Welcome to the Emerald City, a town where nude bicyclists, black lives matter protestors, and the nation’s loudest sports fans meet and mingle in the same downtown square. Surrounded by water on three sides, descend upon the city of Seattle in a sky full of clouds. Not enough clouds though, to block out the very top of Mt. Rainier. Despite being known for constant rain and cloud coverage, the city of Seattle makes a wonderful impression, both on its most overcast day and under the bright summer sun.
So what do you do in a brand-new city that maintains mid-70 degree crisp summer air? Well to that I say: there’s plenty to do!
There’s Seattle Center, home of the 1962 World’s Fair, and a lush park grounds home to larger than life playgrounds that looks more like an outdoor art exhibition, the EMP Museum that is currently showcasing an outstanding Star Trek exhibit as well as exhibits featuring local legends Nirvana and Jimmy Hendrix (their music section of the museum is quite amazing and I highly recommend it). There’s also the beautifully handcrafted Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum with the attached eclectic Collection’s Café. But we all know, the real reason for visiting Seattle Center is for a chance to see the Space Needle. With panoramic views this national landmark is a line worth waiting on!
Looking to spend a day in the life of a local? Spend a day roaming the endless stalls of Pike Place Market, a fresh food, clothing, and gift market, known for the Pike Place Fish Co. and the fishmongers who toss fish back and forth so fast good luck catching it on film through the crowd. Wander through several levels of shops with views of the bay and the smell of all things fresh floating through the air. Yes I know the crowds are insane but the local color and flare of the market make it easy to find that non-cliché souvenir your friends back home will love. Pay no attention to the original Starbucks across the street with it’s line that leads you half way down the block, there are far better options found at the market, or around the city in general.
If you get the chance and you find yourself in the area during soccer, or football season, be sure to take in a game! It’s no joke when people say that Seattle sports fans are the loudest around, their passion for their home teams are enough to almost make you convert.
I can’t say this enough, if you’re in Seattle take a ride on the Washington State Ferries. The views are spectacular! The ferries take you to several different coastal towns and cities around Puget Sound, so definitely make that trip. I didn’t see an orca, but I’m told you might be able to find one.
— — —
Two-plus-hours south of Seattle, and just one state over in Oregon is the city of Portland. Split between the Columbia River and dominated by sixteen bridges, and the shadow of Mt. Hood, the city of Portlandia might just be the first thing you think of when you hear the word hipster.
Up in the hills, at the edge of downtown is Northwest 23rd Avenue, otherwise known as Nob Hill. A long street dominated by trees, one of a kind local shops and boutiques, cafes and coffee shops, restaurants and more. Catering to all kinds of people this section of the city is just mellow enough to think you’re not in a city at all. Large Victorians and Craftsman style homes surround the commercial area, some even converted over. Points of interest worth visiting include: Barista for your daily caffeine intake or more adult drinks later on in the day, Salt and Straw ice cream, if you can stand the line that can take up to an hour to even get in the door, Bamboo Sushi where you can gorge yourself on delicious sushi rolls (we got compt a seventh roll because our waiter was awesome!) and Blue Star Donut, because lets face it, who’s going to Dunkin Donuts on the west coast?
Nob Hill also has some great breweries for dining options as you head further down town and towards the river. Downtown Portland offers a unique city experience with some areas being strangely quiet, but two-blocks later finding a square full of Timbers fans. In the midst of it all is Powell’s City of Books, my own personal promise land, and a stop for anyone visiting this fine city. Completely overwhelming in the best possible way, Powell’s has something for everyone’s favorite book lover back home, and for the person who needs to find something new to jump start their new love affair with the written word. They even have a map. Yes, A map! I’m not kidding the place is that big. Once you’ve spent your life savings, feel free to spend some more and hit up the food pods a few blocks over. Greasy food aplenty!
Final word of advice: take a day trip and see the wonderful wilderness that is the Pacific Northwest. Obscenely green and full of beautiful Instagram photos, the State and National Parks near by are so worth the trip. Just taking a drive down Historic Columbia River Highway is enough to turn you into the outdoorsy type. Multnomah Falls, while more crowded and popular with the tourists, was my personal favorite. Further out, about an hour’s drive, is Hood River, the windsurfing capitol of the world. A small town at the base of a snow capped mountain, Hood River is a great day trip outside of Portland. See the town, drive the fruit loop, pick some lavender, or take a lesson in windsurfing, the town has a lot going on.
— — —
All photos © Jacqueline Wilhelm