Written by callen60 on 28 Feb, 2010
With the Sun out for our entire three-day visit, producing daytime high temps near 60 and evening lows in the mid 40s, we spent as much time walking around town as possible. In fact, our only non-pedestrian transportation was to and from the airport. Otherwise,…Read More
With the Sun out for our entire three-day visit, producing daytime high temps near 60 and evening lows in the mid 40s, we spent as much time walking around town as possible. In fact, our only non-pedestrian transportation was to and from the airport. Otherwise, we hit the pavement.You can find a nice selection of walking tours here, provided by the Seattle city government. We paved our own path, starting from the Sheraton Seattle, at the southeast corner of Pike and Sixth. It’s a straight shot one-third of a mile down Pike Street to Pike Place Market, which sits above the waterfront on a bluff that’s well hidden by the long run of buildings and shops. As you approach the market, with the famous neon ‘Public Market Center’ sign and accompanying clock, you’ll see the Corner Market on your right, and a ramp that looks like its headed straight underground. It allegedly takes you to shops and cafes (we didn’t check it out), and is your first hint of the extent and labyrinthine nature of the entire market complex. On the far corner of Corner Market is a fruit and vegetable stand that just begs to be photographed, and before that is Left Bank Books, your center for all things radical. Featured that Saturday was a quote from Noam Chomsky assailing the legitimacy of all government.Directly ahead of you under the neon sign is one of the market’s most famous stalls. Folks camp out for 20 minutes or more at Pike Place Fish, waiting to see, photograph and video the fishmonger’s patter and fish tossing skills. It is pretty impressive to watch a salmon in full flight, and those who launch and catch it seem to delight in having their tosses come as close as possible to clipping the bystanders. When they’re not shouting at each other, they also have fun chatting up the tourists.The market extends down both sides of the street, including food stalls, artists, cafés and all other kinds of business. If you like people, crafts, food, and watching any of them (except the first) get made, you’ll be tempted to spend the day here. We popped into Beecher’s Handmade Cheese for lunch, crestfallen when we found that they were out of crab, making it impossible to order Dungeness sandwich grilled with their Flagship cheese. I settled for a cup of vegetarian chili, a sandwich with ham taking the place of crab, and a terrific bottle of root beer. If you want, you can sit at the counter atop a milk can and watch the cheese being made through the class. Seats are at premium, though, so be prepared to wait.Down the street was a piroshki shop, more fish vendors, and a succession of bakeries, including one where’d I scored a cinnamon roll on my previous stop that morning. The original Starbucks is also here, and we popped in just to say we’d been there.There are several ways to descend the bluff down to Alaskan Way, and walk along the harbor itself. One is a stairwell within the market on the back of the main arcade, worth finding just for the view out over the harbor. (I took a few pictures from there early in the morning after finishing my cinnamon roll.) There are several elevators at a few points, including one at Lenora Street, on block past the Market’s end at Virginia Street. Turn towards that waterfront, pass under the Alaskan Way Viaduct with traffic over head, and you’ll find a three-story elevator and open air stairwell that will put you right on the water’s edge. We’d taken this route on our way to and from Waterfront Grill at Pier 70 the night before, a mile and a quarter walk that runs along the renovated harbor. Once full of the sounds of stevedores and winches, it now is a mix of anchoring for pleasure craft, new upscale hotels, and offices, all retaining the appeal of their original addresses at ‘Pier 52’ or the like.On this Saturday afternoon, we continued up Western Avenue through the Belltown neighborhood, one of the many, many distinct areas within the city. We passed shops, folks talking on street corners, apartments and brownstones new and old, and emerged at Broad Street and the Olympic Sculpture Garden. We turned right and sharply uphill, heading for Seattle Center and the Space Needle, which emerged above the horizon at every intersection.Seattle Center was the grounds of the 1962 World’s Fair, which resulted in the Space Needle, Key Arena, and a number of other buildings. It’s one of the city’s major cultural centers and gathering places: located here are the Experience Music Project (in its multicolored, multi-curved Frank Gehry building) and the adjacent Science Fiction Museum, the Seattle Children’s Museum, a