Volcanoes and whales, glaciers and islands and
a hip, happening urban center. This Pacific Rim City wows with its
youthful energy and natural beauty.
Seattle on Smart Travels.
Interested in planning your vacation to the Pacific Northwest? Start your
trip at Expedia.com/
Flanked by snow covered mountains and encircled by great expanses of blue
water, Seattle mixes
urban living with the great Pacific Northwest wilderness.
At once unassuming and boldly innovative, Seattle is a paradox of
wooden boats and high technology, of
caffeine crazed entrepreneurs and Gortex clad hikers who love their
microbrews. The mild misty climate keeps the Emerald city
perpetually green and almost always abloom. Seattle is the best
of both worlds – a vibrant city with laid back charm and natural beauty.
Rainfall in Seattle
is about 36 inches annually, compared with 40 inches
in New York. The difference is New York gets it over with in several storms
while Seattle drags it out in misty cloudy days. The clouds can get some
people down, but in summer when the sun shines, Seattle sparkles like no
place on earth.
Water, water and more water. Flanked by Puget
Sound on one side and Lake Washington on the other, Seattle is intersected
a thin waterway connecting the Lake to the Sound.
We’ll soak in Seattle’s
downtown and lively waterfront, as well as some of the vibrant
neighborhoods. Then nature beckons and we head south to magnificent
Mount Rainier. Finally, by seaplane we take off to the San Juan
Go Seattle Card gives you unlimited free admission to over 30
attractions and tours for one low price.
Quiet little Seattle has spawned some giants –
Amazon all began here as small, alternative companies. Both the
grunge music scene, and the
dot com boom sprang out of these streets. In the 1990’s thousands of
young people poured into the city lured by the promise of high tech wealth.
In fact, since the days of the
first settlers who founded a city on the swampy land beneath a high
wooded bluff, Seattle has known booms and busts, entrepreneurs and dreamers.
The oldest section of Seattle,
Pioneer Square, with its 19th century brick buildings, grew
by leaps and bounds after
gold was discovered in Alaska in 1897. Thousands of gold prospectors
passed through Seattle. Most of them lost everything in the adventure, but
Seattle boomed. In ten years, from 1890 to 1900, Seattle’s population
doubled as outfitters, brothels and taverns sprang up to feed off the gold
TIP Old Seattle still exists beneath the
streets of Pioneer Square. For a tour of Underground Seattle, visit
TIP And… for another interesting look at Seattle
& its history, check out the video
Seattle & the Gold Rush Trail hosted by Tom Bodett.
Pike Place Market
and the waterfront is the heart of downtown Seattle.
Here farmers and vendors peddle their fresh produce, cheese fish and wares
as they have for a hundred years.
Visitors can stand mesmerized by the
fish guy’s exuberant performance or walk the lively stalls selling
fruit, vegetables, hand crafted foods and souvenirs. Despite the numbers of
tourists, this is a real working market and a great place to snack your way
Nearby streets house restaurants, shops and
street musicians. It was here that a young group of entrepreneurs, inspired
by the café scene in Europe, opened a modest gourmet coffee shop –
All they really wanted was to stop driving all the way to Vancouver, Canada
for a good cup of coffee but they ignited a craze that has taken over the
country and spread overseas.
Seattelites speak an ENTIRELY different
language in coffeeland. And they’re fast. I’ve been practicing, so here
goes. Hmmm. Yes, I’ll have a dry doppio soy macchiata venti please.
TIP To figure out which of the coffees best suits your taste, use the
Coffee Taste Matcher at
A steep descent downhill leads to the Seattle
waterfront, part working port, part tourist destination, part ferry
terminal. The best part of a stroll here is the ever-changing panoply of
boats sailing across placid Puget Sound.
TIP Interested in more stolls along downtown Seattlestreets? Check out
this article outlining some of Seattle’s popular walking tours.
The piers house
novelty and souvenir shops as well as seafood restaurants. A famed
Seattle character, Ivar Haglund
opened a fish bar on the waterfront in 1938 next to the aquarium. A
folk singer who hung with the likes of Pete Seeger,
Ivar had a knack for public relations and a love of clams. Ivar’s
is known for fish and chips but the
restaurant also serves up a surprising array of fine seafood dishes.
With a plate of fish and a stunning view of Puget Sound, you’ll be as
happy as a clam.
TIP The Seattle waterfront stretches out a pretty long way. Sure, you can
walk it. But if you want to put your feet up and still get from here to
Metro Online for the latest on the George Benson Waterfront Streetcar
Seattle has long been a
jumping off spot for Alaska. In its early years, Seattle joked
that Alaska was it’s very own province. Today, luxury cruise ships take
passengers to Alaska and beyond. I hopped aboard the Holland America’s
MS Oosterdam for a look at the luxurious quarters. Each year, 700,000
cruise goers pass through Seattle.
TIP To find more on the cruises departing from
Seattle, check out Expedia.com/
If a full fledged cruise is not is the stars, a
ferry trip across the sound stands in nicely. A short, scenic ride is the
ferry that leaves right next to Ivars for rural Bainbridge Island.
