I have always considered Seattle as Vancouver’s twin because these two cities are so close geographically from each other (~2 hours by car excluding the border wait). In typical northwest fashion Seattleites are polite, laid-back, and generally fit (who can blame them? Northwest’s natural beauty = outdoor activities).
I have been to/through Seattle many times before but I have never “toured” around the city (like many Vancouverites, Seattle’s existence was purely for cross-border shopping at Seattle Premium Outlet). With the entire northwest enjoying a history-setting fantastic summer and the Toronto Blue Jays coming to Seattle… Seattle here I come!
Itinerary: (I might have lied a little bit because we actually spent 2 nights/3 days in Seattle but since we spent 1.5 days shopping… I will not be writing on that lol)
DAY 1: (driving) Vancouver to Seattle (shopped at Seattle Premium Outlets)
DAY 2: Kerry Park, Seattle Center/Space Needle, Downtown, Safeco Field, Kerry Park
DAY 3: Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, back to Vancouver
One day Whirlwind Tour Around Seattle
After I dropped my wife off for some official business stuff I was off to tour Seattle on my own! We stayed slightly outside the city (closer to where my wife had to be for the day) per Google Maps (~20 minutes) and I had one goal in mind upon departure… Get to the 7th Ave parkade by 10:00AM to avoid being slaughtered with downtown parking charges. With my extensive first-hand knowledge about Seattle’s propensity for traffic jams from prior pass throughs, I left our B&B at 9:20AM for a 20 minute drive (non rush-hour)… Even with my self-proclaimed fantastic foresight I arrived at the parkade at 10:10AM (so much to the early bird special!) and it would cost ~$30-40 for the day. My 20 year old car was probably worth ~$500 (way more in terms of emotional attachment though)… “Do I really want to pay 10% of what my car is worth to park for a few hours?”… “Fuck no!” replied my cheap inner Asian and off to Kerry Park I went.
The traffic god in Seattle must’ve laughed his/her ass off because there were literally no traffic out of downtown Seattle as I journeyed to Kerry Park. Luckily enough I caught a glimpse of cheap parking around Seattle Center (where the Space Needle is located which was slightly outside of the downtown core) as I drove past. My trusty old Civic struggled to climb up the steep hill leading to Kerry Park but at last I arrived in one piece and there were ample street parking available!
This little patch of grass called “Kerry Park” was by far the best place to enjoy the Seattle skyline. It was a very tiny viewpoint in the middle of a residential area so it was probably off-limits to large tour buses and thus remained relatively quiet (I was able to take a few photos of Stuart the Minion without looking too ridiculous lol). From the viewpoint I could see the multicolored Seattle Center and the iconic Space Needle with downtown Seattle as a backdrop… Furthermore, Mount Rainier was easily visible in the distance because of the fantastic weather! I knew it was unfair for my wife to miss this marvelous view because of work and I decided I would return to this park after the baseball game that night to enjoy the night lights of Seattle.
Seattle Center & the Space Needle was only 5 minutes away by car and there were ample of parking available (by around 10:45AM)… $18 for the day “only”! The main building housed the Experience Music Project (EMP) which was basically a music museum. The most interesting aspect of this attraction was not of the content or the music museum inside, but of the architecture of the building itself. I had visited Seattle Center numerous times before and I still have no idea what the building was supposed to represent. The curvy, multicolored, reflective structure provided many interesting perspective for photographs (oh yeah, the monorail also passed through the structure) such as a reflection of the Space Needle that was directly adjacent. The iconic Space Needle offered a fantastic unobstructed view of the city as well as its surrounding the Puget Sound, but due to the long queue I decided against going up to the top (I have already been on previous visits – the night view was far more spectacular in my opinion). Toronto Blue Jays memorabilia (jerseys, hats, etc) could be found on many visitors during the visit (including myself).
The monorail station was located within a 30 second walk opposite to the Space Needle and there were only 2 stations for the monorail: Space Needle (Alweg Station) and downtown Seattle (Westlake Center). This uneventful ride cost only $2.50 one-way and I arrived at the downtown core in just 5 minutes (take that $40 parking!). Following tourist signs and a short stroll later I arrived at another Seattle icon: Pike Place Market.
Pike Place Market was beyond packed with tourists and like Seattle Center there were copious Blue Jays supporters among the crowd. Pike Place Market was an old and damp building buzzing with activity with various vendors selling the freshest local seafood, produce, or flowers money can buy. Once in a while there would be actual customers but those freshest ingredients certainly demanded a premium price! As an amateur photographer I was overwhelmed by the colors and arrangements of various items and it was difficult to take time to compose various photographs without interrupting the constant foot traffic. [if you feel overwhelmed by the amount of people at the Market… which you likely will on a prolonged stay… consider going down a level where numerous art studios/stores are located… the difference in traffic between the main floor and the floor below was insane]. Immediately opposite the Pike Place Market was the original Starbucks (often mentioned in guide books)… Please be aware that there are TWO Starbucks across Pike Place (an modern looking Starbucks vs ancient-looking Starbucks which is the original).
From Pike Market I walked to University and 4th Ave for lunch (colleague recommended) because my stomach was revolting from my a lack of nutrition. The Seattle Public Library was only 5 minutes away from the restaurant and it came highly recommended by photographers on Flickr and I was glad I listened to their advice! I spent more than an hour in this beautiful, modern, asymmetrical piece of art. The last time I spent more than 10 seconds in a library I was cramming for my licensing exam during university (I can’t believe I willingly stayed in another library for so long!) The entire structure was encased in diamond shaped glasses with a minimalist interior… I was so mesmerized by the diamond-patterned shadows cast from the windows and I stopped on every floor looking for inspirations in this 10-story architectural masterpiece. Luckily I was rewarded with a few keepers.
After another hour of casual street photography I found myself near the waterfront again walking towards one of the newest waterfront attraction: The Seattle Great Wheel. It was basically a big Ferris Wheel almost identical to the London Eye. Again I did not queue up for the ride because I didn’t think I would get a better vantage point of the Seattle skyline from the ride (it was dwarfed by the first row of downtown Seattle’s waterfront buildings). I made my way back to Westlake Center (adjacent to Nordstrom’s) for my monorail return trip to Seattle Center to pick up my vehicle since it was already past 4:00PM (wifey needed a pickup lol). In typical Seattle fashion it took me 40 minutes to cover a 15 minute distance (ARRGGHH!).
It was around 5-6PM and we were in the peak of rush hour traffic attempting to reach Safeco Field where the Seattle Mariners played host to the Toronto Blue Jays. I had never been to a professional baseball game before and I had no idea what to expect… the only thing I knew was the amount of Blue Jays fans roaming around Seattle. We were stuck in traffic for over an hour and by the time we reached the venue the game was already underway (3rd inning)… we missed the national anthems and a Blue Jays’ home-run (ARRRGGG!). Safeco Field was way grander than I imagined and the atmosphere was fantastic with a near-full stadium… funny enough, the stadium was filled with Toronto fans and we easily outnumbered the home team fans by about 3:1 = Blue Jays took over Seattle’s home field hahahaha (see all the blue in the crowd?). After a pleasing Blue Jays victory we ended our night at Kerry Park marveling at the sparkling night lights of Seattle… fulfilling day indeed!