small amusement park named the ‘Fun Forest’, and the Pacific Science Center. Lots of people were here, heading into or out of each of these attractions, or just enjoying the beautiful day (some with the help of a coffee or ice cream). A monorail track ran right into the center of things, but we didn’t see any trains running. By the time we arrived at our final destination a few hours later, some of us wished we’d waiting longer to see about catching one.After an hour’s trip up the Space Needle (with no waiting), we headed back down Broad Street past the Olympic Sculpture Park. There’s a great view here across Elliott Bay to the mountains beyond, and I paused for a few pictures while my group let their momentum take them downhill. At the Bay, we turned left and walked down Alaskan Way, passing our dinner spot at Pier 70 and enjoying the water and the sun. I don’t remember a whiff of salt air (here or on the ferry), which makes we wonder how big a fraction of Puget Sound is freshwater. Alternatively, it makes we wonder if my nose works.By now we’d been on our feet for three miles, and given that I’d put in five more on a treadmill that morning, I was ready for some alternative transport. Within central Seattle—bounded by Battery St (Pier 67) to the north and Jackson St (Pier 46) to the south, and as extending east to 6th Avenue—buses are free. Unimpressed, my colleagues plowed on. We passed on the other side of Pike Place Market, directly above the Seattle Aquarium on what might be Pier 60, eventually reaching the Ferry Terminal at Pier 52. Feeling like I’d earned it, I followed my purchase of a ferry ticket with a purchase of a delicious dark beer. Before I could fully enjoy it, however, the boarding call sounded, and we were off to Bainbridge Island Close
Written by callen60 on 22 Feb, 2010
Greater Seattle is as much archipelago as metropolitan area. Although its waterside setting and hills that that slope to the shoreline suggest San Francisco, other landmasses dot the water in nearly 360 degrees from central Seattle. To the east is Lake Washington and Mercer Island…Read More
Greater Seattle is as much archipelago as metropolitan area. Although its waterside setting and hills that that slope to the shoreline suggest San Francisco, other landmasses dot the water in nearly 360 degrees from central Seattle. To the east is Lake Washington and Mercer Island (and beyond that, Lake Sammamish), nearly making Seattle an island itself; to the north, that thin strip of land still holds room for Lake Union. Islands and near-islands make Puget Sound look more like a bayou than an open body of water, at least on the map. Up close, there’s a lot more open water than it seems.The Washington State Ferries operate up and down the Sound, extending the region’s highways across the water, and saving drivers miles (if not time and money). The most accessible destination is Bainbridge Island, which lies 8 miles directly east of central Seattle. If you’re looking for an easy way to explore this blend of land and sea, unique among America’s major cities, this 35-minute ferry ride is the easiest way to do so.The Bainbridge ferry leaves from the Seattle Main Terminal (Pier 52), where Marion Street meets the waterfront. (For us tourists, that’s five blocks south of Pike Place Market.) This is only one of several ferry docks: just to the south at Pier 50, passenger ferries leave for a 15-mile journey south to Vashon Island, where Puget Sound really gets crazy. Just to the north at Pier 55, ferries cross the Sound southwest to West Seattle, and a mile to the north at Pier 69, ferries leave for the 2.5-hour trip to Victoria and Vancouver Island. Pier 52 is also home to the Bremerton ferry, but that trip weaves around the southern edge of Bainbridge to the eastern edge of the Olympic Peninsula. The resulting extra time, and the promise of a great dinner on Bainbridge at the Four Swallows Inn, was enough for us to hop aboard for a late afternoon ride.We’d hiked from the Seattle Sheraton up to the Space Needle, and then back along the harbor to the ferry terminal—3.5 miles in all—so refreshments seemed in order. Thankfully, the Commuter Comforts Café & Wine Bar was there, with seats for barely 24 people tucked into a triangular space just before the boarding area. One of the things I love about Seattle is the way that high-quality coffees, beers and wines are the norm, and that translated in to my first experience with a dark IPA (thumbs up). There was barely enough time to get to the bottom of the glass before the alert for boarding sounded, although later it was clear that wasn’t any need to rush into the queue on a late Saturday afternoon.The ferry was massive. I was unprepared for the size of the ship, which carries thousands of islanders to and from Seattle on workdays. A member of the crew told us that it seats 2,500 passengers