From a muddy community built on the tidal flats of Puget Sound, Seattle grew into a major port of call for ships carrying Washington lumber to San Francisco and the California gold mines.
After a disastrous fire burned a majority of the city to the ground and the arrival of gold from the Klondike, Seattle transformed into the commercial shipping center of the Pacific Northwest, which it still is today.
We recently enjoyed three days in this sprawling urban enclave, soaking in the sights, sounds and cultures that make up the Emerald City of Seattle.
Guest Post by Michelle Moreno from Vegan Spice Blog
Why is Seattle known as the Emerald City?
Seattle is affectionately referred to as the Emerald City, but why? It is not known for it's precious gem stones, and has nothing to do with the Wizard of Oz. Seattle gets its nickname simply because the City and the surrounding area are green all year round. It is also in keeping with Washington State’s nickname as The Evergreen State.
There are many things to do in Seattle and much to see, but I hope this handy travel guide will help you choose how to spend your time in Washington State's largest City.
A city that originally grew out of the tidal mud flats of Puget Sound, Seattle’s extensive waterfront is a hub of commercial activity. Elliott Bay is a natural deep-water harbor bustling with tankers to luxury cruise ships, sightseeing boats and ferries.
It’s also a hub of activities for visitors.
In the heart of downtown Seattle situated on nine acres, the Pike Place Market is one of the oldest, continuously operated farmer’s markets in the United States. Here you will find fresh fish, colorful produce, local arts and crafts, incredible fresh-cut flowers, ethnic groceries and a multitude of shops.
When all that shopping gets you hungry, there’s an almost endless selection of food stalls, restaurants and cafes, including the original Starbuck’s.
Seattle’s largest water sightseeing tour operator offers excursions of Elliott Bay to the Hiram Chittenden Locks into Lake Union and upscale dinner cruises.
At the end of Pier 57, the Seattle Great Wheel is a 175-foot Ferris wheel that extends nearly 40 feet out over Elliott Bay. The gondolas are equipped with both heating and air conditioning. The ride provides stunning views of Elliott Bay, the Olympic Mountains and the city skyline.
Wings Over Washington
Located next to the Great Wheel on Pier 57 is a new multi-sensory, virtual-reality type of ride that takes visitors on an aerial adventure with unsurpassed views of the Olympic National Forest, San Juan Islands, Cascade Mountains, Snoqualmie Falls and the Walla Walla Valley Balloon Stampede.
The Seattle Center, constructed for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, is a 74-acre urban park that hosts many of the city’s largest festivals and is home to a large number of visitor attractions.
Constructed in 1962 as the futuristic centerpiece of the Seattle World’s Fair, the iconic Space Needle is undergoing a 360-degree “spacelift”. Eleven-foot-tall, open- air glass panels on the outdoor observation deck allow visitors unobstructed views of the Seattle landscape.
On a clear, cloudless day, we were able to see the silhouettes of the Olympic Mountains, the Cascades and the peak of Mt. Rainier floating like a cloud in the distance.
Soon diners can experience the world’s first and only rotating, glass-floor restaurant and lounge with downward views from 500 feet in the air.
Located below the Space Needle is the most inclusive collection of glass artist Dale Chihuly’s work ever assembled. Inside are a variety of his most popular works.
The exterior features some of his larger, signature works amid a beautiful garden.
The Glass House displays a 4,500 square-foot Chihuly display that flows and undulates from the ceiling. Just outside, watch glass artists compose new pieces in a demonstration area.
While we didn’t get a chance to visit this museum, it’s worth mentioning. The Museum of Pop Culture is dedicated to the creativity and innovation of American music and pop culture. The 140,000 square-foot-museum houses rare artifacts and memorabilia of music genres from rock ‘n’ roll to jazz to hip-hop, punk and more.
The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame recognizes Sci-fi giants such as Isaac Asimov, H.G. Wells, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.
Our visit to Seattle coincided with the Northwest Folklife Festival, one of the largest multicultural festivals in the U.S. With over 5,000 performers over four days, the festival celebrates the diversity of the many cultural communities in the Pacific Northwest. With an amazing array of music, food, dance and visual media, this festival has something for everyone of every age and background.
Seattle’s Pioneer Square is the city’s historic district with a wild and colorful past. The legendary “skid row” is where logs were skidded downhill in the mud to the sawmills along the harbor. Bars and brothels provided entertainment. It’s here that the great fire of 1889 leveled most of the town.
The Underground Tour
Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour takes you beneath the city streets and back in time. This guided walking tour navigates the subterranean storefronts, sidewalks, saloons and bank vault turned time capsule. When the city was rebuilt after the great fire, the streets were elevated but it took 14 years to raise the sidewalks. Guides regale visitors with humorous anecdotes of life in a pioneer town in the 1800’s.
Smith Tower Observation Deck
Smith Tower built in 1914 was once Seattle’s tallest building. The 35th-floor observation deck offers 360-degree views and a café and bar with a 1920’s speakeasy theme.
One of the three largest urban centers in Washington, Capitol Hill is “one of the quirkiest, hippest and most happening neighborhoods in Seattle, chock full of some of the best restaurants, cafes, breweries and bars in the city,” according to the Seattle Times. We certainly agree.
After our Underground Tour, we hopped on the light rail to this diverse, uber-cool neighborhood for lunch. Snagging an outdoor table at the nearly filled-to-capacity Plum Bistro, we enjoyed our organic, vegan sandwiches. On the next corner, we stopped at Mighty-O Donuts and picked up organic, vegan donuts for a snack later in the day. Our mini DIY vegan food tour concluded at Frankie & Jo’s for vegan ice cream!
If you visit Seattle...
Seattle has so much to see and do – way more than we were able to squeeze into our three days. We got a good taste for the flavor of the city, saw many of the most popular attractions, and concluded that a return visit is in order.
While we did a LOT of walking, the transit system is extensive with light rail, streetcars and buses to get you just about anywhere in the city you want to go. If you don’t have a lot of luggage, Sound Transit Light Rail will get you from the Seattle/Tacoma airport to downtown Seattle in just 30 minutes for $3.00USD.
For the most comprehensive collection of tourist information, check out the Visit Seattle website.
Michelle Moreno is a travel blogger, freelance writer, vegan pastry chef, Elephant Ambassador and animal activist. She is a former travel consultant and impassioned environmentalist, using social media and the written word to expand awareness of animal suffering, climate change and its effects on the world. Follow Michelle on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
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