A May 2007 trip
to Seattle by moatway
Quote: Few places have impressed me as much as this vibrant, interesting city.
Don’t let the elevated Alaskan Way Viaduct fool you…it doesn’t have the effect of cutting the city in two. The hill climb takes you under it and dumps you at the Seattle Aquarium. Worried about the trip back up? Don’t…it can be easily done. Walk south along the waterfront…at Miner’s Landing there is an arcade with a carousel (Pier 57). Further down on piers 56 and 55, you’ll find restaurants and on Pier 54 there is Ye Olde Curiosity Shop. The Curiosity Shop is shop and museum…go in to meet Sylvester the Mummy and Sylvia the Mummy in the back. They are surrounded by dozens of curiosities. It's a really good fun for the whole family. Walking a little further to the Washington State Ferry terminal will allow you to use a pedestrian overpass that will take you back to First Avenue without doing the heart-breaking, gut-wrenching hill climb in reverse.
Plan to visit the Pioneer Square District for a look at older Seattle and for a view of the city from inside the city, go up to the Smith Tower observation deck (2nd Avenue at James). To really see the inside of the city, take the Underground Tour.
Finally, no visit to Seattle would be complete without a visit to Seattle Centre. Choose from the Children’s Museum, EMP, the Science Centre and the Space Needle. There was so much to see and we had so little time!
Best advice? Stay downtown. Much of Seattle is very walkable…it’s a great place to park a car and forget about it. There is a Citypass Seattle. For , a Citypass will grant admission to Seattle Aquarium, Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour, The Museum of Flight, The Pacific Science Center and IMAX Theatre, and the Woodland Park Zoo. That’s a real bargain if you are to visit all five. You can pick up a city pass at your first visit to any of the five locations.
Should you wish to take a tour, there is the omnipresent Gray Line with its double-decker hop-on, hop-off buses and a full range of tours. See them at Gray Line. Gray Line also offers airport service.
Our room may be typical…on the small side, it had a queen bed, and was nicely decorated, clean and comfortable. The bath had redone with Victorian-look fixtures and featured a deep soaking tub. Other features included robes, hairdryer, coffee, ironing board, and the morning paper. There are other room configurations available, but for two, the room was fine.
The hotel offers an up-scale restaurant, The Andaluca and a classic-look bar with high windows overlooking the street, Oliver’s. The lobby with its adjoining mezzanine is particularly attractive; we found the desk staff excellent and there is a concierge on site for bookings. Other facilities include a fitness centre on the third floor with machines, free weights, and aerobic equipment. All guest rooms have Wi-Fi and the hotel offers a full range of business services.
Food alternatives are available at the Westlake Center from all the usual fast-food places and P.F. Chang’s Chinese Bistro (400 Pine Street), an attractive room and bar with an extensive and tasty menu.
In essence, the Mayflower Park is a nice place to stay…it’s well cared for and has all the amenities that you’ll probably need. In a city of expensive hotels, the AAA rate at the time of our stay (May, 2007) was $209 plus all the usual taxes. Valet parking added an additional $28 per day. It averaged $270 per night.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 12, 2007
Mayflower Park Hotel
405 Olive Way
Seattle, Washington 98101
It’s a nice room; if the stairs are too much, there’s an elevator to bring you down to the intimate bar, a private room and a large dining room with an open kitchen. The finish is white with lots of red mahogany and white linens on the tables as well as subdued lighting and wine bottles and cases as decoration. The staff are impeccably dressed either in tuxedo or white dress shirt with bow-tie.
The menu runs the gamut. As I said, catering to expense accounts, appetizers run through salmon, lobster, crab, scallops, etc. ($14 - $21). There are salads at $10; the serious side of the steak menu has half a dozen offerings at $50 and "slightly smaller" steaks at $41 - $46. There are other entrees including lamb, chicken, tuna, salmon, and shrimp averaging about $37 and vegetables can be added at an average $8.50/serving. Throw in a wine list that I might describe as formidable…starting at about $35 and going up…way up, and you have the promise of an interesting, meat-oriented evening.
We decided on a rib-eye steak and the double rib lamb chops with a bottle of Preston Estates Cabernet. I chose the wild mushrooms as my side and Maureen decided on a salad. With pre-dinner drinks, the entire meal came in at $172 plus tax plus tip. By now, you may have noticed, that I’m having a bit of sticker shock…these are after all, US dollars, so I have to add an additional 10% to everything but then, I have to step back and ask myself…was it worth it? Yes it was…the meal was excellent. Servings were generous and perfectly prepared; the service was impeccable; the evening was flawless; it was an excellent choice. To find the Morton’s closest to you and even book a reservation over the net go to Morton’s.
1511 6th Ave.
