Washington: Seattle

The best things to see and do in my hometown of Seattle.


Washington: Seattle

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by kylebarber on December 13, 2000

I can't say how lucky I am to have grown up in Seattle, the greatest city in the world. It's not too big (though growing rather quickly...) but features many of the cultural, dining and entertainment options that you'd find in a huge city like New York or Chicago. It is also amazingly close to both the mountains and the ocean, offering outdoors enthusiasts all of the sporting and recreational options that they might wish for.

Though many people complain about the overcast skies and rainfall that occur frequently in the winter, the result is an abundance of green everywhere. Seattle and all of the Pacific Northwest appeals to nature lovers for this reason, which also produces a fairly liberal political climate.

Since I spent my first nineteen years in Seattle it's impossible to state my favorite highlights in less than 200 words. But if you come to Seattle to discover an amazing city rich with pleasures you will not be disappointed.${QuickSuggestions} ${BestWay} If you are sightseeing dowtown, getting around by foot is easiest and good for catching unexpected sights and people watching. To get around to all the different neighborhoods, however, you'll need a car or to master the extensive Metro bus service.


Pioneer Square

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by kylebarber on December 18, 2000

This popular neighborhood filled with art galleries, restaurants and night clubs is actually a historic district, with many restored buildings dating back over one hundred years. Seattle is an older city than many people realize, though remnants of the first incarnation of Pioneer Square now lie beneath the streets in dusty cellars. A large fire in 1889 leveled the city and the new Pioneer Square was constructed on top of the charred remains.

What is left of the old city can be seen by taking the Seattle Underground Tour, or from photos and documents on display at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park museum. The newer "old" structures that line the brick sidewalks, however, offer plenty of historical charm as you wind your way through galleries, stores and coffee bars.

You might want to check out the attractive Smith Tower, which was the largest building west of the Mississippi when constructed in 1914. There is also a great bookstore nearby, Elliot Bay Books, that you should check out if you enjoy lounging through a wide selection of literature.

Pioneer Square
202 Yesler Way
Seattle, Washington, 98104
(206) 667-0687

Volunteer Park

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by kylebarber on December 18, 2000

This large park holds many different meanings for each of the city's residents. I remember it from my childhood as the place to go in the summer to frolic in the shallow cement wading pools. The circular staircase leading up the old water tower seemed like such a long walk, and now it's a quick hike up. And I now realize that so many men were just hanging around the lawn in the afternoons because it used to be the gay pickup joint in the early 80's.

Volunteer Park is a great place to relax and catch the interesting sights and attractions no matter what you think of its sometimes odd and sordid history. The water tower still offers great views as the park is perched on a hill. The greenhouse maintained by the Volunteer Park Conservatory is excellent, offering locals a chance to see more exotic plants that wouldn't survive in our hardy pine forest enviornment. And the Seattle Asian Art Museum nicely fills up the old stomping grounds of teh Seattle Art Museum, which has since moved to its fancy digs downtown.

Volunteer Park
1247 15th Ave East
Seattle, Washington, 98102

Ballard Locks

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by kylebarber on December 18, 2000

The Ballard Locks are an odd Seattle attraction that I always fear will bore my friends who I drag to come and see with me. The boats coming or going to/from Lake Washington must pass through the "locks" which filter out sea water so as not to pollute the fresh water lake. In the summertime my day camp would routinely visit this place, probably because it was free and filled a few hours' time.

But there are sights besides the boats floating up and down while waiting to move forward. The huge dam is pretty spectacular to a small kid, who might be awed and fearful of the huge blades spinning below. The fish ladder is wel constructed, allowing visitors to watch the salmon struggle upstream from a variety of angles. And the small botanical gardens are pleasant any time of the year, though the flowering small plants are particularly brilliant in the summer.