and over 200 vehicles. We headed along the port (I think) side to claim the bench closest to the bow. Competition for seating was non-existent, since the ship was carrying barely a tenth of its capacity. The 40-minute ride was terrific. As they were throughout our three-day visit, the skies were blue and cloudless. Seattle’s skyline sparkled as you looked to the bow; ahead of us, a small cluster of sailboats made good use of the mild breezes off the shores of Bainbridge Island. One hundred miles to the southeast, even Mount Rainier was visible, although less than distinct in the late afternoon light. In the bow, the breeze was strong enough to make me realize how quickly we were moving, traveling at 15 knots. Those who make the trip regularly appeared to head indoors, playing cards, listening to music or grabbing a bite at the snack bar. Out on the deck with us were the other tourists, grabbing snaps against the skyline and the horizon, or those exercising a puppy or translating their mall walk to the ferry deck.The ferry docks about half way inside mile-long Eagle Harbor. The former of Winslow is about a third-mile walk from the pier, along Winslow Way. Our restaurant was a little further, not quite a mile up on Madison Avenue. With time to spare, we walked further inland, finding the houses a mix of structures from several eras: small log cabins under vintage trees, Victorians and 1960s ranches. The small ‘downtown’ featured several restaurants, galleries, and the necessary infrastructure of grocery stores, post offices, and other retail establishments. The entire island composes the town of Bainbridge Island, home to 20,000 people. I wasn’t surprised to learn that various survey judged it one of the best places to live in the U.S., and our waitress—who had grown up, moved to Rome, and then come home to work at the family business—seemed genuinely happy to be back. It would be a fun place to explore (car required), with hills, inlets, wildlife preserves, and plenty of shoreline features.We had only time for dinner and a return ferry ride at 8:10. The ride back through the dark water to Seattle was quite a bit cooler, and we spent much of it inside, coming out only for the last few minutes. The walk back to the Sheraton (or any of the other central hotels) was a manageable three-quarters of a mile, and we were back in our rooms not long after 9 pm. Ferries leave frequently, every 40 to 60 minutes, so it’s easy to plan a day trip of almost any length. Close
Written by whenilk38 on 10 Jan, 2010
No, I didn't go up in the Space Needle or to the Boeing Aircraft Plant while I was in Seattle. I did take two scenic loop drives, one around Mount Rainier and the other up to the Johnston Overlook at…Read More
No, I didn't go up in the Space Needle or to the Boeing Aircraft Plant while I was in Seattle. I did take two scenic loop drives, one around Mount Rainier and the other up to the Johnston Overlook at Mount St. Helens. My trip around Mount Rainier on a scenic loop road was not what I had expected. I wasn't able to get very close to the mountain, and there was a lot of forest to block the view. It was a neat enough trip, however. I was also disappointed to learn that the road from Randle was not passable down to Wind Ridge, the eastern viewpoint for Mount St Helens. I had to drive all the way out to I-5 and head south for the Johnston Overlook instead. Harry Johnston was a photographer who thought he could photograph the Mount St. Helens eruption from a distance of about ten miles. He underestimated the power of the volcano by about seven miles, and he perished. The overlook, although not the place where Johnston died, is a memorial to him. The drive to the overlook from I-5 was 108 miles round trip. There were no side roads after the first ten miles, so the road from there on was built for only one purpose: to get to the Johnston Overlook, but it was a neat drive and had lots of viewpoints on the way. I was really shocked that the aftermath of the 1980 eruption is still quite visible on the drive out to Mount St Helens. Workers are still clearing the downed trees, which were blown down up to 17 miles from the mountain in a radial pattern such as that shown above by the parking lot of Johnston Overlook. The cleanup and restoration is a joint project between the government and Weyerhouser. The new plantings are called noble spruce. They appear very symmetrical and almost reminded me of the imitation Christmas trees we use these days. Each stand (forest) is marked with a sign with the year shown in which the trees were planted. The Toutle River once ran past Mount St Helens and flowed west to the Pacific Ocean. It is now a river of volcanic concrete with a small stream of water running through the center. It doesn't even look like a river anymore. The Toutle is visible from the road all along the 54 mile drive up to the Johnston Overlook. After driving 54 miles back to I-5, the short trip down to Portland was a welcome one. Once again, I never did go into the center of the city. I was on the trip to see rural views, so cities were only places to find lodging and food. Close
