Everything about Seattle is tall– from the 607-foot Space Needle and snow-capped 14,410-foot Mt. Rainier that fills the skyline, to the lattés and mochas found on every street corner. If you’re looking for a not-too-far-away weekend trip with big city flavor, Washington’s Emerald City is just the place. Being the corporate home of Starbucks, there’s no shortage of great coffee either. And if you prefer a different brew, there is plenty of competition.
Historic Pioneer Square, Seattle’s oldest neighborhood, is a good place to begin your visit with a trek beneath the city sidewalks. The guided Underground Tour leads through subterranean passages that were once the main roadways and first-floor storefronts of old downtown Seattle. In the Great Fire of 1889, everything burnt to the ground and a new city was built over the old, leaving remnants of the original buildings underground. Once back up on street level, wander around Pioneer Square and admire the turn-of-the-century street lamps, Tlingit totem poles, and restored iron Pergola that’s nearly 100 years old. Need a coffee break? Lots of good choices here!
For a change of pace, head for the waterfront where an eclectic assortment of activities await: ferries to nearby residential islands, huge cruise ships embarking for Alaska and Canada, the Seattle Aquarium, and sight-seeing boat tours of the harbor. If you like fish-n-chips, “Keep Clam” at Ivar’s and feed the screaming gulls while enjoying your meal outdoors. Shopping is also plentiful. Don’t miss Sylvester the mummy, a two-headed calf, shrunken heads (all real!), and many other oddities and souvenirs at Ye Olde Curiosity Shop on Pier 54.
No day trip to Seattle is complete without a visit to Pike Place Market at the corner of First and Pike Streets. Everything imaginable– flowers, vegetables, fruit, donuts, fish, and much more– is available and all very fresh. In fact, the fish is so fresh that it flies! At the Pike Place Fish Company, your purchase is taken directly off the ice out front and sailed through the air to the packer in the back. Similar to Portland’s Saturday Market, Seattle’s artists and craftsmen sell their unique hand-crafted products at Pike Place Market, too. The Starbucks flagship store is across the alley, so stop in for a drinkable souvenir.
Although the one-mile trip lasts just two minutes, it’s fun to travel from downtown (Westlake Center Mall station, at Fifth and Pine Street) over to the Seattle Center by monorail. With a top speed of 50 mph, it’s the fastest full-sized monorail system in the country and can carry up to 400 passengers. It also provides a bird’s eye view of the city streets below.
Like the monorail, Seattle Center and the Space Needle were built for the 1962 World’s Fair. Over 45 years have passed, but the huge park continues to be filled with visitors enjoying entertainment– outdoor carnival rides and games, the Experience Music Project, the Children’s Museum, and the Pacific Science Center.
Seattle’s most famous icon– the Space Needle– is also here. From the observation deck that juts high into the sky, you’ll get a scenic 360-degree view of the city, Elliott Bay, Lake Union, and the Cascade Mountains. There’s also a gift shop, another Starbucks, and a revolving restaurant at the 500-foot level.
Just a three-hour drive north up I-5 from Portland, Seattle provides not only a nice change of scenery, but plenty of sight-seeing as well. If you go, there’s no doubt you’ll enjoy the Emerald City a latté! What & Where:
Historic Pioneer Square is Seattle’s second oldest neighborhood and is located in the southwest corner of Downtown Seattle. Ivar’s: (1001 Alaskan Way; 206-587-2500) Pike Place Market is located at the corner of First and Pike Streets. Seattle Center is located just north of Belltown in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood.
Through words and photos, Denise Seith not only tells you where to go, but what to see and do once you get there. She regularly contributes photo features to travel magazines and travel websites. Denise is also a freelance graphic designer, copywriter, and loves a good latté. Visit her at