Known as the Emerald City for its year-round green-filled surroundings punctuated with mountains, Seattle is an exceptional and exciting destination. It claims a highly significant position in the country’s list of commercial linchpins. Not only is it the base for three of the world’s most instantly recognizable names – Starbucks, Amazon and Microsoft – but it is also one of the country’s busiest ports.
Seattle has a decidedly diverse range of things to see and do with some truly unique possibilities in the mix. One such of this category is the spectacular Chihuly Garden and Glass while the behemoth-sized Boeing Factory offers the opportunity to watch commercial jet planes being assembled; something you can’t do anywhere else in North America.
Bird’s-eye views are also something of a thing here. Visitors can scale the skyline’s most distinctive high-rise building – the elegant Space Needle – head up to the viewing platform of the city’s oldest skyscraper – the Smith Tower – or take a turn on the Seattle Great Wheel which is fantastically lit after dark.
For gourmets and gourmands alike and those with discerning palettes Seattle verges on paradise. Although it is best known for its succulent seafood that is really just the tip of the iceberg. Artisan chocolate, top-notch coffee, micro-brewed craft beers, ciders and distinctive wines are all part of the area’s produce and all can be experienced at an intimate meet-the-maker level.
Topping the list of destinations for food lovers has to be the historic Pike Place Market. Filled with flowers and handicrafts and famous for its giant fish-throwing tradition, this market has an incredible array of artisan foods which can be sampled as you stroll or enjoyed at an amazing collection of cafes and restaurants. So, no matter what your taste, budget or personal idea of cuisine heaven, get ready to feast your way through this sensational city.
A Morning in Seattle
Your morning begins with two very different attractions which sit side by side in Seattle – the iconic soaring tower of the Space Needle and the other-worldly sensational glass-art of Chihuly Garden and Glass.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Part gallery and part crystal fantasy, the utterly unique Chihuly Garden and Glass which opened in 2012 showcases the incredible creations of glass sculptor Dale Chihuly – one of the state’s most beloved native sons. While Chihuly’s works have currently and previously been displayed all over the globe in internationally famous gardens and museums such as Kew in London and the Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem, the Seattle-located museum exhibits his most comprehensive collection.
Divided into three principle parts – the Garden, the Glasshouse and eight interior galleries – the dazzling exhibition in its entirety is a riot of rainbow color and fantastical shapes which truly have to be seen to be believed.
The Garden element is indeed a real garden made up of trees, plants and flowers but it is interwoven with Chihuly’s blown-glass pieces. Dotted liberally with elegant glass reed-spikes intended to mirror the Space Needle in the sky above, the garden’s sculptures range from tiny buds and delicate crystal ferns to larger installations. The glowing sun-like spherical yellow mass of curling tendrils shot through with dark red is perhaps the most eye-catching of the larger-size pieces. The shifts in sun and light not surprisingly alter the effects with reflections and shimmer giving the appearance in one moment of an alien landscape of other-worldly creatures and in the next the enchantment of a fairytale garden.
Behind the Garden can be found what is widely considered to be the most exceptional jewel in an already sparkling crown – the Glasshouse. Here you will find a giant 100ft sculpture which is breath-takingly beautiful in both its ceiling-suspended entirety and on closer inspection of its individual components. Through the glass panels which let in the light to add ever-shifting translucence and vibrancy to the amber, red and yellow hues of the sculpture can be seen the towering Space Needle.
The interior galleries are a series of sensational exhibits which include the awe-inspiring back-lit Persian Ceiling which casts fantastical reflections on the walls, the exquisite delicacy of the Glass Forest and chandeliers which could be straight from a fantasy movie set. Many of the pieces are lit in what are otherwise totally blacked out rooms such as the Sealife Room’s astonishingly lovely tower. Such creative display brings out incredible detail and all the subtleties of the hue variations.
While the sensational sculptures tend to get star-billing Chihuly Garden and Glass also displays some of the artist’s sketches along with his personal Pendleton blankets with short videos of the artist screened in the theater.
