THE SPACE NEEDLE
No trip to Seattle would be complete without a visit to the top of the Space Needle. Constructed to mark the 1962 World’s Fair, the Space Needle was intended to embody the theme of the Fair, which was “Century 21.” When it was originally built, the City did not see the value of the Space Needle, and so the 37m by 37m parcel of land on which it was constructed was privately financed for US$75,000. To date, over 46 million people have made the trip to the top of the Needle.
The 184m tall structure features a visitors’ deck from which guests are treated to a 360-degree view of the city. Even if the weather is typically Seattle-esque, visitors will still be able to see the neighbourhoods, landmarks, waterfront and some of the nearby islands that make the city so vibrant.
PIKE PLACE MARKET
Throw a fish, grab a coffee and peruse local artisan goods at the city’s famous Pike Place Market. One of the oldest, longest continuously running farmer’s markets in the country, Pike Place Market has been open seven days a week since 1907. Start at the intersection of Western and Pike, walking toward the market. In addition to several wine shops, traditional delis and artsy shops, on the left just in front of the heart of the market sits the original Starbucks café. Visitors might be surprised to learn that the company that started the worldwide coffee craze actually has its roots in loose-leaf teas!
Coffee in hand, follow the crowds through the market to the city’s favourite fishmonger, famously throwing orders of crab, salmon and seafood through the air. Order something to be shipped home (they’ll pack it in ice so it’s fresh on delivery), and the seamen dressed in waterproof, yellow overalls will let guests try their hand at catching a fish or two.
After the fish stall, take the natural left in the market and indulge in sensational homemade doughnuts, prepared hot and fresh for passers-by. Explore the various floors of the market for flowers, honey, tea, local pottery and some excellent seafood restaurants. Local favourites include Matt’s in the Market for brunch (get there early as they don’t take reservations), and Maximilien’s for romantic French ambience and fare, looking out over the waterfront.
THE SEATTLE WATERFRONT
Just outside the bottom of the market is Seattle’s famous waterfront promenade. The 2km stretch takes about 30 minutes on foot from one end to the other, though if time permits there is no shortage of activities along Alaskan Way. Start at the Edgewater hotel, which is famous for hosting the Beatles while they were in Seattle on tour in 1964 (during which time they attempted to fish out of their windows). Take a leisurely wander along this street and enjoy such novelties as Ye Olde Curiosity shop – filled with crazy local finds like a two-headed pig and a coin-operated fortune teller – or the Seattle Aquarium with its extensive array of sea life. The Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park is located along the waterfront and, if lunch or dinner are on the menu, stop by for a hearty meal at Ivar’s for clam chowder and fish and chips, or more upscale eats and drinks at Elliott’s Oyster House.
Summertime programmes on the waterfront include “Nights at the Pier”, which feature concerts by local and international pop, rock and classical groups, and yes, even a few grunge bands. However, visitors must remember that Seattle-ites are immune to the rain, and thus the waterfront is just as active with or without an umbrella.
FERRY TO BAINBRIDGE ISLAND
At the end of the waterfront – and a particular “must-do” if the weather is behaving – nothing showcases the beauty, greenery and clean living of Seattle more brilliantly than a ferry ride to one of the neighbouring islands. A 35-minute ferry to Bainbridge Island is the perfect way to enjoy a clear, summer day and provides yet another perspective on the city of Seattle. Outdoor viewing decks are perfect for photo taking, while indoor benches and a café allow tourists to see the sights in any weather.
A small island with just 21,000 residents, Bainbridge is ideal for nature walks that explain just why Washington is known as the Evergreen State. However, if time is of the essence, the ferry ride there and back is a great way to take in the city while resting tired feet.
SEATTLE ART MUSEUM
The three-storey sculpture of a man with a large hammer marks the entrance to Seattle’s most impressive museum. Seattle Art Museum (SAM) celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2008 with an extensive renovation and expansion project. A soaring double-height gallery is proportioned to complement large-scale works, while vistas out to the Olympic Mountains and Elliott Bay connect visitor, art and landscape.
Guests can now wander through spacious galleries and light-filled rooms featuring work from cultures around the world. From African to 18th and 19th century American artwork, Northwest Native American crafts to contemporary paintings from Chinese and Japanese artists, SAM rotates its exhibitions regularly with world-renowned programmes from as far as the Louvre and Kobe City Museum. More than 2,400 pieces from the museum’s permanent collection are on display at any one time. SAM also has regular talks by art historians, artists, community members, writers and scholars. n