Soaking Up Seattle

Seattle is an interesting small city with lots of diverse neighborhoods to give it character and many sights to keep a visitor entertained. We hit just about every place listed in our guidebook and several of them are mentioned below.


Soaking Up Seattle

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Harry Potter on October 22, 2002

The Space Needle rules the skyline of Seattle - go up it on a clear day to appreciate the array of downtown buildings with Mt. Rainier in the background

Pike Place Market is renowned in Seattle, the stalls and stores offers lots of fresh foods and souvenirs typical of the Pacific Northwest

Boeing is a major manufacturer here and both the Museum of Flight and the Boeing Tour are musts for flight enthusiasts

Ballard Locks is an unusual, educational sight and you won't find anything like it in most cities

Another unique place in Seattle is underground, the 2 hour Underground Tour in Pioneer Square went quickly and the comical tour guides kept us thoroughly entertained

The small, distinct neighborhoods of Seattle are interesting to explore whether to shop, sightsee or just stroll to feel the character of the particular district

The Johnston Ridge Observatory at Mt. St. Helen's is about 3 hours south of Seattle and one of the best places to experience the mountain and learn about its history while having the option to hike short trails but not having to actually climb the mountain${QuickSuggestions} weather changes frequently here - be prepared for it by wearing layers and carrying an umbrella

if you're going to be visiting multiple sights, consider buying a city pass which can save you money on a combination of visits

there is also a free, discount booklet available at hotels and stores which offers discount admission at many major sights

AAA discount is honored at many sights as well

get to Mt. St. Helen's in the morning before the cloud cover sinks in and obscures the view and your photos of it - it's also much colder here at the higher altitude, dress warmly${BestWay} driving and parking are easier here than in many other cities, so if you have a car, drive it

It's best to drive to a neighborhood, find parking and then walk around

Although we experienced minimal traffic no matter what time of day we were on the road, there are also HOV lanes to help out even more.


Pike Place Market

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Harry Potter on October 23, 2002

The entrance to the Farmers Market area of the Pike Place Market is guarded by Rachel, the bronze pig, and I couldn't resist the temptation to have my picture taken sitting on top of her. Just behind Rachel is the famous Pike Place Fish stalls where fish are tossed into the waiting hands of the fishmongers amidst cheers from the crowd after successful catches. Walking further along (north) up this usually overcrowded section of the market, you will reach the local food specialities such as Chukar Cherries and Snoqualmie Valley Honey Farm. Continuing on you will pass by painters, jewelers, florists and other artists and craftspeople. This section of Pike Place is full of stalls selling flowers and fresh food including seafood, fruits, vegetables, and bakery items.

Once you have troddened back and forth on the main section of this floor, you can head downstairs to view other shops and restaurants or continue back (south) into another area of shops. Local artists display their wares, and I found a unique sculptor who creates his statues out of the ash from Mount St. Helens. The market has four levels and is open every day. The hours are 9am - 6pm, Monday through Saturday and 11am - 5pm on Sunday though a few places such as Pike Pub and Brewery are open later. To learn more about the history of the market and its upcoming events, see Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market
85 Pike Street
Seattle, Washington, 98101
(206) 682-7453

Seattle Center

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Harry Potter on October 23, 2002

The Seattle Center is a large complex that encompasses the Space Needle, Experience Music Project, Pacific Science Center, Key Arena, Children's Museum, Fun Forest Amusement Park and several theaters. Each of these entities is separate and requires its own admission fee. For events going on at the Key Arena and other current happenings, check out Seattle Center . We were lucky to find free daily parking just outside the Pacific Science Center, and we visited here first.

Admission to the Pacific Science Center can be for exhibits only, IMAX only, or both. See Pacific Science Center for pricing and schedule of IMAX features. This 6 acre indoor and outdoor facility can keep you busy for hours as you experiment with the interactive exhibits. Some of my favorites are the water powered exhibits which are outside, music in motion, anti-gravity mirror, and the tests of senses. The IMAX theater has good, steep rowed seating, but the 3D goggle headsets supplied are terribly uncomfortable and I could only see out of one of my lenses.

