The largest city in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S., Seattle is relatively young compared to many U.S. cities. It was first settled in 1851 and later incorporated in 1869. Located some 100 miles south of the Canadian border, Seattle is home to more than 600,000 people and 3.3 million in its metro area.
While Olympia is the state capital of Washington, Seattle is the recognized capital for coffee consumption, cloudy weather and computer components. The birthplace of Starbucks, Bill Gates and Boeing, "Seattleites" have much to be proud of throughout the city's history, which has seen it prevail against such early calamities as the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, which destroyed the central business district, the Seattle General Strike of 1919 and the continued threat of earthquakes around the Seattle Fault.
The "Emerald City," so named for its proximity to the lush evergreen region in the surrounding area, also features the highest percentage of college graduates of any major U.S. city according to a U.S. Census Bureau survey. Also known informally as the "Gateway to Alaska," "Queen City" and "Jet City," due to the local influence of Boeing, the city's renown also includes the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, which hosted ten million visitors, and the 1990 Goodwill Games, which helped place Seattle on the world map.
Despite the city's reputation for sodden grayness, Seattle only gets 36 inches of rain a year - less than New York or Atlanta. Driest months tend to be May through September; the soggiest from November through March. Meanwhile, mild winters and cool summers favor year-round outdoor activities. High temperatures in July average about 75 degrees; while low temperatures in winter drop below freezing an average of only 15 days per year. The annual average temperature is around 60 F.
Seattle Center is a 74-acre cultural center and amusement park that stands on the northern edge of downtown at the end of the monorail line.
Looking like an alien space craft that came in for a landing right in the middle of the Center is the 605-foot-tall Space Needle (Seattle Center, 400 Broad St.; 206-905-2100; www.spaceneedle.com), which was built for the 1962 World's Fair. The landmark attraction stands out as a focal point for fun in the city. It's not uncommon to find street entertainers and vendors at the base of the building plying their craft. A 41-second elevator ride takes you up 520 feet to the observation deck, which allows for 360-degree views of downtown office towers, Puget Sound and Mount Rainier on a clear day. There's also a sleek glass Pavilion housing the lobby and retail shop for all sorts of gifts. Enjoy a meal at SkyCity, the revolving restaurant located at the top, which offers buffet style dining as well as a complimentary elevator ride and Observation Deck visit with a reservation.
While the acclaimed Space Needle offers a scenic view from the above, Bill Speidel's Underground Tour(Pioneer Square, 608 First Ave.; 206-682-4646; www.undergroundtour.com) gives visitors a scenic view from below. This unique guided tour takes visitors through the hidden subterranean passages that once were the main roadways and storefronts of old downtown Seattle before the Great Seattle Fire of 1889. Beginning at Doc Maynard's Public House, a restored 1890s saloon, the tour takes you through three different sections of Underground, covering three blocks along historic Pioneer Square, before culminating in the Rogues Gallery museum at the end for a detailed look into Seattle's past.
Seattle's thriving seaport sets the scene for plenty of indoor and outdoor attractions by way of shopping and dining, special events and entertainment, and scenic strolls with spectacular views. The Seattle Waterfront (Piers 52 to 70 on Alaskan Way; www.ci.seattle.wa.us/tour/water.htm) is among the city's most popular attractions, offering a variety of daily activities along each of its 19 piers, and home to such popular destinations as the Seattle Aquarium, along with a choice of waterway excursions to nearby islands and horse-drawn carriage tours around downtown. Strewn along the Seaport's terminals sit public facilities such as fishing piers, bike paths, an exercise course, wildlife habitat preservation, a boat launch, paths and park space to just sit and relax and take everything in.
Since Seattle is surrounded by water, it's not surprising that the city offers a fine aquarium. Set on Elliott Bay, the Seattle Aquarium (1483 Alaskan Way, Pier 59; 206-386-4320; www.seattleaquarium.org) presents well-designed exhibits dealing with the water worlds of the Puget Sound region. You can view all stages of the lifecycle: from spawners coming up the fish ladder to alevins (hatchlings) in tanks. Star attractions include bright-colored coral reef fish, playful sea otters and a giant Pacific octopus, as well as an underwater viewing dome where you can get an up close look at the aquatic life in its natural habitat. Harbor cruises are also available. Work continues inside the restored historic pier as one of the final touches for the outside of the building is completed.
