Things to Do in Seattle
Back when Capitol Hill was named, its creators anticipated the neighborhood to become the capitol of Washington State and stately mansions and elaborate Victorian style residences still attest to that early vision. History took a different route though and the demographics changed profoundly soon after World War II. Capitol Hill turned from a ritzy area into the funky, hip neighborhood of today and is now home to a diverse mix of cultures and countercultures. Young professionals mingle with the thriving LGTBQ community, artists and foodies frequent establishments were Kurt Cobain once played and there is a huge variety of niche theaters, music venues, quirky coffee shops, bookstores and boutiques lining the streets.
One of the highlights is the weekly Broadway Farmers Market, which provides the population of Capitol Hill with fresh and seasonal artisanal foods, flowers and good music each Sunday.
One of Seattle’s premier destinations for wine, art, and festivals, the Seattle Center is the 74-acre heart of all events in the Seattle area. Originally built for the 1962 World’s Fair, this vibrant hub of activity for Seattle holds some of the area’s best attractions. The Seattle Space Needle (once the tallest building west of the Mississippi) is here, as is the International Fountain, the famous Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, as well as the Kobe Bell, Mercer Arena, and the Pacific Science Center. Great for a family day in the park, for catching one of the numerous music concerts or cultural events, or for visiting the center’s many restaurants, the Seattle Center is one stop that you can’t miss.
Many know Seattle to be located upon the Puget Sound, but the specific body of water upon which Seattle sits is none other than the great Elliot Bay. And because Elliot Bay is the most prevalent source of water when visiting Seattle, it is part-and-parcel to the inner fabric of the “city by the sound.” From the original Duwamish peoples that lived here, to the locals that come enjoy the Elliot Bay Park along the waterfront, Elliot Bay is part of the culture, and it’s here that many visitors come to explore Seattle.
With two marinas, numerous piers (including Pier 57 and Pier 59, both popular attractions), the Seattle Great Wheel, and the Seattle Aquarium, Elliot Bay provides many things to many people. Not the least of which is the great port of Seattle – one of America’s biggest and most important ports. Ferries also take commuters and tourists across the Bay to Bainbridge or Vashon Island.
Head to “Snoose Junction” (a.k.a. the Ballard District) to experience a thriving and hip waterfront neighborhood that houses some of Seattle’s best restaurants, pubs, shops, spas and parks. Since 1853, this historic Scandinavian neighborhood has been cultivating its fashionable image, and now you can walk the busy tree-lined streets and see how all the hard work has paid off. Watch the Ballard locks open and allow ships through, see the Nordic Heritage Museum, shop the ever-popular Market Street, or enjoy the eclectic restaurants and pubs on Ballard Ave. Look out for unique curio shops and if you can, catch the Ballard Farmer’s Market - Sundays on Ballard Ave. 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. It’s a Seattle staple.
Belltown is the former low-rent and industrial turned hip, young and trendy neighborhood in Seattle and it is here that most of the city’s residential base lives – in high-rise residences of course. Due to the district’s popularity, many chic boutiques, hot nightclubs and upscale restaurants have moved into the business spaces on the street level of those skyscrapers, but there are also plenty of quirky places to eat, interesting art galleries, clothing stores and much more to be found. In fact, Belltown is considered to be one of the most walkable neighborhoods in the United States and everything you could ever need or ask for can be found within its boundaries. Thus, leave your car at home and go exploring on foot.
Head to the Olympic Sculpture Park to get a look at the many art installations put together by local artists or get tickets for a concert at The Crocodile, one of Seattle’s favorite concert venues, for some incredible live music.
Seattle has a long history with aviation and it was here that the first ever Boeing aircraft was assembled and where the company used to have its headquarters for decades. It makes sense that the city also hosts one of the most interesting aviation museums in North America. The Museum of Flight shows the history of flight starting with the experiments of the Wright Brothers and progresses through the years with over 150 planes, helicopters and even some satellites, rockets, space station parts and lunar module mockups.
Located at the Museum of Flight are also some more well-known aircrafts that are worthy of a special mention. The first presidential jet ever, now better known under its call sign Air Force One, has transported presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon and can be visited at the Airpark.
