Downtown Seattle, Seattle
Things to do here:
- Day trip to Mt. Rainier if you have a car
- See a Mariners baseball game
- Take the Underground Tour
- Go to the Hiram Chittendam 'Ballard' Locks and watch the salmon migrating upstream through a window in the water, stay for the gardens as well
- Visit Alki and/or Golden Gardens Beaches
- Space Needle and the Seattle Center fountain
- Take a ferry to anywhere (San Juan Islands, if you have more than a weekend)
- Pike Place Market for the freshest fish, flowers, vegetables, and crafts
- The original Starbucks store, opened in 1971 across from Pike Place Market
- Visit the neighborhoods of Fremont, Capitol Hill, and Queen Anne. Fremont is young, vibrant, and full of colorful hippies. Capitol HIll is also you and vibrant, with an eclectic group of people ranging from goths, young professionals, gays, punks, artists, etc. Lower and Upper Queen Anne are a bit more 'grown-up' and have great bars and eateries.
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.
You can catch the inner harbour ferry to one of the small island just off Seattle about an hours ride. Apparently its best when you go just before dusk so you can see the sun setting over the Olympic Mountains and then hang out on one of the islands for a quick bite to eat before heading back to Seattle where you can see the whole city lit up at night. Supposed to be real nice. Fairly cheap as well as I think its about $10 US round trip for foot passengers.
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.
When it was built, the Space Needle was certainly the dominant feature of the Seattle skyline. However, over the past 40 years, many newer and very tall buildings have been built in Seattle. Today, the Columbia Center offers Skyview, which claims to be the "tallest public viewing area West of the Mississippi" (obviously views from natural hills are not included in this!). In July of 2013 a newly remodeled version of the Skyview was unveiled to the public, and I have not had a chance to visit since this opened.
The tallest structure in Seattle today, and at one time the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River, the Columbia Center located on the southern end of downtown, but still right in the core of Seattle. When it was first completed, it was called the "Columbia Center" and that is the name that is still used on a number of maps. It went through a period where it was known as the "Seafirst Center" when Seafirst Bank owned it, and there was some effort to refer to it as the Bank of America Tower when that bank took over Seafirst. Bank Of America Tower created the nickname "BOAT". Giving up in defeat, Bank of America determined they would go back to the original Columbia Center name, which is what many in Seattle never stopped calling it.
"Skyview" refers to the observation deck on the 73rd floor of the building. It costs $12.50 to get in these days (in 2009 it was only $5). There is also a "Sky Lobby" which is actually a Starbucks coffee house located on the 40th floor. Don't get confused with where the signs are telling you to go! The view from the "Sky Lobby" is quite terrible due to surrounding buildings.
In the center of the building are a set of elevators that go to the 40th floor. If you take those up to the 40th floor, you need to follow the signs to elevators that continue on to the 73rd floor. There is no set of public elevators that serve all floors. I've been told that the instructions for getting to the Skyview have been significantly improved since my 2009 visit.
When I visited in 2009, it was possilble to see east, south, and west from here, and to a limited extent the northwest, but there was no full 360 degree view as offices on the north side of the floor blocked that part of the building. However, it was possible to see Mount Rainer, the Olympic Peninsula and Olypmic Mountians, and much of downtown Seattle as well as parts of the Cascades. Today, the web site for the Skyview claims that there is a full 360 degree view and other people have said that it is possible to see the Space Needle from here - which you could not when I visited due to the offices taking up the north side of this floor.
This is a much less expensive view point than the top of the Space Needle - even with the price over double the 2009 prices, and provides views that are not possible in the Space Needle today due to the size of the buildings downtown. Watch the hours! The Skyview doesn't open until 10 in the morning, but it does now stay open until 8 at night so it is possible to see sunsets from here except during the peak summer season.
There is also some mention of a snack bar here, which did not exist when I visited in 2009.
In the main lobby of the building, be sure to take a look at the two odd modern art sculptures that are located there, if you have an interest in art.
I have put a few more photos from the Columbia Center Skyview into a Seattle Travelogue so that you can see what you missed, should you visit on a cloudy or hazy or smoggy day.
Seattle's Monorail is a very short line. Its terminal points (Seattle Center and Westlake Center Mall) are its only two stops. Round-trip adult fare is $4.
The Monorail takes you to the Experience Music Project and the Space Needle which are among the numerous attractions found in Seattle Center.
The Monorail is more than 40 years old. It was built for the 1962 Seattle World's Fair.
It was out of service for some time because of a fire. It is now back in business. For schedule and fare information, please click on the link below to go to the monorail's web site.
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.
The Elephant Car Wash is a famous Seattle landmark and something you'll enjoy seeing when you visit the city. The car wash has been in existence since 1951 and the rotating, neon elephant sign is now famous through the area. There are actually eight Elephant Car Washes throughout Washington State, but the most famous of them is located on Battery Street in downtown Seattle. The Elephant Car Wash sign has been featured on television shows and in magazine articles and commercials. It's a great photo opportunity!
The Elephant Car Wash is open even on the many rainy days in Seattle. Locals come by just to have their car interiors vacuumed, even when it's raining.
Seattle is known for coffee - But we don't drink coffee
Seattle has some steep hills. So when we came to Seattle to go on a cruise I asked the hotel whether we could see some of Seattle on the flat as it were, since I was sure Bob wouldn't want to push me up hill. They assured me that the area around the hotel and down to the top part of Pike Place Market was pretty flat. And that proved to be true.
Along the way we saw Coffee shops, and Shoe stores, and even the Hard Rock. It was a nice morning jaunt.
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.
When Seattle's Olympic Hotel opened in 1924, it became the city's most luxurious hotel, even described as the finest hotel west of Chicago. Built in the Italian Renaissance style on the site of the first University of Washington campus, the hotel was built at a cost of $4 million, while close to another million dollars was spent on furnishings. Italian workmen were even brought to Seattle to make sure the Palladinian high-arched windows and terrazzo floors would reflect all the luxury of an Italian palazzo. For a long time, the rich and famous would book the Olympic Hotel for wedding ceremonies, debutante balls and birthday parties. However, the hotel eventually lost some of its former glory as more modern hotels were built in downtown Seattle. In the early 1980s, the Olympic Hotel was bought by the Four Seasons group and major restoration work took place at a cost of over $60 million. The Olympic Hotel once again became the city's premier hotel, becoming the only hotel in the state of Washington to receive a AAA Five-Diamond rating.
While not everyone can afford to stay at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel, it's still worth going inside to walk around the hotel's magnificient lobby. For those who'd like to get a taste of luxury without breaking the bank, it's possible to stop by the lobby's bar (The Terrace) for happy hour (3:30 to 6:00 pm) or to have afternoon tea at The Georgian (12:00 to 2:30 pm daily, $35 per person).
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 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.
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.
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.