Nikki Bayley explores trendy, friendly Seattle
There’s so much more to Seattle than Starbucks, Frasier and rain.
Well, OK, maybe not the rain, but if you visit this seaport city in the Pacific Northwest, home to some four million people, it’s well worth packing an umbrella.
Neatly placed between Puget Sound and Lake Washington, Seattle is just 100 miles south of the Canadian border.
Boasting a lively waterfront area with plenty of tourist attractions, bustling neighbourhoods where you can shop for essential hipster clothes or score serious designer swag, a phenomenal bar and restaurant scene and lovely natural beauty, Seattle offers the whole package.
09.30: You can’t visit Seattle without going to the top of the Space Needle; built for the 1962 World’s Fair, it’s 184 metres high and you travel to the top in lifts that go at 10mph.
It can get incredibly busy here so it’s a good thing to tick off first so you can avoid the mid-morning or mid-afternoon queues. Although keen photographers should note that the best time for skyline photographs is between 3pm and 4pm. Get here from the city centre on the cute monorail, which drops you directly outside.
11.00: Handily, Seattle city planners decided to put three of its most popular attractions all together on the 74-acre site of the World’s Fair.
Next stop, the Chihuly Garden and Glass, a truly amazing gallery and garden space filled with the playful vivid work of American glass-blowing artist Dale Chihuly.
Even those who might not count themselves as art lovers should visit; fabulous creations spring from every corner and the multi-coloured huge installations in the garden are superb.
12.30: Time for lunch and the food at the Collections Cafe in the Exhibition Hall is delicious. Mix it up and share a few small plates such as zucchini-wrapped lamb and grilled Pacific octopus.
14.00: Just across from the Space Needle is the dazzling Frank Gehry-designed EMP Museum.
It’s the best fun you can have in – or quite possibly out – of a museum. Covering all elements of popular culture from sci-fi and fantasy to comic book art but focusing on music, there are plenty of interactive exhibits; for instance you can create music in the sound lab or unleash your inner rockstar in front of a virtual audience. You can easily spend a half-day here and it’s the perfect rainy-day activity to keep everyone entertained.
18.00: Go back to the hotel to freshen up before heading out to the Ballard neighbourhood; one of the city’s oldest, it was settled by Irish and Scandinavian immigrants in the 1800s and nowadays is one of the city’s most fashionably hip neighbourhoods.
First stop: a cocktail at the newly-opened Percy’s & Co on Ballard Avenue, where the menu favours herb-infused spirits and cocktails.
Add a beneficial tincture to your drink for free; try ‘Libido’, ‘Brain Power’ or ‘Female Balance’. Suitably balanced or brainy, head down the street to The Walrus and the Carpenter, a small but hugely popular neighbourhood restaurant that has the charm and warmth of a friendly bar, but a kitchen that delivers incredible quality.
Yes, you’ll probably have to wait, but it’s worth it; start with oysters, raw and fried, and then be guided by the server to whatever the day’s specials are. The final stop of the night is a five-minute walk away.
Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery is every bit as delicious as it sounds, serving chocolate-stuffed desserts until late.
09.30: After such a fun-packed night, you need a gentle start to the day and that means breakfast with a difference at Skillet, a funky twist on the traditional American diner experience. Try the chicken and waffles if you need a kick-start to your day or a kale caesar salad if you want to be good.
10.30: Capitol Hill is where you’ll find the city’s nightlife, but it’s also home to some unique shops; you can make a loop exploring East Pike Street; for men’s skate gear and hip-hop inspired local designers like 13th Floor, try 35th North.
Pick up local jewellery at Retro Fit – look out for designs by Beachstone, a professional rock climber who makes delicate stone trinkets. For womenswear, score one-off vintage finds and Seattle designers at Le Frock.
12.30: Build up an appetite walking down Pike Street to the market. Pike Place Market is a fantastic place to get lunch and then explore; it’s a must-see in Seattle.
If you’re a foodie you might enjoy the Savor Seattle two-hour food tour with 16 different sample bites and sips and a chance to chat with some of the personalities around the market including the famous fish throwers.
15.00: Rain or shine the aquarium on the waterfront at Pier 59 is an excellent way to spend a few hours. Visitors with children may find that the hands-on exhibition areas, petting aqua-zoos, the chance to get kitted out in diving gear and wonderfully friendly staff make it the highlight of the trip – all reasons why big kids love it too.
18.00: After a post-aquarium stroll along the seafront it’s time to head back to your hotel to get ready for another night on the town.
19.30: Families will enjoy a trip to The Whale Wins in Fremont where seasonal farm-fresh vegetables accompany wood oven-fired organic meats and sustainable fish.
Travelling without kids? Then do not miss the chance to experience one of North America’s best cocktail bars and restaurants, Canon, with its small plates tapas-style menu and incredibly exciting cocktail list where drinks come as ice creams, carbonated, in foam-form or perhaps just in a glass.
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