Summertime in Seattle is when everyone comes out to enjoy the fine weather. For fun in the sun, no other Seattle icon speaks of the free-wheeling carefree attitude of this city than the Seattle Great Wheel. One of the biggest Ferris Wheels in the United States, the Seattle Great Wheel is open year-round with fully enclosed gondolas, making it one of the best viewing ports in the entire west coast. Standing over 175 feet tall and weighing in at over a quarter of a million pounds, the Seattle Great Wheel lives up to its name as one of the world’s truly great Ferris wheels.
Discovery Park is Seattle’s largest public park and although the green space offers over 11 miles of trails, the shorter Loop Trail is perfect for those wanting a quick taste of the scenery. Connecting to the other trails designed for further exploration, it follows the perimeter of the park, taking hikers through second-growth forests consisting of maple, alder, cherry, fir and cedar trees, open meadows and along sandy beaches littered with gnarly driftwood. The park is also a great place to get a view of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound, as well as to catch a glimpse of the diverse wildlife. Seals, sea lions, chipmunks and over 270 species of birds have made their home in and around the 534 acres of the park and just like the visitors coming here for a quick respite, have found somewhat of a sanctuary from the active city.
This picturesque beach on the shore of Elliott Bay runs a narrow 2.5-mile strip between Alki Point and Duwamish Head. Known as the site of the first white settlers in Seattle, its sandy shores attract as many cyclists, joggers and bladers as beachcombers and sun worshipers and storm chasers. Public restrooms, picnic areas, an art studio and bathhouses make it the perfect destination for a day of outdoor fun with family and friends. And impressive views of the Puget Sound and Seattle skyline make it one of the most scenic strips of sand in Washington.
More Things to Do in Seattle
Seattle's Hard Rock Cafe is located in the heart of historic downtown, near the famous Pike Place Market. The building in which the restaurant is housed is historic, too, as well as environmentally designed, and the memorabilia on display is largely Seattle-specific. The Hard Rock Cafe in Seattle, like all restaurants in the chain, features a traditional American menu, and an on-site Rock Shop where you can buy all kinds of Hard Rock Cafe merchandise. The Seattle location also features a music venue on the second floor, called the Cavern Club after the Liverpool basement club where The Beatles got their start.
Not far from the bustle of Seattle’s Space Needle, there is a public park on the bay where the focus is on wildlife and nature. The 4.8-acre Myrtle Edwards Park stretches along Elliott Bay and is known for its 1.25-mile paved walking and cycling path, and for the many opportunities to see eagles, herons and other wildlife.
The park was originally called Elliott Bay Park, but was renamed in 1976 for Myrtle Edwards. Edwards had been a prominent member of Seattle’s city council, where she fought for the preservation of the city’s natural spaces. Located between the park and the Space Needle is the Olympic Sculpture Park, a nine-acre park of outdoor art installations that opened in 2007.
Almost completely wild, Blake Island State Park is made up of thickly wooded trails, a fascinating underwater park as well as the typical flora and fauna of the Pacific Northwest. According to one of many legends, Chief Seattle of the Suquamish Indian tribe, after whom Seattle was named, was born on this island. Definitely true is that the island was used as a camping ground by the tribe and it was named after George Smith Blake, an officer of the United States Coast Survey. The Indian history can be explored in Tillicum Village, where traditional dances, dinners and cultural experiences are offered.
While heavily logged in the early 19th century, the Blake Island is now once again covered in thick cedar, fir, maple and spruce forests with cherry trees, foxglove and thistle adding some dots of color in the right season.
The majestic Mount Rainier, the US 4th-highest peak outside Alaska, is also one of its most beguiling. Encased in the 953-sqkm Mount Rainier National Park, the mountain’s snow-capped summit and forest-covered foothills harbor numerous hiking trails, a wide range of sub-alpine flora and fauna, and an alluring conical peak that presents a formidable challenge for aspiring climbers.
In the higher elevations, snow covers much of the Mount Rainier year round. In lower elevations, you’ll find wildflower-draped slopes, lush rainforests of Douglas firs and western red cedars, and rivers.
