Lenin Statue

3) Vladimir Lenin Statue

Fremont embraces the freedom to be peculiar, and in keeping with that theme, here is one of those head-scratching things you will run into when strolling around, that gives the neighborhood all its character: a larger-than-life Soviet statue of Lenin; an actual Cold War relic that is now centrally located on N 36th St, near some very awesome restaurants.

The 16-ft, 7-ton statue formerly stood in Czechoslovakia, where it eventually got toppled as a result of the Velvet Revolution. A Seattle-area man, now deceased, who admired it as a piece of art and for its historical significance, bought it and had it shipped to the U.S. in 1993. The bronze creation still belongs to his family and is technically 'for sale' for $300,000.

While other statues portray the Russian communist revolutionary as a thinker and philosopher, this rather unique sculpture depicts him as marching amongst chaos, flames and symbols of war. On recent pass-bys, people have frequently noted that his hands have been painted blood-red. Understandably, some people hate the guy, but then again, art is supposed to make you think, and bumping into Lenin in Fremont surely does that. Plus, he gets dressed up regularly, as do other sculptures, for things like Gay Pride Week or the Solstice Parade. Some will even put Santa hats on him at Christmas!

Why You Should Visit:
Still one of the best photo ops around – something you won't see everyday. Different from a cookie cutter-grade Lenin, this was made by a well-known Bulgarian sculptor and brought from Eastern Europe, so it's a legit piece of Soviet history.

Tip:
Check out the plaque describing both the history of the statue and Lenin himself – it is more informative than you'd expect.
4
Fremont Rocket

4) Fremont Rocket

Not far from the giant and controversial statue of Lenin is this more neutral piece of culture and character in the Fremont neighborhood – a rocket. Rising fifty-some odd feet into the air and nonchalantly strapped to the side of a store, it is easily spotted from adjoining streets and impossible to miss. If you take a closer look, it bears Fremont's coat of arms and motto "De Libertas Quirkas" (or "Freedom to Be Peculiar"), which is quite a deviation from its original intended use in the Cold War.

If you're a first-time viewer, be sure to read the brief history on the plaque to the right. The rocket was otherwise called "phallic and zany-looking" by Lonely Planet, which said the neighborhood has adopted it as a "community totem". Surprisingly, such totem is not made of any rocket or missile parts, but rather from a military surplus tail boom originally part of a Fairchild C-119 'Flying Boxcar' transport aircraft. Nevertheless, the 1920s streamlined Art Deco sci-fi space rocket appearance, adorned with "neon laser pods" in the style of ray-guns, makes it an interesting sight to see during the day but also at night, when multi-colored lights give it a very cosmic glow. If only they would let you go in it!!
5
Theo Chocolate Factory & Flagship Store

5) Theo Chocolate Factory & Flagship Store

Theo Chocolate can be found in retailers all over Seattle, but their neat little flagship store and factory is always well worth a visit. Located in the Fremont neighborhood, the space is clean, well organized, and fully stocked with any and all Theo variations you can imagine, including several truffles, caramels, and seasonal shapes.

Theo have been making chocolate and giving family-friendly tours of their factory since 2006. Visitors get to see different machines and how they are operated (which is perfect for curious kids), but the guides also explain where the ingredients are sourced from and how these are shipped to Seattle, as well as how chocolate is subsequently produced, with special attention to the amount of each ingredient and regulations on what one can call milk chocolate, dark chocolate, etc. Interspersed with the talk are many delicious samples to illustrate the points being made.

Furthermore, Theo has a diverse selection of delicious flavors, which customers can sample even if they don't take the tour. Their website states, "There's always something new and yummy to discover at the Theo factory store, where generous sampling is a daily activity!" Clearly, they are not reluctant to hand out samples, which are made fresh every day in the same building, so feel free to try them! All of the chocolate is locally made, responsibly sourced and fair trade.
6
Waiting for the Interurban / Late for the Interurban

6) Waiting for the Interurban / Late for the Interurban

In Seattle's Fremont neighborhood, 'Waiting for the Interurban' is not a statement, poem, play or novel but a unique, realistic sculpture collection in cast aluminum. Installed in 1979 and designed and executed by resident Seattle sculptor, Richard Beyer, the work of art depicts six people and a dog waiting for the interurban public transport to come their way.

Stop and walk up to the figures, because only then can you see the subtleties. Make sure to look on the face of the dog – yes, there is a story there, said to have been inspired by municipal recycling activist and honorary mayor of Fremont, Armen Napoleon Stepanian, who happened to have made disparaging remarks about the statue.

