One of the oldest continuously-operated farmer’s markets in the U.S., Pike Place Market presides over a nine-acre historic district in the heart of downtown Seattle. The market features fresh fish and produce stands, arts and crafts, ethnic groceries and gift stores, vintage clothing, antiques and collectibles, international restaurants, cafes and a myriad of food counters. Street musicians sanctioned by the Pike Place Market Preservation Development Authority (PDA) entertain at designated locales throughout the market. The Pike Place Market is located between First and Western Avenues bound by Union and Stewart Streets.
The Pike Place Market community continues to grow and welcomed its first expansion in the past 40 years, which includes an additional .75-acre, 30,000-square-foot public terrace and plaza. The new “MarketFront” opened on June 29, 2017 and accommodates 47 new day stall tables for farmers, crafters and artists, as well as 12,000-square-feet of commercial and retail space. The MarketFront also connects to the main arcade via the Desimone Bridge.
Today, Seattle’s historic district, located on the southern fringe of the downtown business core, features some 20 square blocks of Victorian Romanesque architecture, museums, art galleries, restaurants and nightlife. Take a look at the remnants of the old town below street level on Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour. Nearby, the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park interprets Seattle’s critical role in the gold rush of 1897. And antique-hunters, gallery-walkers and bar-hoppers keep the neighborhood bustling.
Historically, Pioneer Square offers many a wild tale. As a young lumber town in the 1800s, logs skidded down its streets to harborside sawmills. The town’s brisk growth was suddenly halted by a great fire in 1889 that destroyed many of its wooden structures. The town was quickly rebuilt with brick and mortar atop the rubble and Seattle boomed again as a primary staging area for the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1890s when more than 70,000 prospectors passed through town.
While the hunt for gold has subsided, thousands of travelers are still drawn to Pioneer Square every year. In May 2017, Pioneer Square will serve as home-base for Seattle’s Inaugural Upstream Music Fest + Summit. Upstream promises live performances by over 200 up-and-coming artists on 25 stages in downtown Seattle. This massive effort to bring artists together and distinguish Seattle as a music hotspot is spearheaded by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft and founder and chairman of Vulcan Inc.
The legacy of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair lives on at Seattle Center, a 74-acre urban park and home to the landmark Space Needle, Chihuly Garden and Glass, Pacific Science Center, Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), Seattle Opera, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Intiman Theatre, Seattle Children’s Theatre, Children’s Museum, Artists at Play and many other attractions. Seattle Center also hosts many of the city’s largest festivals, including Bumbershoot, Seattle Arts and Music Festival, the Northwest Folklife Festival and the Bite of Seattle.
Seattle’s natural deep-water harbor, Elliott Bay, teems with trade, ferry boats, luxury cruise liners, sightseeing tour boats and myriad pleasure craft. Prime harbor views can be found on the city’s central waterfront, stretching along Alaskan Way from Pier 48 on the south and Pier 70 on the north. Midway, built atop Pier 59 is the Seattle Aquarium. Pier 66 is home to the Bell Street Cruise Terminal, homeport for luxury cruise liners bound for Alaska’s Inside Passage (a second cruise ship terminal is located at Pier 90). Also on Pier 59, Argosy Cruises features smaller vessels for sightseeing trips and evening dinner cruises. Tillicum Excursion offers a scenic boat trip to nearby Blake Island for a Northwest Coast Native American stage show. New to the city on Pier 57 is the Seattle Great Wheel, with 42 gondolas and dazzling light displays, as well as Wings Over Washington, a state-of-the-art flying ride that opened in August 2016. The 20-minute Wings Over Washington ride features views of the Olympic National Forest, Mt. Rainier, the San Juan Islands, Snoqualmie Falls, Walla Walla Valley Balloon Stampede, Elliot Bay and more. The Seattle Waterfront also features souvenir and gift shops and an array of Northwest seafood dining.
