In the Summer of 2013 I interned in the Seattle area, so I got to know the city pretty well. The entire suburban area reminded me so much of the Boston South Shore where I'm from, except it's even nicer! I've heard Washington referred to as "New England on steroids" and I couldn't agree more! It has the same feel as New England with the coastal towns but it is so much greener, the trees are about ten times taller, the mountain ranges are bigger, and the people are even friendlier. The entire area has such a laid-back vibe, which I loved. And don't believe all the rumours you hear about Seattle having awful weather! Yes, it does rain a lot in the Fall, Winter, and Spring, but once Summer arrives, it is beautiful and sunny almost every day. The best part about Summer in the Pacific Northwest is that there is hardly any humidity, so the hot weather actually feels nice! And even though it's pretty rainy the rest of the year, it's just a constant drizzle rather than a downpour, and it doesn't get too cold. Amazingly, the annual rainfall in Seattle is actually lower than it is in most major cities in the US! During my Summer in Seattle, I developed a big love for the city, and I could definitely see myself living there one day. If you go to Seattle, these are the highlights of the city that you definitely need to check out:
The Space Needle
First up is the most iconic landmark in Seattle that you have definitely heard of before. The Space Needle was built in 1962 and was once the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River, which is pretty impressive. The Space Needle is located in a central area of Seattle and has amazing views of the city, the Puget Sound, and the several mountain ranges that surround the area. There are elevators to take you up to the top of the Needle and once you are up there, you can spend as long as you like walking outside on the observation deck taking in the view. You can even have a meal or glass of beer or wine on top of the Needle! While I would highly recommend venturing to the top of the Space Needle, tickets are about $20. So if you don't want to spend money, you can get an amazing view of the Space Needle from many parts of the city.
Pike Place Market
The next must-see place in Seattle is the famous Pike Place Market. If you have been to some other markets like Chelsea Market in NYC or Borough Market in London you may have a picture in your mind of what Pike Place Market is like. False! Pike Place Market is so enormous and has way more shops and stands than any other market I've ever been to! Any food you could possibly want, you can find in Pike Place Market: Korean, French, Italian, Greek, Turkish, specialty food imported from Europe and Asia, and anything else you could think of. And since Seattle is right on the water, of course there is plenty of fresh fish! Many of the stands offer free samples, and there are lots of benches overlooking the bay so it's a perfect place to get lunch or a snack. And in addition to food, you can buy fresh flowers, spices, and handmade crafts. Walking through Pike Place Market is so fun and could keep you occupied for hours!
The Elliott Bay Waterfront and Great Wheel
During the Summer, I don't think there's anywhere more beautiful than the Elliott Bay waterfront in Seattle. The waterfront is lined with so many different attractions like Pike Place Market, the Seattle Aquarium, restaurants, shops, the original Starbucks, and something new to the Seattle skyline: the Great Wheel. The Great Wheel was opened less than three years ago and is the only wheel of its kind to be built over water in North America! You stand in pods on the wheel, similar to the London Eye, and you get an amazing view of the city and the bay. Whether you decide to ride the Great Wheel or just view it from below, it is very cool to see and the waterfront area is definitely the place to be when it's warm and sunny out.
In general, Seattle is a pretty artistic city, but the section that is by far the most artsy is Fremont. Fremont is a neighbourhood in northern Seattle near the University of Washington and Lake Union. Fremont is full of quirky and unusual things, but that's what makes it so interesting! In addition to the many eclectic shops, restaurants, and cafes in the area, there is definitely not a shortage of art. Probably the most famous sculpture is the Fremont Troll. I recognised it from one of my favourite movies 10 Things I Hate About You and was excited to see it in person. There are also sculptures of Vladimir Lenin and a large rocket. The residents of Fremont like to refer to it as the "Center of the Universe" and there's even a sign that says so! And the unofficial motto of the neighbourhood is "Freedom to be peculiar", which I must say is pretty perfect! Fremont is such a cool, unique area and definitely a must-see if you take a trip to Seattle.
Gas Works Park
Located within Fremont, Gas Works Park is right on Lake Union and was one of my favourite places to visit in Seattle. The park was once the home of a gasification plant, and while the company is no longer operating, the equipment from the plant is still standing. It's strange but so interesting at the same time, and the view from Gas Works Park is really amazing! Looking out over Lake Union, you can see the Space Needle and downtown Seattle. In the Summer, there are lots of sailboats in the lake and even sea planes that fly in and land on the water! There's lots of grassy space, so the park is the perfect spot to meet up with friends or go to relax. And if you've seen 10 Things I Hate About You, you will recognise the park from the famous paintballing scene!
Probably the only place in Seattle that could rival the views from Gas Works Park is Kerry Park. Seattle is a city of hills, and on one of the tallest hills is the Queen Anne section of Seattle. Located in Queen Anne is Kerry Park, which is on the small side, but has views that are brreathtaking. Whether you visit Kerry Park during the day or night, you will have amazing views of downtown Seattle, the Space Needle, and Mount Rainier. Kerry Park is a must-see if you are in Seattle!
The monorail in Seattle has been around for as long as the Space Needle and has become a pretty iconic part of the city. There are only two monorail stops, but it's a fun way to travel between downtown and the Space Needle. Tickets to ride the monorail are super cheap and you get a nice view of the city while you ride, so it's something cool to add to your Seattle to-do list!
Located right next to the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden is an amazing collection of glass sculptures. The exhibit is made of three parts: the Garden, the Glasshouse, and the Interior Exhibits, and is basically a botanical garden made completely out of colourful glass. They offer tours of the Chihuly Garden and even a morning yoga class! And if you are visiting the Space Needle as well, you can get a joint ticket for the two attractions to save some money!
Driving around the Seattle area on a sunny day, you are almost always guaranteed a cool view of Mount Rainier, the active volcano that is located about 50 miles from Seattle. Mount Rainier is the biggest mountain in the continental US and is such an impressive sight. Mount Rainier National Park has hundreds of miles of hiking trails, and if you are truly adventurous you can even make the three-day journey up the glaciers of the volcano to its summit. I can't say I tried this, and you definitely shouldn't attempt to make the trek up Mount Rainier unless you are an experienced rock climber!
I loved Seattle and could definitely see myself living there someday. It's a really cool city and much smaller and more laid-back than NYC where I'm currently living, but is still full of exciting things to do. Seattle's a very modern city but also on the quirky side, which I find really interesting! If you have the opportunity to visit Seattle, you would be crazy to pass it up! If you've been to Seattle, leave a comment telling me what your favourite part of the city is, and if you haven't been to Seattle let me know what part of the city you would most like to see!