Seattle, WashingtonSeattle, Washington anaheimer Sun, 11/05/2017 - 15:29
The sprawling Seattle metropolitan area is surrounded by water, mountains, and lakes in the Pacific state of Washington - and home to a lot of history and culture.
From the iconic Space Needle tower to the historic Pike Place market and from the waterfront restaurants to Mount Rainier covered with snow, everywhere you look there is something new to see or adventures to be had.
A visit to Seattle would not be complete without exploring downtown on foot, riding the Monorail, spinning around on the Great Wheel, dining at the waterfront, or finding unique gifts at Pike Place Market.
Interesting Facts: The Seattle area has been continuously inhabited for at least 4,000 years.
Seattle is also home to mega tech firms like Microsoft and Amazon and major industry giants like Boeing. The Seattle area was settled by Native Americans for thousands of years before the Europeans arrived. The first such visitor was George Vancouver in 1790. The city was officially incorporated in 1853 it then went through several cycles of boom and bust. The latest boom was driven by tech giants like Amazon and Microsoft. To read more about Seattle’s history go here.
Seattle’s weather is classified as Oceanic, but that doesn’t really tell you what to expect when visiting the city. In general, terms, if you are visiting during the summer, then expect dry and temperate weather. Any other time, expect lots of rain (or snow in the mountains) and cold temperatures.
Getting there and getting around
For visitors from neighboring states, you can take major highways 5, 405 and 90 – but beware, traffic is a nightmare when you get close to downtown Seattle. If you are flying in, you will probably end up at Sea-Tac airport (Seattle-Tacoma).
The airport is very large and well organized. It is considered the 28th busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic. If you are renting a car, you will take a shuttle to the Car rental center – about 5 minutes away. The center is huge and has most of the rental companies.
Interesting Facts: Seattle is home to the world’s first gas station, opened on East Marginal Way in 1907.
You can also take light rail to downtown Seattle and avoid driving altogether. The light rail system runs from Angle Lake to the University of Washington, passing through downtown. Trains pass by every 5 minutes and cost around $3. For trips further away, you can take Metro buses and water taxis. Once you are in downtown, you can just walk around to the major attractions.
Where to stay
Like any large city, there are a lot of lodging options. You can stay at major hotel chains like Sheraton, Hilton, and Marriott downtown or you can find a room or a whole house with Airbnb.
If your main goal is to explore downtown and the surrounding area, my advice is to book a place downtown. This way you can avoid traffic headaches and walk to most attractions. If you plan ahead, you can find good deals right in the middle of the action.
Fun in Downtown
Downtown Seattle is a hodge-podge of old and new, trendy and laid back. The best way to enjoy this medley of sights and sounds is to just start walking. If are new to Seattle, try to join a walking tour or a food tasting tour.
During my recent visit, I went with “Show Me Seattle” Tours on their Pike Place tasting tour. The tour was just what I needed to get introduced to this iconic Seattle place. This market started in 1907 and it is still the most popular destination for locals and visitors alike. Read more about Pike Place tasting tour here.
Pike Place Market is full of all kinds of shops and restaurants. You can buy your produce or fish here, enjoy breakfast or lunch or find a special souvenir. While browsing, you can enjoy the street performers.
You can walk down a long set of stairs from this bustling market to reach Seattle’s waterfront, with many more restaurants, piers, parks and rides. The waterfront is also where many of the water taxis, ferries, and cruise boats operate. Seattle is famous for its water transportation system and many island destinations.
Another way to enjoy downtown is by Segway. You can rent one or go on a tour. I recently went on a tour with “Seattle by Segway” through the waterfront, Seattle Center and Pike Place. Our guide Cory was an excellent tour guide showing us some interesting places along the way. Read more about Seattle by Segway tour here.
Here are some must-see attractions in downtown Seattle:
Pike Place Market
This market is the second most visited place in Seattle and one of the most popular places in the world. It is also home to the first Starbucks coffee shop which opened in 1971. The market first opened in 1907 as a farmer’s market. It started its life as a meeting place for farmers and fishermen to sell their products to the locals. It had now grown to a multi-level center with a variety of shops and restaurants.
