By Sandra Scott
Seattle is surrounded by areas that are filled with mountain greenery year-round, even in winter, giving the city the nickname of the “Emerald City.”
It is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest. With its location on the Puget Sound, and as home to a cruise ship port, it is seen as the “Gateway to Alaska.” There is plenty to see and do. The Seattle CityPass is a great way to save on admission tickets to the most popular attractions.
1. Space Needle: Fifty years old in 2012, the 605-foot Space Needle is the iconic image of Seattle. When it was completed for the World’s Fair it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. It is the best place to get a view of the area. An elevator whisks passengers to the observation deck with viewing from both the inside and outside plus there is a snack bar, gift shop and a revolving restaurant. Walk along the Loop, the only rotating glass floor.
2. Chihuly Garden of Glass: One of the most incredible sights at Seattle Center features the truly amazing works of Dale Chihuly. Think of Chihuly as the “Willy Wonka” of glass — so imaginative and beautiful. His glass works create an eye-popping, magical display of color. The large, colorful artwork in the Exhibition Hall, the 40-foot tall Glasshouse, and the Garden create an enchanting experience. The unique Garden has four monumental glass sculptures amid the trees and plants. Chihuly’s works are featured in museums worldwide. His work is easily recognizable.
3. Pacific Science Center: There is always something of interest for the entire family at a science museum. Learned about some of the world’s tiniest creatures, bugs including the fascinating lightning bug. The butterfly house creates a surreal experience. There are more than 300 interactive exhibits, two IMAX theaters, the unique Laser Dome, and a plethora of hands-on activities along with scheduled demonstrations.
4. Museum of Pop Culture: The unique free-flowing design of the building is comprised of 3,000 panels made of 21,000 pieces of stainless steel and aluminum. Exhibits explore the most definitive aspects of rock music, science fiction and popular culture. It was great fun watching people perform at On Stage. It is an interactive experience with guitar, drums and keyboard just waiting for people to create their own music video complete with hot lights and screaming fans.
5. Museum of Flight: Hands down a favorite for all those who love to fly. Air Force One is only one of 150 planes which are on exhibit at the world’s largest private air and space museum. The simulators allow visitors to experience an aerial dogfight, what it was like to operate a glider, and to match skills with an astronaut trying to link up with the Hubble Space Telescope. There is a dedicated Kid’s Zone. Check the schedule for free docent guided tours and informational talks by veterans.
6. Pike Place Market: The market has been in continuous operation since 1907 making it one of the oldest public markets in the United States. No trip to Seattle is complete without a picture of the iconic fishmongers “throwing” fish. There are several levels to explore featuring unique shops including antique and comic book shops plus there are small family-owned restaurants. The market was founded on the goal of “Meet the Producer.”
7. Starbucks: Seattle is the birthplace of Starbucks, the biggest coffee chain in the world. The first one is at Pike Place where their unique gift cards make great gifts. Starbucks Reserve Roastery, located in the capital district, is the company’s newest endeavor offering the rarest and most extraordinary coffees. It is where they develop unique roasts for each individual lot making coffee an “art form — brewing, aging, infusing, and blending it into imaginative and often surprising creations.”
8. Boeing’s Everett facility tour: The Boeing Everett Factory is the largest building in the world by volume, covering 98.7 acres. It is where they build the 747, 777, and Dreamliner. Each tour, which can be noisy because it is a working factory, is about 90 minutes and includes fascinating facts about building the airplanes. They run tours seven days a week. It’s wise to buy tickets ahead of time as the tours often sell out. Visitors will see the interesting use of drones and robotics used in developing the aircraft designed for international use. Discount tickets are offered for seniors and the military.
9. Unique: Just when you think you have seen everything, walk down the alleyway under Pike Place Market and find the Market Theater Gum Wall. Learn about some of the strange and risqué side of Seattle’s history with an underground tour. Check out the 18-ft troll clutching an old VW Beetle under the overpass in the Freemont neighborhood.
10. And more: Movie buffs will want to visit Alki Beach, which was made famous in a scene from the movie “Sleepless in Seattle” and where Tom Hanks flies a kite with his son. You can also wind surf or roller blade. Check out the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to over 250 species of endangered birds, fish and mammals. Ride a ferry to Bainbridge Island or take a boat tour of the harbor where you can see sea lions basking in the sun.
Photo: Space Needle, an iconic image of Seattle, seen from a boat tour.