I originally wrote this article for the July 2007 Wide World Books & Maps Newsletter. If you click on any of the product links in the last paragraph, you will find yourself at Wide World's site where you can purchase the books and maps. -Terrell
What to See in Seattle: Advice from a Homesick Soul
It’s been almost exactly a month since I left Seattle and, believe me, there are plenty of things I miss about the Emerald City (Oh, for a Bartell’s nearby!). It occurred to me that a list of some of the things I miss most might be helpful to some of you still living there. We all know that every Seattleite is required to host several out of town guests each summer, and this list might help you think of things for them to see once you’re finished with the Pike Place Market. Or maybe it will just you remind why you like living there so much.
I miss being able to look down the street and see a mountain or water. My current home, along with much of the rest of America, is flat. Really flat. No mountains, no hills, no views. I really miss all those great viewpoints scattered around Seattle. Take your guests to see Kerry Park, the Magnolia Bluff Loop, the Space Needle, Alki Point, and all the other wonderful spots where you can see for miles. My favorite little-known viewpoint is the Lenora Street Pedestrian Elevator just north of the Pike Place Market. From Western Avenue head west on Lenora across the bridge to nowhere—it once led to the upper level of a now-dismantled warehouse—and you’ll find yourself on a viewing platform that has a spectacular vista of Elliott Bay, the Bell Street Pier, the public boat dock, and the guest rooms of the waterfront Marriott. I like to pick up lunch at the Market (Turkish Delight is my favorite take-out spot) and then spend a sunny summer hour eating and watching the container ships heading south to Tacoma. Take the glass elevator down to the waterfront for more touristy fun when you’re done.
I miss old buildings. Thankfully, Seattle has managed to escape our national compulsion to tear down every building that is more than thirty years old. Out-of-towners may be amazed to see the terracotta facades of Seattle’s downtown (the chiefs on the Cobb Building, the walruses of the Arctic Building), the Art Deco decoration of the Egyptian Theater on Capitol Hill and all the great buildings in Pioneer Square. It may be hokey, but the Underground Tour still gets raves from all the tourists I know. While you’re in the Pioneer Square neighborhood, be sure to wow them with Seattle’s impressive array of galleries like Foster/White and Northwest Fine Woodworking. Get takeout lunch from Mario Batali’s dad at Salumi and eat it in the Waterfall Garden, the site of UPS’s original location. And I would end the visit by walking up the waterfront to Ye Olde Curiosity Shop for a little vintage weirdness. If the steam organ is functioning, be sure to feed it a couple of quarters for me but watch out for the blast of sound.
I miss parks with no sidewalks. I’m currently living in a place where people rarely walk and when they do, they only walk on concrete. Take your house guests to some of Seattle’s great parks where you can walk on muddy trails, sandy paths, and grassy fields. Getting semi-lost in Discovery Park’s woods, climbing the hill to the top of the waterfall in Kubota Gardens or wandering under the giant rhododendrons in the Arboretum is something I truly miss. The Arboretum even connects with one of Seattle’s great treasures, the elaborate ring of parks planned by the Olmsteds that includes Volunteer and Seward Parks. Make your way over to Lake Washington Boulevard and enjoy the beautiful stretch along the lake with stone balustrades and steps enhancing the views across the water. And all for free!
Baseball. Dallas pretends to have a major league baseball team but if you check the standings, you’ll see it isn’t true. Your sports-minded guests who live in smaller cities will really enjoy Safeco Field and a chance to go to “the show.”
Food. Of course the out-of-towners have food where they come from. It may even be great food. But there are few places that can boast the confluence of natural resources, diverse ethnic traditions and culinary talent that one finds in the Pacific Northwest. From steamed pork hombows at Mee Sum’s in the Market to one of Tom Douglas’ restaurants, from a loaf of limpa bread from Ballard’s Scandinavian Bakery to The Herbfarm’s over-the-top nine-course meals, Seattle has it all. If I could transport myself back to Seattle for the weekend, my fantasy food itinerary would include dim sum at The House of Hong, a stop at Uwajimaya’s flagship store, tapas at The Harvest Vine in Madison Park, brunch at Macrina’s in Belltown, and a dinner of wild boar at Volterra. And that wouldn’t even be scratching the surface. Especially if your guests are paying.
Live Music. If there’s one thing that beats the food in Seattle, it’s the music. Every weekend, in fact every evening, there’s an incredible selection of musical genres and styles available for your listening pleasure. Benaroya Hall has a few events in the summer and the opera is performing The Flying Dutchman in August. Catch an incredible lineup of jazz at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley. Roots music has a home at the Tractor Tavern and the under-thirty crowd will not want to miss the shows at the Crocodile Cafe.
Boats. Did you know that there’s not a single natural lake in all of Texas? Did you know that many people who live in the United States have to drive for days to get to a coast? Take your guests out on the water, they’ll love it. Even if you don’t own a boat, there are plenty of easy ways to do it. Rent a canoe from the Waterfront Activities Center at the University of Washington, take out a sailboat from the Center for Wooden Boats , or just hop the ferry to Bainbridge Island. Believe me, us landlocked types think it’s a real treat. If they’re afraid of the water, they can just watch at the Hiram Chittenden Locks or go for a stroll through Fishermen’s Terminal.
Is this a complete list of the things I miss about Seattle? Of course not. I haven’t even mentioned watching the kids play in the International Fountain at Seattle Center or the fact that I didn’t get a chance to see the renovated Seattle Art Museum or anything about Seafair’s summer schedule. And don’t get me started on bookstores. Or travel stores. Sigh.