This was one of the best days on my trip. I started out of Missoula and drove across the narrowest part of Idaho to Coeur D'Alene and then on to Spokane, Washington. Along the way I stopped near…Read More
This was one of the best days on my trip. I started out of Missoula and drove across the narrowest part of Idaho to Coeur D'Alene and then on to Spokane, Washington. Along the way I stopped near Kellog, Idaho to visit the Sunshine Mine Memorial. There is a special exit at mile marker 322 on I-90 just for the memorial, which commemorates the tragedy which occurred in 1972 when fire broke out in the mine. 178 men were working in the mine, and 91 were lost. There is a statue of a miner surrounded by headstone markers as a remembrance of the men and the event. When I got to Spokane I took a planned detour on Route 2 that took me over to Coulee City. Just after crossing the dam there (not the Grand Coulee Dam, that is farther up the river) I made a turn onto Route 17 that led me to the Visitors Center for Dry Falls. Dry Falls is really not a waterfall at all now, but it once was a fall ten times the size of Niagara in width and a Little higher as well. It was formed toward the end of the Ice Age, when an ice dam that held back Lake Missoula broke and a huge flood ensued across what would someday be the state of Washington. Scientists and geologists estimate that the flooding only lasted a short time, but it gouged out what is now called The Scablands. Dry falls was a part of that, and the rock formations in the vicinity do resemble scabs. In order to show the full size of Dry Falls--it is about 200 feet high and 5 miles long--I took five photos of the cliff and later stitched them together into a panoramic view. In the process, the resultant photo is long and narrow. I included one of the photos in the review, too. After leaving Dry Falls, I drove down through the valley and through some of those scablands for about 60 miles to the town of George--yes, there is a town called George, Washington. There is a huge amphitheater outside of the town, but I passed that up for another natural wonder. At exit 143 on I-90 there are no services and no buildings at all. Instead, it is just a road called Silica Road. Just about a quarter mile off the interstate on Silica you come to another named Vantage Road. A left turn onto Vantage Road takes you into Frenchman Coulee. The road winds for seven miles down through the coulee all the way to the Columbia River, which is about a mile wide at that point. (A coulee is defined as a deep gulch with sloping sides, often dry in summer) Frenchman Coulee has cliff sides and is deep with lots of rock formations in it and the road down to the river is very scenic. Toward the bottom of the road, there is a great view of the Columbia River and the I-90 Bridge which spans it a few miles below Frenchman Coulee. It really is sad that thousands, if not millions of people pass this landmark every year without knowing that it is there. This is the formation I described in the introduction, which I too would have passed by except that I found it in my pre-travel search of Google Earth. Frenchman Coulee is a playground for hikers, rock climbers and rock hounds. I wish I had spent more time there, but I was severely short on gas, and my gauge showed that the tank was nearly empty. Rather than risk being stranded at the bottom of that seven-mile road, I turned around and hightailed it back onto I-90 to find a gas station. Having seen Dry Falls and Frenchman Coulee, you would think I would be ready to quit for the day, but I had one other destination in mind. If you ever watched the 1990s cult TV show "Twin Peaks" you'll recall that the opening of each show featured a waterfall with a hotel alongside it. Snoqualmie Falls and the Salish Hotel are situated just east of Seattle and a short distance from I-90, so I was determined to see them. It was a neat detour and I got a great picture there, though I did forego the hike down into the gorge below the falls. I arrived at my hotel in Renton in time for dinner. The hotel room afforded a nice view of downtown Seattle and the Space Needle, but that is as close as I got to those sights on this trip. Close
I recently completed a 15-day, 7,500-mile trip from my home in Augusta, GA to our great Northwest and back. It was one of the few places in the United States that I had never traveled, even though I did fly into and out of…Read More
