Downtown Seattle, Seattle
Before undertaking a massive overhaul of Los Angeles' main museum, some on the board favored a radical Rem Koolhaas designed demolition and overhaul. Taxpayers, faced with a bond, balked and the plan died.
After seeing Koolhaas' Seattle Main Library I say, "tax me and build it!".
The library's central structure is ringed by a descending ramp, somewhat akin to NYC's Guggenheim. Floor by floor, one is greeted with expansive views of the building's outside skin, filtering light into a cavernous public space that fills the entire outer perimeter. The kaleidescope of angles, light and competing texture are a photogs best friend.
Breathtaking not only in design but in details, it gives dignity back to an institution that's become better known for Hobos than Hobbes. Every Seattle visitor should make this building a priority stop on their itinerary.
Yes, there are so many pigs in the sidewalks of Seattle. It seems like every corner in the city has a pig -from the Westlake Center on 4th Avenue to the Pike Place Market. These beautifully hand-painted pigs adorn the streets for people to give donation!
Can you believe that one pig name Rachelle located at the Pike Place Market has raised over $120,000 in her lifetime? The donation goes to the Market's services for low income people. In honor of the Market's Centernnial, 100 of her cousins have adorned by local artists.
If you enjoy chocolate and want a quick tour of the downtown/Queen Anne/University Village area then I highly recommend the Chocolate Box chocolate tour. You start at their store, sample some tea and chocolate and then board a tour bus where you drive around to three chocolate producers in Seattle. There were several stops for picture taking and of course you get to try chocolate at each stop. Finish the tour back at their store for even MORE chocolate and then receive your gift bag and discount coupon. Make sure to check your bag before you shop as you will receive samples from each of the chocolate locations you stopped at. I couldn't decide on one of the bars to buy and when we left the store and I opened my bag, there was the bar I wanted inside....and of course I had bought one too. Very enjoyable and they keep the group to 10 people only so it's not crowded.
I would have to say that my favourite activity when I visited Seattle was "riding the duck." There is no pre-recorded tour, it's all narrated live and most if not all of the tour guides are bursting full of energy and enthusiasm which makes the tour all the more fun. No, they're not the greatest comedians but the kids typically enjoy it. The Duck refers to an amphibious World War II vehicle which tourists ride around Seattle. The best part about it is that you get a tour of Seattle not just from the road but also from the water. One of the most exciting parts of the tour was probably the splash into Lake Union for the water portion of the tour. One of the tour guides even tows a little rubber ducky behind the boat!
The tours last for 90 minutes. I always believe that the best way to get a general overview of a city is to take one of the city tours. It is especially useful if you're limited on time because you can get a brief taste of all that the city has to offer and once you've had that taste from the tour, you can go back and spend extra time in the places that are of interest to you. I find that makes short city breaks a lot more plesant rather than investing a lot of energy and time to get to a place that was hyped up in a travel book only to find out that it's not great.
The tour guides are highly interactive and the play music in the background which makes you feel like you're at a party! The kids can also get quackers which make duck noises. All in all - it's a ton of fun. I would highly recommend it!
Seattle's downtown is comprised of eight key neighborhoods: Belltown, Waterfront, Pioneer Square, the International District, and the Central Business District are the main areas frequented by tourists, and Denny Triangle, First Hill and Pike/Pine are a little more quiet and off the beaten path.
The Central Business District is the heart of the modern city and is home to a high concentration of hotels, stores and malls, and high-rise office buildings. We stayed in the CBD at the Red Lion Hotel, and it was a great central location with easy walking access to all of the downtown areas we wanted to visit. The CBD area is home to the Columbia Center (the 2nd tallest building on the West Coast) and the historic First United Methodist Church dating back to 1907.
The 4th of July! Celebrate your freedom with one of the best displays in the country. There are several to choose from, Seattle to Tacoma to all over the Puget Sound. One of the most romantic "getaway" trips you can take.