The National Park is also home to all sorts of wildlife, including black bears, dear, elk, and mountain goats. Marmots, a large member of the squirrel family, are a common site in the park, often seen stretching out on rocks to bask in the sun as well frolicking in the meadows, seemingly oblivious to human presence. Summer is the best time to take in all that the park has to offer.
Many of us regularly sip wine at home with a good meal, but for those wanting to know the history behind the rich liquid inside the glass, the Chateau Ste. Michelle Vineyards opens its gates to visitors. The French style winery dispels the myth that good wine can only be produced in warm climates and proves that great wines can most definitely come from Washington state. It is located in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains in the Columbia Valley, where warmer temperatures and less wet weather allow the vines to flourish. With over 100 years of tradition to look back on, Chateau Ste. Michelle prides itself on combining old world winemaking with modern innovations and thus operates two modern wineries for both red and white wine.
There are regular guided tours and tastings held, which give insight into the bottling and fermentation process and refine the palette as well as show how to properly smell, swirl and taste wine.
Competing with neighboring Mt. Rainier National Park as the pinnacle of Northwestern outdoor activities, Olympic National Park boasts over 1,400 square miles (almost a million acres) of teaming tide-pools, alpine glacial lakes, and wildflower-filled lowland meadows.
Hiking, camping, kayaking, fly-fishing, and mountaineering are all popular pastimes here, and the simple pleasures of the moss-draped Olympic National Park are prevalent. More than three times the biomass of tropical rainforests, the Pacific Northwest is an overwhelmingly abundant environment for old growth trees, and visitors to this area will enjoy a network of trails that extend from foggy beaches to rocky ridge lines, cascading waterfalls, and everything in-between.
One of Washington state’s most popular attractions, Snoqualmie Falls is a waterfall on the Snoqualmie River. More than one million visitors come every year to watch the spectacular rush of water tumble down 270 feet/82 meters into a pool of deep, blue water. The falls are also known internationally for its appearance in the Twin Peaks television series.
The top of Snoqualmie Falls is a short distance from the parking lot, which has a gift shop, espresso stand, and bathrooms. The main views are from the side of the falls, which also has picnic tables and benches, and a small grassy meadow called the Centennial Green, where weddings are performed through the summer. On the way down to the base of the falls, hikers trek through a temperate rain forest, with a few moss covered trees, giant ferns, and a few resting spots. At the bottom of the trail is the 1910 powerhouse and the river itself.
Also known as The Cascades, the Cascade Range runs for over 700 miles (1,100 kilometers) from British Columbia in Canada through Washington and Oregon to California. It’s part of the Pacific mountain system of western North America as well as the Ring of Fire, which is a ring of volcanoes and mountains around the Pacific Ocean. Interestingly, all the recorded volcanic eruptions in the United States’ history have come from volcanoes in the Cascades.
A number of the Cascade Range peaks exceed 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) -- for example, Washington’s highest mountain Mount Rainier at 14,410 feet (4,392 meters) -- making it a top attraction for adventure travelers who want to do some hiking, backpacking or climbing. Another option for exploring the Cascade Range is the Cascade Loop, a road trip that starts 28 miles (45 kilometers) north of Seattle and takes you on a scenic drive through the Cascade Mountains.
The most famous coffeehouse in the world, Starbucks got its start in downtown Seattle, and now the city is practically synonymous with java and good cups of joe. While Starbucks locations everywhere serve the signature blends that have made the company world-famous, there are some unique attractions that make this particular Starbucks special – the same elements that harken back to the early days of Pike Place Market.
Take, for instance, the leather on the outer covering of the bar – it was sourced from scrap at nearby shoe and automobile manufacturers - or the walnut used on the tables, doors, and bar top, which was all sourced from a nearby farm. The signage on the bar is recycled slate from a nearby high school.
What you’ll find upon a visit to 1st and Pike is not just the humble beginnings of a now commercial powerhouse, but the same quaint but cunning elements that made it a success 30-some odd years ago, when Starbucks was anything but a household name.
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