Travel destinations, techniques and reviews targeted towards the baby boomer.


Lisa Niday - Monday, March 15, 2010

This north west city has the wonderful city elements with the nearby outdoor activities and beauty as well. I considered moving here once because the city is truly delightful, however those gray skies ended up persuading me to reconsider. I think you have to have a personality that is used to infrequent sunshine to live in this area. However, you will never find a more beautiful location in the summer.

As winter is becoming a little long in the tooth, my mind is moving to sunshine, so we'll explore Seattle as a place to make a great summer destination. In Texas when the heat becomes oppressive, this makes for a great summer getaway over a long weekend.
photo of Seattle sunset
Sunset from Ray's Boathouse, a great seafood restaurant with fabulous views.

The city gets an average of 36 inches of rainfall and when you consider New York City's annual rainfall is 40 inches you might wonder. Seattle's rainfall is spread throughout the year in smaller, gentler rains and mists leaving an almost year round green to everything. The city is surrounded by the Puget Sound and Lake Washington so it's almost water, water everywhere.

Some of the nation's largest giants had their start in Seattle, Microsoft, Starbuck's and Amazon to name a few. The city offers a charm of the closeness of the outdoor life with the beauty of a big city. The city has lived through several boom periods.

Pioneer Square

The first boom period occurred when gold was discovered in Alaska and Seattle was the gateway. One of the cities oldest areas is the Pioneer Square area, located in the southwest corner of downtown Seattle. Founders settled here around 1852. The early structures were mostly wooden, but were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1889. Dozens of brick and stone buildings were erected in the area and to this day the architectural character is derived from these buildings. The Pioneer Square-Skid Road Historic District, a historic district including that plaza and several surrounding blocks, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For a glimpse of life back then and a fascinating adventure with some history thrown in, take the Underground Tour.
photo of Pioneer Square in Seattle
Pioneer Square in downtown Seattle.

Pike Place Market

Anchoring the downtown area is the famous Pike Place Market. This hundred year old, working market is where you can find all types of fresh produce, cheese, fresh flowers, handcrafted souvenirs and of course, the world famous flying fish. I've included a link to a great interactive tour in case you can't get there it's worth a virtual trip. Mornings are the best time to visit the market. This public market has over 10 million visitors per year and you wouldn't want to miss this on a visit to Seattle. Sometimes we visit multiple times purchasing produce and cheese for snacks and then right before we leave we purchase some seafood. You can't beat the salmon here. They have so many varieties, sockeye, king, chum and from so many places, the Columbia River, Copper River and even Alaska. If you want to experience the fish throwing take a look at this video.
photo of Pike Market
The Pike Place Market is worth it for the entertainment value alone, but if you want fresh produce, flowers or fish it can't be beat.

Post Alley

The Post Alley adjacent to the Pike Market has some great shopping and restaurants, after all this is where Starbuck's got its start. I have personally shopped at the Perennial Tea Room for years. If you are a wine buff don't miss the opportunity to visit The Tasting Room, wines of Washington. Also close by the market is Etta's. You wouldn't want to miss the opportunity to eat at Etta's, the seafood is fantastic.

The Water Front

Further downhill from the Pike Market is the water front which serves as a terminal for cruise ships, ferries and piers. One of the anchor's on the piers is Ivar's. Famous for its fish and chips, the chowder and other fish dishes make this a must see stop. Also located on the water front is the Crab Pot. “The Seafeast” - is what makes the Crab Pot unique!  It's a variety of crab, clams, mussels, shrimp in the shell, salmon, halibut, oysters, potatoes, corn on the cob and andouille sausage steamed with mouth watering spices and poured right on your table!  No need for silverware, they give you a bib and a mallet and let you go at it! All of this great food with a view of the Puget Sound.

Seattle has become a large jumping off point for Alaska cruises with over 700,000 cruise goers arriving or departing from Seattle annually. If a cruise to Alaska isn't in your future, take a smaller ferry trip over to quaint Bainbridge Island. The ferries depart from the water front.

Bainbridge Island

Bainbridge Island offers a rustic charm with quiet country roads with deep woods feel. The 30-minute trip to and from offers great views of the Seattle sky line and if you time it just right can serve as a sunset cruise. Once on Bainbridge Island it's a short 10 minute walk to Winslow, where you will find trendy cafes and unusual gifts from the Northwest. Many Seattleites spend their weekend mornings enjoying brunch here. Known for its arts community, Bainbridge has its own Performing Arts Center and Arts & Crafts Gallery featuring regional artists.
photo of ferry entering Friday Harbor
Ferry Entering Friday Harbor. Photo provided by: San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau
photo of orca whales
Orca whales near the shoreline: Photo provided by: San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau

Space Needle

Anchoring the Seattle skyline is the world famous Space Needle, a remnant from the 1962 World's Fair. The observation deck and restaurant offer wonderful city views. Learning the history of the Needle is also very interesting. It's certainly worth the trip for the views alone.
photo of Seattle Space Needle
Seattle Space Needle anchors the city skyline.

