Seattle, as viewed from Gas Works Park.

“The bluest skies you've ever seen are in Seattle…”

Long before “Frasier” and “Grey’s Anatomy” streamed into our living rooms ... before there was a Starbuck’s on every corner … before there was grunge … there was a teen idol named Bobby Sherman.

Bobby sang the theme song for “Here Come the Brides,” a sitcom set in Seattle in its pioneer days. Airing on ABC from 1968-70, that song was my introduction to the Emerald City.

Ten years later I visited Seattle for the first time. I was driving to Alaska, and stopped and visited friends for a few days before the weeklong journey up the Alcan Highway.

I visited Pike Place Market and went up in the Space Needle. I even got to see the King Tut exhibit at the Seattle Center. I waited in line for what seemed to be an eternity and paid $10, which was considered pricey at the time. But it was worth it, because I still remember standing in front of the star of the exhibit – King Tut’s death mask.

The King Tut exhibit at the Seattle Center, circa case you couldn't
tell by all the denim.

It would be another 30 years before I made my way to Seattle again. Then again in 2010. And again last month.

I’m already thinking about my next visit.

Some cities grab ahold of you and don’t let go. It’s not good enough to just experience them once … or even twice … you want to immerse yourself. You want to feel like you LIVE there, not just passing through.

That’s Seattle to me.

I won’t pretend to be an expert on the city, but I will tell you that it is vibrant, beautiful, interesting, historic, modern and fun. Here are some of the reasons I love it so much:

The Seattle Space Needle, as seen through the roof of the Glass House at
Chihuly Garden and Glass.

A sign from inside the Seattle Space Needle...can you imagine anyone trying to work under
those conditions today?

A view of downtown Seattle, taken from atop the Space Needle.

The Seattle Space Needle
Surely, it’s the most identifiable symbol of the city. Built for the 1962 World’s Fair, it still has a Jetsons-like feel to it, even more than 50 years later. It’s pretty windy up at the top, but wow, what amazing views! The displays are also pretty cool, and feature some great photos of the structure’s construction.

The "Mille Fiori" exhibit, Italian for "a thousand flowers," inside the Exhibition Hall.
A glass basket inside the Northwest Room at the Exhibition Hall.
The Glasshouse and part of the garden at Chihuly Garden and Glass.

One of the eclectic collections at the Chihuly Garden and Glass Collections Cafe.

What else would you hang from the ceiling at the Collections Cafe but accordions?

Chilhuly Garden and Glass
If I only had one place to visit, this would be it. Photos don’t do it justice. You have to see this art in person to experience the full magnitude of Chihuly’s talent and genius. And if you buy a combined ticket for Chihuly and the Space Needle, you save money. Win/win. And the Collections Café is incredible! The walls and every table are full of displays – bottle openers, dolls, radios, figurines, toys. These are all from Chihuly’s private collections.

A close-up of the elevator doors from the Chicago Stock Exchange at the Seattle Art Museum. The building,
designed by renowned architect Louis Sullivan, was razed in 1972 in the name of urban renewal. Thanks to
the heroic efforts of preservationists, elements like this were saved.
A display in the main hallway at the Seattle Art Museum.

I highly recommend the cookie sampler (with a shot of milk) at the Seattle Art Museum restaurant.

Seattle Art Museum
I’ve been to the museum on my last three visits, and will more than likely go every time on future visits. I’ve seen traveling exhibits of ancient Greece and Rome, Picasso and European masters. Their permanent exhibit is very impressive, and it is the only art museum I’ve ever been to that allows photography! Not for the traveling exhibits – just permanent – but that is definitely a plus for me. I love their gift shop, and they have a wonderful restaurant. For dessert, may I suggest the cookie sampler which comes with a shot of milk?

Pike Place Market.

Pike Place Market
Of course, this MUST be on your list. It’s a feast for the eyes and an experience you don’t want to miss. Be sure to catch the “flying fish” and sample the abundant fresh fruits and vegetables. If you plan on taking photos of the street musicians, do the right thing and bring some change with you for tips.

Inside the first Starbucks.
Just across Pike Street from the market is the first Starbucks. It opened up in 1971 and thankfully, still looks the same on the outside because it’s in a historic district. The inside of the shop is pretty much all retail. Sure, you can still get your coffee like at any other Starbucks, but don’t expect to sit back in a fat easy chair and take advantage of free WiFi. And unless you like standing in line, get there early.

A Ride the Duck amphibious vehicle on Lake Union.

Ride the Ducks
This is so cool! My daughter and I went on this tour in 2008. This gives you such a great introduction to Seattle, so I recommend that you do this on the first day of your trip. You ride around in World War II amphibious vehicles and you go right from the street into the water. A little unnerving at first (especially since I can’t swim) but you’ll relax after a few minutes and enjoy the view. The guides are funny and informative and I thought the price was very reasonable for the experience.

The former gasification plant at Gas Works Park.

A couple enjoys some quiet time at Gas Works Park.

Houseboats along the shore of Gas Works Park on Lake Union.

Gas Works Park
The first time I saw this place was from a Ride the Duck tour on Lake Union. It’s strange, magical, beautiful and interesting all at the same time. And what a view you have of Seattle! Formerly the site of the Seattle Gas Light Company gasification plant, it’s located on the south end of the Wallingford neighborhood. After 50 years of operation the plant closed in 1956, and reopened as a park in 1975. Great place for photos.

At the Sock Monster Store.

A view from the 2nd floor at Chocolati Cafe.

An interesting section of sidewalk on Wallingford Ave.

Gorgeous flowers, even in February.

One of the gorgeous homes, along with a treehouse, in the Wallingford neighborhood.

A bridal shop in the Wallingford neighborhood.

You can make a whole day just out of visiting the Wallingford neighborhood. The main thoroughfare, North 45th St., is full of eclectic shops and restaurants. You want a place that just sells socks? They got it. Got a hankering for Malaysian street food? They got it. Looking for a bookstore that only sells poetry? Yup, got it. Need to fill that craving for chocolate? Oh, man, have they ever got that. Eat and shop your way around the neighborhood and then walk about one mile south on Wallingford Ave North to reach Gas Works Park. If you get thirsty along the way, stop in at the Durn Good Grocery Store. Just be forewarned: if you stop and take photos of every cute house along the way like I did, expect this normal 20-minute walk to be more like a 45-minute stroll with a lot of interruptions.

I’m just scratching the surface here, but this will give you a good basis to start from. Besides, this is a blog, not a book.

Bring comfortable shoes. Seattle is a very walk-friendly city, and it’s easy to go from the Pike Place area up to the Space Needle. All you need is time. There’s so much to look at, why waste it being in a car?

And yes, Seattle is known for its rain, but it’s not a downpour; it’s more of a drizzle. And for the majority of my visits, I experienced beautiful sunny weather. If you feel like you need to bring your umbrella with you, go ahead, but as one Seattle resident told me, that’s how they identify tourists.

It's scenes like this that make me want to return to Seattle again and again.


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