Self-guided tour of Seattle, Washington
Seattle lies on a narrow strip of land between the salt waters of Puget Sound and the fresh waters of Lake Washington in the North East of the US. Seattle was established in 1853 and named in honour of a Duwamish Indian leader named Sealth. Seattle’s most well known nickname is “the Emerald City,” in reference to the lush evergreen forests of the area. Seattle is proud of its arts and cultural institutions, including theatres and the art museum. It is proud of its Space Needle, Pioneer Square, the Pike Place Market, sports, parks and the beauty of its surroundings. Forbes business magazine ranked Seattle as the best city in the US for business and careers in 2018, even despite the high cost of doing business there.
The city has seen unprecedented economic growth, adding 220,000 jobs over the past decade. Amazon is headquartered in Seattle and Microsoft is just about thirty minutes outside the city in Redmond. Two richest people in the world, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates, have homes in the nearby small town of Medina, Washington. Amazon dominates Seattle with more than 45,000 jobs in the city and around 20% of Seattle’s prime office real estate. Google has almost 4000 employees in the region and is increasing its presence there, like Facebook, which is rapidly growing its footprint in Seattle. Intrigued? Take this self-guided walking tour of Seattle. Look at the map and let’s go!
Let’s start with getting out at Chinatown-International District light rail station.
In the early 20th century, Seattle’s population became quite diversified. Scandinavians came to work in fishing and lumbering, African Americans worked as railroad porters and waiters, and Japanese people operated truck gardens and hotels. There were significant communities of Italians, Chinese, Jews, and Filipinos in the city. The International District, home to several Asian ethnic groups, was developed during this period. Today, the ornate Chinatown Gate welcomes you to this diverse neighbourhood where the food scene is incredible. Then go explore the nearby King Street station.
King Street Station
It was constructed in 1906 by the Great Northern Railway. The station is composed of granite and red brick with terra cotta and cast stone ornamentation. The distinctive clock tower is a Seattle landmark and was inspired by the bell tower on the Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy; it was the tallest structure in Seattle when it was built. The Seattle City Council purchased the station for $10 in 2008 and it accelerated the restoration of the historic building. The main waiting room was reopened in 2013. Passengers may now gaze up at the elaborate plasterwork ceiling, parts of which were patched while other details were recreated, and admire reproduction brass chandeliers. Recently, the city opened ARTS on the third floor of the Station with the goal of enhancing the visibility of artists of colour. Seattle is served by the daily Empire Builder to and from Chicago, the daily Coast Starlight to and from Los Angeles and a dozen daily Eugene-Portland-Seattle-Vancouver Amtrak Cascades trains. After admiring the station, continue your way to Seattle waterfront through Pioneer Square. Stop by or have a meal at Historic Ivar’s Acres of Clams restaurant.
Historic Ivar’s Acres of Clams restaurant
The Northwest dining legacy began in 1938 with entrepreneurial spirit of the Norwegian/Swede Ivar Haglund. His career in music and entertainment took a slight detour when his waterfront aquarium on Seattle’s Pier 54 needed a vendor to feed its guests. Using his own classic Northwest seafood recipes, Ivar’s was born. Ivar Haglund was a true Seattle character and icon. A statue to honour him is placed on historic Pier 54, next to his first restaurant. His friends stated that “Ivar showed us that Seattle was, and still is, the jewel of the Northwest”.Address: 1001 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98104
If you are not so hungry, just have a cup of coffee at Starbucks next door.
Drink coffee at Starbucks in Starbucks hometown
Seattle is home to the Starbucks coffee chain. The first Starbucks opened here in 1971 at the nearby Pike Place Market. You can also visit Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room where you’ll find exclusive beverages, various brewing methods, and a coffee library. There’s no shortage of coffee houses and cafes in Seattle. Seattleites love their coffee. And visitors can enjoy trying a few and learning just how different brews can taste from one shop to the next. Then take a boat trip by Argosy Cruises. My choice was the 2,5 hours Locks Cruise. But there are other options available too.
For over 70 years, Argosy Cruises has been proud to be Seattle’s “friend with a boat,” showing its locals and visitors a side of Seattle they rarely get to see. Argosy Cruises offers fully-narrated, family-friendly boat tours around Seattle. 2,5 hours Locks Cruise starts at 12.45 pm. This fully narrated tour gives you an opportunity to enjoy the spectacular views and experience the transition from salt to fresh water! The century-old Ballard Locks allows you to experience the water levels rise and lower to create a “boat elevator” for the boats passing between freshwater lakes and the salt water of Puget Sound. Between Elliott Bay and Lake Union you are surrounded by large fishing vessels, seaplanes, majestic city parks, and more. After getting back by bus to Pier 55 from the boat tour, head to the Olympic Sculpture Park.
