19 Sep Itinerary: 2 Days in Seattle
August 21, 2012. My plane lands and I practically stumble off, exhausted from a very early DC departure. The moment I enter the bustling airport, I am immediately invigorated by the glorious, rich smell of coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. I have arrived. My 2 days in Seattle have begun!
The next two days are a whirlwind of sightseeing, delicious food and exploration.
So let’s get right to it! Here are my top must-see Seattle spots for any 2 day whirlwind tour.
The Space Needle is Seattle’s most recognizable icon. This 605-foot tall tower, with a UFO-like saucer perched high atop a tripod of steel, is located right in the heart of the downtown Seattle Center complex. A speedy 40 second elevator ride takes you to the top observation deck, which offers stunning views of the whole city, the sparkling Elliott Bay and, if you’re lucky, a view of the neighboring Mt. Rainier. Whether you visit day or night (or both!), seeing Seattle from up above is not to be missed.
Pike Place Market
Picture yourself meandering through a bustling market. It’s fragrant, full of people and delectable morsels are readily available at every stall. This is Pike’s Place Market, where fishmongers throw huge salmon above unaware passersby, where the infamous (and slightly disgusting) “Gum Wall” continues to fascinate, where ginormous bouquets of freshly cut flowers are still only $5 a bunch. If that’s not enough… the very first Starbucks in the world (and my personal mecca) is located here, too. Arrive hungry, because this foodie’s paradise is a spectacle that must not be missed.
As you leave Pike Place Market, walk down, down, down the steep sloping streets and you’ll discover the waterfront along Alaskan Way, a happening destination since the 1850’s. Offering snapshot-worthy views of Elliott Bay and a salty sea breeze to boot, it’s just begging for an afternoon stroll. Make sure your meandering leads you into Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, a souvenir shop slash bizarre museum filled with mummies, shrunken heads and other oddities. And don’t forget to bring quarters to play with the multitude of vintage machines (everything from fortune tellers to dioramas to “naughty” old filmstrip peep shows.) If you can, try to end up at the Waterfront in the late afternoon – Elliott’s Oyster House has an incredible happy hour featuring the freshest local oysters in town!
While you’re walking down on the waterfront, you’ll know you’re getting close to the Seattle Aquarium when you see lots of children running around with fish-y stuffed animals. The Aquarium is a sophisticated and interactive oceanographic playground that will ignite your inner kid while you learn all about the wildlife in the neighboring Puget Sound. There are tide-pools where the curious can touch the starfish and anemones, and there’s an extensive outdoor area where birds, otters and seals play. (Check out the Otter-Cams for some instant cuteness.)
To see the Emerald City skyline from a new angle, head out on the water. While you’re down on the waterfront, head over to Pier 55/56 and stop by the Argosy Cruise counter, where you can book one of their Elliott Bay cruises. Their most popular option is the 1- hour narrated “Harbor Cruise” ($23.25/ roundtrip) which gives you a brief overview and enough time to take all the beauty shots you’d like. Or, a cheaper option is to take the King County Water Taxi ($4.00/ oneway) across the Bay to West Seattle for equally awesome views.
Tip: if you’re looking to experience some of the best tourist-y sites on your 2 day jaunt, you should consider picking up a Seattle CityPASS to aid your adventuring. At $69, it’s a solid deal. The best part? Not only does it cover all of the top attractions (such as the Aquarium, EMP Museum, Pacific Science Center, an Argosy harbor cruise and 2 visits (!) to the top of the Space Needle) but waving your CityPASS at attraction ticket collectors lets you skip ahead to the front of the lines. No waiting in lines = more time to sightsee. And for the 2 day traveler, that is invaluable.
A Few Random Observations:
Despite the caffeine that must be coursing through the veins of every resident at all times, Seattle is a city that is unfailingly polite. People here wait for the walk sign to cross the street — even if the coast is completely clear. They respect right-of-way and don’t look at their cell phones when walking around (DC could take some lessons on that…) And, if two people are trying to go to the same place, as my friend Jill said, it’s common to hear “You go.” “No, you go.” “No, you go.” It’s just that kind of place.
On the flip side, there are scores of homeless residents that frequent the tourist areas. According to Wikipedia, there’s an average of 8,000 individuals without homes each night. Perhaps they’re nomadic drifters enamored with the laid-back lifestyle or maybe they’re simply drawn to the generous social programs, but I will admit that it was a little unexpected. I was often asked for money, but never felt unsafe. (But I definitely was mindful of avoiding quiet areas when planning my nighttime routes…)
The Bottom Line:
Whether you’re a culture-seeker, foodie or nature-lover, the great thing about Seattle is that it’s compact, with a centralized and walkable city center. This allows for easy access to Seattle’s top museums and attractions, bustling waterfront and the pristine Puget Sound, making this seaside city an ideal “2 day” destination.
For more information about Seattle, visit visitseattle.org.