The specific promotions described in this article have now passed, but it remains online so that the resources named will be of future use to travelers.
Seattle is feeling pretty good about itself these days, so it may be the right time to visit, while the mood lasts. In 2006, Seattle was declared to be the US's Top Video Game City (Sperling's Best Places) and the Most Educated City (US Census Bureau), and no, the first accolade does not necessarily contradict the second. Back in 2005, Seattle was called the Most Livable City (US Conference of Mayors) and America's Fittest City (Men's Fitness magazine). And in 2004, Seattle was declared the Most Child-Friendly City (Population Connection magazine) and Most College-Educated City (US Census Bureau again). My favorite, in this town of mostly gentle and genteel people, is Hershey Foods' declaration in 2002 that ranked Seattle first in "America's Sweet Spots," places harboring plenty of "volunteers, heroes and sweet people."
Hoping to come up with a new slogan of their own, the Seattle Visitors Bureau now calls the city "metronatural," trying to convey the fact that the bustling town is surrounded by water, forests, mountains and other gorgeous attributes, and alluding to the recently trendy "metrosexual" sobriquet fashionable in certain circles. Critics predict this slogan will go the way of Washington State's short-lived tourism slogan, "Say WA," to which most listeners responded, "Say Whaaaat?"
Winter in Seattle, by the way, isn't as bad as in many other northern climes, with warming weather engendered by the Pacific's Black Current and this year helped along by El Ni&nilde;o, too. (In average years, the city gets 30 per cent less rain than New York City, for instance, and only eleven inches of snow, compared to the Big Apple's 28+ inches.)
Big Deal Events
Highlights of early 2007 include the Seattle International Boat Show (tel. 206/634-0911; www.seattleboatshow.com) on January 25 to February 3, at Qwest Field Event Center. Also at the same venue is the Seattle RV & Outdoor Recreation Show (tel. 425/277-8132; www.mhrvshows.com), said to be the largest indoor RV show on the West Coast, on February 8-11, 2007.
Culture lovers could see Swan Lake on February 1 to 3 and again from February 8 to 11, at the Pacific Northwest Ballet (www.pnb.org) or Don Giovanni at the Seattle Opera (www.seattleopera.org) (through January 27). In February, the Seattle Opera presents Julius Caesar from the 24th through March 10. At the Benaroya Hall, the Seattle Symphony (www.seattlesymphony.org) teams up with the Silk Road Ensemble (featuring Yo-Yo Ma) on March 12 and 13 and Camelot plays at the 5th Avenue Theatre (www.5thavenue.org) from March 20 through April 8.
Seattle has been the birthplace (or at least northwestern incubator) of quite a few trends (think grunge, for instance), and a new one seems to be chalkboard art, which is sweeping the town. There are surprisingly skilful renditions of pastels on black Masonite in dozens of commercial establishments around town, mainly in independent coffee shops and restaurants, making it easy enough for you to discover them. About 20 can be found at Elliott's Oyster House on the waterfront (most of them around the bar), for example.
When spring comes, there are two big deals. The first is the Seattle Maritime Festival (tel. 206/728-3163; www.portseattle.org) including the country's largest tugboat race (on Elliott Bay), a chowder cook-off, tours of boats, etc. The dates are April 30 to May 6, 2007. The second blockbuster is the Northwest Folklife Festival (tel. 206/684-7300; www.nwfolklife.org), which says it is the largest folk, ethnic and traditional arts event in all of North America. An annual event since 1972, this features over 6,000 participants and attracts more than 250,000 visitors.
Highlighting winter this year again is the Seattle Super Saver program, which runs through March 31, 2007. When you check in at one of the hotels in the program (you can also get one at the Visitors Center, see Contacts, below), you get a guide containing more than 55 discount offers from top local attractions, performing arts groups, retailers, restaurants, sports teams and tour companies. Some are twofers, such as admission to the Museum of Flight, the Seattle Rep Theatre or Tillicum Village (a Native American dinner and show on their own island). Plenty of restaurants offer $10 off and such. If you want to stay a while, you even can have LASIK Laser Eye Surgery and get a $400 discount from Seattle Eye M.D.s.
Hotels in the program include many at all price levels, including chains such as Best Western, Clarion, Comfort, Courtyard, Crowne Plaza, Days Inn, Doubletree, Econo Lodge, Hilton, Holiday Inn, La Quinta, Quality Inn, Ramada, Red Lion, Sheraton, Silver Cloud and more. Famous higher-priced lodgings are represented by the likes of the Alexis, Fairmount Olympic, Grand Hyatt, Inn at the Market, Pan Pacific and W Seattle.
You can book your hotel at www.seattlesupersaver.com or call (toll free within the US and Canada) tel. 800/535-7071 from 8:30am to 5pm (PST) on weekdays, 9am to 2pm on weekends.
Topping the cultural scene, the Seattle Art Museum (tel. 206/654-3100; www.seattleartmuseum.org) will open its new Downtown Sculpture Park on January 20, 2007, in the trendy Belltown district. Right on Elliott Bay and near Pike Place Market, the park will be free to the public, with gardens backgrounding the collection of sculptures, including a cute (and big) old-fashioned typewriter eraser with the brush on top, and works by Richard Serra ("Wake") and Alexander Calder (Eagle). You should note that the main building of SAM is undergoing extensive renovation and expansion, and is closed until May 5, 2007.
Complementing Seattle's famous Museum of Flight, the Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour (tel. 800/464-1476; www.futureofflight.org) opened in late 2005 in Everett, 20 miles north of Seattle. Just across from Boeing's largest jet assembly plant, the new museum has an aviation gallery with interactive exhibits on commercial aviation, a theater and a rooftop observation deck to view the take-offs and landings. There is a 60-minute tour of the nearby Boeing plant, featuring the largest building in the world by volume, where the 747, 767, 777 and 787 are built.