Next we walked over to the Space Needle and paid $12 each to ascend via elevator the 605 foot tower in 41 seconds. Instead you can also pay $18 to ascend both during the day and again the same night. Space Needle has a thorough account of its history and features. The view from the observation deck is magnificent especially of the side with the downtown buildings and Mt. Rainier in the background. There are good viewing telescopes as well as helpful map photos that point out the sights below. Reservations at the revolving SkyLine restaurant on top will also give you complimentary access to the Space Needle observation deck. The restaurant completes a revolution every 47 minutes and runs on a 1/2 horsepower motor. The elevator down as could be expected opens into the gift shop.

The other major sight in this center is the Experience Music Project but we heard it was not worth the $20 admission fee. The CityPass for $35 will give you access to both the Space Needle and Pacific Science Center along with 4 other designated sights.

Seattle Center
305 Harrison St
Seattle, Washington, 98109
+1 206 684 7200

Johnston Ridge Observatory

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Harry Potter on October 24, 2002

The Johnston Ridge Observatory is closest to Mount St. Helens with its crater only six miles away. It is located at the end of State Highway 504 at milepost 53.8. It took us three hours to drive the 175 miles from Seattle to this observatory.

The observatory was named after volcanologist David Johnston, who was heard to have said his final words "Vancouver, Vancouver, this is it." from this sight, just before the volcano blew and he was never heard from again.

Upon entering the observatory to the left is a large interactive model which demonstrates the events that led up to the eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980. There are also several displays explaining geographic activity and personal accounts from eruption survivors. A 16 minute informative film on the eruption of the volcano is worth seeing.

There is a non-strenuous walking trail from the observatory which will bring you by both the direction dial which indicates where and how far away particular landmarks are from the sight and further along to the memorial of names of those lost in the 1980 eruption. Photos of both are below. It took us 40 minutes to walk to these sights and back to the observatory again.

There is no food available at this site, so bring your own food and drinks and picnic in the parking lot with others. Pets are also prohibited except in a designated area of the parking lot. Wear layers of warm clothes as the chilly breeze off the mountain and the higher altitude will be substantially colder than what it was below.

Hours are daily from 10am -6pm from May through October. Fees for the observatory are $3 per adult plus the Northwest Forest Pass is required, available for $5 a day. For more info on the Johnston Ridge Observatory, call 360-274-2140 or 360-274-3121.

Johnston Ridge Observatory
Spirit Lake Memorial Highway
Castle Rock, Washington
(360) 274-2140

Underground Tour

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Harry Potter on October 24, 2002

Bill Speidel's Underground Tour takes place under the sidewalks of a district known as Pioneer Square. The tour lasts between 1 1/2 - 2 hours but the time seems to go by quickly. Making reservations and buying tickets ahead of time are recommended, but we went on a Sunday afternoon and managed to buy our tickets just before our tour began. However, we did have to squeeze onto a bench with others in the crowded Doc Maynard's where the tour began. After a 15 minute tongue-in-cheek lecture, the crowd was split into groups and our group was comprised of about 25 people.

Our guide, Jo, led us across the street and opened a door numbered 115 and we descended down under the sidewalks. The 15 foot ceilings and ample space and light kept us from feeling claustrophic. The tour encompasses 3 of the 12 blocks currently accessible underground. There used to be 33 accessible blocks underground but now stores are using some of them for retail space. This underground world came about after a fire started when a pot of glue overboiled on June 6, 1889 and the city needed to be rebuilt higher.

Jo did a good job of keeping our attention and making us laugh and occasionally even blinking in astonishment at her stories. In one room where light shown in from the grates in the sidewalk above, she told us to yell loudly, to see if anyone above ground would notice us down below. Several of the underground areas have signs on the walls indicating buildings that used to be there. The bank even had signs for where the tellers cage and vault used to be located. You'll know you're at the end of the tour when you come to a room with a pole full of the numbered stickers worn by visitors on the tour. After this room is a room with photos and short biographies about historical figures of that time and of course, the exit is through the gift shop. Tour times vary by month, so check Underground Tour for scheduled tours.

Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour
608 First Ave.
Seattle, Washington, 98104
206 682 4646

Museum of Flight

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Harry Potter on October 23, 2002

At the southwest corner of Boeing field is the inspiring Museum of Flight. Parking is free at this airport and you can stand just beyond the gate and watch flights that have just taken off or are landing on the runways further down. Also available here are rides in a bi-plane with the costs ranging from $99 - over $300 per person depending on the tour. Admission to the museum is $9.50 for adults, though the discount booklet offers $2 off each ticket. The museum is open 10am - 5pm daily and until 9pm on Thursday plus the first Thursday evening of each month is free. For a schedule of events, visit Museum of Flight

A free 1 hour tour is included in the admission price and several tours are given daily. The tour is historical in nature and covers both the Red Barn which was the original Boeing factory and the main room with the hanging airplanes. Highlights are the 1910 Gianni Caproni (first fighter plane), 1925 Boeing 80-A (first commercial plane), 1933 Douglas DC-3, Corsair, Blue Angels, Aerocar III, SR-71 Blackbird with an open cockpit to sit in, and the Lockheed M21 Blackbird.

Upon entering the main room to the left are several walled exhibits, and to the right, at the bottom of the stairs, are 2 flight simulators. They are manned by an attendant who shows you how to practice flying on the computer with a joystick before entering the flight simulator for your 2 minute solo or 4 minute dual flight. Through September 2002, the promotion price for using the flight similator was $5 per person, though it was going up to $10 per person. There is also another flight simulator at the opposite corner of the room.

Upstairs offers are a different perspective of the airplanes hanging from the ceiling and there are additional sections including a tower area where you can pretend you're a pilot, as well as a hallway of exhibits to understand the function of an ATC and test yourself on flying facts. Outside the museum, stands the Air Force One from 1954 which you are allowed to board, but only a few people can enter at a time and sometimes the wait in line can be extensive.

The cafeteria has a decent selection of food, but at museum prices. I enjoyed a piece of poached salmon on a bed of salad for $6.95 and enjoyed eating it on the patio overlooking Boeing field. There is also a great gift shop with lots of books, videos, interactive CDs, die cast airplanes, posters, clothing - t-shirts, hats, socks, ties and a variety of other flight related souvenirs to remember your visit.

Museum of Flight
9404 East Marginal Way S.
Seattle, Washington, 98108
(206) 764-5700

Ballard Locks - FREE

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Harry Potter on October 23, 2002

Officially known as the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, this unusual free tourist sight contains a beautiful botanical garden, a visitors center, a fish viewing room, and the locks themselves on the Lake Washington Ship Canal. A free parking lot is about 100 yards from the entrance to the visitors center where a free lecture and guided tour are offered. Check their website Locks for seasonal schedule of hours of operation, temporarily closures and further information.

The tour started inside the visitors center with a 20 minute lecture including visual aids led by a friendly, passionate, uniformed guide named Jay Wells. From there he took us past the botanical gardens noting it is the only army facility with a botanical garden in the Northwest and pointed out a particular tree with long, hanging needles called a yellow cedar. The 30 year old tree can live to be 1500 years old and was planted outside the administration building in such a way that it lines up with its columns. A photo of it is below.

Our small group continued down the path to the 2 sets of locks. The large lock had a large vessel waiting to pass (photos below) and we crossed the bridge to view the small lock. Soon the siren went on to alert people that the the locks were in operation and the bridge was opening. We watched a fishing boat pass through the smaller lock and the whole process took only about 5 minutes. We crossed another bridge to view into the part of the canal where schools of salmon gathered. It was explained how tubes and a ladder are used to help flush the salmon downstream while preventing injury to them as only 1 of each 1000 eggs actually survives until adulthood.

The last part of the tour was conducted in the fish viewing room where lighted windows allow you to watch the fish migrating. This viewing room shows part of the fish ladder and contains exhibits with explanations of the process. This educational tour is well worth the time and you can't beat the price.

Hiram M. Chittenden Locks/Ballard Locks
3015 Northwest 54th Street
Seattle, Washington, 98107
(206) 783 7059

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