Take the Bill Speidel's Underground Tour and you’ll learn a lot about Seattle’s rather dysfunctional past that included frequent floodings, a faulty sewage system with exploding toilets, and multiple bankruptcies. There is also the story about how a tax on the city’s prostitutes is what helped pay to rebuild much of the city after it was destroyed by the Great Seattle Fire in 1889. And how the rebuilding included raising the streets one or two stories higher in part of the city and inadvertently created an underground portion of the city.
Yes, Seattle has a colorful history but the present day city is also a fascinating place to visit.
Many of Seattle’s most popular attractions can be found at the Seattle Center, a 74-acre campus on the northern edge of the city’s downtown with dozens of cultural, educational and entertainment venues. The Space Needle is its centerpiece. The iconic 605-feet tall observation tower was built for the 1962 World’s Fair and continues to attract more than one million annual visitors. You have amazing views for miles in all directions, including the city’s many nearby natural attractions, such as Mt. Rainier.
Also not to be missed at the Seattle Center are The Pacific Science Center with two IMAX theaters, the Museum of Pop Culture housed in a building designed by Frank O. Gehry (FYI – it’s the perfect place to learn about Seattle’s music scene that birthed Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and Pearl Jam – just to name a few), and the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit of some of famed local artist Dale Chihuly’s best works.
From the Seattle Center it’s easy to take the Monorail, built at the same time as the Space Needle, to the center of downtown. Within walking distance of the station are the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Aquarium, Seattle Great Wheel, and Pike Place Market. The market is one of the oldest continuously operating farmers markets in the country and is the spot where you can see the legendary fish tossing.
Food and Drink
Widely known as the birthplace of Starbuck’s (FYI – the original Starbucks at Pike Place Market still operates just feet from where it first opened in 1971), Seattle has seen its culinary scene explode in recent years. Visitors will find chefs dedicated to showcasing the Pacific Northwest’s local bounty, including amazing seafood. Multiple James Beard Award winner Tom Douglas is one of Seattle’s top chefs and operates more than a dozen restaurants in the city, including the American gastropub Palace Kitchen and the funky pizzeria Serious Pie.
In addition to delicious food on your plate, you can expect to be thrilled by the options for your glass. Craft brewing in Seattle has been elevated to an art form, which is not surprising given that most of domestic hops are grown in the Pacific Northwest. There is also outstanding local wines, ciders (apples are another regional top crop), and spirits. A tour with Savor Seattle is an excellent way to checking out a variety of Seattle’s food and drink offerings.
Like many urban settings across the county, Seattle’s residential neighborhoods have become hot destinations for travelers. Lonely Planet recently released its picks of top neighborhoods in the world and included Seattle’s emerging Frelard neighborhood, highlighting the area’s “growing restaurant, bar and brewery options.” A few of its specific recommendations are Frelard Pizza Company, Leary Traveler bar, and Hale’s Ale, one of the oldest breweries in Seattle.
It would be just wrong not to also highlight Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. It is adjacent to Freland, hence the “Fre” (FYI - the “lard” comes from Ballard, another nearby neighborhood). Similarly, it too has a thriving culinary scene and cool local haunts. However, more importantly, it has the Fremont Troll. Located under a bridge (as all trolls are), the troll is an 18-feet high statue that was constructed as part of a public art project and is now an Instagrammer’s dream.
Where to stay
The twin cylindrical towers of the Westin Seattle have been part of the city’s skyline for decades 47-story north tower, is the tallest hotel tower in the city. The hotel’s central downtown location has also made it a top pick for business and leisure travelers.
Saving some money
A Seattle CityPASS provides deeply discounted admission to many of the city’s top attractions. In addition to saving money, passholders are often able to also save time with access to express entry lines.
Direct flights between the Washington, DC area and the Seattle–Tacoma International Airport (SEA) are available: United from Dulles International Airport (IAD), Spirit and Southwest from Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI), and Alaska from DCA, BWI and IAD.