Seattle: Insomniacs & Dreamers
by Marla Norman, TCO Publisher
No wonder they’re sleepless in Seattle. It’s all that caffeine! The aroma of strong coffee filters through the downtown streets and around the piers. As you explore the city, you run into one coffee shop after another – including the original Starbucks.
But then, think a bit – over a steaming cup of Seattle’s Best House Blend, about the kinds of corporations who call this gleaming city on Elliott Bay their home – Microsoft, Amazon, Costco and Boeing to name a few – companies who have literally changed the world.
So is it coffee-induced sleep deprivation that affects the residents here? Or is it that the inhabitants of this lovely, misty city aren’t insomniacs at all, but some of the most inventive dreamers around?
Certainly the scenery in and around Seattle is dreamy, with lush stands of gigantic pines, the spectacular Olympic Mountains to the west and the Cascade Mountains to the east. Puget Sound and Lake Washington provide meditative water views, while vast tracks of parks – such as Discovery, Magnuson and Washington Park Arboretum – make Seattle one of the greenest and most livable cities in the U.S.
Join the locals and take advantage of the city’s best asset – it’s unforgettable scenery. Who knows, you might be inspired and come up with a new ground-breaking innovation yourself!
PIKE PLACE MARKET
If you’ve just arrived in Seattle, chances are you’re famished! Most visitors travel across several time zones to reach the city. So head straight to Pike Place Market – a 9-acre food paradise – filled with stalls of freshly-caught fish, meat, vegetable produce and cheeses along with every ethnic restaurant you could possibly imagine – from pizza and piroshkies to dumplings and tapas.
But do keep an eye out for the fishmongers who lob giant Salmon to one another, while delighted tourists shriek and snap photos.
And be sure to say “hello” to Rachel, the famous 550-lb bronze pig who stands at the main entrance of the market. Not only is she a compulsory photo-stop, she’s also the largest piggy bank you’re likely to ever see. More importantly, Rachel is one of the primary contributors to the Market Foundation, so take a few seconds to “feed” her with any spare change.
In addition to the food stands, there are flower vendors, crafts and street entertainers. A Seattle institution and iconic landmark, the Market dates back to 1907, when farmers sold fresh produce from wagons they drove into down and parked at Pike Place. Eventually the market grew into a permanent structure. For more on Pike Place Market see <LINK>FOOD QUEST> in this issue.
As you exit Pike Place, take a quick peek at the Gum Wall located within Post Alley. Not for neatniks, germaphobes or those with severe mysophobia, the Gum Wall is, nonetheless, a significant urban legend.
Named by CNN Travel as one of the “world’s germiest tourist attractions – second only to the Blarney Stone,” this Seattle tradition began around 1993, when patrons of the Market Theater started “decorating” the area while waiting for shows.
Parts of the wall are now covered several inches thick and are over 15-feet high. And visitors are more than welcome to add to the “legend.”
Instantly recognizable, Seattle’s Space Needle provides incomparable views of the city, Olympic Mountains and the Cascade Range. Ferries plying their way across Puget Sound are visible for miles and the city lights at night are truly spectacular.
Built in 1962 for the World’s Fair, the Space Needle was constructed to withstand winds of up to 200 miles per hour and earthquakes of up to 9.1 magnitude. The Needle also has 25 lightning rods, making it a very safe place to be in a storm.
An elevator will carry you up the 605-foot-high ascent. Don’t blink or you’ll miss the views along the way. The breathtaking ride lasts under a minute! Once on top, you’ll be able to stroll the enclosed deck at your leisure.
You can also book a reservation at SkyCity restaurant, which slowly revolves around the Needle, allowing you to enjoy the mesmerizing 360-degree vistas. As an added bonus, tickets for the observation deck are complimentary for restaurant customers. SkyCity serves dinner seven days a week and lunch Monday through Friday, with brunch on Saturday and Sunday.
CHIHULY GARDEN & GLASS
Many visitors to Seattle come primarily to view the glass sculptures of renown artist Dale Chihuly, whose mammoth installations and exquisite creations have single handedly redefined glass as an art form.
A native of Tacoma, Washington, Chihuly’s work is included in more than 200 museum collections throughout the world. Seattle’s Chihuly Garden & Glass opened in 2012 – with eight galleries and a jaw-dropping 4,500-square-foot Glasshouse showcasing one of Chihuly’s largest suspended sculptures – a 100-foot-long work in a dazzling palette of colors.
