Day 1 and 2
Pike Market / Duck Tour / Space Needle / Olympic Sculpture Park / Downtown Seattle
For the first time visitor, finding things to do in Seattle is definitely not a challenge. What is challenging, however, is finding enough time to pack all the interesting things Seattle is famous for, especially when you have only a four-day itinerary.
Seattle reminded me of San Francisco – the same vibe, energy, and palpable diversity – almost tangible during the pre-July 4th celebratory atmosphere found on the streets everywhere.
When we walked out of the airport, Mount Rainier was visible in the distance, as if waving a silent welcome from afar. Its snowy demeanor seemed reassuringly steadfast. “See you soon” I echoed silently.
Catching an Uber to our delightful Air B&B apartment on Capitol Hill was super easy. The welcoming wine bottle on the dining table and the presence of a hip hop pub on the street below set the tone for the rest of the trip.
Our itinerary was well planned. The idea was to spend quality time in the spots we selected without rushing from place to place.
Overlooking the Elliot Bay, the Pike Public Market – the oldest farmers market in the US – was a mere 10-minute walk from Capitol Hill. The weather was perfect, so we simply walked the distance. Predictably, it was bustling with activity as tourists and locals mingled together in a leisurely fashion. Walking through the labyrinth like walkways of this market was a sensory experience in itself. All my five senses kicked into high alert with the sights, sounds, and aromas that emanated from the various stalls.
The Food Stalls were extensive and we tried a little bit of everything from everywhere. The clam chowder, the batter fried fish, the fresh fruits, the baked goodies – everything sold here was simply delicious.
For seafood lovers, the variety available is mind boggling, a literal treasure netted from the waters of the Pacific Northwest and the Alaskan sea. There’s even a Flying fish stall. When a whole fish is bought, the sellers play ‘throw and catch’ with the fish across the shop, before wrapping and handing it over to the buyer in a flourish.
We passed by the much publicized original Starbucks coffee shop but didn’t go in. If you’ve seen one Starbucks you’ve seen them all. Instead, we spent time at the wine stalls which have round the clock free tasting. There’s no pressure to buy, however, the wine tastes good, so you’ll probably end up buying a bottle.
Walking through the alleys of the market, we let our noses lead us to the spice shops, and found a couple of shops selling select lavender products. I was intrigued to find scores of people walking around with artfully arranged fresh flower bouquets. Soon we found the indoor flower market and were treated to a riot of contrasting colors. Here, you can choose locally grown flowers and color coordinate them for a great bouquet of roses, orchids, dahlias, daisies or sunflowers. The prices are unbelievably cheap – only $10 for a large bouquet. The lovely ladies selling them will expertly arrange them for you.
Don’t forget to check out the lower level where you’ll find the famous gum wall with used gum stuck from floor to ceiling.
A bit yucky, yet colorful and artsy. In 2015 workers cleaned off tons of gum from these walls, but it soon reappeared again. Right now, every inch of the walls on either side of Post Alley is plastered with gum.
We also stopped to watch the ‘Buskers’ or Street Performers. They liven up Pike Market with their above average performances and deserve your applause and tips.
From the Pike Market, we walked north to the Victor Steinbrueck Park. This park is basically just a big patch of green grass that has two 50 foot cedar Totem Poles.
It has great views of the waterfront with the Seattle Great Wheel standing as the perfect backdrop to the revelry of the holiday goers.
Not far from Pike Market and close to the waterfront is the Olympic Sculpture Park, a part of the Seattle Art Museum. The park opens thirty minutes before sunrise and closes thirty minutes after sunset.
We spent more than an hour exploring its beautiful grounds, with its interesting pieces of metal art and stone sculptures. Very contemporary, it attracts scores of visitors including art lovers from all over the world. Some noteworthy sculptures include the stainless steel figures ‘Father and Son’ by Louise Bourgeois, ‘The Echo’ by Jaume Plensa and ‘The Eagle’ by Alexander Calder.
We returned to our B&B to freshen up and being the sunset chaser that I am, I was back again at the waterfront with tripod and camera to capture some sunset shots.
Later, we strolled down People Street and did some pub hopping, followed by dinner. Well, it was actually cocktails and snacks at the Fado Irish Pub and proper dinner at the Ba Bar Restaurant on Capitol Hill, an upscale place where signature Vietnamese dishes are served. The food was delicious. This place also has live music every Saturday night.
On the way back, I got a glimpse of the Naked Bike Riders, riding away in all their naked glory, perfectly attuned to their ‘As bare as you dare’ policy.
Rounded off day 1 with a big bowl of take away ice cream. Sadly I do not remember the name of the ice-cream shop. All in all, a day well spent.
Started the day by buying tickets ($35 pp) for the Ride the Ducks tour, a unique land and water tour that leaves from downtown.
Just minutes away from the ‘Ride the Ducks’ starting point, is the Museum of Pop Culture founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
This museum is dedicated to contemporary popular music and culture. According to their mission statement, the Museum of Pop Culture has its roots in rock n roll and uses interactive technologies to engage and empower visitors.
We managed to squeeze in a bit of time to explore it briefly prior to starting the Duck Tour.
Our 90 minutes Duck Tour had a hilarious guide named Heidi Claire who kept us entertained right until the end. The first part of the tour took us through the city stops – Pioneer Square, Seattle Waterfront, the Seattle Aquarium, the Great Wheel, the place where the Alaskan Gold Rush first began, the Gasworks Park and Fremont.
When it reached the Lake Union, our duck slid off the road and into the water in true amphibian fashion. The tour continued in the water and we were treated to some great views of the Seattle skyline. We even caught sight of a sea plane landing right next to our bus/boat as promised.
More information on the Duck Tour tickets and routes can be found at http://www.ridetheducksofseattle.com/tours/land-water-tours/tour-route/
Once the duck tour ended, we explored the park next to the Space Needle – Seattle’s iconic landmark.
The Space Needle has been standing tall at 605 ft for 57 years. Visitors can go up to the observation deck for a 360-degree view of the city. On the grounds are the Chihuly Garden and Glass Centre which houses exhibits and glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly.
We had a late lunch at the Blue Water Taco Grill, an authentic Mexican restaurant, just a short walk from the space needle.
Back in downtown, I spotted some ‘Shoefitti’ – the lesser known (and liked) cousin of graffiti. ‘Shoefitti’ is the hard to understand custom of hanging sneakers from telephone and power lines.
Apparently, these are indications of gang activity or a signal for the presence of drugs. Or it could be just some teens having fun and tossing shoes up on the lines. No one knows for sure, but it does make for some interesting viewing.
We found getting around in Seattle was pretty easy. Many of the ‘must see’ places described above were within walking distance of each other. Whenever a place was too far to walk, we called for an Uber.
Our second day ended with – yes you guessed it – pub hopping, snacking and finally dinner on people street.
Coming up soon – Simply Seattle (Part 11)
Day 3 (Whale Watching in the San Juan Islands)
Day 4 (Mt. Rainier)