The Seattle skyline as seen from a harbor cruise boat in Elliott Bay. Seattle is a pretty cool town, rather, city. It has a vibrant lifestyle, as diverse and inclusive as any city in the United States, it has culture, it has a great university, it has history and it is a lot of fun to walk and explore. The views are to die for, and if you are lucky, you’ll hit it on a bluebird day, as we did – actually for a whole weekend.
The iconic landmark of Seattle, the Space Needle. Built in 1962 for the Seattle World’s Fair, it stands 605′ high and at its widest is 134′. The observation tower is at around 500′ and it’s 360º views of the mountain ranges of the Cascades, to the Olympic Peninsula, to Elliott Bay and north to the ocean are unparalleled in the Pacific Northwest.
Seattle’s downtown is a mix of cultures, businesses and sightseeing. On any given day Westlake Park, the heart of downtown, is a hub of activity, with dancers, singers, musicians and artists plying their crafts.
There are food trucks all around the square and it is easy to grab a bite, sit back, relax and enjoy the scene. The monorail is right there to take you out on a short ride to Seattle Center, or you can take a leisurely walk along Pike Street to the famous Pike street Market.
Built in 1907, the market is one of the longest continuously running farmer’s markets in the country. Fish mongers abound, but one also finds stalls with florists, local fruit and vegetable sellers, homeopathic remedies and color and noise. Lots of color and noise. It is vibrant an alive and crowded and you just have to sit back and go with the flow.
The fish is not cheap, but my oh my, it is good. We picked up a couple of lobster tails and some scallops and ‘cued them at home, drowning them with some fresh crispy white wine.
Across the street from the market is the original site of Starbuck’s, the iconic Seattle buisness started in 1971.
The day we were there some 300 people were lined up to go inside and order their Venti, two-pump, sugar-free vanilla, non-fat, two Splenda, extra-hot, extra-whip, extra-mocha Mocha and can you put the Splenda in before you pour the milk? But Starbucks is not the only game in town – Seattleites and and the fair citizens of Washington State love their coffee and there are hundreds, even thousands of small independent roasters each claiming a better mousetrap and each serving a small but dedicted clientele. Pretty neat stuff.
The central waterfron of Seattle, built back in the early 1900’s is now home to resaturants and cruise ships. The main business of warehousing has moved to the south and today along the waterfront you can catch ferries to to the islands around Seattle, catch a cruise ship bound for Alaska, eat at some pretty fine restaurants or board a ship belonging to Argosy Cruises at Pier 55 and head for Blake Island State Park.
We did that one day, a 45 minute jaunt across the Puget Sound to Tillicum Village on Blake Island State Park. There we were treated to a Northwest inspired meal served buffet style featuring alder roasted fish, and a Northwest Native American storytelling show, and then spent some time combing the beaches of the island.
Some local treasures…
Another day we boarded the Spirit of Seattle for a one hour cruise around the harbor.
Some 200 ships leave Seattle every summer, most bound for Alaska but a good number headed for extended cruises around the world. The Seattle waterfront has emerged over the years to be a little less vintage commercial and more touristy, but a couple of iconic buildings remain.
The Edgewater Hotel located at Pier 67 offers up some of the prettiest sights able to be seen from a hotel room. Gorgeous views of the Olympic Peninsula, Elliottt Bay and the Puget Sound , and Mt Rainier on a nice day combined with stunning sunsets makes this iconic Seattle hotel a true gem. Built in 1962 for the World’s Fair, the hotel hit fame when the Beatles stayed there during their world tour as no other hotel in the city would have them. Fans made the place a madhouse and placed it not only on the world stage, but to this day a revered locals place. A picture I borrowed from the internet shows the Fab Four fishing out of their hotel window.
The Beatles might have been the first, but the list of famous rock stars that have stayed here since then is a who’s who of music and includes Pearl Jam, The Village People, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Ozzy Osbourne, KISS, Wings, Neil Young, Frank Zappa, Blondie, Jewel, David Bowie, Emmy Lou Harris, Iggy Pop, Jessica Simpson, Mel Tormé, REM, Rod Stewart, Willie Nelson, and my brother Michael and his wife Martine.
Built around 1902 at the northern edge of the Central Waterfront, Pier 70 initially was a warehouse for any number of enterprises then became a terminal for a variety of steamship companies. As with most of the piers along the waterfront, Pier 70 fell victim to containerization and as the mercantile aspect of the docks moved to the south, Pier 70 reinvented itself into a series of businesses and retail shops and eateries. For those of you who remember MTV’s reality series The RealWorld, the 1998 series was named The Real World:Seattle and it took place basically at Pier 70. Today, one of the more popular fish restaurants in Seattle,AQUA By El Gaucho, is located there.
At the beginning of the 20th Century, Seattle relied on natural resource-based industries to help the city grow and attract new population to the region. The industries included of course timber, and sawmills lined the coast from Seattle to Tacoma, coal was processed here and funneled out to other areas, and fish from Alaska was processed in canneries that lined the waterfront and then exported. But there came a change, slow but inevitable, that saw the diminishing of these natural resource based jobs that gave way to aerospace, computers, retail giants, coffee giants and software companies to name a few. Companies like Starbucks, Boeing, Amazon, Nordstrom, Microsoft and Costco to name a few of the Fortune 500 that are based in Seattle now fuel the expanding economy of the region. But one natural resource-based industry remains – fishing. Still as important as it was a century ago, fishing of all types in the region, mostly salmon and shellfish, provides jobs to a huge blue-collar middle class that are highly remunerative. Not only are there the fisherman, the captains, deck hands and dock workers, but also the support part of the operations – the shipbuilders, the mechanics, all the staff that service the fishermen. The commercial fishing industry in Washington employs over 10,000 people and generates more than 6 billion dollars in revenue. When you add in the business that Alaska fishing generates, employing more than 36,000 citizens of Washington and generating an additional $6.5 billion nationwide one can tell that this is a vibrant and vital part of the Seattle scene.
And finally, (hah!) the Everett, Seattle, Tacoma port region is the third largest container system in the United States. It is also a hub for air transport as Seattle is two hours closer to Asia than Los Angeles or San Francisco thus cutting the cost of getting goods to Asia. It generates over $67.2 billion dollars in trade, third only to New York City and Houston, Texas, and most importantly it does this while still emphasizing the cultural aspects, educational opportunities, and the diversity of a multi-national city the is fun to live in and great to visit. Stay tuned for additional blogs on things to do in Seattle…
On commenting on the local fish industry a local wag noted that while other natural resource-based industries had moved on over the years, fishing had not because “the salmon still swim the same way”. Despite that homage to salmon I’m throwing in a simple recipe for grilled scallops with a salsa to die for. The scallops in Seattle are meaty, large, and sweet and soooo tasty.