Located at the foot of the Space Needle, the Experience Music Project (Seattle Center, 325 5th Ave. N.; 206-EMPLIVE; www.emplive.com) is a standout hit on all counts, from its unique plug and play exhibits to the local musical heritage presented therein. On the archive side, the collection houses iconographic images of modern music, from the pink feather boa Janis Joplin wore on the cover of "Pearl" to the angel from the front of Nirvana's "In Utero" CD. In the Sound Lab, visitors can lay down the bass track for "Wild Thing," jam in a sound-proof room or hit the "stage" in front of thousands of screaming fans. Another exhibit focuses on the history of guitars and includes some of the first electric guitars dating back to the early 1930s. EMP is as notable for its architecture as its collections, housed in a Frank O. Gehry structure inspired by a smashed guitar. This interactive extravaganza was largely funded by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft and a mega fan of former Seattle native Jimi Hendrix.
Located in north Seattle, the sprawling Woodland Park Zoo (750 N. 50th St.; 206-684-4800;www.zoo.org) is a 90-acre complex with origins dating back to the late 1800s. Ranked in the top five "Class A" zoos in the country, Woodland Park features exemplary exhibits focusing on Alaska, tropical Asia, the African savanna, and the tropical rainforest, and features several rare and uncommon species, including Sumatran tigers, endangered Japanese serows (a breed of mountain goat rarely seen outside Japan), snow leopards, and hornbills. In all, visitors will find more than 1,000 animals of 300 different species making themselves at home in naturalistic exhibits. When the kids want to make like the playful critters themselves, there's plenty of room to run around in the Zoomazium (a combination of zoo and gymnasium), an interactive play space, and Willawong, where guests can feed and interact with birds in their natural environment. There's also a Family Farm exhibit and Bug World to offer up a little more variety. The zoo is open every day of the year except Christmas and located within 30 minutes from the downtown area.
Sights and sounds of the Pacific Northwest come to life throughout the city, which embodies everything from its pioneering history to a progressive skyline. From within, visitors will find a unique mix of vibrant galleries to one-of-a-kind museums, thriving markets and maritime heritage.
Regarded as Seattle's first neighborhood, Pioneer Square (www.pioneersquare.org) is an historic preservation district comprised of handsome 19th-century brick and sandstone buildings that now accommodate shops, restaurants and fine art galleries covering more than 20 city blocks. Centrally located, it is easily accessible by foot, bus or trolley and makes for a pleasant excursion through such highlighted landmarks as the Pioneer Square Park and Pergola, Smith Tower, Waterfall Garden, Occidental Park, which is home to "Art in the Park" the first Thursday of every month, and the Klondike Gold Rush National Park. At the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (319 Second Ave., S.; 206-220-4240;www.nps.gov/klse), exhibits and real gold nuggets chronicle the late 1890s, when Seattle became the center for outfitting prospectors for the Alaskan gold fields.
Unlike many of the city's long established cultural institutions as one might associate with the Space Needle or the various parks and museums, a recent entry into Seattle's many architectural highlights is theCentral Library (1000 Fourth Ave.; 206-386-4636; www.spl.org), which since its completion in 2004, has managed to create a dynamic presence and popularity with visitors. Its cubical design is an unexpected blending of glass and steel that allows for absorption of natural light while also fitted to protect against external elements. On the inside, visitors will find 40-foot-long reference desks and a unique "Books Spiral" that winds through four floors, designed both for effect and efficiency. The 275-seat Microsoft Auditorium is the centerpiece of the building, and is often the meeting place for special theatrical performances and live readings.
For a true glimpse into Seattle's heritage, take a tour of re-created storefronts and local "neighborhoods" for a view into the life of Seattle's early days. The Museum of History & Industry (McCurdy Park, 2700 24th Ave. E.; 206-324-1126; www.seattlehistory.org), located at the north end of the Washington Park Arboretum, explores more than 150 years of Seattle's history through evolving exhibits, such as "Essential Seattle," that detail the city's history as well as a fuller picture of the Northwest itself. Visitors will pass through noteworthy people and events since the city's founding, such as the likes of the Great Seattle Fire of 1889 along with founders of Microsoft, Paul Allen and Bill Gates, that helped shape its future.
Seattle is a city known for its scenic beauty and rugged outdoor terrain. In spite of its reputation for cloudy days and rain, it is popular for sports enthusiasts who'll find everything from boating and fishing to biking and hiking all within easy reach.
Seattle's Burke-Gilman Trail route has origins dating back to the late 19th-century when it was first developed as a railroad line. Some 35 years after it was abandoned for rail usage, its potential as a non-motorized public trailway was developed by local citizens and the Burke-Gilman Trail for pedestrian use and public biking was born. Originally routed some 12 miles from Kenmore's Tracy Owen Station to Gas Works Park at Lake Union, the trail has since been extended further west and now encompasses more than 15 total miles. Along the route, travelers can pedal along Lake Washington and pass through Matthews Beach Park heading southwest on the way toward the University of Washington and into Seattle's Fremont neighborhood up to Eighth Avenue NW, not far from the Woodland Park Zoo. Bicycling has become a popular recreational pursuit in the city, as well as a convenient form of commute. Free bus travel is also available in selected areas along the route. For more information about the Seattle Bicycle and Pedestrian Program call (206) 684-7583.
