Most experienced travelers will tell you that the best way to see a big city is on a guided tour. It’s especially helpful to get your bearings, see the entire city area and know what parts you want to revisit. In Seattle, that story is no different.
First, treat yourself to breakfast at Glo’s Café on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. With traditional and fusion style options, it’ll prove delectable. Vegetarians will be especially pleased that menu options are catered especially to them with items such as tofu and farm fresh vegetables. Glo’s takes pride in their use of local produce.
Try the French toast, which includes a secret ingredient making it far more flavorful than the average diner. On weekends, the restaurant fills quickly, so bring an umbrella in case you have to wait in the rain (unless you want to play the part of a local, and enjoy the rain sans protection. Your pancakes won’t taste any different if you’re soaking wet.) The prices are more than reasonable for a delicious meal and attentive customer service.
Continue your adventure packed day in the Emerald City with something that’s inexpensive, more fun that you could plan for yourself, and doesn’t take very long at all–the Ride the Ducks of Seattle tour. Docked downtown across the street from The Experience Music Project, the Duck boat fills up rather quickly, so a reservation is definitely your best bet. Departing at various times throughout the day–like any duck, it operates on both land and water-first, through the streets of downtown, and then out into open waters.
Before boarding make sure that you buy a quacker in the gift shop so that when you are excited about the experience, you can quack like the duck you’re in. Then, head aboard and meet your Captain. Ours was Rocky Bottom, who was specially trained and knowledgeable in all things Seattle including sharing all its ‘firsts’.
Did you know Seattle is home to the 1st monorail on Earth, and its monorail is still the fastest on the planet at 50mph. Seattle was the first city in the US with a movie theatre in 1915 – and Seattleites still watch more movies than anywhere else in the U.S. The first Starbucks in the world makes its home in Seattle, as does the first Nordstrom. The world’s first car wash is in Seattle and is still in operation-Elvis himself sang and danced there during the World’s Fair in 1962. Seattleites bike to work more often than anywhere else in the U.S. The number one lake in the US for houseboats is Lake Union, where you will also find America’s lowest drawbridge.
The tour begins on land heading towards the Edgewater Inn-the only water Inn in Seattle, having played host to the Beatles and Elvis. Then the duck heads down the waterfront and past Skid Row-and it’s origination near the ferry terminal and Pioneer Square. It passes the Seattle Underground, where you can catch a view of where the first part of Seattle was built. This was followed with a tour through Pioneer Square and Pike Place Market, and a drive down the highway through the city into Ballard and then into Elliot Bay.
Captain Bottom keeps everything extremely humorous and fun, quick and fast-paced with dense information as well as playing theme songs, dons hats and wigs, and calls for audience participation as you move to new destinations throughout the city. He may even share some memories of his own childhood in Seattle, living in Seattle during the World’s Fair, or how he skipped school for days to be an extra in the film “World’s Fair” with Elvis.
As the Duck heads into Elliot Bay, this WWII vehicle, which is a DUKW amphibious vehicle transforms from a motorcoach into a boat and heads out into the water. This portion includes the redesigned oil refinery – which is now a park, the promenade that is the #1 wedding spot in Seattle, and the houseboat where Tom Hanks’ character lived in the movie “Sleepless in Seattle.” Once back on land, you’ll head back into Ballard, passing the ever-popular Fremont troll, and then towards downtown Seattle.
The perfect follow up for any exciting tour is a great meal. Within walking distance of the duck boat tour drop off is a one-of-a-kind diner, established in 1929. The Five Point Café is located just blocks from the Seattle Space Needle. They boast about their homemade fries, chicken fried steak, and pot roast and this unique establishment has some of the friendliest wait staff in Seattle. If you’re curious about the original menu, you can check it out from any seat in the bar. I personally have a weakness for breakfast, so the all day breakfast option was an obvious choice. Anything you choose on the menu will remind you of any classic diner from any major city in the United States. It’s really the décor that stands out and makes the place memorable. The average meal is only $9 and they’ve got something for the entire family to enjoy.
For the remainder of the day you’ll want to head back to the areas that seemed of most interest to you from the tour; such as the Fremont Troll or back down to the wharf to breathe in the salty fresh air. Seattle can be done in a day, in a week, in a lifetime. You won’t ever run out of things to see, do, or taste. Enjoy!
Be sure that you bring your waving arm and something warm to wear- because on those rainy days in Seattle if you want to get great pictures, the captain will have to pull up the plastic on both sides of the boat, and that could mean you get a little wet. No matter what captain leads your tour, you will have an extraordinary experience that will create lasting memories for any traveler.
What & Where:
Glo’s Café (1621 Olive Wy; 206-324-2577)
Ride the Ducks of Seattle (516 Broad St; 206-441-Duck)
Five Point Café (415 Cedar St; 206- 448-9993)
Mary Stover is a freelance travel writer focusing on the world’s best coffeehouses, traveling on a budget, and more. She is a frequent contributor in Spokane’s alternative newsweekly, The Pacific Northwest Inlander. The Washington native has lived, traveled, and studied abroad; including multiple journeys around England and Ireland. She recently moved to the heart of Washington’s Wine Country; in Richland, WA with her dog, Crabapple and a sizeable bronze statue of Shakespeare.