Seattle Tour Guide
After my very successful guides for first-time travelers to Frankfurt and Taipei, it is about time to write one up for my new home in the “Northbest”: I am enjoying this city, its beautiful hinterland and the Washington coastline tremendously and have rather frequently been showing friends and family around – so I thought I’d share some of my Seattle favorites here:
Seattle Center and Sculpture Park
An absolute must for the first-time visitor to Seattle is obviously the Space Needle at “Seattle Center” – the site of the 1962 World’s Fair. If you happen to be in downtown, take the Monorail to go there and if you’re at the Center, there’s lots to do besides climbing the Space Needle. On rainy days, you can visit the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum, or the Pacific Science Center, or catch a show at Seattle Children’s Theatre or Pacific Northwest Ballet or the 3D IMAX Theater. If you have time and the weather is nice, take a walk to the Olympic Sculpture Park by the waterfront.
Downtown, Waterfront, Kerry Park
Pike Place Market is probably the second most popular tourist destination in Seattle, followed closely by the Seattle Underground Tour that gives hilarious peeks into the Northwest’s adventurous and hysterical pioneer days. If you’re in downtown, make sure to visit the Rem Koolhaas-designed Seattle Public Library and take the time to visit little Kerry Park in Seattle’s Queen Anne district. It is located above “Seattle Center” and offers spectacular views on the Needle, downtown, Mt. Rainier and Puget Sound – this scenery is exceptionally beautiful in the afternoon light of of a sunny day.
If you’re up there already, make sure to walk to the equally small Marshall Park a few blocks west of Kerry Park to catch some stunning views of Puget Sound, Bainbridge Island and the Olympic Pensinsula. Don’t miss the tiny, but romantic Parsons Garden on your way.
More City Parks
Volunteer Park is located on Capitol Hill and offers great views to Downtown and Puget Sound, especially from the water tower that is located at its south corner – in the adjacent Lake View Cemetery, you can find Bruce Lee‘s gravesite. To get a different view onto downtown, check out Gas Works Park.
If you want to “get out of town without actually getting out of town“, Discovery Park’s 534 acres of nature invite to more extensive walks or hikes along the shores of Puget Sound, all within the city limits of Seattle. On your way back into town, you can stop by Ballard Locks and check out the salmon ladder there – both Discovery Park and the locks are best visited on sunny afternoons.
Do you happen to be in Seattle in the spring? Go and see the cherry blossoms in bloom at the intersection of King Lane & Pierce Lane on the University of Washington campus.
Here in the summer? Go kayaking on Lake Union and through the Arboretum and reward yourself with some hearty Mexican food at Agua Verde or take a dip in Lake Washington at Madison Park Beach.
Seattle offers a pretty decent selection of museums: Seattle Art Museum, Frye Art Museum, Seattle Asian Art Museum, Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Museum of Flight, or Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience. Entrance to all of these museums is free in the evening of the first Thursday of every month.
Not really a museum, but very interesting nonetheless is the Boeing Factory tour about 45 minutes north of Seattle in Everett.
Here’s a Google Map with all of the above sights…
Wining and Dining
Seattle offers a vast variety of restaurants. Among my favorite Northwest/seafood places to eat are Ivar’s Salmon House and Ray’s Boathouse – they offer great views of Lake Union and Puget Sound, respectively. Other seafood alternatives are Coastal Kitchen, with a regularly changing coastal region inspiring their cuisine, or The Walrus and The Carpenter, if you happen to be into oysters.
To get your Asian food fix, visit Shiro’s for the most authentic Sushi in town or Nishino that rivals Shiro’s in quality, but feels a bit more “westernized”. And since we’re talking about Asian food already, if you love Taiwanese cuisine like I do, you’ll want to go to Din Tai Fung, Facing East or Henry’s Taiwan Kitchen.
While I am not a vegetarian, I love Café Flora’s food and cannot but recommend Harvest Vine‘s spanish tapas for both brunch and dinner.
Coffee shops, you ask…? There are too many to mention… the ones that I like most are Java Bean, Volunteer Park Café, Wheelhouse Coffee, Bauhaus, and Espresso Vivace.
Being the biggest “shopping grump” that I know, I am probably not the best person to ask for advice here, but let me try:
While Downtown, Northgate and University Village host the usual chains, Fremont and Ballard offer quite a few smaller boutiques that carry locally made products… and if you happen to be there, why not plan to visit on a Sunday to join the fun Fremont and Ballard farmer’s markets or dine in one of the many restaurants there.
If you are into binge-shopping, you could drive 40 minutes north for a shopping spree in the gigantic Seattle Premium Outlets…?
Hiking and Skiing
As I have said in my intro, the great outdoors in the “Northbest” are truly amazing! If you visit in the winter, go skiing, tubing or snowshoeing on Snoqualmie Pass, Stevens Pass, or on Crystal Mountain.
And if you happen to be here in the summer, why not go on one of the over 3,000 hikes that the Washington Trails Association‘s has listed? Ask me for some tips…