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

Gasworks Park

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by kylebarber on December 18, 2000

This strange park takes advantage of the old gasworks machinery that was made obsolete decades ago. Now painted bright cheery colors, these old structures are great for climbing up and over, though they are made of heavy iron and hurt like hell when you bang into them accidentally. A small playground lies outside and the shoreline of Lake Union is at the bottom of the hill. For some reason the park has always seemed sad and somewhat dark and spooky to me, but it was still one of my favorite parks to visit as a kid.
Gas Works Park
2101 North Northlake Way
Seattle, Washington, 98102
(206) 684-4075

Woodland Park Zoo

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by kylebarber on December 15, 2000

The Woodland Park Zoo has changed a lot since I was a kid, growing into an animal-friendly wildlife park that preserves the inhabitants' natural environments. There are regional groupings, including an African savannah, Asian rain forest, and the northern US wilderness. The elephant exhibit is wonderful, and they just had a baby delivered. When I recently visited the Bronx zoo heer in New York, I was surpised to find the zoos very similar in size and make-up. Then I learned that the same conservation group runs both zoos, and many more throughout the world.
Woodland Park Zoo
601 North 59th Street
Seattle, Washington, 98103
(206) 548-2500

Pike Place Market

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by kylebarber on December 14, 2000

Probably the best local market in the country, Pike Place has been a popular craft and produce market since 1907. Throngs of tourists and locals drift up and down the narrow aisles on the open air ground floor of the market, haggling over the price of fresh fish or getting sidetracked by unusual merchandise and pedestrian artwork.

But as you explore the deeper interior levels of this maze-like complex you'll drift away from the noisy crowd and discover hidden gems of antique stores and hole-in-the-wall restaurants. The Pike Place Market is built on a step hillside, so after descending six or seven floors you still emerge on the street when exiting. And that's just the main building! Another ten or so markets combine to make up this huge complex of unique shopping and dining options.

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

Arboretum

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by kylebarber on December 14, 2000

Not as fanciful or flowering as many large gardens, the Washington Park Arboreturm is still a great place to commune with nature. The drive through the park winds past tall trees and manicured lawns that look emerald green much of the year. Visiting the Japanese Garden within the Arboretum is also a highlight for many visitors, with unsual displays of miniature trees and stone arrangements. Though Seattle itself is green pretty much everywhere, it's still nice to take the time out to visit or drive through this pristine environment.
Washington Park Arboretum
2300 Arboretum Drive East
Seattle, Washington, 98112
+1 206 543 8800

Seattle Aquarium

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by kylebarber on December 15, 2000

I absolutely loved going to the aquarium when I was young, and it's still a great place to visit. Just being near all the salt water tanks reminds me of spending summers at the ocean. There are hundreds of species on display in this world class aquarium, which focuses more on breadth and diversity of species rather than offering spectacles to compete with the likes of Sea World.

The inevitable highlight is the handling tanks underwater dome, which used to house a giant octopus that stretched out at least 25 feet. I've heard that currently the octopi have been relocated to their own room, but there are still sharks and large fish species that swim around the submerged dome.

Kids love the petting pool filled with starfish, anenomae, crabs and other small animals. There is also a popular IMAX theater next door to the aquarium showing both water lovin' films and the nonaquatic variety.

Seattle Aquarium
1483 Alaskan Way
Seattle, Washington, 98101
(206) 386-4300

Space Needle

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by kylebarber on December 14, 2000

When most people try and name the most popular sight or the clear identifying feature of Seattle, they think of the Space Needle. It is an unusual sight, towering 520 feet above the Seattle Center complex. Left over from the 1962 World's Fair, it continues to thrill hundreds of thousands of guests each year with its very quick elevator ride to the top and the panoramic views of the surrounding area.

You can easily make out the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges and view the many hilly neighborhoods of Seattle below. The Space Needle has two restaurants that re both okay but rather expensive. Visiting the observation deck costs $11.

Space Needle
400 Broad Street (seattle Center)
Seattle, Washington, 98109
(206) 905-2111

Ye Olde Curiosity Shop

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by kylebarber on March 25, 2002

There's nothing classy about this joint, but the kids will absolutely love it. Strewn about the countless souvenirs and gag gifts for sale are the types of oddities you'd expect to see in a Ripley's Believe It or Not museum: shrunken heads, American Indian mummies, three headed pigs, etc. My favorite attraction, of course, is Laughing Jack. For a quarter the crusty old sailor will laugh his ass off for about a minute, which in turn usually results in slightly embarrases adults giggling too.
Ye Olde Curiosity Shop
1001 Alaskan Way
Seattle, Washington, 98104
(206) 682-4656

Experience Music Project

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by kylebarber on March 25, 2002

There's been a lot of ballyhoo over the opening of the Experience Music Project, which has led to widely varied takes on the museum. The wildly colorful exterior alone is the cause of much controversy. But what question it mainly boils down to is: Is it worth $20 to visit?

