Sunday, October 16, 2011

Top 10 Things to See in Seattle in the Summer

Seattle has fun things to see and do for everyone in the family!

This summer I had the joy of staying in the eclectic city of Seattle for a week. This is one city that I can really see myself living in. The music scene and art scenes are top-notch: cutting edge and historical all at the same time. The city is safe, clean, friendly, and trendy. How safe you ask? Well, I walked about twenty blocks from the downtown Underground Seattle tour in Pioneer Square at ten at night to my hotel, with shopping bags, and no one bothered to approach me or even give me a second look. I strolled rather than power-walked.

There is so much to see and do in Seattle. To make your visit a little easier to navigate, I've compiled a list the top 10 things to see and do in Seattle.  Pretty much all of them are family friendly.  Did I miss any of your favorite Seattle attractions? Let me know in the comments sections!

1. The Seattle Space Needle

After checking in to our hotel, my friend Jana, her two kids, and I walked the five or six blocks from our hotel to the Space Needle. It was the main attraction for us for sure. We marvelled at it from five blocks away, four blocks away, three blocks away... And up close it was still very cool. I mean, I've seen towers before - Calgary has its own too. But the Seattle Space Needle is not surrounded by much taller skyscrapers: it is in a league of its own, allowing it to maintain its grandeur.

Checking out the Seattle Space Needle!

We wanted to go inside and up right away, but it was Saturday, there was a music festival in the plaza right beside it, and the line-up was a million miles long. So we settled for lying on the grass outside it and experimenting with the panoramic features on our cameras. Afterward, we strolled around the outer plaza and discovered a lot of neat stuff that we hadn't even known was there! Several small fountains, statues, and art pieces give visitors plenty to gawk at. (I loved the whale fountain with the stretchy octopus statue. So cute!).

Love that stretchy octopus!

In order to avoid the long line-ups and wait times, our trip up to the top of the Seattle Space Needle happened on a Monday morning, when the weekenders were gone. We didn’t have to wait in line for more than five minutes. Up we went, quick as you please! The view from the top demonstrated how clean and pretty the city of Seattle is, and we were able to easily point out some of the places we had visited. Other than the view, however, there is not much to do at the top of Needle. We stayed for about 25 minutes, and then went back down.

The Seattle skyline from the top of the Needle.

2. The EMP Museum

I had a blast exploring the EMP (Experience Music Project museum), where I checked out the Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana displays.  Being a big rock fan, I loved seeing the original instruments, hand-written musical scores, stage props and costumes that all belonged to these prolific musicians.  There was a lot more Nirvana paraphenalia than there was for Jimi Hendrix, but that makes sense seeing as there are still surviving members of Nirvana still donating items to this day.  There's not a lot left in the Jimi Hendrix collection that isn't already in a museum or collector's hands somewhere.

The exterior of the EMP is quite stunning.

One of my favorite things inside the EMP museum is the massive guitar display near the entrance.  There are hundreds of guitars all arranged in a beautiful art installation, but that's not all.  They are rigged to play actual songs - and more than one.  Headphones surround the art piece, and you can listen to the songs they are playing one by one.  It is quite impressive.

Crazy cool art installation at the EMP museum in Seattle.

A painted maze on the cement lot outside the Experience Music Project Museum provided Jana's kids and I with some much needed exercise - I chased them for about forty minutes before we had to drag them away from the painted marvel. My town needs one of those things!

Running the maze outside the EMP building in Seattle, Washington.

3. International Fountain 

A big hit with everyone was the International Fountain. It reminded me a lot of the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas: when the music got more powerful, so did the fountain. At times, the music would stop, and the fountain would stop as well. During these times, all the kids (and adults) who were playing in the fountain would run to place a hand on the giant silver sphere, waiting with bated breath. Suddenly, the music would strike up again, and all the people would be blasted with streams of cold, rushing water! Check out the link above for more on this fun feature of downtown Seattle.

Playing in the International Fountain in Seattle.

4. The Duck Tour

I highly recommend the Duck Tour. They are ridiculous. They are loud. They are super crazy, but they are also super fun. You sing and blow whistles, shout at pedestrians on the street, and explore the city of Seattle. And the best part - you don’t just tour around on land. The Duck Tours are performed on ex-military vehicles that were used during the Vietnam war and designed to be a bus and a boat.  During our ride around town we passed the Seattle Space Needle, several museums, the recording studio where Jimi Hendrix worked, lots of street art, and so much more.  The whole time we were shouting, blowing horns, and cheering at pedestrians and other drivers.  So fun!

The all-purpose terrain vehicle used for the Ride the Ducks tour of Seattle.

We finished our driving tour of Seattle, and then did a water tour of Lake Union while riding the same Duck Tour vehicle. We saw the house from the film “Sleepless in Seattle”, learned about floating houses and the rental and taxation issues that come with them, and got to listen to our tour guide tear a strip off some kids who were throwing water balloons at our vehicle. Great times!

