Seattle: Emerald City

Oct 1, 2004
2004 / October 2004

Consider the cities where something’s always happening. The world-class destinations known for fashion or music or dining or nightlife. For some reason, Seattle doesn’t immediately come to mind. That’s too bad, because this sparkling gem — known as the Emerald City — is a real treasure of the Pacific Northwest.

Seattle is like the little sister of the most popular girl in high school. She knows she’s cool, but she doesn’t have to flaunt it. She’s down-to-earth and confident — and just spontaneous enough to be appealingly unpredictable. Seattle offers an eclectic mix of culture and nature, sporting events and sophisticated nightlife, healthy lifestyle adventure and hedonistic pleasure. Within two hours of downtown Seattle, you can whale-watch off the Pacific coast, sip a hot toddy in a mountain lodge, or watch for cougars in the only rain forest in the United States.

All this and it’s a booming business destination, too.

Boasting about 6,000 guestrooms and a multitude of dining venues and retail outlets, downtown Seattle provides a powerful punch in a relatively compact package. On top of that, the Washington State Convention and Trade Center (www.wsctc.com), set in the heart of Seattle, is convenient to some of the city’s finest hotels and restaurants, plus it’s just 20 minutes from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (sea).

A relatively recent addition to the convention center, Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Citywide Concierge Center, opened in July 2003. Located on the Galleria level adjacent to the escalators, the full-service facility staffed by informed personnel is an invaluable resource for visitors seeking assistance with restaurant reservations, ground transportation, tour bookings, even sports and concert tickets.

Heading north (but well within walking distance of the city center), the historic Seattle Center (www.seattlecenter.com) is the ultimate urban park and entertainment center. The 74-acre complex that served as the site of the 1962 World’s Fair now boasts a seemingly endless array of amusements. Spin the giant gyroscope at the Pacific Science Center (www.pacsci.org). The science center that began life as the u.s. Science Pavilion during the fair has evolved into an independent, not-for-profit educational foundation dedicated to increasing the public’s understanding and appreciation of science, mathematics and technology through interactive exhibits and programs. Discover the music scene in a unique way at the Experience Music Project (www.emplive.com). Dedicated to exploring creativity and innovation in American popular music, emp is a new kind of museum that strives to capture and reflect the essence of rock ’n’ roll, its roots in jazz, soul, gospel, country and the blues, as well as rock music’s influence on hip-hop, punk and other recent genres. A total sensory experience awaits visitors inside emp’s dynamic structure. Patrons can make their own music, see and learn about rare artifacts and memorabilia from emp’s collection of more than 80,000 items, explore various musical milestones within unique interpretive exhibits, and discover the power and joy of music in all its forms. Other options? Take in a concert or Supersonics game at KeyArena. Learn something new or soak up some culture at the Seattle Children’s Theatre, the Seattle Opera House or the Civic Auditorium. Clearly, the city took seriously its 1889 promise to pioneer couple David and Louisa Denny who donated much of the land where the Seattle Center now stands with the stipulation that it be reserved for “public use forever.”

Getting from downtown to the Seattle Center can be fun, too, thanks to the Seattle Monorail. Another “leftover” from the World’s Fair, the sky-high shuttle that whisks visitors from downtown to the center in a mere 90 seconds was actually the inspiration for the now-famous monorail used at Disney properties worldwide. Two years ago, voters approved the Seattle Monorail Project, ending a long debate about the best way to expand the local public transportation system. The first segment of the expansion is set to open in 2007. The project is slated for completion in 2009.

Intended as a major transportation system, the expanded monorail promises to be faster, more efficient and reach more areas than other options that were considered. When completed, the network will have two elements: A convenient light-rail system primarily for eastern access to the city and a supplemental above-ground monorail serving destinations north and south of the center.