Tip: Most visitors only discover the top level, which runs along Pike Street and Pike Place. Don’t be a tourist. Go deeper into the market and down the stair to discover more shops and restaurants.
As you stroll through the market, you will notice a lot of street performers. They are also called Buskers and some of them go on to become famous performers and songwriters. While visiting, make sure to stop at one of the fish sellers and observe. To attract customer attention, some fishmongers started throwing fish to each other and making a big show out of preparing and selling fish.
Interesting Facts: Although Pike Place started as a farmer’s market, it now also offers many trinkets, fine art, shows, breweries and dining experiences.
Some of the vendors worth mentioning at Pike Place: Daily Dozen Donuts; Saffron spice Indian food; Supply The Best dried fruits and veggies; The Urban Garden; Don and Joe's Meats; Arts and Crafts area; Made in Washington stores.
This 605 ft observation tour is the most visited attraction in Seattle. The Needle reopened recently after some major renovations. The observation tower commands an amazing 360-degree view of Seattle, Puget Sound, several lakes, and Mt Rainier. It has both outdoor and indoor observation decks. A snack shop offers drinks, popcorn, and other snacks.
Interesting Facts: The Space Needle design was inspired by the Stuttgart Tower in Germany.
The tower also has a revolving restaurant, but it is still under construction. The new design calls for a glass bottom. That should be an integrating experience – looking down through glass while dining.
Waterfront and Great Wheel
A few steps down from Pike Place, you will reach Seattle’s waterfront with many shops and dining experiences. The waterfront is a long stretch of walkable sidewalks along Alaskan Way. Start from around Yesler Way which dead-ends into the Ferry Terminal and keep going north on Alaskan until you reach the Olympic Sculpture Park.
Along the way, you will pass great seafood restaurants like Elliott’s Oyster House, the Salmon Cooker, the Fish Bar or the Crab Pot. Looking for entertainment and fun? Stop at the Great Wheel at pier 57 get your tickets and enjoy a leisurely ride in the heated cars. Protected from Seattle’s unpredictable weather, you can observe the city skyline on one side and Elliott Bay on the other. You can even grab a beer for your ride.
Past the Great Wheel, you can stop for a picnic at Waterfront Park or you can continue on the Aquarium. If you decide to visit the Aquarium, make sure to spend some time under the dome. The underwater dome provides a window on sea life in Puget Sound.
If you prefer to take a cruise through Elliott Bay, the Locks, or the lakes, stop at Argos Cruise terminal and go exploring. Further down you will come across another ferry terminal and then the Olympic Sculpture Park. The park has a statue of a large white head, gazing at the Olympic mountains in the distance. The best spot to view this statue is at the tip of Pier 70. The park also has a nice fountain.
On the way back, you might want to stop at “Ye Olde Curiosity Shop” at Pier 54 for some unique merchandise and souvenirs. They have a large collection and the prices are reasonable. If you haven’t visited Pike Place Market yet, you can take a side trip from the waterfront up some stairs and right in the middle of the bustling market. Across from Pier 62, there is an unnamed road that will take you to those stairs (on some maps it is called “Pike Place-Hillclimb”).
You can’t really miss the Space Needle from anywhere in downtown Seattle – and further away. But the Needle is not the only attraction at the Seattle Center. This multi-block area is home to the “Pacific Science Center”, “Chihuly Garden and Glass”, “Children’s Museum” and the “Museum of Pop Culture”. It is also home to several gardens, the International Fountain, and kids' play areas. The Children’s Museum building also hosts the Armory, which is a large food court with many dining options.
In between the Space Needle and the Pacific Science Center, there is a nice little garden with unique metal sculptures. On one side you can see tall glass flowers. If you pass under them, they will start singing.
The Pacific Science Center is a great place for kids and adults to spend time exploring and learning all day long. With a lot of exhibits and hands-on experiences indoors and outdoors, no one can get bored here. The science museum also has a large Imax theater that shows several nature and adventure films all day long.