The Space Needle
Soaring and elegant, the distinctive space-age-like tower known as the Space Needle was originally constructed in 1962 for the city’s World’s Fair. It became, almost overnight, an iconic symbol of the city and despite its status as the tallest structure being surpassed by several other buildings over the decades since it endures as the most instantly recognizable part of the Seattle skyline.
While it has served as observation tower for decades the 605ft Space Needle has recently been re-envisaged and today has two options for views of the sensational kind. At the top is the open-air deck which takes in the entire city-scape, the ocean and the Cascade Mountain range off to the south. The Space Needle’s new addition – the Loupe – is located just below and features a revolving glass floor – the first of its kind anywhere in the world – allowing you to literally look between your feet to see the ground hundreds of feet below.
Morning Coffee in Seattle and the Starbucks Roastery
Seattle is bursting at the seams with coffee venues. From tiny independent cafes to large international chain establishments, it is impossible to walk for more than a few steps almost anywhere in the city without passing an endless stream of options. Additionally, the quality standard is typically set at an almost ridiculously high level.
King of them all is Starbucks; now a household name worldwide Seattle is where the whole Starbucks story started back in 1971. And, as the company’s home-town, it may come as no surprise to learn Starbucks offer some exceptional coffee experiences where this global phenomenon was born.
Head along to Capitol Hill’s Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room for something which is part coffee paradise and part a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-esque type experience.Here you can of course sample some of the best coffee around at one of their specialist bars but you can also watch some of the magic unfolding in front of your very eyes for a totally immersive coffee experience.
The Roastery is sleek and chic, woven about with a collection of working equipment from roasters to silos and vast copper casks to brewing systems. The fantastic conglomeration of steaming and bubbling vats, tubes, pipes and glass which are all in plain sight appear almost like a mad scientist’s laboratory and the atmosphere is both unique and fascinating. Be sure to check out the world map which is projected onto the roasting area’s floor, created thanks to a series of carefully punched holes in the huge shiny copper cask which stores the coffee beans after roasting.
The main coffee bar is a lovely space made up of wood and marble and intended to create the perfect atmosphere to maximize your coffee enjoyment. The coffee masters here will help you decide which of the beverages will best suit your tastes with some rare choices on offer.
Other highlights are the Experience Bar, the Mixology Bar – which is home to a beautiful glass pipe cold brew system – and a library full of titles related to coffee.
Chocolate and Wine Experiences
Once you have enjoyed a very special coffee experience you can move onto sampling the city’s other bean-related delight – its magnificent chocolate – and finish with an exploration of the Pacific Northwest’s wines. The overall combination of coffee, chocolate and wine allows you to step into the world of the city’s most prominent taste-makers and experience each at the highest end of craftsmanship.
While Seattle has no shortage of chocolate artisans there is one name which leads the pack by quite some margin – Fran Bigelow. Not only are this particular purveyor’s creations considered some of the nation’s finest but she is also the individual credited with beginning the whole modern-age artisan chocolate movement in the US.
With a reputation for intense and unique flavors and textures, Fran’s exquisite artwork chocolates are produced by skilled artists in small batches using ethically sourced and organic ingredients. Despite her now international fame and having a list of prestigious and famous devotees which include ex-president Barack Obama, Fran’s Chocolates remains a family concern.
There are several outlets around town but for a more immersive chocolate experience you can visit the production facility of the Georgetown branch where you can watch artists at work. Once you have seen the meticulous made-by-hand processes involved you will start to understand why these high-end chocolates are not simply just another box of candy. The factory tours also include tastings which allow you to see for yourself why many connoisseurs consider these chocolates not simply just worth paying more for but an entire experience for the palette.
The Estates Wine Room
Having worked your way through Seattle’s famous coffee and chocolate bean creations you morning wraps up with a taste of the region’s wines.
The Pacific Northwest is rich in vineyards but for those with limited time in the region the Estates Wine Room allows the wine-passionate or simply the wine-curious to sample some of the best without moving outside of Seattle. The Estates Wine Room collects together some of the finest of Oregon’s and Washington’s wines from such estates as Double Canyon, Seven Hills and Archery Summit and includes a range of grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and the region’s famous and award-winning Pinot Noirs.