Olympic Sculpture Park
Olympic Sculpture Park is located on an industrial site at the water’s edge. The design creates a continuous constructed landscape for art, forms a Z-shaped “green” platform, and descends 40 feet from the city to the water, with great views of the skyline and Elliot Bay. An exhibition pavilion provides space for art, performances, and educational programming. A few artworks that caught my eye.
Father and Son Fountain by Louise Bourgeois features two classically inspired figures. Each figure is alternately obscured by raising the height of the water springing from its respective base. The alternately rising water prevents either figure from reaching or seeing the other. Sculpture Echo by Jaume Plensa is named for the mountain nymph of Greek mythology. Plensa created this monumental head of Echo with her eyes closed, seemingly listening or in a state of meditation. The work is situated on the shoreline of the park, where Echo looks out over Puget Sound in the direction of Mount Olympus. The Eagle is the centrepiece of the Olympic Sculpture Park. American sculptor, Alexander Calder, most famous for his kinetic moving, suspended mobile sculptures and created a number of massive stationary works known as stabiles. One such sculpture is The Eagle. At 12 meters tall (38 feet), it is a unique and powerful presence in the park.
Address: 2901 Western Avenue WA 98121
Then get to the iconic Space Needle.
You will get almost 160 metres (520 feet) skyward. The city is actually, really, truly at your feet. Seattle’s “must see” is now a “must do”, following the Space Needle’s multi-million dollar renovation. Glide onto the Loupe, the world’s first and only rotating glass floor, for never-before-seen views of the structure and the city. Lean into our Sky risers, the tilting glass walls on the open-air deck, and float over Seattle on one of the 24 angled vantage points. Sip and sample the Pacific Northwest’s best wines while savouring the thrilling views. The Space Needle is open 365 days a year.
After a visit, your next stop is at the Chief Seattle monument.
Chief Seattle monument
Born in the late 18th century, Seattle (Seathl) was a chief of the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes who lived around the Pacific Coast bay that is today called Puget Sound. In the middle of the 19th century Euro-Americans started establishing villages in that area. Chief Seattle welcomed his new neighbours and treated them with kindness. In 1853, some of the settlers moved to a site on Elliott Bay to establish a town. Since Chief Seattle had proved so friendly and welcoming, the settlers named their new settlement in his honour. Address: 2701 5th Ave
Then head to the new landmark of Seattle: Amazon Spheres.
The triple-domed distinctive and eye-catching Spheres of Amazon are a result of innovative thinking about the character of the workplace and adding one missing thing to the urban office: a direct link to nature. The Spheres are home to more than 40,000 plants from the cloud forest regions of over 30 countries. It’s a conservatory and an office space at the same time. They mark the height of a tech boom in the city while also creating a relationship with the natural world. The public can’t actually go inside unless they’re on an Amazon HQ tour. That said, the facility is impressive and worth seeing, for those who get the chance.
Address: The Spheres, 2111 7th Ave
Finish your tour at Pike Place Market.
Pike Place Market
Welcome to Pike Place Market, Seattle’s epicentre of fresh produce, specialty foods and independent businesses. Established in 1907 to connect citizens and farmers, the Market continues its “Meet the Producer” tradition with a year-round farmers market, owner-operated bakeries, fish markets, butcher shops, produce stands and specialty food stores. Within more than 3,5 hectares (nine acres) of the historic district, you’ll discover dozens of farmers, a bustling crafts market, and more than 200 unique owner-operated shops. There are more than 80 restaurants to tempt you, from take-out counters specializing in donuts to fine dining establishments. Bring your appetite and enjoy exploring Pike Place Market. The Market is open 363 days a year, closed only on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Address: 1st Ave and Pike Street
If you take a boat tour by Argosy cruises, have lunch afterwards and spend some time at the Space Needle and Pike Place Market, this tour will take a full day for you.
You can also do a tour in the opposite direction, starting it from the Pike Place market. As the weather can be unpredictable in Seattle, be prepared with an umbrella and/or raincoat. Bring a water bottle and some snacks as always.
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What did you think? Have you been to Seattle, Washington? Or perhaps you’re thinking of visiting there in the near future? Either way, I’d love to hear from you so please add your comments below.
Author: Anita Sane