Seattle Art Museum

If you are an art buff, The Seattle Art Museum (SAM as it is known in the community) has traveling exhibits and a rich history of tribal art from the northwest area. You can't miss the museum it is located downtown and is denoted by its 48 ft. hammering man (see photo).
Seattle Art Museum photo
The Seattle Art Museum

Central Library

Another downtown landmark from an architecture standpoint is the Central Library which reopened in May of 2004. The Central Library sports a contemporary look and feel that is innovative in both form and function. Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and former Seattleite Joshua Ramus were principal designers on the project, working closely with the Library's board, staff and the public during its development phase. Designed with growth in mind, the Central Library has a capacity for more than 1.45 million books and materials. Currently there are 1 million items in the collection and 9,906 shelves devoted to books. The Central Library now has more than 400 computers for public use and wireless Internet access as well. This building defies description so I included a couple of photos and is worth a visit just to see the design. If you are a book buff, then you won't want to miss this one.

photo of Seattle Central Library
The Seattle Central Library is worth a visit to see the architecture and functionality of this building.


The local taste for beer spurs the microbrewing industry.  Even before the microbrew revolution in the 80s, Seattle was ranked as having America's largest per capita consumption of beer. For a complete listing visit here. Since I'm not a big beer drinker my comments are suspicious. I've been told they have tried to mimic beer making as done in Europe. I'll be expecting one of you to go try it and let me know.

Museum of Flight

Moving south of the downtown area, the Museum of Flight is a great visit. It is one of the largest air and space museums in the world and attracts more than 400,000 visitors annually.The Museum's collection includes more than 150 historically significant air- and spacecraft, as well as the Red Barn®—the original manufacturing facility of The Boeing Co. In 1916 one of every 10 Seattleites worked for Boeing so it's only fitting that the Museum of Flight houses the Red Barn. You can visit Air Force One, the Concord or take a ride on the simulator. This is must see, especially for the men and boys (not to appear sexist but they seem to love this and feel forced to tolerate an art museum). Okay I'm allowed one sweeping generalization per column. For more information on the museum click here.
photo inside the Museum of Flight
Inside the Museum of Flight.

Seattle Neighborhoods

Seattle boasts some very unique neighborhoods, worth a visit if you have an extended trip. As I go to Seattle almost every two months I have had a chance to explore these and can make for some unique cultural experiences.

Seattle's Chinatown/International District, is the only neighborhood in America where Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Vietnamese and Southeast Asians live and work together, side-by-side. I've included a link to walk you through the various attractions.

Another unique area in Seattle is the Ballard area. It is located in the northwestern part of Seattle. The neighborhood’s landmarks include the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (known locally as the "Ballard Locks"), the Nordic Heritage Museum, the Shilshole Bay Marina, and Golden Gardens Park. Historically Ballard is the traditional center of Seattle's ethnically Scandinavian seafaring community, who were drawn to the area because of the salmon fishing opportunities. In recent years the decline of the fishing industry, and the addition of numerous condo buildings, has decreased the proportion of Scandinavian residents but the neighborhood is still proud of its heritage as is demonstrated in the Nordic Heritage Museum.
photo of Ballard Locks
Aerial view of the Ballard Locks.

Finally one of my favorite Seattle neighborhoods is the Fremont area, a bohemian district north of downtown. Known as "The Center of the Universe" it boasts many cafes and restaurants. Fremont is famous for its individual approach, with its city streets plus winding waterfront trail just ripe to explore. Be sure to check out the statue of Lenin, the outdoor movie theater, and then take a peek under the Aurora Bridge or just stroll the area.
photo of Freemont Neighborhood in Seattle
Fremont Neighborhood in Seattle.

San Juan Islands

Finally if you have time a trip to the nearby San Juan Islands is worth a visit. You can go by car or ferry and it will take a couple of hours, if you go by air less than an hour. Kenmore Air leaves from Lake Union and offers great tours overlooking Seattle, the Puget Sound and the 176 islands which compose the San Juan Islands. I've watched many of the planes take off and land and included some photos.  I have taken the ferry ride to the islands. Resorts here offer beach access. Many people choose to kayak between the islands. In May through September when the salmon are running, 3 pods of orca whales make their home here. For more information on the San Juan islands visit here. Be sure to check out the photos about San Juan islands.
photo of float plane on Lake Union
One of Kenmore Air's planes taking off and another landing at Lake Union. This is a great way to view the San Juan islands.

Mt. Rainier

Now to some of outdoor charm of Seattle. On a clear day, Mt. Rainier looms over Seattle, although some have visited Seattle and never seen the sight. It is of course a volcano and once you climb to the top all 14,410 ft. (I never have) I am told the crater edge allows you to see the volcano even though the area surrounding may be covered in snow. It boasts 35 miles of glaciers and snow fields.
photo of wildflowers on Mt. Rainier
Wildflowers in the meadow on Mt. Rainier.
Approximately 93 ft. of snow fall annually at Mt. Rainier and it is usually mid-July when the wildflowers are at their peak. The Wonderland Trail is 93 miles around and offers some great hiking. For more detail about Mt. Rainier click here for park information. With all the hiking opportunities, it's no wonder that REI was born in Seattle as well. The flagship store offers its own bike path for trying out bikes or a climbing wall.

So whether you enjoy a great city experience or want to have an outdoor adventure, Seattle offers something for everyone and will not disappoint.

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