To enhance your experience of these luxury wines amid the elegantly understated décor of wood floors and exposed brick walls the tastings are paired with artisanal meats and cheeses while the relaxed and pretension-free atmosphere also adds considerably to the enjoyment.
Lunch in Seattle
The Seattle food scene is a flourishing kaleidoscope of delights but nowhere is this more evident than at the Pike Market Place. Part of the Seattle fixtures for more than a century this fantastic Elliott Bay market has not missed a day of trading in its long history. Such a pedigree makes it the longest continually running farmer’s market in the entire country.
Packed to overflowing with every kind of restaurant Pike Market Place is THE lunch venue in Seattle and an incredible diversity means no matter what price range or ambiance you are looking for you can find it here. However, before you settle for lunch it is worth taking some time to explore this amazing place which is so special it has earned itself a slot on the list of the top 50 most visited tourist attractions in the world.
Packed with vendors, merchants and producers offering wares from every corner of the globe, Pike Market Place is also the home of many artisans selling hand-craft-wares who are each here to fulfill the market’s founding goal of allowing buyers to meet the producers face-to-face. Adding considerably to the market’s whole buzz is the plethora of buskers who have been part of the market scenery since the 1960s. Just as everything else in this wonderful place, the diversity of entertainment is astonishing; as you wander you might hear anything from ukuleles to harps and see anything from performances by gospel singers to hoop artists.
One of the market’s most famous sights is its fish throwers. There are a variety of stories which explain how this tradition began and although no two people it would seem can agree on which is correct the spectacle of watching men heave truly enormous fish to each other is really quite something to see.
For food appreciators the market is nothing short of heaven. Try one of the Saffron Spice’s samosas, the mouthwatering fresh-baked delights of Honest Biscuit, the authentic gelato of Bottega Italiana, Ellenos traditional Greek yoghurt or what is widely considered to be the best smoked salmon in the world at the long-established Pure Food Fish. Keen cooks should be sure to check out the excellent Truffle Cafe whose specialist oil, salt and other truffle products are much sought after by professional chefs.
If you have managed to resist sampling too many of the delicacies and treats during your market stroll you can now start thinking of a lunch venue and should you be someone who finds it hard to make choices you are going to have your work cut out here. From street food stalls to fine dining restaurants and artisan offerings to ethnic cuisine types your choices here include seafood, French crepes, Turkish, Thai, Mexican, Mediterranean, gourmet burgers and much much more.
For something more casual you have a plethora of choices such as the Mexican street food tacos, tamales and more at Los Agaves where the recipes have been passed down through the generations or the dim sum or other Chinese and Taiwanese dishes at Mee Sum. Arguably the king of the market’s casual dining spots is sustainable-fishing practice supporters Pike Place Chowder whose trophy cabinet is full of such accolades as ‘Best Chowder in America’ (no less than three times) and a proud member of the Clam Chowder Hall of Fame.
Another wonderful option in the casual category is the Rub with Love Shack with its range of sandwiches and salads; the distinctively-flavored salmon burger is one of the must-try options here.
If you want a market place alfresco lunch venue with a view you would be hard-pressed to beat the Copacabana Cafe which has been here for decades now. Dishing up a range of Bolivian and Spanish dishes you can carry on enjoying your market views along with some waterfront ones from the second level deck.
For those who want a rather more refined lunch there is also no shortage of options. Seafood fans can head to Sushi Kashib. The Jiro Ono-trained owner-chef here has established a highly-respected name for himself and his restaurant offers elegant contemporary surroundings to enjoy some of the best sushi to be found.
If Italian cuisine appeals more try the up-scale Pink Door with its white-cloth tables and which has a gorgeous patio with water views.
An Afternoon in Seattle
Every city has them – those sights which are considered essential inclusions in any itinerary. The Boeing Factory and Future of Flight Aviation Center located in Mukilteo is one such must-do for Seattle visitors.