Seattle, Washington 98101
Attraction | "The Space Needle"
The tower is 650 feet with an observation deck at 520 feet. The nautilus pavilion at its feet was in the original design but wouldn’t be finished until 2000. For an admission fee (2007 - $15), an glass-walled elevator will whisk you to the top at 10 mph. Once there, you can opt to stay inside or go to the outer deck. There are any number of aids, both static and dynamic, to help you identify, or zoom in on, the sites before you. You can be forgiven if you feel there is a slight sway, but remember, at age 45, this tower has withstood a fairly severe earthquake.
It is what it is: a spot high in the sky from which you have a view of downtown Seattle, Lake Union, and north to the Olympic Mountains. Try to see it on a clear day. Fastest way to the Seattle Centre is still on the monorail from the Westlake Shopping Center, corner of Pine and 5th.
400 Broad Street (seattle Center)
Seattle, Washington 98109
Attraction | "Experience Music Project (EMP)"
Your visit will probably begin in Sound and Vision in which the EMP has recorded the stories of a number of artists and producers…you can hear the voices of Noel Redding, Jackie deShannon, Ice-T, and many more as they tell their stories. Included is a screen showing performance footage. It wasn’t our favourite gallery; as time goes on and, hopefully, more stories are added, it might be.
The Guitar Gallery was something again. A collection of 50 guitars including rare Nationals, Dobros, Fenders, Gibsons, and Rickenbackers tells the story of the development of the guitar. For anyone who cares, it’s really an interesting exhibit, for the guitar as science and as art. A screen features vignettes of the guitar greats; you’ll see Les Paul, Eddie Cochrane, Albert King, Bonnie Raitte, and many more.
In The Northwest Passage, you’ll trace the Seattle music scene from ‘40s jazz to the R & B of the ‘50s and onward. Homegrown Dolton Records produced the Frantics, the Fleetwoods, and the Ventures. As "Battles of the Bands" became popular, the local Kingsmen fought it out with Paul Revere and the Raiders to become the best purveyors of "Louie, Louie". The Kingsmen’s "Louie Louie" was a modest scandal at the time with its muddy lyrics and background comments. There is even a copy of the FBI files on their song available…a little hard to believe by today’s standards. The music in the passage evolves to include groups involved in the psychedelic ‘60s, punk, rap and eventually, grunge. There is striking memorabilia from Heart and Queensryche. It would have been difficult to avoid the Seattle music scene while we were growing up…it was diverse and rich.
Upstairs, you’ll find the Jimi Hendrix Gallery; it’s an amazing collection of the late guitarist’s possessions, letters, and costumes. It is somewhat oddly juxtaposed with The Disney Gallery next door... But EMP is more than just a museum. There is also a Sound Lab where you can try your talent with an electric guitar and for a little money, cut a CD. On the Sound Stage, you can experience the life of a rock star and cut a DVD. Throw in the JBL Theatre running big shows, a restaurant and a bar and you have a place in which you can spend a lot of time.
EMP presents an incredible amount of musical information; it doesn’t pretend to cover the entire field, but what it does cover, it covers well. Go to EMP.
EMP Museum at Seattle Center
325 Fifth Ave North
Seattle, Washington 98109
Attraction | "Science Fiction Museum & Hall of Fame"
Even if you are not a devotee of science fiction (and I’m not), you’ll find things that you recognize and the object that one fan considers the Holy Grail another may find interesting or even amusing. There is quite a display of cheesy-looking weaponry: phasers, blasters, and disruptors. There are the ("Beam me up, Scotty!") communication devices. There’s no end of spacecraft models and an enjoyable interactive spaceship exhibit. (How many lasers does a Klingon battle cruiser carry?…if you can answer that then bless you.)
There are sections on teleportation, time travel, and changing scale. There is post-apocalyptic literature, and there are aliens of all kinds not to mention robots. (Everyone must have seen at least one Star Wars movie.) And the costumes: Charlton Heston’s "Planet of the Apes" outfit, the uniform from "The Rocketeer", Cat’s costume from "Red Dwarf" and coneheads from SNL and so much more.
It’s all fun, affordable, and a testimonial to the imagination. For more information, go to Science Fiction Museum.
Science Fiction Museum & Hall of Fame
325 5th Ave, N
Seattle, Washington 98109
Attraction | "Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (Ballard Locks)"
The locks themselves are part of an 8-mile long canal, 100 feet wide and 30 feet deep. The fact that it was important to minimize the intrusion of saltwater into the Lake Washington system was a mitigating factor in the eventual design. That design had been placed in the hands of Hiram Chittenden who decided that the locks should be large enough to accommodate the largest ship of his day, the Lusitania. He would retire before construction began in 1911, to be finished in 1917.