The Electric Boat Company (2046 Westlake Ave. N.; 206-223-7476; www.theelectricboatco.com), located on the western shore of Lake Union between Northwest Outdoor Center and China Harbor, offers electric boat rentals that can accommodate up to 10 guests. The electric "Duffy" boats are 21 feet long and come equipped with two tables, plush seating, audio system, and a captain, is required, for special tours. Along the way, boaters can take in the many houseboats along the lake as well as a meal at one of the lakefront restaurants. Rentals are available year-round with special hours during the winter season.
Seattle offers a wide range of accommodations to suit every interest and budget. From fancy luxury hotels situated in the Downtown area, to quaint B&B along the outskirts of town, to rooms with a waterfront view and reasonably priced University area lodging, variety is in full supply in the Emerald City.
University Inn (4140 Roosevelt Way NE., The University District; 206-632-5055;www.universityinnseattle.com) is located within walking distance of the University of Washington and not far from the Downtown area. Its location benefits from plenty of neighboring landmarks and places to visit, including the University campus, Woodland Park Zoo, Safeco Field, and University Village shopping, plus plenty of dining options. Some of the guestrooms offer unique features, such as triangular full-length windows and balconies overlooking the pool, along with select views of Lake Union. The Inn provides complimentary shuttle service that takes guests to many of the city's points of interest, including Downtown Seattle, the Seattle Center and Space Needle and Pacific Place shopping.
Guests at the Silver Cloud Inn - Lake Union (1150 Fairview Ave. N ; 206-447-9500 ;www.silvercloud.com) may not only get rooms with a view but they'll also find plenty of spaciousness - something that may be a scarcity in many locations nearer to downtown. Located on the south end and across the street from Lake Union, many of the hotel's 184 guestrooms and suites look out into the marina and others take in the Space Needle. Plenty of amenities, including an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, add to the family comfort factor, while floatplane tours are offered across the street. Guestrooms also include high-speed Internet access, microwave ovens and refrigerator, and complimentary continental breakfast and local area shuttle are available. Nearby dining and shopping options are available along the waterfront, and downtown Seattle is just two miles away.
The Sorrento Hotel (900 Madison St.; 206-622-6400; www.hotelsorrento.com) features 76 meticulously appointed and distinct rooms outfitted in elegant design, comfort and modern convenience, from Egyptian cottons to Italian marble bath to DirecTV and CD systems. The landmark property exudes Old World atmosphere, and offers stately views of downtown Seattle from its setting on First Hill, while views of Puget Sound may also be found from a room on the west side of the hotel. The Sorrento's dining options range from elegant to patio casual, led by the Hunt Club dining room's classic setting, the Fireside Room lounge's lively jazz piano and afternoon tea and the al fresco option to be found at Cafe Palma, with an Italian-influenced menu and imported wines. Twenty-four-hour concierge and complimentary limousine service to nearby Downtown are also provided to guests.
Founded as a farmer's market in 1907, Pike Place Market (Pike St. and First Ave.; 206-682-7453;www.pikeplacemarket.org) is also a National Historic District as well as one of the city's most popular tourist attractions. About 100 farmers a day crowd the labyrinthine aisles where you might encounter well-coiffed matrons scrutinizing peaches or leading chefs selecting their specialties du jour. If you like seafood with a bit of cabaret, mosey over to Pike Place Fish, where vendors quarterback 20-pound salmon over to the cash register. Everything from produce vendors to antiques peddlers and artists to some of Seattle's best eateries can all be found under the same century-old roof. At the market entrance (Pike Street at 1st Avenue), Rachel, the bronze piggy bank, is a favorite perch for visiting children.
Department stores and boutiques flourish in Seattle's revitalized downtown, with outlets from all the retailers you might find along Fifth Avenue or Rodeo Drive: Burberrys, Niketown, Nordstrom (the company was founded in Seattle in 1901) occupies a grand turn-of-the-century structure at the corner of 5th and Pine. Across the street, glamorous Pacific Place (600 Pine St.; 206-405-2655;www.pacificplaceseattle.com) presents five levels of upscale shopping, including retailers like Tiffany & Co., Williams-Sonoma and Barney's New York along with several restaurants and an 11-screen AMC theater complex. The architecture matches the eye candy, with a soaring skylight, and aluminum escalators that zag like bolts of lightning up the curving walls.