Chinese immigrants originally landed in Seattle in the 1860s, finding work at the town’s saw mills, rail lines and on its fishing boats. Today, the International District spans some 44-blocks south of downtown Seattle, bound by Yesler Way and Dearborn Street on the north and south and Interstate-5 and Fourth Avenue on the east and west. Seattle’s Asian population has grown steadily to 14.2 percent (according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Census), and today it’s one of the only neighborhoods in the U.S. where Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Vietnamese and Southeast Asians coexist.
The Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience is nationally recognized for creating dynamic, community-driven programs and exhibitions. The Wing Luke Museum is the only museum outside of Hong Kong to present an exhibition about Bruce Lee, who spent several years living in Seattle. He attended the University of Washington and opened his first martial arts studio in Seattle in the 1960s. The third installment of Do You Know Bruce? Part 3 explores Bruce Lee’s personal habits and workout routines and features his visual art and readings. In addition to exhibits, the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience also offers guided tours through Seattle’s Chinatown-International district. Tours include A Touch of Chinatown, Bruce Lee’s Chinatown, seasonal food tours and more. Don’t miss Uwajimaya, one of the largest Asian grocery and gift stores in the United States at Fifth and Weller.
One of the foremost natural history museums in the region, The Burke Museum features both natural and cultural artifacts from the Pacific Northwest and the Pacific Rim ranging from Native American totem poles and hand-carved cedar canoes to dinosaur skeletons, fossils, gems and minerals. The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture is currently closed for construction and will re-open in October 2019.
Chihuly Garden and Glass is located below the Space Needle on Seattle Center’s 74-acre campus. The exhibition showcases the most comprehensive collection of Washington-native Dale Chihuly’s artwork ever assembled. It includes a collection of glass, sculpture and other media displayed in both interior and exterior exhibits. The interior exhibit highlights the wide variety of Chihuly’s most popular works. The exterior features some of his large, signature works amid a lush garden. The exterior also includes a 40-foot Glass House structure with an expansive Chihuly installation flowing from the ceiling covering 4,500 square feet. The eight expansive galleries are accompanied by a Chihuly bookstore and the Collections Café.
The Seattle Children’s Museum offers a fun, interactive learning environment for kids and families, featuring exhibits including Global Village, Imagination Studio, Discovery Bay for toddlers, Metropolitan Market, Cog City, Storytelling Circle and a traveling exhibit gallery.
The brainchild of Microsoft co-founder, Paul G. Allen, MoPOP is dedicated to exploring creativity and innovation in American popular music, from rock ‘n’ roll, to jazz, soul, gospel, country, blues, hip-hop, punk and other genres, and pop culture. Visitors to the Frank O. Gehry-designed, 140,000-square-foot museum can view rare artifacts and memorabilia and experience the creative process by listening to musicians, filmmakers, game developers and authors tell their own stories.
MoPOP’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame recognizes luminaries of the genre including Isaac Asimov, Ursula Le Guin, H.G. Wells, George Lucas, Gene Rodenberry, James Cameron and Steven Spielberg.
The Henry Art Gallery is located on the west side of the University of Washington campus in a striking Charles Gwathmey-designed glass and textured steel building. One of the Pacific Northwest’s premier modern and contemporary art museums, the Henry Art Gallery showcases exhibitions and their related programs, which invite dialogue about contemporary culture, politics, aesthetics and the traditions of visual art and design of the last two centuries.
The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, often called the Ballard Locks, lie at the western end of the Lake Washington Ship Canal in Seattle. They were constructed to raise and lower ships (between six and 26 feet depending on the tides) to allow them to pass between fresh water (Lake Union and Lake Washington) and salt water (Puget Sound). Operated by the Army Corp of Engineers, the locks are one of Seattle’s most popular visitor attractions and offer a visitor center, fish ladder for salmon, steelhead and other fish and a botanical garden.
Operated by the National Park Service, the Seattle Park Unit of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (there is another unit in Ketchikan, Alaska) is actually a free museum commemorating Seattle’s role as a gateway to the gold rush in the 1890s, when the young town provided provisions and transportation to some 70,000 prospectors.
