One of the Emerald City’s best features is that there are thrills to be had no matter the season, the weather or your age. From boats to baseball, and from towers to malls and museums, few cities have such an accessible and electric collection of fun.
Naturally, the first step in exploring the best of Seattle is to get a CityPASS booklet, which dramatically trims both the cost and waiting times to enjoy Seattle’s most popular attractions. Next, I offer the following suggestions for a memorable weekend:
Ride to the Top
Why start with the Space Needle? Imagine returning home and sheepishly admitting that you didn’t ride to the top of this iconic landmark. It’s like going to Paris and bypassing the Eiffel Tower, snubbing the arch in St. Louis or thumbing your nose at the Statue of Liberty. With an observation deck at 520 feet, there’s nothing to block your 360-degree view—except perhaps for some—ahem—occasional rainclouds.
On a clear day, get an expansive view of tree-covered hills, Mt. Rainier, and Elliott Bay’s waterfront and ferryboats that bring commuters to and fro. Using a CityPASS ticket, you get two rides to the top of the Space Needle if both trips are taken within 24 hours. Relish the spectacular lights of downtown Seattle on a nighttime ride up to the top. At some point you’ll probably have the munchies, so show your CityPASS booklet at the Needlicious Fudge Center, and get a half-pound of fudge for free when you buy one pound.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Located at the base of the Space Needle, and less than a year old, this striking museum of glass and light already has established itself as one of the city’s top attractions. The collection showcases artist Dale Chihuly’s masterworks—from his giant, bursting “Seattle Sun” outside, to a dazzling rainbow of glowing glass creations inside. Two favorites were Mille Fiori, with great washes of floral shapes and tendrils illuminated in a dark room; and Persian Ceiling, a kaleidoscopic sky of colorful glass bowls. The onsite cafeteria (with a vast collection of accordions hanging from the ceiling) isn’t too shabby either. It offers fresh Northwest fare, including razor clams and pepper-crusted ahi tuna sliders—as well as burgers, pork chops, and sundried tomato and goat cheese ravioli. Tickets can be purchased in advance here.
Take a Harbor Tour
Argosy Cruise’s one-hour trip around Elliot Bay is a fun way to get out onto the water without devoting the whole day. Plus, the ride is included with your CityPASS ticket. Guests get a narrated tour of Seattle’s waterfront and will learn about the shipping terminals and other sites, while enjoying spectacular views of the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges. Argosy also offers longer cruises, including a trip through the locks to Lake Union or a tour of the South Lake Union/Lake Washington. For something truly special, consider a four-hour round-trip cruise to Tillicum Village (starting March 1), where you can experience Pacific Northwest tribal culture, including a Native American Salmon Bake and Performance.
Plug in at EMP
Whether your musical tastes are founded on Hendrix or Nirvana (Nevermind was more than 20 years ago, folks), this pantheon of music, science fiction and pop culture is another Seattle must. Founded in 2000, by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and designed by architect Frank O. Gehry, EMP Museum is an expansive tribute to everything that’s made life more interesting for many of us. In addition to EMP’s stunning tributes to iconic rock artists, the interactive museum offers top-notch exhibits of fantasy, horror cinema, video games, science fiction literature and other pop culture touchstones. Current exhibits include photographer Martin Schoeller’s stunning, large-scale headshots of celebrities, leaders and everyday people, Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic, which features the costumes and sets from The Wizard of Oz, Xena: Warrior Princess, Labyrinth and The Princess Bride. Plus, it’s included with your Seattle CityPASS.
Watch out for Flying Fish
Pike Place Market is a delightful place to take in the crowds, colors and, yes, even the smells associated with an incredible assortment of food merchants, florists, craft artisans, wine purveyors and produce sellers. More than 100 years old and spread over 3.5 acres, the market is a magnet for locals and tourists who want to buy from folks who know where their food is caught, raised, milked or picked. The fishmongers even sell sashimi-grade yellow fin tuna steaks (ahi) and will even toss a fish to the delight of tourists. It’s easy to get happily lost wandering the maze of specialty food and craft shops, restaurants and coffee nooks.
Go for a Sail or a Row
If you’re more hands-on about your adventures, or aspire to be, check out the Center for Wooden Boats. Free to the public, this surprising stop not only offers sail and rowboat rentals, it has a museum, classes and workshops, field trips, and lectures on how to build a vessel.
Wander Discovery Park
Seattle’s largest city park offers a wonderful cross section of the Pacific Northwest’s natural beauty. Its 534 acres overlooks Puget Sound with views of the Cascade and the Olympic Mountain ranges. There are two miles of protected tidal beaches, sea cliffs, meadows, forests, streams and sand dunes. There’s even a historic lighthouse built in 1881. It wouldn’t be Seattle unless cyclists were plentiful, and riders are allowed on the paved paths. Other activities include birdwatching, hiking, tennis, picnicking, and getting silly at a children’s playground.
Cheer on the home team
Opened in 1999, Safeco Field is renowned as one of the top baseball stadiums in the country. The Seattle Mariners are ready to embark on its goal of winning a World Series, and its home opener is slated for April 8.
There are no tickets left for the NFC championship game between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday. However, as a former season ticket holder, I can attest to the fact that CenturyLink Field is a modern, stellar venue for watching professional football. If you’re lucky, you can try and get a ticket to a game next year. GO SEAHAWKS!
This was first published on City Traveler Blog.