Visiting Seattle on business? Don’t dismiss your off-hours leisure options. Think business by day, snow skiing at night. Shooting over to Cascade Mountain (90 miles to the east) for some evening skiing is a common after-5 adventure. Seattle, perfectly set on Puget Sound, is also a favorite destination of kayaking enthusiasts from around the world. Other unwind-and-relax opportunities include taking a water tour or visiting the Seattle Aquarium. In summer and early fall, float planes pepper the waters ready to transport passengers for the 45-minute journey to the nearby San Juan Islands. Grab a pair of binoculars and post yourself at Lime Kiln Point State Park (Whale Watch Park) to spy giant orcas following the path of salmon (late April through September) migrating through Haro Strait. Watch eagles fly proudly overhead or enjoy a leisurely boat tour before repairing to a cozy tavern to sip a cocktail in the company of locals who not only know your name — but also the names of almost each and every unattended dog who happens by.

Another must? Savor the taste of Seattle by exploring its well-established and burgeoning neighborhoods. Immerse yourself in history by visiting the city’s oldest enclave, Pioneer Square. A designated historic district, the neighborhood you’ll explore above ground today is the result of The Great Fire of 1889, which tragically wiped out most of the city’s original downtown area. As the city was rebuilt — and built up — unique zoning regulations designed to address ongoing flood-plain problems required property owners to open their businesses and residences a full story above their previous street-level entrances. It’s difficult to comprehend how the whole scheme worked, but it did. To fully understand the massive redevelopment, stop by Doc Maynard’s Saloon and purchase a ticket to the Underground Seattle Tour that will lead you through the subterranean twists and turns that still exist under today’s Pioneer Square.

Just south of downtown and adjoining Pioneer Square, Seattle’s International District is home to a diverse Asian population. Uwajimaya, a 66,000-square-foot Japanese grocery store, is home to the Asian Food and Gift Market, a bank, an Asian bookstore, a cosmetics store, other retail stores and a food court featuring Thai, Korean and Hawaiian and a multitude of other options.

One of the largest populations of Scandinavians in North America calls the city’s burgeoning Ballard neighborhood home. Favorite attractions and events include the Nordic Heritage Museum and Ballard Seafood Days.

“Locals sometimes joke about Ballard being off the beaten track, but in the past couple of years it’s grown into a new, trendy neighborhood for bars, restaurants and nightclubs,” said David Blandford of the Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau.

In the nearby northwest quadrant of the city, the Freemont neighborhood exudes an artsy, young, eclectic feel. A 10-minute cab ride and you’re just east of downtown at Capitol Hill, also known as “The Left Bank” in deference to its liberal energy. Sitting between two universities and housing much of the gay and lesbian community, the area is dotted with art galleries, bookstores and think tanks disguised as coffeehouses. Between downtown and the Seattle Center rests Belltown, the birthplace of Grunge Rock. In the past decade, many former grunge bars have been reincarnated as house hotels and restaurants, but a few nostalgic spots remain.

No story about Seattle would be complete without some mention of the weather. August and September are the driest months with temperatures averaging 80°f to 90°f during the day and 60°f to 70°f at night. But, despite its reputation for rain, rain and more rain, keep in mind that Seattle’s average annual precipitation (37.19 inches) compares favorably to New York (41.59 inches).


Lodging

The Edgewater Hotel

The Edgewater Hotel boasts two distinctions: It’s the only Seattle hotel on a pier and it’s the only Seattle hotel to host the Beatles during their 1964 U.S. tour. The famous photo of the Fab Four dangling fishing poles out of their guestroom window has become legend. Not into nostalgia? The Edgewater offers amazing views of either Elliott Bay or the city and is decorated in a rustic manner with pine furniture and river rock fireplaces.
The Edgewater Hotel
Pier 67, 2411 Alaskan Way
Seattle WA 98121
Tel 206 728 7000, fax 206 441 4119
www.edgewaterhotel.com


The Hotel Andra

Located in the trendy Belltown neighborhood, Hotel Andra opened in April. The property features 119 guestrooms and suites and 4,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space. Hotel investor Craig Schafer envisioned an upscale contemporary hotel for travelers and a social gathering place for locals when he purchased the vintage 1926 property in 2002. The décor is a blend of Pacific Northwest and Scandinavian styling. Guest services include wireless Internet fitness facilities and a business center.
The Hotel Andra
2000 Fourth Ave.
Seattle, WA 98121
Tel 206 448 8600, fax 206 441 7140
www.hotelandra.com