Dimitriou's Jazz Alley (2033 Sixth Ave.; 206-441-9729; www.jazzalley.com) is a swanky and sophisticated staple of the Seattle nightclub scene for better than two decades now. Seattle's premier jazz venue, it books the finest talent headed by numerous big name acts including Branford Marsalis, Stanley Jordan and the Ravi Coltrane Quartet. Jazz Alley does not distribute physical tickets, but rather, accepts reservations in advance and guests pay their tab, including the cover, at the end of the evening. Prices vary according to the evening's performer. The restaurant at Jazz Alley offers Northwest Cuisine specializing in seafood, plus an impressive wine list.
One of the city's most prestigious landmarks, The Paramount Theatre (911 Pine St., 206-682-1414;www.theparamount.com), is a historic gem of Seattle's downtown area that plays host to more than 250 events and some half a million patrons per year. A Seattle fixture since 1928, the Paramount has been renovated and restored to its original classic Beaux Arts splendor, while also benefitting from updated lighting and sound systems to go with its one-of-a-kind convertible floor system that allows for theater seating or ballroom settings, dance or dinner theater. The Seattle Theatre Group will offer free 90-minute tours of the historic Paramount every first Saturday of the month.
Seattle possesses an excellent user-friendly public transportation system that includes free daily bus service within the Central Business District between 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., and a Monorail that can whisk passengers from the downtown Westlake Center to the Seattle Center in 90 seconds ($4 round trip). In addition, the free Waterfront Streetcar Bus (#99) travels from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. along a waterfront path from as far north at Pier 69, south through historic Pioneer Square, and into Seattle's International District. Seasonally from late May through late September, the Elliott Bay Water Taxi connects Seattle's beautiful waterfront with Alki Beach's waterfront activities. Fare is $3 one way, or free with Metro's all-day Visitors Pass. Visitor information, Metro Visitor Passes and advice on sightseeing and attractions can be found at the Citywide Concierge and Visitor Center located in the Washington State Convention and Trade Center at 7th and Pike streets in downtown Seattle (206-461-5840; www.visitseattle.org/visitors/ccc.asp).
The Seattle City Pass offers visitors more than 50 percent savings at five popular attractions, including the Museum of Flight, Woodland Park Zoo and the Seattle Aquarium (www.citypass.com/seattle).
At the drop of a penne, proprietor Mauro Golmarvi will volubly launch into a discourse about the proper ratio of water for boiling spaghetti, or how to slow-simmer tomato sauce. His pursuit of perfection shows in the sublime food at Assaggio, which showcases the delicacies of Golmarvi's native Ancona on Italy's Adriatic coast: duck, quail, venison, and seafood. Practically all the pastas are made in house, including an angel-hair pasta that serves as a flavorful foundation for Dungeness crab in a buttery saffron sauce. Golmarvi's love of zesty flavors also shows in the risotto laden with house-made sausages and portobello mushrooms, and grilled beef tenderloin served with a gorgonzola cheese and demi-glace. The reasonably priced wine list and murals that recall the Sistine Chapel complete the Italian intermezzo feel.
2010 Fourth Ave.
Just off street level in Pike Place Market, Cafe Campagne cooks up French bistro classics, from croque monsieur to steak frîtes. Daily specials also nurture the soul, such as duck confit with tender, intensified flesh melting into sizzling pan-fried potatoes. Matching the menu and the music from Edith Piaf, the decor transports diners to the Left Bank, with etched-glass partitions, fashionably worn wooden floors and French film posters (several of which depict food motifs in a tasty visual pun). The cafe is also extremely popular for breakfast, where you can settle in with the morning paper, brioche and a latte.
1600 Post Alley Pike Place Market
One of Seattle's most romantic spots for a tête-à-tête, Chez Shea is hidden away up a flight of stairs across from Pike Place Market. Tall, arched windows peer over the food stalls to sunsets on Elliott Bay, the silhouette of the Olympic Mountains looming in the distance. Keeping things intimate, they only field about a dozen tables. Changing seasonally, the four-course, prix-fixe menu might include entrees such as filet of beef tenderloin or rabbit braised with white wine with Dijon mustard. The restaurant is also known for its lemon pasta "handkerchiefs" stuffed with spinach and ricotta. Want to dine casually or late?
