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Seattle is the home of the coffee house. Starbucks began it’s life there right opposite Pike Place, tucked into a row of little shops, and now on every block there seems to be at least two coffee houses. These range form laid back homely types complete with easy chairs to the modern almost space aged variety. Coffee plays a big role in the life of Seattleites and they really know how to make a good latte.

Seattle is home to the Space Needle, the elegant white tower that reaches space a short monorail ride form downtown. For a small fee you can be raised to the top in 43 seconds and watch the sun set over Elliot bay and the orange glow light up the center of this beautiful city. A dining experience is also available in the revolving restaurant where a 360-degree view is possible while you sit. The needle was originally constructed as a temporary attraction for the World's Fair, but soon became the symbol of Seattle and has remained. A beautiful view of the city can be obtained from University hill (to the north of the Needle) where the Needle, Skyline and Mount Ranier can be seen rising over each other (Rainier is 98 miles away and so a clear day is needed to see it at it’s best, and then it is an awesome sight).

The Space Needle is located in the Seattle Center where you can also visit the Opera House, exhibition hall, Pacific Science Center, the Experience Music Project an more. Having the monorail linking this with downtown make it accessible in a short time. Downtown seems very business orientated with only a few shops and malls with mainly offices and Starbucks, the best shopping being found along 1st street. Of course there is Pikes Place where the famous fish stall with the low flying fish reside, definitely to be seen and do buy a fish - you won’t forget it. Along the edge of Elliot Bay is the piers where fine dining and entertainment can be found, however a warning must be given to motorists as the parking is limited and often full as spaces are only for a short time.

Other things to do in downtown include the Ranier Square neighborhood where one of the strangest buildings your likely to see is situated. It rises from a small base and arches out before rising as a normal tower, quite scary when you first look up! Chinatown, though not as large and impressive as others (like San Francisco’s) is also worth visiting for it’s wealth of restaurants providing well priced food. The shores of Lake Washington to the north of the center have real life house boats including the one used for the filming of Sleepless in Seattle. It is privately owned so cannot be toured but can bee seen form the carpark.

Attractions in the Area

  • Boeing. The factory where the Boeing planes are made (probably like the one you fly there on) is located about 30 minuets drive from the center and is a definite must if you have any interest in planes or not. The building they are made in is big, as you would expect, but it’s not just big it’s huge! It is in fact the largest building by volume in the world. The guided tour lasts about an hour with a buss tour around the complex and a guided tour into the factory to see these planes in production.
  • The Museum of Flight. One of the worlds premier air and space museums, where the history of aviation soars past with dozens of full-size aircraft all around you including the Black bird spyplane and you can board the original Air Force One.
  • The Arboretum. With gardens many thousands of trees and themed regions the arboretum is a great way to relax in beautiful surroundings. In particular the Japanese garden are pretty, well looked after with turtles, herons and bridge of an angular nature and the islands on the shore of Lake Washington which has a connecting pathway of wooden planks really takes you back to nature.
  • Mirosoft. Redmond, Seattle is the home of Microsoft and Bill Gates and is worth a look if just for it’s sheer size and area covered. Tours are available tough just driving around the roads in the complex gives a good impression of it. The home of Bill was undiscovered by me though it is impressive if you can find it.

Day Trips

Seattle is well positioned with in easy reach of many destinations for day trips.

Mt. Rainier is 98 miles south east of Seattle and has a spectacular road that circles it to a height of around 7000ft. The best views are obtained when driving round it clockwise as your views are less obstructed. Though often-in cloud due to it’s impressive 14410ft. elevation, when it isn’t the sight close up is indescribable. The road leads to the tourist center which contains a great little museum, shops and restaurant, ranger guided hikes also leave from there and are free of charge.

The Olympic Mountains are best reached by a ferry from the piers along Elliot bay (only foot passengers can travel direct) and provide a range of hiking opportunities for all ranges of hikers. More than one day is advised as there is so much to do and again cloud can obstruct views of the range though this does allow one of the only areas of temperate rainforest to exits.

Vancouver, Canada, is the largest of the British Columbia cities though not it’s capital, and is only just over the border into Canada. Vancouver has many attractions including boat, plane and train trips, a swinging wood bridge, a good museum of anthropology and the film locations of Due South, The X-Files and more. I will write an article on Vancouver shortly.

Roslyn is a small town east of Seattle past the Cascades and was the filming location of Northern Exposure. The town prides itself for this fact and is truly an experience in itself. The really friendly and quirky residents give a unique feel to the town. Roslyn’s Café has great food and staff as well as an excellent vegetarian menu.

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