Alexis Hotel

Nestled in the heart of downtown Seattle, the 109-room Alexis is a four-diamond, luxury boutique hotel. Services and amenities include evening wine tasting, valet, concierge, 24-hour room service, high-speed Internet access, steam-room, fitness room, full day spa and Library Bistro and Bookstore Bar. Pets allowed.
Alexis Hotel
1007 First Ave. at Madison
Seattle, WA 98104
Tel 206 624 4844, fax 206 621v9009
www.alexishotel.com

Inn at the Market
Located in Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market, Inn at the Market offers vistas of Elliott Bay, Mt. Rainier and the Olympic Mountains. Services and amenities include complimentary shuttle service, room service, three restaurants, bar, valet and laundry service.
Inn at the Market
86 Pine St
Seattle, WA 98101
Tel 206 443 3600, fax 206 728 1955
www.innatthemarket.com


Dining

Pike Place Market

One of the most fun (and fairly inexpensive) methods of sampling the catch-of-the-day in Seattle is to take a stroll through Pike Place Market, The nine-acre historic district — the oldest continually operating farmers’ market in the country — offers a unique indoor shopping experience. In addition to more than 60 restaurants and take-out venues, the eclectic mix of products on display and for sale includes fresh produce, handicrafts, clothing, antiques and more.
Pike Place Market
1514 Pike Place
Seattle, WA 98101
www.pikeplacemarket.com

Union Square Grill
Convenient to the convention center, Union Square Grill is Metropolitan Grill’s sister property. Featuring an upscale decor, Union Square Grill serves up a plentiful variety of juicy steaks and seafood. After dinner head for the lively bar to enjoy a nightcap.
Union Square Grill
621 Union
Seattle, WA 98101
Tel 206 224 4321

The Dahlia Lounge

Just as dramatic as the name, The Dahlia Lounge offers a variety of cutting-edge food. Sometimes labeled as New American cuisine, restaurateur Tom Douglas’s creative menu features traditional fare infused with a cornucopia of bold flavors. It’s not unusual to find a traditionally Asian dish prepared using Latin methods and spices. Douglas has been featured on the Food Channel and has written several cook books. Located on the fringe of the up-and-coming Belltown neighborhood, The Dahlia Lounge is a must.
The Dahlia Lounge
2001 4th Ave.
Seattle, WA 98121
Tel 206 682 4142

Pike Place Market

It’s been almost a century since Seattle’s Pike Place Market (www.pikeplacemarket.org) was founded on Aug. 17, 1907, and still the public market remains a vital element of the city’s social and economic structure. Often called the “Soul of Seattle,” the nine-acre historic district on the city’s expansive waterfront is considered by many a national treasure.

The marketplace traces its roots to an experiment of sorts designed to bring farmers and consumers together in one place to cut out the price-gouging middlemen of the day. At its peak in the 1930s, more than 600 farmers held permits to sell wares on site, providing Depression-era relief to struggling Seattle families. By the 1950s, the market was losing steam to urban flight — so much so that in the late 1960s, urban renewal enthusiasts proposed demolishing the rambling market to make way for commercial development.

Happily, a grass-roots effort garnered enough support to save the market and in 1971 Seattle residents voted overwhelmingly to place Pike Place Market under public ownership, restore it to its former glory and preserve the historic site for future generations.


Info to Go

The closest airport in the continental United States, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) is serviced by 42 airlines, including 10 international carriers and seven cargo carriers. The airport is currently undergoing a $2.4 billion overhaul including the construction of a third runway, new terminals and enhanced curbside baggage check-in locations. Sea-Tac is 13 miles from Seattle’s central business district. Seattle operates a network of free bus transportation within the city’s downtown area. For additional information, visit www.seeseattle.org.

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