Ninety years later, the locks are still in constant operation. Run by the Army Corps of Engineers, the site encompasses a Visitor Centre, an Administration Building, two sets of locks, the larger being 80 feet wide, a dam that drops water from the freshwater above and a fish ladder. As an added bonus, there is the Carl S. English Botanical Garden.
Perhaps I approached a little jaded…been there, done that. That quickly went away as we watched a parade of pleasure yachts, fishing boats, and tugs with barges move through the locks. I was surprised when Maureen, who is usually disinterested in this kind of thing, insisted on watching an aggregate barge pass through. We crossed over the locks to look at the fish ladder, and of course, we were there at just the wrong time of year, nothing was moving through but at a better time, we would have been able to look down into the fish ladder, and even better, there is a viewing room looking into its side. It must be absolutely amazing during spawning. Steelhead move through mid-February until April; Sockeye go through in July, Chinook in late August and Coho in late September. Were I in Seattle during a salmon run, the fish ladder would be the city’s premiere attraction.
The botanical garden was created for the Army Corps of Engineers by Carl English. Beginning in 1931, Mr. English acquired specimens from around the world to create an English garden of rolling lawns and interesting trees. There are 573 species of plants in the garden, and the circular walk through it doesn’t take that long while it provides nice views over the canal. It makes for a pleasant walk on a sunny afternoon.
Hiram M. Chittenden Locks/Ballard Locks
3015 Northwest 54th Street
Seattle, Washington 98107
(206) 783 7059
Seattle was first settled in 1851 on a mud flat. As the town grew, the problem of sewage waste reared its smelly and ugly head. Waste from the homes on the hill above the settlement regularly washed down into it. With the invention of the flush toilet, the waste was concentrated in a wooden sewer, but at high tide, the flow to the flush toilets reversed…not pleasant then, but the stuff of many jokes on the tour.
Fortunately, much of the city burned on June 6, 1887. The town’s inhabitants were eager to rebuild and started doing so immediately, but the city had other ideas. After eight years of spewing toilets, it might be possible to solve the problem by raising the level of the city and running new sewer lines. The city built walls around city blocks so that the first floor of the rebuilt and surviving buildings was now the basement. For some time, to cross a street, it was necessary to leave the building, climb up a ladder to reach street level, walk across the street and descend another ladder to get to the main entrance of the building there. There were all kinds of accidents until new sidewalks were built over the old sunken sidewalks; they were supported by brick arches and a number still today feature a form of glass sky-lighting to illuminate the old walkways below.
There isn’t much to see on the tour as you visit the old walks around three different basement groups. The delight of the tour is the discussion of Seattle’s history. The guide staff seems to be made up of frustrated and in-between-jobs actors and they give a good , and comedic, performance. We learn that in this busy little town there were once 2000 seamstresses and very few sewing machines. A tax would be applied to them that would supply most of the early city’s tax income. A city built on the backs of the taxpayers? There were just so many stories.
The tour price was $14 adult (2007) and although our initial group seemed huge, it was broken down into four groups of 45 with separate guides. It was all well done, but there was limited visual impact.
Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour
608 First Ave.
Seattle, Washington 98104
206 682 4646
The museum spaces upstairs are so large that one might prefer to do a series of visits and nibble away at the collection which numbers over 23000 pieces. For the 75th anniversary, it has received 1000 new pieces through donations and gifts. Some 200 of them are now on display.
The visit begins in the Wright Galleries for Modern and Contemporary Art. The space allotted to the genre is the largest in the museum which is appropriate considering the size of some of the works. As much as we enjoyed these galleries, there were others that we preferred. The American Art collection is a representative collection of some of the country’s finest art, silver, and furniture. Also particularly fine are the galleries for Native Art of the Americas. Here, the dominant field (as in all the museum) is in North-west work, but there is good representation from societies as diverse as Peru, Central America and New Guinea.
Upstairs, the permanent collection of African Art is particularly interesting in its study of dress and masks. We were, however, most taken with the Porcelain Room where a collection generally dating 1740 - 1760 is particularly well displayed. The European section with its emphasis on Renaissance art is fairly predictable; there are the requisites; a Reubens and a Van Dyke, but there are also a number of unattributed works.
The Simonyi Special Exhibition Galleries are more eclectic and contain many of the recent gifts, many of which are modern pieces. It’s quite a collection. SAM goes the distance to make your visit as interesting as possible. Descriptions of the works tend to be thorough, an audio guide is available and there are touch-screen kiosks where you can watch interviews with artists, listen to music or discover the history behind the work. You will need at least two hours to explore the space.
Seattle Art Museum
100 University St
Seattle, Washington 98101
Riverview, New Brunswick