Fremont is home to an artistic community and over the years both 'Waiting for the Interurban' and 'Late for the Interurban' – which are down the street from each other – have been dressed to make political and artistic statements, sometimes even managing to deceive visitors into believing that a group of real people is waiting for a trolley ride (back in time). The right to decorate – with anything from brightly-colored umbrellas to various signs congratulating newlyweds – is open to all as long as no commercial purpose is pursued and with a clean-up stipulation after the display is complete.

Why You Should Visit:
Seattle's most popular piece of public art!
7
Fremont Bridge

7) Fremont Bridge

The double-leaf bascule bridge that connects the South Lake Union and Queen Anne neighborhoods with Fremont is aesthetically pleasing, to be sure, with its blue and orange colors – but looks become secondary to function. As it serves as a crossing for boating vessels, the bridge is raised an average of 35 times a day to allow for water traffic to pass through, and as such is one of the most frequently opened and busiest in the world. It's also a mechanical piece of wonder, which underwent an extensive $41.9 million restoration and renovation project in 2006, before it opened again to traffic in 2008. Unlike other drawbridges that take a long time to go back down after being raised, this one sure is fast!

Tip:
Stop right in the middle of the pedestrian walkway to watch the sunset over the canal.
8
Fremont Brewing Company

8) Fremont Brewing Company

This place has some great beers, especially for when you want to drink something local. It's a true northwest-style of brewing with lots of different and inventive options, and everything from the environment to the wide beer selection in their new, expanded space is absolutely perfect.

To start with, the location is great! There's plenty of space, both indoors and outdoors, and some board game options for those looking for a diversion with their drink. The true gem is, of course, the Urban Beer Garden, which has plenty of tables and benches to sit – whether in the sun or in the shade. It's also really nice that the large trees/plants surrounding the area add some privacy from the people walking on the sidewalk outside the brewery.

The beers are a win-win here, especially if you like them hoppy! Even those who are not huge fans of IPA, which Fremont Brewing has a fair share of, should give one a try. They also have other styles, like barrel-aged stouts on nitro (e.g., 'Coconut Imperial Stout', 'Cinnamon Coffee Imperial Stout'), lager, and so forth. It is always nice to be at a place that has good options for people with very different palettes. A flight comes with five samplers, so taste it up!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 12–7pm
9
Essential Baking Company

9) Essential Baking Company

Established in 1994 by the late entrepreneur Jeff Fairhall, this bakery aims at being an environmentally-friendly and socially responsible eatery that nourishes the body and soul of customers by serving the finest artisan baked food.

At first, Fairhall established Essential Foods to serve wrap sandwiches; then, together with head baker George de Pasquale, he developed a range of signature breads which he sold at the new establishment – the Essential Baking Company. Having learned to make good wholesome bread from his Italian grandmother, George makes sure that customers get high-quality and healthy baked food made with certified organic ingredients. Coffee and sweets are also satisfyingly good.

Visitors to Seattle looking for locally-made healthy fare will find the fresh organic European-style goods made by the Company to their taste. Now running three different cafes, the bakery not only sells bread, pastries and desserts to customers but supplies them to the finest stores, eateries, schools and hospitals across Puget Sound.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 6am–6pm; Sat, Sun: 7am–6pm
10
Gas Works Park

10) Gas Works Park (must see)

Hulking specters of a bygone age dominate Gas Works Park, situated on a southerly knob of land jutting into Lake Union and the front door to North Seattle. The Seattle Gas Light Company began to produce heating and lighting gas in this refinery on the 20-acre (8-hectare) knoll in 1906, fueling a rapidly growing city while earning a reputation as a filthy, foul-smelling killer of vegetation and wildlife. The plant closed its valves for good in 1956.

When the site was proposed as a park in the early 1960s, the city council hired landscape architect Richard Haag to create a lush, arboretum-type park. Instead, Haag submitted a plan incorporating much of the old gas plant. His design – with the rusting hulks of the gasworks in the middle of an undulating lawn – triumphed after a storm of controversy.

Kites fly high over the park's Grand Mound, a grassy hill built west of the park's core from abandoned industrial waste. Picnickers and joggers share the space along an incline, and at the crown, visitors admire a mosaic astrological sun and moon dial. The crest offers a great panorama of inner Seattle – Downtown, Queen Anne Hill, the Aurora Bridge to the west, and Capitol Hill to the east.

Why You Should Visit:
Good option if you're in Fremont and want to get a photo of Seattle proper – there's a big hill (called Grand Mound) you can stand on and get a decent view. The old gasworks itself is also rather picturesque, in a decaying industrial kind of way.

Tip:
Check for outdoor concerts or bring a kite and/or a picnic and enjoy some seriously phenomenal sunsets!
One thing to note, though: the park's hilly landscape isn't ideal for playing sports.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 6am–10pm

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