An outdoor garden integrates glass figures with native Northwest plants, including a 500-year-old Western Cedar. Short videos of Chihuly working on the sites of his many installations are presented as well.
You can also dine on premises and learn a bit more about the famous artist. The Collections Café displays numerous personal items belonging to Chihuly – everything from antique toys to vintage cameras and shaving brushes. Many of these objects inspired Chihuly’s work and, not surprisingly, they are often as whimsical as his sculptures.
The Chihuly Garden & Glass exhibit is located adjacent to the Space Needle. Tickets for both can be purchased in combination for extra savings.
It’s still raining….SO WHAT!
Believe it or not, Seattle receives LESS rain than many other cities in the U.S. Even places like New York and Atlanta have more rainfall. Seattle’s average annual precipitation is 34.1 inches. (U.S. Climate Data) But, there’s no denying the city’s moist climate and foggy mornings that extend long into the afternoon.
If you find yourself without essential rain gear, pop into Bella Umbrella, at 1535 1st Avenue, just south of Pike Place Market. The colorful display of umbrellas is guaranteed to chase away your rainy day blues. And, the quality and selection is impressive. You’ll find third-generation umbrella makers Pasotti of Italy, DiCesare parasols of Japan, Blunt windproof umbrellas of New Zealand, Davek travel umbrellas of New York and UV golf umbrellas from ShedRain of Portland.
So browse away. Chances are, by the time you finish shopping and picking out a few souvenir gifts, the sun will be shining brightly again!
When the weather is sunny, grab a ferry to Bainbridge Island. A trip across the open water of Puget Sound, with Seattle’s imposing skyline slowly fading in the distance, is an unforgettable experience. The trip to Bainbridge lasts 35 minutes – the perfect amount of time for strolling around the ferry, chatting up locals with cute dogs, and taking photos of the aforementioned skyline.
The ferry docks at the village of Winslow, where you can easily spend a morning wandering through charming art galleries and antique shops. You can also rent bicycles and cruise the island’s pretty country roads and parks. Numerous hiking trails offer views of Mt. Rainier and sea lions on the rocky beaches
Take your time and enjoy the island. Ferries – or “The Boat” as locals say – run until midnight and cost $8.00 per person, round trip. See the Bainbridge Island Sailing Schedule for more information.
OLYMPIC SCULPTURE PARK
One of the largest outdoor sculpture museums in the U.S., Seattle’s Olympic Park is situated on a 9-acre plot at the northern end of the city’s mammoth seawall. Internationally acclaimed artists such as Richard Serra, Roy McMakin, Louise Bourgeois and Alexander Calder are featured in the collection.
Native plants and thoughtfully landscaped walking paths add to the beauty of the sculptures. On clear days, views of the Olympic Mountain Range are especially dramatic. Have a seat near Alexander Calder’s fantastical red steel Eagle. If you wait patiently, chances are you’ll see a real Bald Eagle swooping overhead – an artful compliment to the static works.
MUSEUM OF FLIGHT
Boeing, one of Seattle’s many world-class corporations, has built one of the area’s most impressive museums. The Museum of Flight is a collection of more than 150 historic air and spacecraft. Vintage airplanes, World War I and II fighter planes as well as the NASA Space Shuttle Trainer are all on display.
You can even climb into the cockpits of many of the planes, including the first Air Force One. Delivered in 1959, this SAM 970 transported presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, as well as Nikita Khrushchev and Henry Kissinger.
Visit the original Boeing airplane factory – The Red Barn – and view numerous exhibits on the history and development of flight. Especially eye-catching is the beautifully designed Montgolfier Balloon. One of the first documented flights ever, this hot air balloon was piloted by French brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier, who flew for over 25 minutes outside of Paris in 1783.
At the other end of the air and space chronology, you can land a simulated module on the Moon and join Apollo astronauts in an exploration of the lunar surface.
Rotating exhibits are also superb. Most recently, a presentation of Leonardo da Vinci’s designs for hang gliders provided opportunities for visitors to test-fly their own versions of this unique aircraft. You can quite literally get carried away at the Museum of Flight.
Getting a little winded after the big tour? Have a cup of Seattle’s best caffeinated brew and reenergize. Up next is a trip to Washington’s Wine Country to visit Alex Golitzin, founder of Quilceda Creek Vintners. Then we’re headed north to Lummi Island to meet Chef Blaine Wentzel and experience a meal that will completely change the way you think about food.