The center is connected to downtown via a Monorail system. You can take the Monorail from Westlake station at the shopping mall to the Seattle Center next to the Needle.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
This is a must-see museum in the Seattle Center. The “Glass Museum” was opened in 2012 to showcase the glassworks of Dale Chihuly. It has three distinct areas with amazing displays of lights and colors. Indoors, you can walk through several rooms with beautiful glass displays with vibrant colors and complex shapes. Some look like flowers or animals while others defy description.
Interesting Facts: Seat Seattle is the second largest glassblowing capital in the world, second to Murano Italy.
Outdoors, you can stroll through a glass garden. All kinds of glass plants and animals roam through this enchanting place. Connecting the two areas is a big glass house with amazing glass formations hanging from the ceiling. Through the glass ceiling, you can see the towering Space Needle. Read more here.
I am not a fan of shopping but for you die-hard shoppers, downtown Seattle has a lot of shopping choices. You can start at the Westlake Center, which is a 4-Story glass-enclosed mall that connects to a 25-story office tower. The mall has many well-known stores like Nordstrom Rack, Saks Fifth Avenue, Clair’s and Anker, and some favorite dining places like P.F. Chang, Starbucks, and Candy Time. If you are looking for some gifts to take back home, visit the “Made in Washington” store.
Right next door, you can stop at the Pacific Place mall for some high-end shopping. From there you can take the Skybridge to connect to the Flagship Nordstrom store.
Many unique shops and restaurants are also found at street level as you navigate the downtown grid.
Outside of Downtown
The fun and discovery are not limited to the popular downtown. A few miles in any direction you can find places like parks with Seattle views, aviation museums, Sounds, Lakes, and Islands.
From Kerry Park, you can see a great view of downtown, the Space Needle, and Mt Rainier. The park is just a small strip of green overlooking the bay but is very popular because of the view and the abstract art. The view is especially amazing at dusk or nighttime.
Another great view can be had at Hamilton Viewpoint Park. This is a larger park with portable facilities and telescopes. Seattle’s skyline is across Elliott Bay looking east.
The “Gas Works Park” also has a nice view of the Seattle skyline with the added bonus of being a full park with its own history and views. It used to be a coal gasification plant but was turned into a park after the city bought the plant in 1962. The designers decided to keep the factory structure intact as a contrast to the green fields and Lake Union.
Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour
Have you ever wondered how the Boeing jumbo Jets are built? If so, this museum is a great place to get a glimpse of how models 747, 767, 777, and 787 (the Dreamliner) are built. The museum is located in the city of Mukilteo about 25 miles north of Seattle. Read more about Future of Flight here.
Museum of Flight
Another must-see museum for space and aviation buffs. This one is in the city of Tukwila south of Seattle and comprised of several buildings and a large outdoor exhibit. The museum holds a large collection of aircraft including the Boeing 747 and the Concord and a dedicated building for Boeing history. Read more about Museum of Flight here.
Tours around Seattle
The best way to explore a new city is to join a tour and learn from the expert locals about where to go, what to see and do - and where to eat.
Taste Pike Place Food Tour
I went on the Taste Pike Place tour with Show Me Seattle the very first day I arrive in Seattle. It was a great way to learn about one of the most well-known attractions in town and to taste some delicious food. Marcia, our guide, was very friendly and knowledgeable. We spent more than 3 hours learning about the Pike’s history, people and shops and ended up tasting food from 13 different places. Taste Pike Place Food Tour here.
Seattle by Segway
Segways are a great way to discover a new town. You can rent a Segway and go on your own, but it is always better to learn from an expert. I recently went on a tour with “Seattle by Segway” through the waterfront, Seattle Center, Pike Place, and other downtown landmarks. Read more about Seattle by Segway tour here.
