The Visitor’s Guide to Seattle

While there are many adventures in the near future, for the present, in the now, it’s all house guests all the time. The extended euro-family sent a delegate and old art school friends seem to be resurfacing in my living room, of all places. I get the pleasure of dragging them around my city, telling them where to go and how to get there and, if it’s at all possible, tagging along to my favorite places.

There are a few places I particularly like to show off. I was reminded this morning — while I sat at the beach drinking coffee with a friend — of the remarks of the youth hostel visitors last summer. “I confess, I did not expect it to be SO NICE!” said one understated lass, causing me both to wonder what, exactly, she did expect and then, to go on a sort of gloating bender. Nice doesn’t begin to cover it, sister.  Seattle is freakin’ awesome.

Alki Beach Promenade: My best friend is fond of capping on the promenade for lacking diversity. He rides the promenade on his way to work and indeed, he’s shares the walkways with the assault stroller crowd, and yeah, they mostly lack diversity. But on a Saturday in July, girls of every color are out strutting in their high heeled sandals. They’re in packs of six or eight or five, messing with cell phones and pretending to ignore the corresponding packs of multiculti boys in board shorts and tank tops. There are bikers with mean tattoos and cyclists in spray on lycra. There are blue haired old ladies slowly riding cruiser bikes up and down the flat sidewalks and shirtless guys showing off their moves on roller blades. There are big Indian families and Japanese tourists with cameras and oh, you get the picture. And that doesn’t even mention the seals, the salmon, the eagles, herons, egrets…

The Ballard Locks: Not only is this home to probably my favorite piece of public art in Seattle, not only can you watch huge rusty fishing boats share the lock with luxury yachts, not only are the gardens in the park too lovely to imagine, but hello, salmon go through here! The locks the natural history of the Pacific Northwest made real, especially at run time (little nerd joke, points if you get it!) when the fish ladder is full of whatever’s running now. Plus, right near there? Fish and chips at either the Lockspot or, just up the road on the South side in Fisherman’s Terminal, Chinook. Yum. I’ve been to the locks twice in the last two weeks, I’m thinking I’ll go again this weekend. The salmon are running and it’s amazing.

The Elliott Bay Water Taxi: Oh, sure, you can spring for a harbor cruise, but why would you when for three bucks you can take the perfect short jaunt by boat from West Seattle to the downtown water front. When the weather participates, there are amazing views of Mt. Rainier, and even when the weather is less friendly, it’s oh so cool to look down the Duwamish channel at the big freighters docked at Harbor Island. I’ve been known to push my guests out of the car at the West Seattle pier to catch the boat, only to go back to my desk muttering about how it’s not fair that they get to take the best cheap cruise in town while I have to sit at my keyboard wishing I was with them.

Lincoln Park: This makes the list probably because you can walk here from my house and it’s a great place to imagine the more rugged outlying areas, but I have yet to get tired of hoofing it down the hill through the Solstice Park and the beautiful p-patch, and then, ending up on the seawall looking west at the Olympic Mountains. The ferries ply the waters between Seattle and Vashon Island, sometimes a huge container ship comes by, and lately, fisherman have been plucking the jumping salmon right out of the sound — fish in a barrel, that’s how they make it look. The park grounds are beautifully maintained but still wild enough to make you appreciate the big trees and it’s not unusual to see bald eagles in the park.

Pho Tai, White Center: Okay, it’s not really a sight, it’s actually a totally charmless restaurant. But I think pho is the perfect food for after a flight, especially a long haul flight. For jsut under six bucks, you can get a small bowl of chicken pho and let me tell you, a small is plenty. I’ve eaten lots of pho in lots of places and this one is my favorite. Six bucks, a convenient stop on the way from — or to — the airport, and seriously yummy.

The Olympic Sculpture Park: I don’t love everything in the park, but man, I love going there. I’ve gone on and on before about how much I love the Richard Serra, but that aside, I love walking the grounds, looking out across the water, sitting in in the huge open space of the visitor’s center… that giant typewriter eraser by Klaus Oldenburg makes me laugh every time and the big red Calder on the green green grass makes eyeballs happy with contrast.

I offer all this to you in case you’re planning on coming to see me. It’s what you’re doing. Wear comfortable shoes and carry some change for the bus. It’s going to be awesome, you are going to have a great time.

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6 thoughts on “The Visitor’s Guide to Seattle

  1. Love the locks! It was always a big treat to go there as a kid, and equally so (although perhaps for different reasons) as an adult.

    Love the fish and chips, too.

    Just can’t do the two together. I always feel like I’m eating the salmon’s best pal.

  2. I love reading your blog. As a professional wanderer always on the lookout for an insider POV this listing of Seattle faves has been bookmarked and added to my evergrowing ‘When I Go’ file!

    Many thanks for sharing.


    Ellen Barone

  3. Regardless of where you go, regardless of country, regardless of area — one thing is true. Bowls of Pho are always huge! Will have to check out Pho Tai and the White Center when in Seattle!

  4. I’m sure I’d love Alki Beach Promenade and Lincoln Park. I so want to visit Seattle. From what I’ve heard it’s one of the rainiest cities in the U.S. and, as I love all types of weather, I wouldn’t mind at all.

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