From the Wright brothers to outer space, the wonder of flight comes alive at one of the world’s largest air and space museums. With more than 175 historic air- and spacecraft on display, interactive exhibits and activities for the whole family, The Museum of Flight offers an exciting experience for the aviation enthusiast and general visitor alike. Museum exhibits include a retired British Airways Concorde jetliner, Air Force One, NASA Space Shuttle Trainer and the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
In summer 2016, The Museum of Flight opened a $22 million Aviation Pavilion. The open-air structure extends the length of two football fields and exhibits more than 20 commercial and military airplanes, many of which patrons can walk through. The Pavilion also features a café and playground.
The Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour is located in Mukilteo, approximately 30 miles north of Seattle. The 73,000-square-foot commercial jet interpretive center is located at the north edge of the Paine Field airstrip, near Boeing’s largest jet assembly plant. The center features an aviation gallery with interactive exhibits on commercial aviation, a theater and a roof-top observation deck to view the airport’s take-offs and landings. Exhibits include the Innovator, a simulated flight experience, cut-aways from fuselages of several Boeing airplane models and an airplane design program where guests can design their own plane and print it out for free. Tours of the nearby Boeing assembly plant, which begin and end at the center, feature a 90-minute guided exploration of the largest building in the world by volume where Boeing’s 747, 767, 777 and 787 Dreamliner are built.
Dedicated to contemporary art with a sustained concentration on the medium of glass, the Museum of Glass in Tacoma features works by internationally-known artists. The Museum features 13,000 square feet of open exhibition space and a striking 9,200-square-foot hot shop Amphitheater which includes a hot glass studio where artistic teams blow and cast glass, a cold glass studio for completing artworks and raised seating for 138 visitors, complete with large video screens offering live glass blowing footage. Linking the museum with downtown Tacoma, the Chihuly Bridge of Glass is a 500-foot-long pedestrian overpass shrouded in glass art from renowned local artist Dale Chihuly.
MOHAI celebrates the rich history of the Pacific Northwest and features noteworthy exhibits from the Smithsonian and Library of Congress. MOHAI showcases a large collection of regional historic and cultural treasures and the museum is an indoor playground for all ages. With more than 50,000 square feet, the museum holds thousands of historic artifacts, including photographs, videos, costumes and interactive objects such as a World War II-era periscope, reflecting the rich history of Seattle’s Puget Sound naval culture. MOHAI provides five different venue options for private events. Rentals include the Grand Atrium; Lakefront Pavilion; Lakeview Terrace; West Patio; and Meeting Rooms. Additionally, MOHAI offers four permanent exhibits and various seasonal displays. For more information on MOHAI and other upcoming exhibits, visit mohai.org.
Pacific Science Center is a hands-on learning center for kids and families offering permanent and traveling exhibits. Permanent exhibits feature Professor Wellbody’s Academy of Health & Wellness, an interactive dinosaur display, Tropical Butterfly House, Insect Village, Puget Sound Model and Saltwater Tide Pool, plus other exhibits showcasing animals, technology and more. Two IMAX theaters showcase the latest in big-screen and 3-D films; the Boeing IMAX Theatre features a screen six stories high and 80 feet wide, with the newest IMAX with Laser projection and sound system.
The Seattle Aquarium features a stunning 40-foot, 55,000-lb. viewing window into a 120,000-gallon aquarium filled with salmon, colorful rockfish, vibrant sea anemones, other native Washington marine life and interactive divers. Other exhibits include two pools filled with sea anemones and sunflower sea star, a pacific coral reef exhibit, marine mammals and an underwater dome, the aquarium’s largest exhibit.
Located in downtown Seattle, Seattle Art Museum (SAM) occupies a Robert Venturi-designed building connected to a more recent Allied Works-designed major expansion of the museum. Notable exterior features include Jonathan Borofsky’s Hammering Man and Doug Aitken’s Mirror. SAM boasts a collection of approximately 23,000 objects, ranging from native and Mesoamerican art to contemporary American photo and video installations. The museum offers noteworthy permanent collections of Asian, African, Northwest Coast Native American, modern and contemporary art, European painting and decorative arts. SAM also maintains an ambitious schedule of traveling exhibitions.
