Downtown Seattle-A Review of 7 Attractions

Seattle, Washington was the hub for our two nation vacation. What follows are observations, reviews and recommendations for your visit to Seattle.

Downtown Seattle: Acceptance & Tolerance

acceptance collageIf the Seattle Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) is seeking a motto or tagline, I recommend “Acceptance & Tolerance.” One 40-minute ride on the very clean, efficient Link Light Rail from the Seattle-Tacoma airport to Westlake Station downtown provided plenty of examples to support this nomination.

Time after time, during our four-day stay, we remarked about how “anything goes here.” We don’t mean vagrancy and crime are tolerated but expression of oneself is-in clothing, in word and behavior. No one seemed to be too bothered by what sociologists call counterculture. Every color and length of hair, dress and expression were seen. Stepping into the daylight from the downtown light rail station, a busker, surrounded by curious seekers of all ages and races, entertained to applause. Those offended moved on without comment or gesture. Nice.

Barrier-Free Curbs in Downtown Seattle

Wheeling our luggage to the Warwick Hotel, one quickly notices barrier-free city sidewalks marked with curb ramps, making it easy for pedestrians, especially those in wheelchairs or with visual impairments, to navigate. Later, walking downhill to Pike Place Market, individuals in wheelchairs and others walking with canes were seen. Seattle gets major applause for creating spaces for citizens of all abilities to move around and enjoy the city.

Downtown Lodging & Attractions

The Warwick was our ‘home’ for four days-two on the front end and two on the back-end of our seven-day Pacific Northwest adventure. The location is ideal, particularly for visitors wanting to see popular destinations like Pike Place Market, Chihuly Gardens and Glass, The Space Needle, and the Seattle Center.

It’s also very convenient to the Seattle Great Wheel, the original Starbucks,  and the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room.

clipperIt is a short 10 to 12-minute walk to Pier 69 where we boarded the Victoria Clipper for a 3-day stay in Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Plenty of restaurants surround the hotel, in addition to the many at Pike Place Market. Our favorite was Cantina Lena. The Cinerama-a Seattle moviegoers favorite since 1963-is literally across the street from the hotel’s front door. If convenience and short walking distances matter to you, the Warwick is ideally located.

Reviews & Recommendations

Warwick Seattle Hotel

We stayed in a 9th floor Space Needle facing room with two queen beds on the front end of our trip. It was spacious and had a small balcony, safe, refrigerator, and coffee station. The beds were comfortable. Wi-Fi was inconsistent. We ran the fan overnight to cover up the street noise. Mother’s Day housekeeping was slow: We left the room by 9:00 am and returned after 3 pm to find the room still unmade. A parking garage is available (daily fee) and a pool is on the lower level. On the back-end of our trip we requested a room on the city side to reduce street noise. Unfortunately, our neighbor played loud music late into the night. A call to the front desk ended that. The doorman at this hotel is excellent. He knew his guests and went out of his way to accommodate. The front desk staff hospitality was spotty. We never dined here or used the bar. The lobby is quite compact. We would consider a return visit, simply for location reasons, if the nightly rate was competitive.

Space Needle

needle collageNo one was in line when we arrived here shortly after opening. We had a complimentary family photo taken before riding the elevator 520 feet to the top. We headed directly for the observation deck. It was a cloudy, cool day, yet we had terrific views of the city, including many Color Run participants in the park below.

The interior exhibits were highly interactive. Guests can view their family photos on a touch screen as well as add their home location to a map. A reasonably priced snack shop is available and the SkyCity restaurant is quite popular, though we did not dine here. The Space Needle is a city landmark designed for the 1962 World’s Fair and all should step on the observation deck once during their visit to Seattle.