Your afternoon will include both a behind-the-scenes fascinating factory tour – the only one of its kind in North America – and a visit to its interactive hands-on flight museum and education facility.
The Boeing Factory and Future of Flight Aviation Center
A size so large it is really beyond comprehension is one of the most stunning aspects of the Boeing Factory. Originally opened in the 1960s to assemble the then state-of-the-art 747, today this production facility (if considered by volume) is the largest building on Earth, covering almost 100 acres. If such figures are meaningless to you picture somewhere large enough to swallow Disneyland Park with several acres to spare.
Employing an incredible 30,000 workers, the factory is also home to restaurants, accommodation, medical facilities, a gym and much more almost making it a self-contained destination within a destination.
During your tour you will be able to watch as several famous Boeing jet aircraft are assembled, including the beautiful 787 Dreamliner which was to be a flight industry changer when it was first unveiled a few years ago. Various stages of construction of aircraft which will eventually fly all around the world can be seen from the vantage points of higher level gantries with tour guides explaining the processes to you.
The Future of Flight Aviation Center – from which your factory tour will have set off – offers a range of interactive exhibits within a spacious plane-hung hall, which are both immersive and fascinating.
Exhibits include such things as components of jet aircraft, videos which explain certain processes like the inner-workings of flight decks and the history of commercial flying. There is also a diverse range of models and displays. The shining new ‘Above and Beyond’ exhibit, part of a collaboration with NASA, offers glimpses into the future with a journey through the latest aerospace and flight technologies.
For those who like their museums hands-on there is the opportunity to sit in a cockpit and work the controls, design your own jet by computer and take a ride on the ‘Innovator’ which plunges you into the Battle for Iwo Jima or takes you off to explore Egypt.
For many the center’s highlight is its mock-up of the International Space Station’s scientific research ‘Destiny’ where you can find out first hand a little about working and living in space.
Before you go be sure to head to the rooftop Stratodeck to take in far-reaching views of the factory, stationary aircraft and the surrounding area.
Pre-dinner Drinks and Dinner in Seattle
Seattle is made up of many different districts and neighborhoods each with a different vibe and scene when it comes to its places to drink and venues to dine.
The buzzing South Lake Union area, for example, is one of the city’s most recently emerging hotspots with new hip bars and restaurants popping up all the time. With plenty of watercraft and seaplane comings and goings the atmosphere here is bustling and there are several choices for cocktail fans, beer drinkers and spirit lovers. One for fun-loving cocktail fans is the Moxy’s lobby lounge. Relax in the easy chairs or pull up a bar stool to enjoy some high-quality cocktail classics with some contemporary inventions thrown into the mix.
Just a mile away from South Lake Union is the thriving Capitol Hill. This neighborhood is a must-visit for cider-lovers as it is home to Capitol Cider – the US’s largest independent cider bar. A diverse selection of ciders on tap complement the vast internationally-sourced bottled collection while the cocktail menu features some wonderful apple-based brandies, gins and vodka.
You have a choice of bars here on two floors. Head downstairs for the Ballast Bar which is both pub and cultural space with live music, literary readings, art talks and exhibitions.
Downtown’s famous Pioneer Square, the city’s very first neighborhood full of historic buildings, was also where its first skyscraper was built, its first art walk was established and home to the oldest bar in the city – the Central Saloon. These days it has a huge choice of drinking venues and for those who don’t want to make too much effort between drinks and dinner it is considered by many to lead the way with regard to the contemporary food scene. The lovely exposed-brick atmospheric space of Damn the Weather is a relative newcomer but nevertheless a bar/restaurant which has quickly attracted a multitude of devoted fans.
For drinks with a view head to the Pioneer Square’s Smith Tower – Seattle’s first skyscraper. Here, 35 floors up, the chic Observatory Bar mixes up some great cocktails and provides not surprisingly exceptional views of Seattle’s city-light display.
And then of course there is the Pike Place Market which you have already seen for yourself is where much of the action is at. The choice of drinking venues here is astonishing.