I think many folks consider themselves to be huge music aficionados, but this museum will spoil that illusion for the less enthusiastic fan. The displays are rather detailed and academic, lending a serious museum-like quality to this "Project." Despite having plenty of diversions like the interactive thrill ride, Experience Music project does offer a serious investigation into the art form of rock music. Many friends have remarked to me how boring the whole thing was, even though they were quite excited initially about visiting the "rock museum."

I know that I have been a huge music forever, as my 3000 CD collection can attest. But I was still somewhat frustrated by aspects of the museum, too. There is a strong bent towards rock and blues, which is perfectly understandable considering that Jimi Hendrix is the focal point of the "Experience." But many significant genres of rock (specifically r&b/soul music) are nearly absent from the museum. Perhaps my biggest gripe is that there is no serious research facility associated with the museum. An interactive computer exhibit downstairs offers some additional information on the museum’s holdings but is in no way a significant research tool for students of popular music studies.

The exhibits are quite well put together and informative. The Northwest Passage in particular was illuminating in both the history of local music and Seattle itself. I’m not really a Jimi Hendrix fan, though the exhibit on his life and work was thoughtfully constructed and engaging.

The interactive musical instrument play area was fun, but the lines to use each piece of equipment had my friend and I running out of their pretty quick. It’s pretty funny (and embarrassing with others waiting outside, watching you) to sing along with Ann & Nancy Wilson of Heart.

The James Brown funk thrill ride was somewhat amusing, but it didn’t seem like a good use of the expensive technology employed in creating it. The kids who rode along with us didn’t seem to absorb anything about funk; all they could talk about was the space ride that lasts for a few seconds at the beginning and end of the ride. I think older children are better suited to appreciating this somewhat mature and academic museum.

One final note: the free audio guides that you can check out to bring along on your trip weigh a ton. You might want to consider going without one, as they don’t provide that much insightful commentary.

EMP Museum at Seattle Center
325 Fifth Ave North
Seattle, Washington, 98109
(206) 770-2700

Elliott Bay Book Company

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by kylebarber on March 25, 2002

This excellent bookstore has been a cornerstone of the highly literate Seattle communities for years. Back before the onslaught of Barnes & Nobles and Borders, Elliott Bay Book Company was a giant of a bookstore with a seemingly limitless supply of reading material.

Besides offering a tremendous selection of works to purchase, Elliott Bay has a fabulous environment that has you lingering in the store long past a practical amount of time for shopping. The courteous and knowledgeable staff are also a bonus. A number of author readings, signings, lectures and workshops keep the reading community involved in the bookstore.

Elliott Bay Book Company
101 South Main St
Seattle, Washington, 98104
+1 206 624 6600; +1

Shorty's Coney Island

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by kylebarber on March 25, 2002

This has to be the most fun bar in Belltown. It's not pretentious, the drinks are cheap, and it's not crowded. Best of all they have all your favorite old video games and pinball machines to play. There's nothing like a competitive game of Ms. Pac-Man to get friends riled up. It beats dreary conversation over hummus and $10 martinis...
Shorty's Coney Island
2222 2nd Ave
Seattle, Washington, 98109
(206) 441-5449

Lava Lounge

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by kylebarber on March 25, 2002

This fun bar draws an unusual crowd. The night we were visiting was old country music night (played on vinyl, no less!), and some fun characters showed up to knock back a few beers to Hank Williams. The shuffleboard table is quite popular so arrive early if you're here to play. A nice alternative to the more pretentious bars that make up an increasingly Eastside clone of a neighborhood.
Lava Lounge
2226 2nd Ave
Seattle, Washington, 98121
(206) 441-5660

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