I recently completed a 15-day, 7,500-mile trip from my home in Augusta, GA to our great Northwest and back. It was one of the few places in the United States that I had never traveled, even though I did fly into and out of Seattle once, back in the early 1990s. I had never driven through Montana, Idaho, Washington or Oregon. My wife wasn’t interested in seeing that part of the country, so she said she wouldn’t mind if I went alone. Thus started the journey I will hold as one of the best experiences in my life. I would have liked to have Judy go with me, but I also know that I would have missed out on driving—she does all the driving when we travel together—and some of my hiking. Prior to my trip, I did a lot of online research on points of interest along the way. I spent hours poring over Google Earth maps looking for telltale little blue squares. They indicate that someone has attached photos of some attraction they saw there. I would then open the pictures to see what interested them and determine if it would also interest me. In all, I found about forty points of interest, some of them as much as fifty miles off the interstate highways I was using, and I was determined to see as many of them as I could. Once the journey was under way, and after three days of driving to get into position up in South Dakota, I started taking my own pictures by day, downloading them each night, and tweaking them slightly to make them look like the sights did when I snapped the photo. Then I chose the best of the day’s shoot, composed a short story to accompany them, and sent them to about a dozen friends and family. Now I want to share the best of the best with all of you, and I have several reasons to want to do that:1. To encourage you to follow your dream for travel if you have one.2. To show that a simple point-and-shoot camera is all you need to get class photography in digital format.3. To give you some great things to see if you ever duplicate my trip.4. To relive for myself that wonderful feeling of freedom I had while I was on the road in the Northwest. Close
Written by sararevell on 04 Jul, 2008
When friends or family come to stay and ask for recommendations on what to see or where to go, possibly the last place you’re going to send them is to one of the more unattractive parts of town. The Duwamish River runs close to the…Read More
When friends or family come to stay and ask for recommendations on what to see or where to go, possibly the last place you’re going to send them is to one of the more unattractive parts of town. The Duwamish River runs close to the heart of the City of Seattle. You can even see its beginnings from across the Puget Sound at Pike Place Market, yet you’ll hear few residents talking about it. During the summer months, the Duwamish River is the last place you’d take your kids for a day out or meet your friends for a picnic. Having said all of this, I can’t recommend the Duwamish River Clean-up Coalition Cruise enough.
The two-hour tour talks you through the history and the demise of the river and by the end of it you’ll be wondering if Seattle’s title of "Emerald City" is quite so deserved. Leaving from Gate C on Harbour Island on a showery Saturday afternoon, our guide talked knowledgeably about the many changes that have contributed to the pollution and alteration of the river. Human interference is evident from the outset. At the mouth of the river sits Harbour Island, which is itself a manmade entity. It is the largest manmade island outside of Kobe, Japan, and was born out of the heaps of dirt dug up during the Denny regrade project and the leveling of the Seattle hills.
Immediately after, you learn about the dramatic re-shaping of the Duwamish. Over the past 100 years the river morphed from a winding wetland oasis into a straight waterway, ideal for shipping and industry. Now flanked by concrete factories, the Duwamish has the dubious honour of being a Superfund site. There’s nothing super about it. The Superfund law was created to protect people and communities from heavily contaminated toxic waste sites. The contaminants in the Duwamish include PCBs, PAHs, mercury and phthalates. I didn’t know what most of these were before I went on the tour but when you learn that no fish or salmon in the Duwamish or even in the Puget Sound is considered safe to eat now you know it’s not good.
Heavy industry along the river has polluted the mud to depths of 12ft and is polluting the air too. Smoke stacks from the cement companies emit toxic odours, which have caused headaches and sickness to local school children to the point where the school has had to send them home for the day. Cleanup efforts are in place but its obvious that much more work is needed and it’s an ongoing battle of politics, as agencies contracted for the cleanup operations tend to be the cheapest and not necessarily the best qualified for the job. In addition there’s the tough question of where to transfer the polluted materials to once they’ve been extracted from the river.
