One day in Seattle: How to see the top spots
Where to go for info
The best thing is to start by visiting the Citywide Concierge Center at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in downtown Seattle. You'll find tickets, tours, reservations, transportation, advice and tips. Open seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from May 22 (closed weekends before then). Call 206-461-5840 or get information at www.seeseattle.org/ccc
If you're here during the week, get a copy of Northwest Weekend (published each Thursday in The Seattle Times) or Ticket (published on Friday) for current listings of entertainment, arts, recreational events and the outdoors.
Our relatives and friends have begun their yearly pilgrimage to our fair city, beating on our doors, sleeping on our floors, mouthing the sightseer's ravenous plea: "I've got one day in Seattle so what should I do?"
We are here to help you help them. We polled the Seattle Times newsroom staff for their favorite places in the city. There's not room to show all their suggestions, from shopping and bars to parks and museums, but here's a sampling. So pick one of our itineraries or mix and match from the lists and tips to create your own day plan.
— Seattle Times Travel staff
The waterfront and West Seattle | Fremont to Ballard
All that art and Capitol Hill, too
The Market to the ID
• Start at downtown's Pike Place Market. It's a must-do. Go early to avoid the crowds and watch the flower, fruit and fish vendors setting up. Stoke up for your day with a hearty sit-down breakfast at the Athenian Inn or Lowell's or get pastries, piroshki or other mouthwatering foods from the many stalls.
Don't stare too long at the fish throwers. Instead, explore the warren of shops downstairs and across the alley. Do pay homage at the original Starbucks store, but don't wait in a long line. The coffee tastes just the same right down the street. Don't forget to buy flowers for your hosts — or your cruise-ship cabin.
• Walk off that breakfast by heading south down First Avenue toward Pioneer Square, shopping as you go. Often dismissed as too touristy, the district does have historic Seattle architecture, a ton of quality art galleries and antique stores and a treasure trove of reading at the Elliott Bay Book Co. (Hit the backroom for deals on used books.)
• From there, walk south toward the Chinatown International District, stopping at Kobo (at the old Higo Variety Store), 604 S. Jackson St., where you'll find art, furniture, gifts and a display of artifacts unearthed during renovations.
Next revive yourself with tea and pastries and check out the historic photographs on display in the calm environment of the historic Panama Hotel, 605 1/2 S. Main St.
From there you'll have the strength to tackle Uwajimaya, 600 Fifth Ave. S., Seattle's premier Asian supermarket. If the miles of aisles of ingredients make you hungry, hit the food court for a taste of Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Filipino, Korean or Hawaiian specialties.
Museum of Flight to the Arboretum
• What represents Jet City more than the Museum of Flight, 9404 E. Marginal Way S.? Those who've taken guests there say even those without any professed interest in flying were fascinated by the six-story-tall gallery of historic aircraft, hands-on exhibits and the 95-year-old original Boeing factory barn.
• Then head east across Interstate 5 and over the hill to one of Seattle's often-overlooked gems, Kubota Garden at 9817 55th Ave. S. The 20-acre park combines Northwest native plants and Asian landscape design including streams, waterfalls and bridges.
• Drive north on Rainier Avenue to Columbia City, an historic and ever-changing neighborhood well off the tourist track. If it's Wednesday, hit the Farmers Market. If not, try a beer and some lunch at the Columbia City Ale House or cup of coffee at Lottie's Lounge, two of the many places to eat and shop along these few blocks.
• Now head north again on Rainier Avenue, then right on Genesee Street to Lake Washington Boulevard. Ogle the stately lakeside homes (or the runners and cyclists) as you drive north on the boulevard. There are several places to park along the walkway that stretches northward from Seward Park.
The Olmsted brothers (think Central Park in New York City, designed by their dad) designed the boulevard and the pocket parks you'll pass along the way. Follow the boulevard north to East Madison Street and cross over there into the Washington Park Arboretum where you can stroll though acres of trees and flowers, see the Japanese garden or walk the boardwalk along the arboretum's Lake Washington shore to commune with the wildlife of Foster and Marsh islands.
The waterfront and West Seattle
Seattle is all about the water, so if you didn't arrive via cruise ship try getting out on Elliott Bay, the city's downtown harbor.
• First, head down to Alaskan Way and stroll along the piers. Eat some ice cream or clams (Ivar's restaurant is a Seattle seafood original), gaze at strange dead things in Ye Olde Curiosity Shop or living things at the Seattle Aquarium.
• Need to get closer? Take an Argosy Cruises tour of the bay or Native-themed Tillicum Village (on nearby Blake Island) or walk onto a ferry at Coleman Dock for a trip to Bainbridge Island (half-hour one way) or Bremerton (about an hour one way) and back. The city skyline from the ferry can't be beat.
• A close second for best downtown view is West Seattle. A city-run water taxi connects Seattle's Pier 55 with West Seattle's waterfront, and a free shuttle takes passengers from there to the West Seattle's hilltop Junction district and to Alki Point.
Along the Alki waterfront you can rent skates or a bike or walk along the paved path. Watch volleyball players, savor some fish and chips from Spud (a long-time Seattleites' favorite) or a gooey, sticky treat from Alki Bakery.
If you do take the shuttle bus up the hill, there are plenty of places to shop along California Avenue, from South West Admiral Way down to the "Junction" where you can get eggs over easy with your CDs at Easy Street CDs & Tapes or ice cream and picnic supplies at the Husky Deli, both on California Avenue.
