by Brian Raymond
With a vibrant downtown full of trendy restaurants and shops, majestic mountains as your backdrop, vistas galore and miles of waterfront, Seattle is an ideal vacation spot. OK, maybe it is a bit overcast and drizzles too often, but it is a beautiful and modern city.
The downtown is constantly changing with new hotels, condos and apartments replacing older buildings. To see some of Seattle’s historic past, you’ll need to visit its neighborhoods such as the area surrounding Kerry Park in the Queen Ann Hill neighborhood. There you’ll find its Victorian homes and some of the most iconic panoramic photos of downtown including the Space Needle and Mount Rainer (on one of those few clear days).
Seattle is a friendly city. People are approachable and willing to help if you need directions or suggestions. It trends toward a younger age and embraces the avant-garde. Since it is built into the mountains, it requires lots of vertical walking and an active lifestyle.
Stay downtown if you are looking for action, food and fun. But don’t look for a good mass transit system. There is one light rail from the airport to downtown. One monorail with one stop. A streetcar which goes only a few blocks, and a confusing bunch of separate bus lines. Walking or a cab is the best way to get around. Seattle has a strong and active gay center in the Capital Hill area with several gay bars and cafes.
There is a wide variety of hotels from luxury five star properties down to very clean and affordable hotels – something for every budget. Foodies will appreciate that Seattle was ranked #8 in the “Best Food Cities” by Condé Nast. You don’t have to spend top dollar to get incredible food. Some of the best restaurants are located in its neighborhoods, offering affordable and delicious meals. With over 200 local breweries, Seattle is also a top destination for craft beer lovers.
If you aren’t familiar with Seattle, one of the best ways to get to know it is a ride on the “Ducks,” which are amphibious vehicles. While you’ll see them in other cities, here they have become a local institution. As you board the Ducks, you might feel a bit foolish and awkward. But the drivers are showmen and know the city inside and out. While you learn the history of Seattle and see its iconic landmarks, you can’t help but get caught up in the moment as your Duck travels downtown blaring its music with the locals waving and dancing on the street as you pass by. Even the toughest curmudgeons will break into a smile – it’s so infectious. After touring the city, you launch into Lake Union for a breathtaking view of the city from a completely different perspective. The once individual towering buildings you looked up to while in town, blend into a perfect postcard of the city with the mountain background.
After the Ducks tour, spend time in the Seattle Center, a 74-acre park built for the 1962 World’s Fair. Of course its most famous feature is the iconic Space Needle; below the observation platform is a rotating restaurant. In the park you’ll find several worthwhile museums, performance venues, plus the park is great for relaxing or people watching.
Seattle and Tacoma are glassblowing hubs. The Seattle Glassblowing Studio (SGS) is located downtown and offers a glimpse into the art of glassblowing. You can watch master craftsmen create unique gorgeous masterpieces, or take a class where you’ll learn how to mix colors and shape glass. After you’ve learned glassblowing, visit the Chihuly gallery and gardens next to the Space Needle to see his incredible glass creations.
Any visit to Seattle must include a stop at Pike Market Place downtown, a marketplace where you can watch them throw and catch fresh fish to entertain customers, find locally grown fruits and vegetables, choose from several booths of fresh flowers, or select from a variety of locally produced gourmet food products.
Finally, Seattle is the starting point for many Alaska cruises where you can see up close the pristine beauty of the Pacific Northwest. If you haven’t taken a cruise to Juneau and seen the Mendenhall Glacier, the salmon run, or whales breaching the surface, an Alaskan cruise is something you must experience.
To visit Seattle or for help in planning your own or group travel, you can contact Brian Raymond at [email protected] or 866-949-1500.