Chihuly Gardens and Glass

Chihuly collageLocated directly beside the Space Needle, this is hands down one of the best exhibits I’ve ever seen. Prior to going, several friends shared this was their favorite Seattle attraction, mine too. I remain in awe of the talent behind the 8 galleries, the garden and glasshouse. I’d recommend visitors watch the short videos in the theater first. The information offers great insight into the artist and art form. A restaurant is on site as is a bookstore/gift shop. If you’re a big art and garden fan, time your visit when crowds are less so you can spend more time in each gallery. We literally turned around at the end and walked through the space a second time, this time with greater visitor traffic. As we left, a line was forming outside the door. Visitors can purchase tickets at a kiosk outside to speed their entrance.

Seattle Center

billThis 74-acre urban park with 40-acres of open space sits right behind the Space Needle and Chihuily Gardens. We found it while seeking a lunch spot. Luckily we found a food court to satisfy all.

Unbeknownst to us, Seattle Center is the 4th largest visitor destination in the USA and home to 30 of the region’s top cultural, arts, educational and sports organizations. Once a Native American gathering place and pioneer prairie, and more recently home to the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, Seattle Center also offers gardens, art pieces, and water features, including the International Fountain. While strolling the grounds, we happened upon the annual library book sale. Many were arriving for a symphony performance as well as a theatrical production. Had we known of this Center’s existence, we’d have purchased tickets for a Mother’s Day performance. We did walk to the Bill & Melinda Gate’s Foundation Visitor’s Center (free admission)  only to find it closed on Sundays and Mondays. One could literally spend a day in this general area with advance planning.

Pike Place Market

market collageThis bustling 9-acre historical district created a century ago to connect citizens to farmers overlooks Elliott Bay. It welcomes over 10 million visitors annually. The Market consists of a multitude of restaurants and take out counters, small owner-operated businesses, including 225 craftspeople, and a farmer’s market (fresh fish, meat, dairy and produce). The flower booths immediately draw one’s attention and were bustling with activity the Saturday before Mother’s Day. I took fresh fruit back to the hotel daily as well as baked goods and meat on a stick. We dined at several restaurants and visited the original Starbucks here on a Thursday afternoon; remarkably there was no line out the door-very atypical. Restrooms, benches and grassy areas to sit are plentiful. It’s a great place to mingle with locals, be entertained by a variety of buskers and view the Bay. We visited every day we were in Seattle, and would do again.

Seattle Great Wheel

wheel The Seattle Great Wheel, a giant Ferris wheel at Pier 57 on Elliott Bay, is found just below Pike’s Market. The 175-foot-tall wheel is located next to the Seattle Aquarium, which we did not visit. We were seated in a climate-controlled gondola that could easily fit four adults (It is licensed for 8 per gondola.) for a 15-minute ride that had 3 full revolutions with impressive views of the city. Take a camera to capture the views, including the Space Needle. The wheel is lit up at night and draws more riders. We had difficulty locating restrooms in the general area. Riders used a restaurant bathroom with only one stall, making the line quite long.

Starbucks

coffee collageThe original Starbucks at the entrance to Pike Place Market is a must-see for coffee enthusiasts. Dozens waited in line on our first visit to the Market Saturday. The following Thursday there was no line, though the store interior was packed, making it impossible to see the original interior elements. Dare I reveal my coffee was not made correctly? I ordered a decaf latte and it was caffeinated.  We also walked 9 blocks up the hill from Pikes Market to visit the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room per a recommendation from a fellow Victoria Clipper passenger. Here one sees the roasting process and can even visit with master roasters about their work. Seeing the roasting process is fascinating and the space quite aromatic. A restaurant is on site, though we did not dine there.

Cantina Lena

This Mexican eatery at 5th and Lenora-right across the street from The Warwick Hotel-offers great Happy Hour specials and memorable food. Equally impressive is how well-trained the staff is not only on their respective jobs but also the company’s mission and brand. Our bartender shared the history of the restaurant and parent company with ease and flair. We wished we’d discovered this earlier in our stay; we’d have been repeat diners, for sure.

24 hours, a week or more…Seattle is a great place to visit. Have you been? What should I not miss on my return trip? Comment below.

If you visit any of these attractions on your upcoming trip, check back in and let me know about your experience.

Share with those considering or planning to Visit Seattle. www.visitseattle.org

©Copyright. June 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? Let me hear from you.