• Now pack that picnic and board a bus (or ride your rental bike) south to West Seattle's Lincoln Park, 8011 Fauntleroy Way S.W.; 135 acres of trails, beaches, picnic areas and playgrounds, along with a wading pool for the little ones and an open-air saltwater lap pool down on the beach for the big ones. Plus tremendous views across Puget Sound to the Olympic Mountains.
Fremont to Ballard
• Though locals bemoan the yuppification of Fremont, the neighborhood has funky charm and eclectic shopping that make it worth a visit, especially on a Sunday when the outdoor Fremont Sunday Market is hopping. Kids love the troll statue hiding under the Aurora Bridge and wanna-be communists love the giant Lenin statue in the heart of Fremont.
If you are here in mid June, you must go to the Fremont Fair and Solstice Parade & Pageant, with wacky floats (all human-powered) and naked bicyclists. If not, the weekly Fremont Market will give you a little flavor of how, um, different this part of town is.
• Head out Leary Way toward Ballard (the historic heart of Seattle's Scandinavian sons and daughters), stopping for a local brew at either Hales Ales or Maritime Pacific Brewing Co.
Once your thirst is quenched, head west on Market Street to another uniquely Seattle attraction, the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (often called the Ballard locks). Here you can watch boats go up and down as they pass through the locks that connect Puget Sound and inland waterways. Check out the fish ladder (which salmon use to get past the locks) or enjoy a picnic on the lawn.
• Visit the Archie McPhee store at 2428 N.W. Market St. for whimsical and cheap gag gifts, then shop the chic and funky boutiques of Ballard's Old Town, on Ballard Avenue off Northwest Market Street.
• Grab some dinner at Ray's Boathouse or Anthony's Home Port (both restaurants on Seaview Avenue Northwest are sunset central on the Puget Sound waterfront beyond the locks), or Chinooks at Salmon Bay (where you can gaze out at hundreds of fish boats at the Fishermen's Terminal docks).
• Before calling it a night, check out Ballard's live music scene with a visit to the Tractor Tavern for some alt-country and blues or the Sunset Tavern for local bands.
Try not to wake your hosts when you get home.
Seattle Center, Belltown and downtown shopping
• We certainly cannot leave out Seattle Center, the site of Seattle's 1962 World's Fair. Now a cluster of culture at the base of Queen Anne Hill, the center has something for everyone. It can empty your wallet pretty quickly, but families love the Pacific Science Center, Experience Music Project and the International Fountain (OK, that's free). There's a festival nearly every weekend; kids also love the rides (especially the roller coaster) and arcade games. For the rest of you, there's ballet, opera and several theaters.
• Oh yeah, that tall thing, the Space Needle. On a clear day head up there for an incredible view. We do get some clouds, so an alternative is to drive up Queen Anne Hill to Kerry Park, 211 W. Highland Drive, a little viewpoint with a giant view. Frame your photos of the downtown skyline through the sculpture in the park.
• You can spend a whole day at Seattle Center, but save time for some downtown shopping. Hit Nordstrom's flagship store for the old-school department store experience or Macy's (chances are good they'll be having a sale). If boutiques are more your style, they're scattered through downtown.
All that art and Capitol Hill, too
Mind your palettes for a while if you plan to do a Seattle visual-arts day — things are opening and closing faster than a bad Broadway play (not that you'll find any of those in Seattle, mind you).
The downtown Seattle Art Museum is closed for renovation and expansion. It's due to reopen in spring 2007. The museum's new Olympic Sculpture Park is under construction on the waterfront, but that, too, won't open for a while. Predictions are for later this year.
• The Seattle Asian Art Museum, in the meantime, is picking up the slack and has reopened after its own renovation. It's a stunning place in Capitol Hill's Volunteer Park which, in turn, offers big-city views, especially from the top of an old water tower (climb up to its observation deck for free). The sultry-feeling Conservatory of tropical plants, like a giant glass greenhouse, is also on the grounds.
• While you're up on Capitol Hill, walk south along Broadway. Plenty of shops to keep you busy. Plenty of people watching, too. Capitol Hill is one of the city's oldest neighborhoods, once one of its wealthiest. It's also the base for the city's gay and lesbian community.
Stop at an institution — Dick's drive-in restaurant for a burger, fries and a chocolate shake. Be ready to line up with the locals.
• Keep going south. In a few blocks you'll hit the Pine/Pike corridor, and if it's evening time and this is your time, there are clubs, bars and small eateries galore.
• If, however, you are still bent on mining the city's wealth of art, walk or drive down Capitol Hill to downtown. Here's where-to-see advice from Sheila Farr, the Times' visual art critic:
"The hottest [visual arts area] is still Pioneer Square, but the heart has moved up to Greg Kucera's block [Greg Kucera Gallery, 212 Third Ave. S]. Highly respected Kucera shows top-notch local talent, mixed with print shows of blue-chip New Yorkers.
"The Tashiro Kaplan building a half block north is a hub of galleries and artist studios, to see everything from photography to the latest contemporary Northwest art. Foster/White, one of the city's most established galleries, has just moved in a couple doors south from Kucera, and nearby across Third Avenue are James Harris and Catherine Person, both with good reputations for contemporary stuff."
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company