The Seattle Great Wheel is a 175-foot Ferris wheel located at the end of Pier 57 on the Seattle waterfront. The 42 Euro-designed gondolas are equipped with heating, air conditioning and stunning views of Elliott Bay, the Olympic Mountains and the Seattle city skyline. The structure extends nearly 40 feet out from the pier, hovering over Elliott Bay.
This nine-acre sculpture park features a 2,500-foot descending, Z-shaped path connecting the Belltown neighborhood in downtown Seattle with a beach on the waterfront. The path takes visitors past a range of permanent and rotating sculptures and major works by world-renowned artists such as Richard Serra, Alexander Calder and Mark di Suvero, while allowing visitors to take in the scenery offered by Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. The park also features the PACCAR Pavilion, a glass and steel structure that houses a fluctuating exhibit, public event space as well as a café. The Gates Amphitheater sits adjacent to the pavilion, featuring descending grass terraces for outdoor films and performances.
Once Seattle’s tallest building, Smith Tower, built in 1914 and restored in 1999, offers 360 degree views of the city, sound and mountains from its 35th floor observation deck. The deck is reached via the human-operated elevators. The top floor observatory was renovated in August 2016 and now features the Temperance Café and Bar, themed to the building’s 1920s speakeasy roots. Unico Properties, building owner, contracted internationally-recognized museum planning and design firm Gallagher & Associates to research and develop the new exhibits and features, and Seattle’s Columbia Hospitality to oversee visitor programs, private event sales and day-to-day visitor operations.
Built as the centerpiece of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, the 605’ Space Needle is an ever-futuristic icon of Seattle. Located 520’ above ground, the observation deck features indoor and outdoor 360° views of the Seattle skyline, Puget Sound and the Cascade and Olympic Mountains. Just below the observation deck, SkyCity restaurant makes a full rotation every 47 minutes and specializes in Pacific Northwest cuisine.
The Space Needle rolled out a new Space Needle mobile app and digital kiosks, which allow guests to plan their next stop in town while overlooking the city. With the new Space Needle mobile app and digital kiosks like the 520 Teleporter and touchscreen SkyPad, guests can transport to a different attraction in Seattle and learn more about key sights in town. The new kiosks can transport visitors onto the field with the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field or climb aboard one of the famous houseboats on Lake Union. Guests can come away with more historical knowledge of the city as well as digital photos personalized to their liking. Individual tickets to the Space Needle may be purchased or Seattle CityPASS offers a booklet of attraction passes at a discounted price. Download the app at spaceneedle.com/app. The SpaceBase gift shop is located on the ground level in the Space Needle lobby.
A new multi-sensory flying ride has been built at Pier 57 on Seattle’s waterfront. This state-of-the-art “flying theater” transports guests through an aerial adventure high over Washington state. This 20-minute film features views of Elliott Bay, the Olympic National Forest and San Juan Islands, the Cascade Mountains, and Snoqualmie Falls, the Tieton River, and the wonders of the Walla Walla Valley Balloon Stampede. Nearby the theatre, take a ride on the Seattle Great Wheel or enjoy a family meal at The Crab Pot or Fisherman’s Restaurant.
Often ranked among the top zoos in the country, Woodland Park is famed for pioneering immersive, naturalistic exhibits for both animals and zoo visitors. The new Banyan Wilds is a state-of-the-art exhibit for Malayan tigers, sloth bears, Asian small-clawed otters and tropical birds. Award-winning exhibits include Humboldt penguins, Jaguar Cove, Northern Trail, Tropical Rain Forest, Trail of Vines and African Savanna.