A more encouraging part of the trip talks about Kellogg Island, which is the only remaining natural part of the waterway. From the boat you can catch a glimpse of what the Duwamish used to look like as it winds its way around the steep, grassy banks of the island. It’s illegal to land a boat here as the island has protected status as a nature reserve providing a small haven to nesting eagles and ospreys. Across from Kellogg Island, the Duwamish Indian tribe purchased land back from the city (the land here originally belonged to them) and they’re in the process of building a centre for environmental education on the site of the tribe’s original log house.
The boat continues down under South Park Bridge, which everyone on board was horrified to learn is in a worse condition than Seattle’s earthquake-damaged viaduct. There’s an ongoing argument between King County and Tukwila as to who will bear the cost of replacing the bridge and if a resolution isn’t reached in the next two years the bridge will be closed.
The Duwamish River Clean-up Coalition Cruise certainly isn’t an activity with much of a feel-good factor but it’s one way to get to know a very real if unfortunate side of Seattle. It’s all the more shocking because the Duwamish River runs through the heart of a city that prides itself on its proximity to nature and all things green.
The cruise boat holds 40 people and up to 60 people outside if both front and back decks are used. The tour itself is free of charge and as the boat pulls back into dock at Harbour Island, there’s a friendly request for donations for what is clearly a very worthwhile and deserving cause.
Written by callen60 on 05 Feb, 2009
Memorable MomentsWe packed a lot into a week, and a lot sticks out. Two of the best moments were gazing into the top of Mount St. Helens as steam vented from the lava bridge, and walking the wonderful beach at Kalaloch in Olympic National Park…Read More
Memorable MomentsWe packed a lot into a week, and a lot sticks out. Two of the best moments were gazing into the top of Mount St. Helens as steam vented from the lava bridge, and walking the wonderful beach at Kalaloch in Olympic National Park as the mists swirled over the sea stacks off shore.We emerged through the mist and fog to a spectacular view of the Olympic Range at Hurricane Ridge. That gave our carful a surreal, heavenly experience: at sea level, it was a misty, gray day with no hope of sunshine. As we drove up the mountain, heading through one of the tunnels, the sunlight crept in as we neared the tunnel's end. All of us gasped at the halo-like effect as we emerged into the open.LodgingWe're not a campin' family, so we try to head for a motel with separate kid/parent rooms, or a lodge with a view. We spent the extra money to stay on the bluff at Kalaloch Lodge in Olympic National Park for two nights and were glad we did.Best SightsOlympic National Park amazed us with the variety of landscapes and climates. Rainforest, endless beaches, alpine lakes, virgin forest, 8000-foot mountains only miles from the ocean--it truly is about three or four parks in one.Mount Saint Helens blew us away. Even a quarter-century after the mountain exploded, the damage and reshaping of the landscape is unbelievably evident. Those who've been here before can see some signs of regeneration emerging, which means it must truly have been a moonscape for years afterward. There's a chain of visitor centers on the drive toward the mountain which are worth your time, culminating with a fantastic movie at the Johnston Ridge Observatory (the closest to the mountain itself).Don't miss the Grove of the Patriarchs in Mount Rainier National Park near the Stevens Canyon entrance. An easy 1.5 mile round trip, this walk takes you to a stand of thousand-year-old trees on an island in the middle of the Ohanapecosh River.Best DiningCopper Creek Inn, two miles west of Mount Rainier's Nisqually Entrance, is a great place for a meal, featuring a wonderful old building, friendly staff, a great menu, generous portions, and a neat gift shop. We ate there once because we had to—too late to cook, no one else still serving—and then another time because we enjoyed it so much.Quick TipsThe Olympic Peninsula is too big to fully explore in a short time. If you only have a couple days, pick out one area, stay put, and enjoy it. Otherwise, you'll spend more time driving than enjoying—and due to the logging outside the park, big chunks of the driving can be less than scenic.The northern edge of the peninsula has plenty to do: neat towns (Port Townsend, Port Angeles), alpine lakes (Lake Crescent), mountain ridge drives (Hurricane Ridge), native peoples (the Makah at Neah Bay). But consider the western side: the ocean strip of Olympic National Park is wonderful, with misty, isolated beaches, and beautiful seashore landscapes. Plus, you have access to the rainforests at Hoh and Queets.If you end up on the northern edge of the Peninsula, take the mountain drive up to Hurricane Ridge. And don't let bad weather at sea level stop you: check in at the National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles. They have a closed circuit TV that will show you the view at 5000 feet, which can be quite different than the fog you're moving through down below. Close