Mt Rainier National Park
The majestic mountain towers over the Washington state landscape and can be visible from most vantage points in the Seattle metro area. It is an active volcano that is always topped with snow. It has 26 main glaciers - the most on any mountain in the lower 48 US states. It is more than 14 thousand feet high and spawns 6 major rivers and many waterfalls. The national park around the mountain was established in 1899 as the fifth national park in the United States and it encompasses 236,381 acres. Along with the towering peak of Rainer, the park’s expansive area includes many mountains, meadows, old-growth forests, rivers, and waterfalls. Read more about Mt Rainier tour here.
Mt. Rainier, WashingtonMt. Rainier, Washington anaheimer Thu, 11/09/2017 - 15:58
The majestic mountain towers over the Washington state landscape and can be visible from most vantage point in the Seattle metro area. See the main Seattle page here
Mt. Rainier is an active volcano that is always topped with snow. It has 26 main glaciers - the most on any mountain in the lower 48 US states. It is more than 14 thousand feet high and spawns 6 major rivers and many waterfalls.
The national park around the mountain was established in 1899 as the fifth national park in the United States and it encompasses 236,381 acres. Along with the towering peak of Rainer, the park’s expansive area includes many mountains, meadows, old growth forests, rivers and waterfalls.
Interesting Facts: On clear days Mt Rainier can be seen as far away as Corvallis, British Columbia and Oregon.
The park is popular for hiking, climbing and winter sports. Most visitors go for a day trip, but some like to stay at the campgrounds and Inns.
On a recent tour with “Customized Tours”, we spent a day exploring this beautiful park and majestic mountain.
We started from Seattle and headed south towards the Nisqually entrance. Along the way, we stopped at Puyallup to stretch our legs and buy some supplies. The town has a large Fred Myers grocery store with everything you can think off – including a Starbucks. It was a good stop for breakfast.
Interesting Facts:Some ice cave in the mountain are so cold they are being studied for similarity to conditions on Mars.
Our guide and driver Joe was a wealth of information. He knew the ins and outs of the park and where to stop and what to see. As we threaded the windy highway towards our destination, we enjoyed the amazing scenery and stopped for small hikes into the woods and to inspect the wildlife. On one stop we got close and personal with some deer – a mom and 2 pups.
The weather is unpredictable at the National Park. On an early October day, the sun was shining in downtown Seattle, but as we drove up the hills into the park, the skies darkened and a slow drizzle started. Joe used his experience and knowledge to adjust our itinerary according to weather conditions.
First, we stopped at National Park Inn in Longmire for lunch. This stop also has the ranger station, visitor center and a museum.
Tip:Longmire is the last stop at which you may find some cell phone coverage. After that point the phones were totally dead.
Right across the street from the Inn, we enjoyed a hike through the Trail of Shadows. It is an easy .7-mile hike through trees, creeks and meadows. If you look closely you can see that the Beavers were busy building their dams across the creek.
On the trail we also passed an old log cabin and some abandoned hot springs. The hot springs are now considered very dangerous due to the presence of parasites.
After our lunch stop and hike, we discovered that the drizzle turned into ice. Later during the climb to Paradise, the ice turned into snow. Joe decided to keep going and reach the Inn before any road closures. As we climbed, a few snow-covered peaks revealed themselves through the clouds but Mt Rainier remained shrouded.
Interesting Facts:The mountain is so high that from the lowest summit, Liberty Cap you can see four additional mountains, Mount Baker, Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams
Arriving at Paradise Inn, we saw a rustic wood structure mostly covered in snow. Inside it was warm and inviting with vaulted ceilings made of aged old growth wood. Outside, under light snow, squirrels were scurrying around and then hiding in snow holes.
Paradise area is a base camp for many activities. During the summer visitors go camping, hiking or mountain climbing. In the winter months they go cross-country skiing, snowboarding and tubing – or just enjoying the winter wonderland, like us.
On the way back, the snow stopped and the clouds started clearing. All of a sudden, Mt Rainier revealed itself and we could see the shiny glaciers. Because of the improving weather, we were able to stop at 2 waterfalls, Ruby Falls and Sluiskin Falls. Both were cascading through an eerie snow-covered landscape. The Paradise river has 8 major waterfalls along its path and many minor ones.
