2 Days in The Emerald City: Seattle, Washington

GetCurrentFast.com (GCF) Travel Guide™

Downtown Seattle from the Central Waterfront with the Great Wheel to the left in the foreground (Wikipedia)

Downtown Seattle from the Central Waterfront with the Great Wheel to the left in the foreground (Wikipedia)

This travel guide presents the GCF Editors’ Choice picks of the top things to do while visiting Seattle, Washington during a 2-day trip, at a leisurely pace. It includes our restaurant recommendations. Since winter weather can be very Northwesterny, if you have a choice, we suggest visiting the Emerald City from April thru October. 

We suggest starting with a tour of the Waterfront and Central districts of Seattle. The next day, you either step inside the largest building in the world, the Boeing factory in nearby Everett, or onto the Eaten Path: a food tasting tour at various Seattle restaurants. You can do both, with an early start; or you can select another from the list of GCF Editors’ Choice Day Trips.

Although it is filled with many practical travel tips, we wrote this guide to be “A good read even without the going,”™ so enjoy this virtual trip.

—GCF—

Ivar Haglund, retauranteur who is lovingly remembered as a true Seattle character and icon (Courtesy - Ivar's)

Ivar Haglund, retauranteur who is lovingly remembered as a true Seattle character and icon (Courtesy – Ivar’s)

At the western terminus of the nation’s longest interstate highway, the 3,020 mile-long Interstate 90, you’ll not find the fictional Land of Oz. In fact, if you drove any further west, you would drive right through Safeco Field, the home of the MLB Seattle Mariners, and into Elliot Bay. Of course, we don’t recommended this as a way to begin your visit to Seattle. Still, no matter how you travel to The Emerald City, be it by car, boat, bus, train, plane —or hot air balloon— you can quickly appreciate why it deserves such a charming and endearing name.

Situated in the northwestern corner of the State of Washington, known as The Evergreen State, Seattle got the moniker “Emerald City” from a contest held in 1981. This is in reference to the lush evergreen forests surrounding the greater Seattle area, not to mention the various green and aquamarine hues of the water in the Puget Sound, depending on weather and light conditions.

Seattleites also like to refer to their city as “Jet City”, since Boeing has played such a large role in its economic development, and still operates a huge factory in nearby Everett which is open for public tours. But not all locals are fond of “Rain City” as a nickname for their beloved Seattle, even though half the year is overcast. Nor is anyone clamoring for the city’s anthem to become the Keith Whitley hit song, I’m no stranger to the rain.

Regardless of what you call it, Seattle is an extraordinary travel destination in fair or foul weather. Today, it is one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. One reason is that it is known for striking gold as a technology and entrepreneurial hub. The likes of Amazon, Costco, Microsoft, Starbucks, and T-Mobile are headquartered here, along with many smaller retail and restaurant chains.

Amazon headquarters building in Seattle, South Lake Union area, at John and Boren Streets (Wikipedia)

Amazon headquarters building in Seattle, South Lake Union area, at John and Boren Streets (Wikipedia)

In the late 19th century, the Seattle area played a key role in a very different kind of gold rush: the Alaska Gold Rush in the Klondike region.  It served as a seaport and supply center for those suffering from the metallurgical version of “Yellow Fever”. Logging and fishing industries were also key to the economic growth of the area, although less so today.

And were it not for the benevolence of Chief Seattle (originally spelled Si’ahl), and the urging of a persistent resident, locals and their businesses would be referring to Duwamish as their home, not Seattle, since this was the original name of the settlement. Members of Chief Seattle’s Duwamish Tribe, “Seattle’s First People,” still reside in the area, operate a cultural center open to the public, and as a consolation prize, a waterway was named in their honor. A bronze statue of Chief Seattle is prominently displayed in a park downtown in loving tribute to this great leader. Sadly, those who claim Duwamish ancestry are currently in a legal battle with the Department of Interior over whether or not the tribe is extinct.

The largest city in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle is well-known for being the birthplace of Boeing, Starbucks, and the NFL Seahawks, but it doesn’t get its due when it comes to its musical pedigree. Rocker Jimmy Hendricks and Smooth Jazz artist Kenny G were born here. Quincy Jones grew up here; and both he and Ray Charles began their Jazz careers playing local clubs. Seattle even claims to have spawned the Grunge Rock genre, but there’s no proof that this resulted from excessive caffeine intake by grunge rocking pioneers living in what is known as the Coffee Capital of the World. Nevertheless, the music scene in Seattle seems every bit as vibrant as that of other well-known cities.

With just under 700,000 Seattleites, this is a grand Pacific harbor town nearing the size of the City of San Francisco —but the similarity doesn’t stop there. The topography of the Emerald City is quite hilly, although not to the point where cable cars are still in use, or oxygen masks are required. This may be why the City of Seven Hills has almost as many movie location credits as the more famous City by the Bay, roughly 700 miles south.

Smooth Jazz artist and early Starbucks investor  Kenny G was born in Seattle (Micah Sittig - Wikipedia)

Smooth Jazz artist and early Starbucks investor Kenny G was born in Seattle (Micah Sittig – Wikipedia)

Seattle, just like San Francisco, is also known for the quirky and irreverent nature of some (many) of its residents. In the Emerald City, this is personified by one of the area’s native sons, the late restaurateur and folksinger, Ivar Haglund. Among other stunts, he staged “attention grabbing spectacles” such as octopus wrestling and clam eating contests. It was also reported that some renovations to his establishments were not always approved in advance by local authorities. According to his official profile, his generosity, among other qualities, is still greatly appreciated and missed, while his motto lives on: “Keep Clam”. The chain of eateries he founded tries to live up to its heritage —somewhat.

All in all, on this side of the Canadian border, Seattle is the crown jewel of Pacific Northwest big city travel destinations. Portland is certainly coming in to its own, but it and other cities in the region find it tough to compete with The Emerald City. If you’ve never been to this corner of the U.S., Seattle is a great place to start.

While you could easily spend a long time discovering all that Seattle has to offer, if you have only a few days, the GetCurrentFast.com (GCF) Travel Guide™ helps you make the most of them. Our travel experts have carefully selected the top attractions, restaurants, coffee shops, and other stops, including local favorites. They are included in the itinerary along with an interactive map to help you plan a leisurely, informative, memorable, and enjoyable trip.

Screenshot of the view from the Sky View Observatory in Seattle from its official website; the Space Needle is in the background to the right  (GCF)

Screenshot of the view from the Sky View Observatory in Seattle from its official website; the Space Needle is in the background to the right  (GCF)

GCF Travel Tips: The street naming convention in Seattle can be challenging to master quickly, so be sure you have a GPS with you. (As with the founding of Grunge Rock, there is no proof that city authorities were on a caffeine high when cooking up the naming convention.) Parking, like that of many high-growth cities, can also be very challenging. If you are driving yourself, be sure to leave plenty of time to find a spot. 

GCF Special Travel Tip: Generally, we don’t recommend, or even mention hotels in our travel guides, unless they are of great historical significance or otherwise exceptional. Such is the case with The Edgewater Hotel in Seattle. Situated right on Elliott Bay, this is the only true waterfront hotel in Seattle. Of course, it offers bay and city views as well as an Editors’ Choice Restaurant (See listing for Six Seven Restaurant below.) If you only have a few days in Seattle, by staying at the Edgewater, you can skip the rental car, take a taxi to this landmark hotel, and walk or take a short taxi ride from it to many of the essential Seattle attractions and top restaurants. The Seattle Marriott Waterfront runs a close second, has higher floors for more bird’s eye views, but it is not situated right next to Elliott Bay like the Edgewater.

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