Happy with my Ride the Ducks tour of Seattle, while floating on Lake Union.

5. Eat Seafood (At the Crab Pot)

If you head to Seattle, I sure hope you are not allergic to seafood, because this city has some of the best seafood restaurants! One in particular that I truly enjoyed was the Crab Pot, where they set your table with a piece of white paper, a board and a mallet, and hand you a giant bib. When your food comes out, it is arranged artfully (or not) in a shiny silver bread bowl, and the mass of food is dumped onto the white paper before you. You select your treats, mash them out of their shells on the wooden board using your mallet, and eat until you feel like exploding. I loved it!

Enjoying lunch at Seattle's Crab Pot.

6. Pike Place Market

Other than the Space Needle, one cannot visit Seattle without hitting Pike Place Market. This giant outdoor/indoor farmer’s market features a few of Seattle’s favorite tourist attractions.  It is a good ol' farmer's market, but unlike any that I'd ever been to before.  For instance, there was so much seafood there, I felt like I was shopping in Red Lobster's freezer.  And MASSIVE seafood - lobster tails the size of my arm, no joke. Piles and piles of fresh, colossal-sized crab legs, shrimp, and scallops filled bins, displayed crisply on beds of crushed ice.  I wished so much that we weren't staying in a hotel with no kitchenette, because I wanted to buy it all and make a seafood feast.

Those lobster tails are bigger than a child's head!

The first Starbucks store is in Pike Place Market, and while I was standing in the giant line-up to get in, I learned that it was named after the character of “Starbucks” in the novel “Moby Dick”. Who knew? It was so busy that I didn’t have time to buy a coffee: there was a line-up and counter just for beverages, and a line-up and counter just for purchasing items. I bought a mug as proof that I had been there, and then moved on before I got too claustrophobic.

Standing outside the first ever Starbucks!

Meandering down Pike Place a little further, we hit the fish markets. Of course, we had to visit the Pike Place Fish stand, which is famous for their employees’ high-energy and fun-loving sales pitches. They toss fish (and credit cards) back and forth, cat-call their customers good-naturedly, and keep the crowd entertained.

7. The Wall of Gum

We also visited the infamous Wall of Gum, which is just off of Pike Place Market. It is what it says it is: a wall of gum. It was disgusting and fascinating at the same time. We all had to add to it.  I have no idea how long it has been around Seattle, but I'm assuming quite some time, as determined by the sheer mass of gum stuck to said wall.  Go visit, but don't lean against it!

YUCK - but fun!  I add to Seattle's infamous Wall of Gum.

8. Seattle Underground Tour

There are two versions of the Seattle Underground Tour - the day time versions, which are considered family friendly, and the evening adult version, full of juicy and scandalous information about Seattle's more seedy times (information that I won't share here, as I like to consider my blog to be family-friendly as well).  The tour begins in Seattle's historic Pioneer Square, and takes guests underneath the city streets on a walking tour to learn about Seattle's past.

Left over seating from a long-ago speak easy in underground Seattle.

During this walking tour, you visit an old speak-easy, walk down tunnels that connect buildings via underground sidewalks, see entrances to old bank vaults, and a lot more.  The adult version teaches you the origins of such terms as "crapper" and "smut".  These tours are insanely interesting and the guides have great personalities.  Whether you are vacationing with adult friends or little ones, there's a little something for everyone.

9. Klondike Gold Rush Museum & Pioneer Square

Something fun to do for a couple of hours on a rainy afternoon in Seattle is to visit the Klondike Gold Rush National Park (which is really just a museum).  The museum is free to visit, which is nice.  Kids have a passport type document they can complete as they explore the museum: visiting the general store, solving riddles, and participating in all of the interactive exhibits.  There are films and displays that show how Seattle was involved in the Gold Rush, and shares some of the crazier stories.

A beautiful waterfall park near the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park.

When are you done exploring the museum, Pioneer Square has a lot of things to see as well.  We really enjoyed the waterfall park, which was peaceful and relaxing (except when one of the kids nearly fell into the water).  Lots of locals were gathered there to drink coffee and meet for lunch.

10. Fremont Street Troll

On our way out of town, we stopped in Fremont to visit the Fremont Street Troll. He is a huge mixed-media sculpture shoved under the bridge, has a hubcap for an eye, and is holding in his massive hand a life-sized sculpted Volkswagen Bug. You are allowed to climb on it and pose with it, so we did. It was a fun way to say good-bye to Seattle! I would definitely come back!

Just chillin' like a villain with the Fremont Street Troll in Seattle.

2 comments:

  1. Melanie here! I enjoyed this piece, please email me--I have a question about your blog. MelanieLBowen[at]gmail[dot]com

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  2. For sure, will get back to you ASAP! :)

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