94 Pike St.
Sparkly mosaics, lacquer-red walls, and witty paper lanterns shaped like koi create a casual-but-chic ambience at Dahlia Lounge. To start off, owner Tom Douglas recommends "Little Tastes from the Sea Bar," which showcases tidbits such as seared tuna with ponzu sauce or scallop ceviche. Menu regulars include the salmon and the duck, the exact preparations vary daily. On one recent evening, the duck was tinged with Oriental spices, then barbecued, paired with a ginger-sweet potato waffle that perfectly complemented the crispy skin. Save room for a world champion dessert: the triple coconut cream pie.
2001 4th Ave.
Earth & Ocean
Earth & Ocean features clever recipes created around hand-harvested and foraged foods. Entrees might showcase fresh game such as squab, partridge and venison, or from the sea, scallops and periwinkles. Located in the cutting-edge W Hotel.
Earth & Ocean
1112 Fourth Ave.
Elliott's Oyster House
"Oysters R Us" could be the slogan for Elliott's, located right on Pier 56. (On sunny days, you can't beat a table on the south-facing deck for lunches and early dinners.) Generally, some two dozen varieties of oysters might loll on the half shell, including exotic-but-local specimens such as Quilcenes, Hama Hamas and Skookums. Other specialties include the alder-planked Coho salmon and the Dungeness crab, which might be boiled up whole, or play a starring role in crab cakes or pasta dishes. You can also make landfall with chicken and steak.
Elliott's Oyster House
1201 Alaskan Way
Great food, reasonable prices and an easy-going atmosphere characterize Etta's Seafood, another popular entry from Tom Douglas (the restaurant is named after his daughter, who is already an accomplished cook). Located near Pike Place Market, Etta's is nicely but not fussily decorated with vinyl banquettes, wooden tables and bright artwork on the walls. The menu sparkles, however, with fresh catch ranging from Penn Cove mussels to Alaskan spot prawns, while the Dungeness crab cakes often win "best in town" honors. Meat dishes follow in Douglas' globetrotting footsteps, from Oregon rib steak to Korean barbecued pork loin. Most important of all--the sensational coconut cream pie from Dahlia Lounge rules the dessert list.
2020 Western Ave.
Macrina Bakery & Cafe
For sweet indulgences, the number-one seduction is Macrina Bakery And Cafe in Belltown. A cozy nook, it features high ceilings, big windows and hordes of hotshot software designers checking stock quotes on their PDA's as they nurse their lattes. If all the tables are full (not unusual), you sign your name on a list up front to obtain the next available space. The cafe is popular for both breakfast (muffins, croissants and coffee cake), and lunch (soups, salads and quiches). Be sure to nibble the daily bread, perhaps a sourdough or olive loaf. But this is just the alibi--what you're really coming for are owner Leslie Mackie's stupendous desserts, such as the pear frangipani tart or chocolate turtle brownies laced with caramel so unctuous, your teeth shift into slo-mo.
Macrina Bakery & Cafe
2408 First Ave.
When celebrities want to be seen, they book a table at Metropolitan Grill, Seattle's premier steak house. Scanning the photos out front, you'll find both movie stars and All-Stars (baseball players often drop by when they're in town for games). Housed in a former bank building with high ceilings and decorative columns, the restaurant offers up prime cuts such as the top sirloin, grilled over mesquite charcoal (you can order it with a special roquefort sauce). The bar is also known for its rotating selection of martinis, especially the trademark "Smokey Met" with Glenlivet scotch, vodka and an orange twist.
820 Second Ave.
Yes, you'll find all the usual suspects: maguro (tuna) and hamachi (yellowtail). But Shiro's Sushi also features unique Seattle interpolations like mirugai (geoduck--that gargantuan clam that can weigh up to 20 pounds). The esteemed master of sushi in Seattle for some three decades, Shiro Kashiba still presides over the sushi bar. He's known for his exquisite attention to detail, using fresh wasabi or creating an elegant ponzu dressing. Another specialty is the black cod Kasuzuke dinner: the Alaskan fish is marinated in sake and miso, then broiled. Over a half-dozen sakes are available, as well as both Japanese and Northwest beers.
2401 2nd Ave.
Waterfront Seafood Grill
For surfside views a sea gull would envy, head to Waterfront, with vistas sweeping from Elliott Bay to Magnolia Bluff and the Space Needle. The restaurant is huge (10,000 square feet) and often jam-packed, especially Friday and Saturday nights. Bright young hipsters hang out at the curvy, glass-topped bar, networking to the tunes on the baby grand piano. During the summer, there's al fresco dining on the large deck. Specialties range from grilled salmon and steaks to elaborate preparations like lobster risotto laced with black truffles. Stylish without being stuffy, the dining room features copper-trimmed pillars and rounded chairs and the captains wear tuxedos.
Waterfront Seafood Grill
2801 Alaskan Way