Every major city has a neighborhood where the gay community has been embraced and thrived, the cultural center. Since the 1960s, Capitol Hill has been that center of Seattle's LGBT community. Located on a hill just to the northeast of Seattle's downtown, Capitol Hill offers rich cultural and commercial opportunities, and vibrant food and drink establishments, making it the ideal place to explore over the course of a long afternoon. Here, where to go if you're into ink (either books or body), a thrift store junky, or just want some good oysters.

Thrift store fanatics with an altruistic streak should head to Lifelong Thrift (312 Broadway E.), which just a year ago moved into its new, larger space. The store is an arm of Lifelong, a Seattle organization dedicated to helping support people with HIV/AIDs. Profits from the sales of donated clothes, shoes, home goods and furniture all go to help people living with chronic illnesses--or you can donate directly to the organization.

Bookworms will find themselves right at home in the Elliott Bay Book Company store (1521 Tenth Ave.). The spacious independent, family-owned shop invites even the least literary minded to wander in and get lost in the stacks.

If you're in the mood for body art, drop by True Love Art Gallery & Tattoo (1525 Summit Ave.) where one of the shop's eight ink artists is sure to have a style to suit you. If you're not ready to commit to permanent art, you can admire the gallery's current art show, which rotates regularly. Those looking for a holistic pick-me-up can look to Sugarpill (900 E. Pine St.), a local apothecary brimming with herbal and homeopathic remedies. Don't let the amount of options overwhelm you; owner Karyn Schwartz is on hand to offer advice and help find exactly the right remedy for what ails you.

If you're feeling hungry, plenty of options abound. One of the appeals of Seattle is its access to amazing fresh seafood--and Taylor Shellfish Farms (1521 Melrose Ave.) is your answer. The Taylor family has been harvesting shellfish from the Puget Sound for five generations. Their Capitol Hill outpost is the original oyster bar (another two can be found in Pioneer Square and Queen Anne neighborhoods). Savor some freshly shucked oysters, alongside a beer or glass of Pacific Northwest wine. Bluebird Microcreamery and Brewery (1205 East Pike St.) has an ever-changing seasonal menu of ice cream flavors, but their cones and floats are always reliably refreshing. For something a little more high-brow, snag a reservation at Poppy (622 Broadway Ave E.), owned by the James Beard-winning Top Chef Masters star Jerry Traunfeld, and sample the signature "thali," a collection of small plates, like a mini tasting menu.

As the afternoon winds towards evening, stop by Canon (928 12th Ave.) to sample one of their unique craft cocktails and canon-emblazoned ice cubes (just remember to make your reservation ahead). Or, for a little more of a party vibe (or if you want to hang out with more than four people), drop by Purr Cocktail Lounge (1518 11th Ave.) for one of their generously-poured drinks--and if you're still in Seattle on Monday, check out their rockin' karaoke night.

Photo by and courtesy of Damana.

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