TIP You’ll find the current schedule for this
The views of the city are spectacular. The
Seattle Space Needle, a remnant of the
1962 world’s fair, pierces the sky. The Emerald city’s modest
collection of skyscrapers lines the shore. Gazing out toward the
islands, it’s easy to imagine the rugged, evergreen coast that the early
pioneers discovered; the place where Native Americans peacefully paddled
their canoes. Majestic Mt Rainier looms over the Sound and as you approach
Bainbridge, the scenery grows wooded, more isolated.
Foot passengers walk ten minutes to the sleepy
island center, Winslow. Locals love to hop over here for breakfast
or lunch. If you come for dinner in the summer you might enjoy a sunset
cruise on the way back.
TIP A nice compromise for traveling to Winslow is to walk-on the ferry in
Seattle and rent a bike in Winslow. For advice on how to do this, visit
Seattle residents are on the whole educated,
open minded and lovers of the arts. Per capita book purchases are among the
highest in the country and the city is loaded with public art, theatres,
performance halls and cinemas.
The 48 foot
Hammering Man pounds away outside the
Seattle Art Museum, honoring the working man. The museum holds rotating
special exhibits as well as a collection of
Native American tribal art.
Native Americans lived a peaceful plentiful life in the Pacific Northwest
and thus had time to develop their
culture and art. Totem poles told stories and celebrated
ancestors. The masks on display were worn during festival dances that could
last the entire night.
SEATTLE PUBLIC LIBRARY
Just up the street from the Art Museum is
another museum of sorts, a living museum: Seattle’s new Public Library
designed by Dutch architect,
So unique, so, well, cool, the library is
attracting tourists by the thousands. The library exemplifies the principle
of form following function. Koolhaas designed a gradually sloping book
spiral that winds down four floors and allows the library to easily expand
Steel grids support glass between a series of floating platforms that
jut out over the street. The result is a
light filled glass and steel wonder with tantalizing views to the water.
TIP You’ll find more
information about the library and its tours at
Seattle’s biggest boom after the Gold Rush
began in 1916, when a young man named
William Boeing opened an aircraft company. By the 1960’s, one person in
every ten in the city worked at Boeing.
South of downtown Seattle, near Boeing field, the
Museum of Flight pays tribute to the man and his company that became the
major employer in Seattle for decades. Here you visit the
Red Barn, the birthplace of the Boeing Company.
Forty one historic airplanes fill the museum’s
Great Gallery. Visitors can man the controls of a
Blackbird reconnaissance plane. Or you can take an action packed ride
flight simulator and try not to crash!
Outside on the tarmac, you can tour the
Air Force One, the flying oval office that carried presidents
Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon.
When it’s time for a change of pace, Seattle’s
neighborhoods add color and flavor to the city.
From the vibrant
International District with its mix of Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese and
Korean people to the Scandinavian Ballard/Fremont area, Seattle
neighborhoods are diverse, fun and quirky.
TIP Interested in a walking tour of the district? Print out this
PDF document. You'll need
Adobe Acrobat Reader to view it.
The little neighborhood of
Fremont is the self -proclaimed Center of the Universe, with its very
own rocket, and a statue of Lenin rescued from a scrap pile in Russia.
Here, cafés and restaurants mingle with specialty shops and pubs.
TIP For some interesting history and photos of
this unique neighborhood, visit
Ballard is known for its long history of ship building and the
Ballard Locks, which each day allow thousands of boats to pass to and
from Lake Washington and the salt water of Puget Sound.
TIP For more ideas on what to see in Ballard,
www.inballard.com. If it’s history that interests you, however, go to
Adjacent to the locks, engineers designed a fish ladder to help salmon make
their way back to the inland waters where they were born – you can
watch their progress from an underwater viewing area.
between June and Sept for the best salmon viewing.
Just as gourmet coffee took off in Seattle, so
too did the
microbrew craze. Twenty five years ago, American beers were on the
whole pale, flavorless concoctions. Then, in the early 80’s, Northwest
brewers began producing European style beers and a new American beer was
Soon local brewers set up tables and offered
food at their breweries. The brew pub became a Seattle tradition – there
sprinkled throughout the city. Maritime
Brewery, located in between Ballard and Fremont serves up 15 different
beers on tap and couples the beer with a whole new breed of bar food.
One word of warning when traveling in this area
trolls have long plagued Ballard and Fremont, lurking under bridges and
demolishing cars. Do stay clear of these one eyed monsters.
This trip to Seattle, I’m staying in
Belltown. It’s a great spot for restaurants and nightlife, just a few
blocks north of downtown. The Hotel Andra is urban, trendy and perfectly
situated for a
night on the town.
Housed in a 1926 brick and terra cotta
building, the interior of the
Hotel Andra is a modern, minimalist surprise. Like Seattle itself, the
hotel is a small, artistic, and stylish retreat.