While Bill Gates, Jr. plans to give most of his money to helping solve worldwide health problems, his former Microsoft partner, Paul Allen, has built museums (including the Experience Music Project) and sponsored new business developments. The Flying Heritage Collection of 20th Century Military Aircraft (tel. 360/435-2172; www.flyingheritage.com) features rare and restored planes from World Wars I and II, and the Korean and Vietnam wars. Location is Arlington Airport, 40 miles north of Seattle. There are planes from the US, England, Germany, Japan and Russia, including such memorable craft as the Spitfire, the Hellcat and the Hayabusa.
For now, you can visit the hangar display only on Fridays or Saturdays, from 10 to 12 and from 2 to 4, reservations required. The tours accept a maximum of 15 persons, take two hours and cost $20, and are often guided by a veteran with direct knowledge of one or more aircraft. The hangar housing the planes also has a lounge, where you can watch videos of the craft. There are periodic "Fly Days" (from June through October only) that feature flights by many of these planes. To learn about those dates, which are for maintenance purposes, you have to phone or check out the website daily.
If you're a music fan, you might want to get the Seattle Music Map, which shows you locations throughout town where much of the city's musical history was played out. Perhaps the cutest is a visit to the waterfront hotel (the Edgewater), where the Beatles fished from their guestroom window during their first American tour in 1964. But you can also arrange to see a show at the Crocodile CafÃ©, an early Pearl Jam hangout. You can pick up a copy at the Citywide Concierge Center in downtown Seattle, by visiting the website or tel. 206/684-0903.
Any visitor to Seattle must see the Pike Place Market (tel. 206/682-7453; www.pikeplacemarket.org), one of the oldest continuously-operating farmer's markets in the country. There are nine acres of a hillside building and surrounding streets with stalls featuring fresh fish -- including the famous flinging of same around the aisles -- produce, arts and crafts, ethnic food and gift stores, including antiques. You can get a market map at the visitor information booth at First and Pike street corner. Tours are offered Wednesdays through Sundays at 11 and 2. Open daily 10 to 6 Monday through Saturday, 11 to 5 on Sunday. Many fish and produce stands open around 8 in summer, however, or even earlier.
The Space Needle (tel. 206/905-2111; www.spaceneedle.com) is over 40 years old, but still a futuristic-looking icon. Go up to the observation deck at the 520-foot level and take in the skyline, Puget Sound, the Cascade and Olympic mountains. There's a restaurant revolving just below this level, too. Open daily 9 AM to 11 PM or midnight.
Nearby at the Center is another Paul Allen gift, the Experience Music Project (tel. 206/EMP-LIVE; www.emplive.com), a museum (they hate that word) devoted to American popular music, from rock 'n' roll to jazz, country, blues, punk and more. Designed by Frank Gehry, the museum has the world's largest collection of Jimi Hendrix memorabilia, and you can play along on piano, guitar and more in one of the exhibits.
Until the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) reopens in May, the Seattle Asian Art Museum is queen of such facilities here. Located in the original SAM building on Capitol Hill, the Japanese collection is one of the top five in the US and among the most distinguished outside Japan. Closed Mondays, year long, and Tuesdays from Labor Day to Memorial Day.
One of the best airplane exhibits in the country is at The Museum of Flight (tel. 206/764-5720; www.museumofflight.org), where you can see the only Concorde on the West Coast and another 40 or more historic and important aircraft. The Personal Courage Wing salutes the heroism of World War I and II fighter crews. Until January 28, they have a neat Leonardo da Vinci display, too. Open daily 10 to 5 except on major holidays.
The Pan Pacific (tel. 206/264-8111; www.panpacific.com) opened (November 2006) in the new South Lake Union area, the latter devoted to Seattle's new nano- and biotechnical center being developed by Paul Allen. Appropriately, the business and entertainment technology includes wired or wireless broadband connectivity throughout the property, Kool Connect technology for HDTV and radio channels, etc. Moreover, there's a full service spa and fitness center, and, oh, yes, 160 luxurious rooms with personal stewards awaiting your whims.
Also recently opened is the Silver Cloud Hotel Seattle-Stadium (1046 First Ave., 1261, tel. 206/204-9800; www.silvercloud.com), across the street from Safeco Field, where the Seattle Mariners hang out. With 211 rooms offering free high-speed Internet access, the hotel also has a rooftop pool and sundeck, fitness and business centers and a restaurant (the latter opening in spring). Opening days rates $179 per room, going up to $229 to $239 this summer. MTM Luxury Lodging also opened its Hotel 1000 (1000 First Ave., tel. 206/957-1000; www.hotel1000seattle.com)in June 2006, boasting a virtual reality Golf Club, full service spa, private wine cellar and rooftop garden, as well as 120 guest rooms.
Celebrating its 80th year in 2007, the Mayflower Park Hotel (405 Olive Way, tel. 800/426-5100; www.mayflowerpark.com) offers rooms at $189 in its Comforts of Home Package through April 30, 2007. The rate includes the room, full American breakfast for two and valet parking. One of the last locally owned and independent luxury hotels in Seattle, the Mayflower is beautifully located near many downtown attractions, including Pike Place Market and the biggest department stores. It's a member of the National Trust Historic Hotels of America, natch.
For everything concerning Seattle, contact the Seattle Visitors Bureau at www.seeseattle.org or phone the Citywide Concierge & Visitors Center at tel. 866/732-2695. When in town, you can visit the Center at the corner of Pike and Seventh, where their local number is tel. 206/461-5888.