Written by callen60 on 23 Jan, 2009
In June 2005 we disembarked from an Alaskan cruise, with another week to spend in the Pacific Northwest before flying home. We were already in Vancouver, so it made some sense to stay a few days. But we decided to bypass Seattle for some of…Read More
In June 2005 we disembarked from an Alaskan cruise, with another week to spend in the Pacific Northwest before flying home. We were already in Vancouver, so it made some sense to stay a few days. But we decided to bypass Seattle for some of the wonderful natural landscapes, figuring that we’d already had an urban experience. My wife and I also figured that if business ever brought us to this general part of the world, it would likely be to Seattle.It took nearly four years, but I guessed right on that one. Unfortunately, it was an ultra-short conference trip, arriving mid-afternoon, commuting from Seattle to Tacoma twice, spending two nights in Seattle, and heading back to the Midwest on a redeye. In between, there were some little nuggets: Mount Rainier emerging from the clouds on Wednesday as we headed back to Seattle on I-5, 90 minutes and a great lunch at Pike Place Market, and the awesome site of 160 beers on tap at Tap House Grill. There was an obligatory stop at the Original Starbucks, although it was not a pilgrimage for me (and appeared to be visited only by those on such a journey, not Seattleites).I stayed at Hilton’s Homewood Suites just north of the Convention Center on Pike Street, a great location for a meeting there, and not bad for any other downtown location. Central Seattle has two foci: one centered around Sixth Avenue and Pike, and another about a mile north near the Seattle Center (and the Space Needle). All of my time was in the former location (or on I-5).Tacoma is Seattle's little sister, about 45 minutes south on I-5. This town of about 175,000 people has undergone a significant renaissance over the last few decades. The central area south of Elliott Bay is now home to several museums, including the Museum of Glass, celebrating, among others, native son Dale Chihuly. The famous Chihuly Bridge of Glass connects the museum and Union Station over I-705 and has hundreds of pieces housed over head, lit by natural light (although supplemented by fluorescents on cloudy days). Two crystal towers rise mid-span, which are just gorgeous in the sunlight.Tacoma and Seattle share the same feature I love about Vancouver and San Francisco: just a little bit of driving, and you’re out of urban America and in some wonderfully wild country. When the weather’s clear, Mount Rainier is a part of every day’s experience, and it particularly looms over Tacoma. It’s rather cool to be driving an interstate, look off to your left and see the snowcapped peak of Rainier, and signs that say ‘Use 512 for Mount Rainier’. 90 minutes or less will have you at one of two western entrances to the park.This trip just scratched the surface of what Seattle has to offer. I explored the city vicariously through the spouses of several friends at the meeting, who toured the Seattle Art Museum, took ferries to the islands, walked along the harbor, and enjoyed more of the market. I’d like to be them next trip. Close
Written by onesundaymorning on 11 Dec, 2008
Seattle: great food, amazing people, beautiful scenery, and a great culture; that's the Emerald City in a nut shell. Besides being the home to Starbucks, Nordstroms, Boeing, Seattle's Finest, Apple, Microsoft, Edie Bauer, and Amazon (excuse me if I left out a few Washington based…Read More