For years I would head to Seattle and meet a client from Japan and they would host a magnificent reception on the 76th floor of the Columbia Towers. The view and the spread were always superb. It is a members only club - The Columbia Tower Club. Also famous for their women's bathroom - each stall looks out over the city.
So if you're not a member you can still get up to the 72nd floor observation deck. The view of city, sea and mountains is unsurpassed. Sometime the clouds are below you!
Just the elevator ride alone is a thrill if you're a small town guy like me. The building is 967' tall, the tallest building in the Pacific Northwest.
Seattle has a thriving alternative Bicycle scene, which includes several regularly scheduled rides:
Every Thursday (rain or shine) a group departs from Westlake Square downtown at 7:00PM. This ride attracts anywhere from 5 to 50 people. The itinerary often includes local Bars, and may continue long in to the night.
The last friday of Every month, Critical mass Departs Westlake square at 5:30PM. This is a much larger, louder ride, that tends to take over entire streets. In the summer, hundreds of people attend.
If you didn't bring your bike, post a request to one of the local online forums; Often you can borrow a bike for free!
Seattle has the best urban core on the Pacific Coast. San Diego's is small potatoes. LA's is dangerous and dirty. San Francisco's is overwhelming and spread out, Portland's is too small. Of course, I'm prejudice in favor of my adopted home town.
I am an urban boy - I love cities. I grew up in the 'burbs and I've spent much of my time commuting. Even now, I live in a quiet neighborhood northwest of Downtown. But I don't like being more the 10 minutes away from the heart of the city.
The cultural soul of downtown Seattle is The Pike Place Public Market. DON"T MISS IT. Stand among the fish mongers and vegetable sellers and you are seeing the heart of Seattle life, culture, and values. It's ethnically diverse, economically integrated, historically significant, and architecturally interesting. This is the one place you MUST see in Seattle. It is the oldest and largest continually operating farmer's market in the U.S.
I also enjoy concerts at Benaroya Hall, shopping at the Nordstrom flagship store (I'm a regular here - with my personal shopper), Pacific Place, 5th Avenue stores, Westlake Center, Macy's, (the former Bon Marche) and our most recent addition: the specatular new Central Library. If you love books and architecture - don't pass it by.
The 73rd observation floor of the Bank of America building is the best value for getting the best view of downtown Seattle. At $5 or $6 per adult it's a bargain compared to the Space Needle; student and senior discounts apply.
The best view of the Seattle skyline is from Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill. You can see the Space Needle contrasting with the city buildings and if you're lucky a clear view of Mt Rainier in the backgroud.
Sunsets are supposedly spectacular as the city buildings basks in the reddish/orange afterglow.
Note: Kerry Park is on Highland Drive between 2nd and 3rd Avenue. If you're walking up Queen Anne Ave to get to Highland Drive, the last 4 blocks is a pretty steep hill so take your time walking.
I think Seattle has one of the better night city skylines around.
You can look north towards the needle, or south towards a night city vista.
Both are very fine.... this view is from Westin south tower facing south into the city
The Harbor Steps are located across from the Seattle Art Museum. This is a lovely area with steps, cascading fountains, Japanese maple and flowering cherry trees, and sculpture. Many locals come to this area in the summer for packed lunches or just to read and unwind.
There is also a Harbor Steps Conference Center at this location. Contact details are as follows:
1301 First Avenue, Level A,
Seattle, WA 98101
Harbor Steps Conference Center
Downtown Seattle is filled with funky shops, great restaurants, a nice aquarium and a great view out to Puget Sound. There are some steep hills, so be in good shape for the climbs!
This is the view of Seattle looking south from the Space Needle. The skyline obviously has one of those "New Urban Center" looks where nothing looks older than yesterday...not too many art deco spires here. The look seemed interestingly enhanced by the the steam rising from the buildings. You see, we visited during one of the coldest Januarys on record (lucky us...we're from Buffalo!) and so the combination of early morning light and cold atmosphere set off downtown with a cool bluish sophistication.