Head to the Old Stove Brewing Company for craft beer with huge windows to enjoy the waterfront view or the wonderful JarrBar for cocktails with some Spanish-style tapas. If you happen to be a whiskey and cocktail fan don’t miss Radiator Whiskey where – not surprisingly – the best cocktails are whiskey-based.
While succulent seafood such as Dungeness crab and razor clams undeniably reigns supreme it is not the entire story of the city’s cuisine The Seattle food scene is diverse, innovative and exciting with just about every cuisine-type possible somewhere. Just as with the drinking venues, certain districts tend to deliver particular types of atmospheres or gather together certain specialties so, for example, if you want the widest array of ethnic cuisines head to the University District or the International District; if you’re looking for the big name chefs South Lake Union is a good bet and if you want a good choice for seafood and waterfront decks Downtown and laid-back West Seattle are hard to beat.
One West Seattle gem is the Marination at Ma Kai which dishes up an unusual but extremely successful Hawaiian/Mexican/Korean fusion taste sensation. Here the lovely patio full of picnic-style tables puts you right on the waterfront with views across the bay of the city’s skyscrapers. Come dusk the Marination’s strung lights add a distinct air of charm and romance while Seattle’s after-dark skyline enhances the magic.
If you want waterfront but are looking for a touch more refinement check out the Edgewater’s Hotel Six Seven Restaurant which has a whole trophy cabinet of industry awards ranging from ‘best ambiance’ to ‘best seafood’. While the interior space is elegant the covered but open-sided deck is ideal for an intimate dinner date for two with the glory of the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains as your backdrop. To accompany your high quality food choices there is an excellent wine-list which has some boutique and artisan inclusions.
An Evening in Seattle
Seattle is a city which keeps things buzzing well into the evening and offers a diverse range of ways to complete your day’s adventures.
If you simply want to stroll and perhaps work off a little of whatever you feasted on for dinner a beautiful place to take in the evening is the deck promenade of Waterfront Park. You can pause for a while on the benches to take in views of the city, the waterfront cranes and the dry-dock as well as the more natural landmarks such as Blake Island and mountains. It isn’t unusual to see seals here either.
Just a two minute stroll from the park will bring you to the Seattle Great Wheel perched on Pier 57 which stays open until at least 10pm. Climb aboard one of the gondola cabins and enjoy three complete revolutions which take you 53m/175ft above the water. Spectacular and far-reaching views are there for the taking at any time but a ride at night becomes magic-infused with the sea of city lights all around and below you.
The wheel also offers something of a light spectacular of its own even if you decide not to ride it, covered as it is in half a million LED lights which put on a special display at the weekend with certain other events marked by additional themed light-shows.
If you have something special to celebrate you can opt for a glass-floored VIP cabin which you can have all to yourself and enjoy a drink along with the views.
Another high-rise view of the sensational kind can be had from the iconic Space Needle. Even if you visited here during the day it’s worth heading back after dark for an entirely different experience.
Another re-visit worth making is the intoxicatingly lovely Chihuly Garden and Glass where the exquisite glass sculptures in the garden are lit in creative ways after dark, giving them a whole other magic.
If cultural entertainment is more your idea of a perfect evening Seattle has a wide choice. The diversity covers everything from the off-the-wall and ground-breaking kind to the refined classics while also encompassing both traditional and non-traditional art forms.
One of the traditional choices is staged at the gorgeous McCaw Hall – home to the Pacific Northwest Ballet who are one of the most highly respected dance ensembles in the world. The ballets staged here are performed in versions of both well-loved classics and those with some truly innovative modern twists.
At the other end of the scale is Jet City Improv which is arguably the city’s top comedy venue and where the 90 minute shows are an anything-goes riot of unscripted improvisation. Another improv comedy venue – Unexpected Productions – can be found in Pike Place Market.
Otherwise Seattle has several theaters along with live music performances of every genre found in both purpose-specific venues and also pubs and clubs.
If you’re ready to experience the beauty of Seattle in person, contact one of our vacation planners today!