This guided tour by Customized Tours was only an introduction to the national park. I will definitely come back to explore the many trails and waterfalls and maybe camp during summer. de Joe made it a fun trip with his stories and commentary. The tour bus was comfortable and warm in the wintery weather. I am looking forward to going on more tours with this company.
Seattle Aviation MuseumsSeattle Aviation Museums anaheimer Tue, 11/07/2017 - 17:08
Seattle is home to the largest aerospace manufacturer in the world, so it stands to reason it is also home to 2 separate aviation museums. See the main Seattle page here
Both are run by private companies but showcase a lot of Boeing's products and history. For a more Boeing-centric experience, visit the Future of Flight which includes a tour through the Boeing factory. For a larger exhibit with international flavor and a section dedicated to space, go to the Museum of Flight.
Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour
This museum is located in the city of Mukilteo (next to Everett) about 25 miles north of Seattle. Before the tour, you get to visit the main Gallery (Learning Center) with some informative exhibits and hands-on experiences.
You can get into the cockpit of a 727 plane, take a simulated flight, inspect GE and Rolls-Royce engines and many other exhibits. While visiting you can also design and print your own airplane image or visit the "How Planes are Made" family zone.
Interesting Facts: The Boeing assembly line at Everett is the largest building in the world by volume with 472 million cubic feet in volume.
After you have your fill of indoor activates and exhibits, take the elevator to the observation deck where you can view an active runway and Boeing factory buildings.
The tour is about 90 minutes and takes you through the Everett building and through the largest assembly building in the world. You get to see airplanes moving down the long assembly line in various stages of completion.
Tip: Photography and electronic devices are not permitted during the tour. Make sure to place your belongings in the free lockers before your start - and remember you code.
It is a brisk walk, so it is not recommended for people with mobility issues. But don't let that stop you from enjoying this tour. The museum offers 2 tours a day that meets ADA requirements. You just need to call 2 weeks ahead of time to reserve it.
Interesting Facts: According to the Guinness World Records, the mural on the six factory doors is considered the largest in the world.
During the tour, you also get to visit the airfield and watch planes taking off and landing. The tour was very informative and engaging even for children. The tour guides are Boeing employees and know their stuff. It was a nice touch when the guide pointed to his working place in the plant.
Interesting Facts: The Boeing Company, founded in the Seattle area by William Boeing, started as a boat company
The museum also has 2 gift shops and a café. One store is at the front of the tour and it carries Boeing items. Another store sells more traditional science gifts. For a free souvenir, go back to the gallery level. Take a free photo at the booth and come back later to select your background and email it to yourself. You can also purchase a hard-copy photo at the Boeing store.
Museum of Flight
One building is dedicated to Space exploration. Inside you can climb into a Space Shuttle model or browse through Apollo engines, Model Rockets or visit the Space Flight Academy. When you are done with the space exhibits, take a pedestrian bridge to the main building with a large aviation gallery. The gallery showcases airplanes through the ages from the historic flight of the Wright Brothers to recent advances in space flight and all the innovations in-between. For a better view of the whole gallery, take the elevators to a balcony overlooking the whole exhibit.
Another building tells the story of Boeing from 1916 to 1958. The first floor is dedicated to William Boeing and his pioneering decades building this company that became the dominant Aerospace manufacturer.
Interesting Facts: In 1915, William Boeing dropped cardboard "bombs" on a crowded California-Washington football game to wake up Americans to the danger of foreign attack.
Outdoors, you will find a large covered area with many aircraft from around the world. This exhibit has the only Concord plane in the US. You can climb in and experience the seating plan and the complex cockpit. Also outdoors you can find a Boeing 747, the first jet Airforce One, and many military jet fighters and bombers. The museum offers several tours and experiences.
You can go on a one-hour Boeing Field tour. The tour takes you both inside the historic airport and along the runway. You can also go on docent tours of the museum for a more in-depth experience of learning and entertainment. Finally, you can enjoy a 3D movie or take a simulator flight for an additional fee. During your visit, you can spend some time at one of two Cafés to relax and enjoy some snacks.
