Seattle Uses Beauty, Sights, Attractions To Lure In Visitors
By PHIL HICKS
SEATTLE -- The Emerald City may no longer have the SuperSonics bouncing around town or Dr. Frasier Crane on the airways, but this gem in the Great Northwest still offers so much for visitors.
It is does rain quite a bit, but the beautiful scenery and an abundance of activities more than make up for the occasional wet stuff.
I took this trip to the Pacific Northwest to visit my nephew Brett, an airman on the USS Ronald Reagan, and his wife Angel. The carrier is based in Bremerton, Wash., which is across Puget Sound from Seattle.Getting Around
The best way to travel to Seattle from Bremerton is the Seattle-Bremerton Ferry, 211 First Street. You can drive your car onto the vessel or park your car in the lot and walk onto the ferry. There is no cost to travel to Seattle, but the return trip is $7 per person (more for vehicles).
It is a relaxing 45-to-60-minute ride. The ferries depart throughout the day (there are booklets with schedules), but the final ferry from Seattle to Bremerton is usually about 12:50 a.m.
You can relax inside, with plenty food and coffee for purchase, or you may sit outside, soaking up the spectacular views of the area.
As you see Seattle in the distance, get your camera ready -- it is truly breathtaking and so is the scenery en route.
Once docked near downtown, we elected to walk around the city. One of our first to-do items was to visit Space Needle, which is northwest of downtown.
Being a fan of monorails, we took the Seattle Center Monorail to the Space Needle. The monorail is at Westlake Center, Fifth Avenue and Pine Street, in downtown, among many retail stores.
It is a nice walk from the pier -- I have to keep Fit City mentality even on vacation. You tackle a few stairs as you pass the Pike Place Market and the first Starbucks. (Actually, from 1971 to 1976, the first Starbucks was at 2000 Western Avenue. It was then relocated to 1912 Pike Place).
Once reaching the monorail station, purchase your tickets. Cost is $2.25 one way for adults ($1 for children ages 5 to 12, military and senior citizens).
The monorail departs about every 10 minutes for its journey to Seattle Center, a distance of 1.2 miles. The monorail opened in 1962 as part of the Century 21 Exposition of the World's Fair. About 8 million people rode the monorail during the six months of the fair. Now, city officials say about 2 million people ride the system every year. It is a nice ride through the city.Space Needle
The monorail stops just steps from the Space Needle.
The Space Needle, built for the 1962 World's Fair, is a symbol of not only Seattle, but also the Pacific Northwest. When it was built, it was the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River. It is built to withstand winds up to 200 mph and a 9.1 earthquake.
The towering structure is at the Seattle Center, where the World's Fair was held. It may be hard to believe, but officials said the Space Needle attracted about 20,000 visitors per day during the fair.
The Space Needle is 605 feet tall (about 60 stories), 138 feet wide (near the top) and weighs about 9,550 tons.
There are discounts for military and seniors, but the cost is about $19. We used the day-night pass, which cost $26. It enables you to visit the Space Needle twice within a 24-hour period. We took advantage by visiting at night and seeing the sparking city lights; and once during the day to take in the panoramic view of Puget Sound as well as Lake Union and Mount Rainer.
Buy your tickets are the base of the structure. Be prepared to wait in line for the trip to the top (people still flock to the needle). Elevators take about 41 seconds to reach the observation deck.
The Space Needle features an observation deck (520 feet), with gift shops (at the top and the bottom), along with SkyCafe, which, of course, serves Starbucks and a variety of other beverages and snacks, and SkyCity restaurant. We opted to forego the restaurant, which serves a $26 hamburger. But it does rotate 360 degrees in 47 minutes.
The original cost of the structure was $21 million (in 2000 a renovation cost nearly five times that). Also, it was built in about a year, just in time for the World's Fair.
In 2007, the Space Needle welcomed its 45th million visitor.
As part of its 50th anniversary celebration, the Needle was painted "Galaxy Gold," its original color.Sports Venues
Near the Space Needle is Key Arena, former home of the National Basketball Association Seattle SuperSonics, from 1967 to 2008 (the team left for Oklahoma City). Although the Sonics emblems are everywhere, it is a touchy subject among the locals. There is talk of a new arena and perhaps attracting a new team. The Seattle Storm, of the Women's NBA, currently play at Key Arena.
South of downtown, the city has two massive stadiums that are side-by-side -- CenturyLink Field (it was Qwest Field before 2012), home of the National Football League's Seattle Seahawks and Major League Soccer's Seattle Sounders; and Safeco Field, home of the Major League Baseball's Seattle Mariners.
CenturyLink, which is known for its notoriously loud crowds, is open air, while Safeco has a retractable roof (it rains a lot).
If the teams are not in town, the stadiums offer a behind the scenes tour.Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market is a public market near the Seattle waterfront. The market opened in 1907. It is a place of business for many farmers, fisherman, craftsman and merchants. The market is built on a steep hill and has restaurants, antique shops and more.
The upper-street level is where they toss the fish and house the produce. Beautiful flowers are available for purchase as well. The flowers and produce make for an array of colors.
Area officials said some 10 million people visit each year.Ferris Wheel
A new feature on the Seattle waterfront is the Seattle Ferris Wheel, which lights up Pier 57. It opened in mid-June.
It is a massive structure, about 200 feet high with 42 gondolas (heated and air conditioned). It is a bit pricey -- $13 for adults and children 12 and older; and $8.50 for children $12 and younger.
At one point, the gondolas with glass-bottom floors are 40 feet out above the bay.Seattle Aquarium
Just north of the Ferris wheel is the Seattle Aquarium on Pier 59.
There are many exhibits, including Window on Washington Waters. It replicates the coastal waters of Washington from about 5 to 60 feet and is home to native marine life including salmon, rockfish, and sea anemones.
Tickets are $19.95 (adults 13 and older), $13.95 (youth 4 to 12) and free (children 3 and younger).Food
There are many fine restaurants and, of course, the seafood is awesome.
In Belltown, a cool neighborhood on the city's downtown waterfront, we came across Local 360, First and Bell, which serves only food "grown and harvested by the good folks in our community who take care of their land for future generations." It uses food only in a 360-mile radius of Seattle. It reminds me of a place you might find in Austin.
Another place is Ivars, which is chain founded in 1938. There are full-service restaurants as well as seafood bars for more casual dining. There are several on the waterfront.
This fantastic area of the country has many other highlights including visiting Mount Rainer National Park, going across the border to Vancouver, Canada, and enjoying Lake Union, a popular recreational spot and site of Tom Hank's "Sleepless in Seattle" houseboat.
Don't let the rain scare you away; take time to visit with area lush with greenery.