Seattle, The Emerald City!

Three years ago my friend’s brother was relocated for work from South Florida to Anchorage, Alaska. She’s always wanted to visit him but was reluctant to make the long journey alone. Since I’m happiest when on an adventure with one of my favorite traveling companions, I offered to join her and recommended that we spend a few days in Seattle.

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I’ve been to Seattle before and think it offers the best of everything—delicious coffee, fresh seafood, beautiful scenery, culture, history, music, and art. Seattle gets a bad rap when it comes to weather. Sure, it’s rainy and cloudy nine months of the year, but it adds to the appeal and beautiful outdoor aesthetic. Seattleites claim that the rain removes airborne pollutants and what remains is the fragrance of burgeoning pines and the salty breeze. On a clear day you have a beautiful view of the Olympic Mountains, which lie just across the Puget Sound, and the Cascade Range and Mount Rainier—both located about 50 miles from the city.

We began our adventure on a Duck Tour, a ride on a WWII amphibious vehicle. It was a fun way to see all the major sights including the Space Needle, the Waterfront, historic Pioneer Square, Pike Place Market, the downtown shopping district, and funky Fremont neighborhood. We splashed into Lake Union for a look at Gasworks Park, the Sleepless in Seattle houseboat, and a view of the skyline. Our Captain played music and told jokes. We got our very own “quackers”—a kazoo in the shape of duck’s bill—that we used to “sing” along. Riding a Duck brings back memories of being a kid again…“The wheels on the bus go ‘quack,’ ‘quack,’ ‘quack.’ ”

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Every time we passed a Starbucks, which is one of several well-known companies founded in Seattle, we recited in unison and cadence our Captain’s favorite libation—Orange Mocca Frappicino.

We also did the Underground Tour, a guided walking tour that takes place beneath Seattle’s sidewalks and streets through Pioneer Square. The subterranean tour provides a great historical background on the city as well as its surly and steamy past. Bad jokes and off-color humor make the Underground Tour one of Seattle’s most popular.

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A trip to Seattle wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Space Needle. Built for the 1962 World’s Fair, the building looks like a flying saucer on a tripod. A 43-second elevator ride took us 520 feet to the observation deck where there are spectacular views of the city and its surroundings, including Mount Rainier. We took in a great meal in the revolving SkyCity Restaurant while enjoying the 360-degree view.,

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Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition lies near the base of the Space Needle. The grand displays that perfectly showcase blown glass sculptures simply blew us away (yes, pun intended). Eight rooms of the most awe-inspiring display of glassworks of Dale Chihuly culminate with a garden and glasshouse. These sculptures must be seen in person to fully experience the artistry, creativity, and craftsmanship.

The next stop was Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum, which highlights significant moments in rock music and popular culture. It pays homage to Seattle Native Jimi Hendrix and features the Pacific Northwest rock scene from 1950′s rhythm and blues tune “Louie Louie” to Grunge. The temporary Women Who Rock exhibit, organized by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, shines a spotlight on rock music’s female pioneers and influencers. It was our favorite part of the museum. Visitors can play guitars, drums, keyboards, and DJ turntables in the Sound Lab exhibit and can see what it’s like to perform in front of adoring fans in the On Stage exhibit.

We toured the Olympic Sculpture Park. Originally an industrial site, it has been transformed into open space for art. It provides a unique opportunity to experience a variety of sculptures in an outdoor setting while enjoying the incredible views and beauty of the Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains.

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We spent a lot of time shopping in Pike Place Market. The sprawling historic public market overlooks the Elliott Bay and features farmers markets, crafts markets, specialty foods, restaurants, bakeries, cafés. We enjoyed seeing fish fly at Pike Place Fish Co., where fishmongers sent fresh salmon sailing over the counter.

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Seattle Aquarium, located at Pier 59 on the Waterfront, features sea life of the Pacific Northwest. Our favorite exhibits were of jellyfish, seahorses, and the giant octopus, but the star attraction is the sea otters. One entertained us by playing with and wearing a hardhat.

The Hiram M. Chittenden (Ballard) Locks, which links two bodies of water on different levels, is worth seeing. The locks separate the waters of Elliott Bay from those of Lake Union, and allow boats to make their way between the two bodies of water.

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The 5 Point Café was our go-to breakfast spot. It’s coined as Seattle’s best diner and dive bar and is frequented by the locals. We enjoyed the outdoor seating in historic Tilikum Park, and they get our accolades for unique signage:
“Cheating Tourists and Drunks since 1929″
“Breakfast Happy Hour M –F, 6-9 am”
And our favorite “Don’t Be a D!*k” (just making sure you’re reading), which sets the expectations of behavior while raising a few eyebrows.

Cupcake Royale is Seattle’s first cupcake bakery and café. Cupcakes are paired with delicious artisan espresso. They also partner with Washington farmers and producers to bring sustainable and local food to the tables. The Sumptown coffee with dark chocolate ribbon ice cream was the best I’ve ever had. The Washington Hazelnut Brittle with Salted ganache was delicious as well.

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The Crab Pot at Miners Landing at Pier 57 offers the full Seattle seafood novelty experience. Once our server took our order, she covered the table with a large piece of butcher paper and handed us wooden boards, mallets, crackers, and bibs. And then she returned with a large pot of seafood that she poured onto the middle of the table. We sat dockside and enjoyed the Alaskan SeaFest for Two while watching The Seattle Great Wheel, a 175-foot gondola ferris wheel.

Seattle is a compact city where most sites can be navigated by walking if you don’t mind hilly streets. The standing joke is that the monorail will take you anywhere you want to go in Seattle as long as you’re going from Downtown West Lake to Seattle Center. We took in great views of the city while riding the elevated train, which covers one mile in about three minutes. A 35-minute ferry ride across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island is an affordable way to take in the sights of the Seattle waterfront. Sharing a ferry ride with droves of schoolchildren provided a glimpse of local living of this rural residential island. Cabs, car service, and the light rail provide service to and from Sea-Tac Airport.

There is so much to see and experience in Seattle. Whether you are passing through or making it your vacation destination, it’s definitely worth spending time in the city and enjoying everything it has to offer.