Seattle by SegwaySeattle by Segway anaheimer Sat, 11/11/2017 - 13:20
I recently went on a tour with “Seattle by Segway” through the waterfront, Seattle Center, Pike Place, and other downtown landmarks. See the main Seattle page here.
Tip: Parking is difficult and expensive at the waterfront. You can find cheaper parking a few block away, but remember that you have to climb down and back up to get to the water level.
We started with a quick lesson on how to operate the Segway and be safe. Once you learn the basics, the Segway is very easy to operate and much faster than walking.
We selected our helmets and started the tour from their location at the waterfront. Our guide Cory was an excellent tour guide showing us all the interesting places as we zipped along Alaskan Way pedestrian way.
Interesting Facts: The Edgewater is the only over-water hotel in Seattle. It is built on top of Pier 68 and famous for hosting the Beatles when they visited Seattle in 1964.
Towards the north end of the waterfront, we went into pier 70 to gaze at the Olympic Statue from a great vantage point. The huge face in this park is gazing at the Olympic mountains in the distance.
At this point, we went deeper into town and headed toward the Seattle Center for a great view of the Space Needle and Museum of Popular culture.
While at the center we drove our Segway in between large glass flowers that starting singing to us. We also passed by the International Fountain and a musical kids playground.
Interesting Facts: The ferry terminal connects the waterfront to Bainbridge Island, Bremerton, Vashon Island and Port Orchard.
On the way back, we passed through Pike Place and the old part of downtown at Pioneer Square. Riding the Segway through Pike Place was very challenging due to the crowds, but it was fun anyway.
Pioneer Square had a lot of old and historic buildings. Although my feet were tired from standing on the Segway for 2 hours, I was sad to see the tour end. It was a great experience.
Taste of Pike Place Food TourTaste of Pike Place Food Tour anaheimer Thu, 11/09/2017 - 16:54
Downtown Seattle is a hodge-podge of old and new, trendy and laid back. The best way to enjoy this medley of sights and sounds is to just start walking. See the main Seattle page here.
If you are new to Seattle, try to join a walking tour or a food tasting tour to learn from local experts.
I went on the “Taste Pike Place” tour with Show Me Seattle the very first day I arrive in Seattle. It was a great way to learn about one of the most well-known attractions in town and to taste some delicious food.
Interesting Facts: Pike Place market is about 9 acres big with 24 buildings and 240 small businesses
The food choices were excellent and filling. During this tour, we got to try Seafood, donuts, snacks, chowder and dessert. My favorites were:
Tip: Most visitors only discover the top level, which runs along Pike Street and Pike Place. Don’t be a tourist. Go deeper into the market and down the stair to discover more shops and restaurants.
Saffron Spice: This Indian cuisine kiosk offers delicious traditional dishes like Samosa, curry chicken and vegetable wraps. We tried several Samosa with different filling and a spicy sauce.
Honest Biscuits: This is a place specialized in fresh biscuits with a variety of fillings. The biscuits are always fresh out of the oven and fluffy. The fillings are locally sourced from Pike Place shops.
Pike Place Chowder: You can’t miss this award-winning chowder restaurant. Their New England Chowder was amazing.
Interesting Facts: Rachel the Piggy Bank is located beneath the Public Market Clock and Sign at the corner of Pike Place and actually makes money for the market foundation.
We also had great street tacos at Los Agave, tried some smoked Salmon at Pacific Seafood and some dried fruit at Supply the Best. Food was only a part of the tour. We also visited “Seattle’s Pub and Brewery”, watched fishmongers throw fish around and visited a nice rooftop garden maintained by the local vendors.
Interesting Facts: The market foundation does not allow chain stores in the area, but Starbucks was grandfathered in because it started as a unique coffee store.
One of the buildings at Pike Place is dedicated to arts and crafts. Here you can find locals selling their handmade creations. Everywhere you go you can enjoy the street performers (also known as Buskers). You can listen to some guitar players, singers and classical musician.
I really enjoyed my tour with Show Me Seattle and would recommend it to anyone new to Pike Place Market.