Seattle: great food, amazing people, beautiful scenery, and a great culture; that's the Emerald City in a nut shell. Besides being the home to Starbucks, Nordstroms, Boeing, Seattle's Finest, Apple, Microsoft, Edie Bauer, and Amazon (excuse me if I left out a few Washington based companies), the birth place of grunge (take it for what it's worth), Kurt Cobain, and Jimi Hendrix, and the home (well Tacoma technically if you want to be technical about things) the the world renown blown glass guru, Dale Chihuly; Washington is a pretty cool state. I've been to many cities, but by far Seattle is the most laid back and quirky (visit Fremont to see my point). Every place I went someone was willing to talk and within one week everyone at the Starbucks next to my hostel knew my name, about my life (as well as I knew about theirs), and was willing to point me in the right direction and give great advice. There is a genuine that I found here that lacked in many areas that I have been, but it has to be hard to be a grump in a city as beautiful as Seattle. Situated on the Puget Sound on Eliot Bay lies the city. Across the bay (on a clear day) is the Olympic Mountains, and facing south (towards Safeco Field and again on a clear day) the snow covered Mount Rainer behind the city high rise. Amongst the sprawling city there is no shortage of parks and greenery. This is one city that knows how to balance nature with the urban sprawl.Transportation:Oh my god, this is the easiest city ever. I'm an LA girl which means it's not unheard of to wait three hours for a bus to show up and then have three of the same bus right behind each other, so when a bus shows up on time and on top of that the drivers are kind, helpful, and some even challenge themselves to make their stops on time I'm astonished. The bus system is great and very clean. If riding from downtown many of the buses run from the transit tunnel downtown. When picking up a bus on the street easy to read time tables are posted along with the bus routes. If there are still any questions most drivers can direct you to the ride bus or even tell you a more efficient way to get to your destination. Once on the bus tell the driver your stop and they will kindly let you know when to get off.Riding the bus is easy, but the pay system is a little confusing. In downtown there is a ride free zone, so any where in that area there is no need to pay, and the change feeder when you get on will usually say ride free zone. Now the non-ride free zones get tricky. If you get on a bus when it is outside this zone and heading towards if then you pay when you get on; however if it is heading away from the zone pay when you get off. There will be a sign on the change feeder that will tell you when to pay. Now to further confuse you there are several zones that the bus will travel through and each zone is a different price. Zone one is $1.75, Zone two is $2.50, and Zone 3 is $3.50. If you are not sure which zone your destination is in ask the driver; this is really a tourist friendly city. If you plan on transferring or taking the bus back grab a transfer. This will allow you to ride as much as you want until the pre-printed time on the bottom of the transfer is up. Walking is another great way to get around. The city is laid out on a grid system and most attractions are located within walking distance of one another. I highly recommend starting down by SAM and then heading over to the Pike Street Market (to shop, see some fish tossing, and drink at the original Starbucks) and then head down to the harbor. There are a ton of great restaurants, food shops, and places to explore here as well as the Argosy tours. The walk will also pass by the aquarium and Odyssey Maritime Discovery Center (as long as you start walking north. Locate the industrial harbor area, which is easy to spot; there are huge cranes and tug boats in the water or head away from Safeco field). The walk will end at the SAM sculpture garden. From here you should be able to see the Space Needle. Head up Broad Street about eight blocks and there will be the Space Needle, the Pacific Science Center, the Sci-fi museum, the Experience Music Project, and the monorail, which for $2 goes back downtown about three blocks away from the Pike Street Market.The Weather:Has this place gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to stereotypes. Yes, it does rain in Seattle however New York, Miami, ad several other cities get more rain a year then Seattle. The week I was visiting the forecast predicted five of my nine days for it to rain. It only actually rained once, it was in the morning, and was more of a drizzle. Truth be known Seattle is actually very drizzly if that is even a word, and the weather changes pretty quickly hence the reasons when Seattleites dress in layers (it's not just a grunge thing!) The location of the city (set on the bay and between the mountains) prevent most of the rain as well as sweltering warm days making it very mild. With that said the rainy months are in the winter, November (5 inches), December (5.9 inches), and January (5.6 inches). The rest of the year gets 3.5 or less a month and in May through August there is on average of 1.5 inches or less of rain a month. Okay now I feel more like a weather woman then a travel writer. Close
Written by onesundaymorning on 02 Dec, 2008