- Exploring Pike Place Market: It’s the oldest covered market in the country, and it’s certainly one of the busiest, used by Seattle residents and restaurateurs looking for the freshest fish and produce. But the retail range of this world-unto-itself extends way beyond seafood, fruit, and vegetables and includes dozens of restaurants, intriguing shops, and stalls selling artisan products of all kinds.
- Riding a Ferry: Seattle is one of the few cities where people live on islands and commute to work by ferry. An easy ferry ride to Bainbridge Island or Bremerton gets you out on Puget Sound and gives you a water’s-eye view of the city’s topography and skyline.
- Strolling the Waterfront: Of course it’s touristy—that’s part of the fun. Presided over by the Seattle Great Wheel, a giant Ferris wheel, the waterfront is a wonderfully strollable area with fish and chips and fresh oysters along the way; bayside plazas with views of the Olympic Mountains; the Seattle Aquarium; piers for excursion boats and cruise ships; and lots of shops and restaurants. The area around the waterfront is being completely transformed now that the hideous elevated highway beside it is being demolished.
- Taking the Underground Tour: For one of the most entertaining and authentic city tours you’ll ever take, head underground with your witty guide to learn about Seattle’s early days before and after the Great Fire and the Yukon Gold Rush, the two events that helped define the city as it is today. The commentary is frank and funny, and the warren of underground tunnels that were once streets is fascinating.
- Fooling Around in Fremont: Downtown Seattle is exciting and full of attractions, but a stroll through the Fremont neighborhood will give you an up-close-and-personal glimpse of life in one of the funkiest and most interesting neighborhoods in the city, where a giant troll crouches under a bridge and the streets are lined with ethnic restaurants and eclectic shops.
- Viewing the City from Smith Tower: I used to think the Space Needle had the best view (okay, probably it does), but my real fave when it comes to panoramas is the Observatory on the 35th floor of the Smith Tower. Opened in 1914, this gorgeously restored building was for decades the tallest building west of the Mississippi. Hop into one of the original, manually operated cage elevators and be whisked to the observatory for an eye-popping view, and then enjoy a drink in the Prohibition-era Chinese Room.
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