I can’t get enough seafood when in Seattle and I’m anxious to try one of the
four restaurants owned by local chef and Northwest food guru,
Tom Douglas. At his restaurant
Etta’s, named for his daughter Loretta, Tom serves up simple, fresh, out
of this world seafood.
TIP Tom has several cookbooks available at
tomdouglas.com. You can also catch him on the radio, 710 on your dial if
you’re in and around Seattle. Find out more about his show
No other large US city can claim the vast
number and diversity of
hiking trails in such close proximity. From easy day hikes to serious
mountain climbing, Seattle has it all. And to aid and abet those hikers,
Seattle spawned yet another small alternative company that made it big:
Recreation Equipment Inc or REI.
Even if you never put a toe in a hiking boot, a trip to REI is an
experience. You can test out almost everything from
bikes on the outdoor path or
climbing gear on the
rock climbing wall. Everything from
water sports to mountaineering is possible in the Northwest and REI gets
thousands of people ready to go each day.
TIP Need some advice on choosing the right
outdoor gear for you? Check out REI’s
expert advice page.
I’m fully outfitted and ready to hit the trail.
Known simply as the Mountain to locals,
Mount Rainier dominates the skyline on clear days. A few hours drive
south from the city, the mountain can be visited year round for
back country skiing and
TIP For a comprehensive list of activities, go to
This is Paradise, and boy is it aptly named ---
rolling meadow filled with flowers, set beneath the massive rock and ice
of 14, 411 foot
volcano, Mt. Rainier.
A young volcano, Mt Rainier’s fires are very
much alive. Though dormant, Mt Rainier could
erupt anytime as its cousin to the south,
Mt St Helens, did in
1980. The colossal mountain is sheathed in 35 square miles of icy
glaciers and snowfields. The Native Americans named it Tahoma, or Snowy
Peak. On a summer day the mountain seems as benign as an ice cream sundae.
But storms whip up quickly at this altitude. Almost every year Tahoma
claims the lives of climbers.
TIP For a historical timeline of the mountain, check out
In the winter months as much as 93 feet of
snow can fall at Paradise. During early summer (which is usually
mid-July at this altitude) a veritable riot of wildflowers fills the
meadows – in particular red paintbrush and blue lupine.
Deer roam the meadows at Paradise as well as the mountain groundhog, the
Hiking opportunities abound here and elsewhere in the park. The
Wonderland trail circles the mountain in 93 glorious but difficult
miles. Easy day hikes begin from the parking lot at Paradise. If you keep
on going straight up you arrive at
Camp Muir, base camp for climbing the mountain.
TIP The National Park
Service keeps information on climbing Mt. Rainier at
www.nps.gov/mora. You’ll also find additional stats and climbing notes
Mountains and sea, hiking and sailing. On a
sunny weekend, Seattleites exchange their hiking boots for flip flops and
head out to the islands.
Ferries make the trip but there’s no better and quicker approach than by
From the air, Seattle sparkles.
Kenmore Air not only flies to the islands, but also offers
one hour tours that take in vast Puget Sound, the signature
Seattle skyline and the little lakes, parks and neighborhoods.
Flying north now, we are headed to the
San Juan Islands, a series of some 170 wooded isles set amid the calm
waters of Puget Sound.
Millions of years ago
these wooded stepping stones were the tops of
mountains worn down and then submerged by glaciers. Today, they are a
serene home to some 14,000 people, the largest and most populated being
San Juan Island.
By car and ferry the trip takes can take
several hours, but by air it’s less an hour. And a trip in a seaplane is a
In the summer, the San Juans bob with boats,
quiet coves shimmer in the sun and pretty harbor towns dot the isles. Here
rent bicycles, wander through lavender fields
, or venture
out into the calm waters in a kayak. Many of the beaches on the islands are
resorts often offer beach access as do some
state parks. (Click
here for info on San Juan county parks)
Three pods of Orcas, or killer whales, ranging
in size from 17 to 50 whales,
make their home around the islands. While there are no guarantees, whale
watch trips, like
Safari Tours regularly spot the pods. Binoculars are available for
close up views. The whales feed on salmon runs, so you are most likely to
spot them from May to September.
TIP For a list of what to bring on a whale watching excursion, visit
Mountains, water, and leaping whales on the doorstep of a vibrant city – who
could ask for more?
very first settlers here named the town New York Alki; alki being the
Indian word for pretty soon. Well, Seattle never quite became the
metropolis New York is, and that’s just fine. For all its great
software and high tech boom, Seattle remains a small town. Peaceful,
livable and set amid some of America’s wildest, most diverse terrain,
Seattle is a little piece of paradise.
Well, the clouds have descended. The Mountain
is shrouded in mist and the blue waters of Puget Sound have turned grey.
The curtain has fallen but I’m headed home with enough sparkling memories to
fill a whole winter. From the Emerald City, I’m Rudy Maxa. So long.
TIP If history's your
thing, you'll find an excellent online encyclopedia of Washington State