Argosy Cruises is Seattle’s largest water sightseeing tour operator, offering excursions of Seattle’s harbor, Lake Union, Lake Washington, the Hiram Chittenden Locks and Puget Sound. The one-hour, narrated Harbor Cruise departs from Pier 59 on the Seattle waterfront and cruises Elliott Bay (Seattle’s busy harbor) several times daily with hours changing seasonally. Argosy offers a two and a half hour Locks cruise which departs from the Seattle waterfront and cruises Elliott Bay through the Hiram Chittenden Locks into Lake Union, featuring Seattle’s floating houseboat community. Lake cruises offer either a two-hour trip from AGC Marina on South Lake Union or a 90-minute cruise of Lake Washington from Kirkland (ten miles east of Seattle). Argosy also offers dinner, brunch and lunch cruises year-around aboard the Royal Argosy, a 180-foot classically designed cruise ship. The upscale dining area features white linen tablecloths, mahogany trim, marble tops and chandeliers. Live music is a feature on selected sailings. Argosy Cruises has commissioned a new passenger tour boat for its 2017 sailing season, now under construction in Bellingham, WA. The Royal Argosy departs from Pier 59 on the Seattle Waterfront.
During the holiday season since 1949, the Argosy Christmas Ship Festival has attracted thousands of participants and spectators every holiday season. This multi-day evening festival spreads holiday cheer across multiple Puget Sound locations.
A scenic boat excursion from Pier 59 on the Seattle waterfront combines a taste of traditional Northwest Coast Native American culture with the pristine beauty of Blake Island State Park. The four-hour tour includes a delicious appetizer of steamed clams, a traditional salmon bake and dances and legends from Northwest Tribes. Blake Island State Park offers visitors the chance to extend their stay to explore a lowland forest with 16 miles of hiking or biking trails and five miles of saltwater beaches. While there, browse the gift gallery and enjoy artifact and craft displays and demonstrations.
The largest full-service seaplane operation in the world, Kenmore Air boasts a fleet of 25 planes which annually log more than 2 million miles and carry more than 125,000 passengers. Regular flights between the airline’s two Seattle terminals (at Lake Union just north of downtown Seattle and Kenmore, 10 miles north on Lake Washington) feature the San Juan Islands, Oak Harbor, Victoria, B.C., the Gulf Islands, Vancouver B.C. and the Inside Passage. Special packages and excursions including sport fishing, whale watching, waterside picnics and more are also offered. From Seattle, Kenmore also features 20-minute scenic “flightseeing” trips that popular with visitors.
Tour Seattle by land and water with Ride the Ducks. The tour features vintage DUKW vehicles (“Ducks”), amphibious landing craft developed by the United States Army during World War II. The Seattle tour encompasses downtown Seattle by land and Lake Union by water.
Seattle Seaplanes offers year-around 20-minute sightseeing flights from Seattle’s Lake Union, in addition to “dinner flights” to popular restaurants and resorts in the San Juan Islands, Victoria, B.C., Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula and the towns of Port Ludlow, Port Hadlock and Poulsbo on the Kitsap Peninsula. Charters, special occasion flights and flight instruction are also available.
The Underground Tour offers a 75-minute guided tour below the streets of the Pioneer Square neighborhood in Seattle’s historic district. The tour takes visitors though the subterranean passages that once served as the main roadways and first-floor storefronts of old Seattle. The great fire of 1889 destroyed much of the original wooden city, but Seattle was rebuilt with brick and mortar atop the ruins. Today, visitors can tour the remnants below the streets via guided tours that are rich with history, anecdotes and a subterranean joke or two.
Clipper Vacations operates regular catamaran service between Pier 66 on the Seattle Waterfront and Victoria, B.C. (year-around), and the San Juan Islands (seasonally). Victoria Clipper IV, which can travel up to 30 knots, is known as one of the fastest passenger vessels in the western hemisphere, making the Seattle-Victoria trip in just two and a half hours. Schedules and fares vary depending on the season and destination. Additionally, Clipper Vacations offers a wide range of single and multi-day excursions via catamaran, motor coach and train throughout the Northwest and Canadian Rockies.
The Washington State Ferry system is the largest in the U.S., carrying more than 24 million passengers each year aboard 24 vessels operating from 20 terminals. From the Seattle waterfront, ferries carrying up to 2,500 passengers and 202 automobiles travel to and from Bremerton on the Olympic Peninsula (60 minutes one way) and Bainbridge Island (35 minutes one way). Both routes offer panoramic views of the Seattle skyline and harbor and visitors often jump aboard for quick cross-sound sightseeing trips.
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