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Once known as a West Coast town with less than ideal weather, Seattle has exploded into a bustling powerhouse on the Pacific Rim. The city of Pearl Jam and Frasier Crane has undergone quite a transformation over the last couple of decades. Starbucks and Microsoft have headquarters in the region, bringing jobs and prosperity with them.
The city itself is full of greenery. It's a perfect town for a walk, as long as it's not raining. Seattle also boasts of one of the more recognizable symbols in the world, the Space Needle, and the view from the top is simply breathtaking. Whether you're visiting the local art museum, drinking its famous coffee or walking around Pike Place Market, there are plenty of activities to entrance visitors of what has been nicknamed as the "Emerald City," whether you're taking in Seattle on its own or visiting as a jumping-off point for an Alaska cruise.
A great way to introduce yourself to Seattle is by taking an organized tour. A bus tour, run by Gray Line Tour (800-426-7532), whisks you around the city in half a day. Longer day tours are also available. You can also choose to view the city by boat, if you're not already tired of sailing. Argosy Cruises (Pier 55, 206-623-1445) offers short tours of every major body of water that surrounds Seattle.
Of course, any visit to Seattle has to include a stop at the 607-foot tall Space Needle (400 Broad St., 800-937-9582). Whether you go to the SkyCity Restaurant or just to the observation deck, the view from the top is simply priceless. While you're in the Seattle Center, be sure to visit the Pacific Science Center (206-443-2001). There's an IMAX theater and a planetarium inside. Near the University of Washington is the Museum of History and Industry (2700 24th Ave. E., 206-324-1126 ).
This location offers plenty of fun activities. Don't miss the prodigious Seattle Art Museum (100 University St., 206-654-3100). Artwork from all over the world is showcased here, and some might argue that even the building itself is a work of art. Meanwhile, the Seattle Aquarium (Pier 59, 206-386-4300) is home to thousands of fish, seals and otters.
Pike Place Market (First Avenue at Pike Street, 206-682-7453) is the best place to shop in Seattle. The market has a little of everything, and the eclectic ambience makes for a delightful experience, with fresh seafood, fine wine and more.
Pioneer Square in downtown features a variety of offbeat shops. If you're looking for antiques, Singer Galleries (411 West Galer St., 206-285-0394) has everything from antique porcelain and glass to oil paintings and rugs. Seattle is a city that appreciates the outdoors, and no shop understands that better than REI (222 Yale Ave. N., 206/223-1944). Although the store has become a chain, this flagship location offers shoppers a break... with climbing the sixty-five-foot wall inside.
After hours, Seattle has plenty of options. Theatre buffs will delight at the Seattle Repertory Theater (Bagley Wright Theater, Seattle Center, 155 Mercer St., 206-443-2222). Seattle was the birthplace of the grunge rock movement, and you can find local bands at The Crocodile Café (2200 Second Ave., 206-441-5611) aspiring for Pearl Jam levels of fame. If you'd rather dance the night away, try Fenix Underground (109 S. Washington St., 206-405-4323) in Pioneer Square. If you're just looking for a good place to knock down a couple of cold ones, try the Pyramid Alehouse (1201 First Ave. S., 206-682-3377).
Seattle has evolved into a diverse city, and its tastes have evolved as well. There are a variety of international restaurants that have sprung up all over the city, each with an excellent menu and festive atmosphere. One of the most popular cafes in Seattle is Cafe Campagne (1600 Post Alley, 206-728-2233), located in Pike Place Market.
Central Saloon (207 First Ave. S., 206-622-0209) is a great place to go for some authentic barbecue. For a steak, you'll be hard pressed to top F.X. McRory's (419 Occidental Ave. S., 206-623-4800), and for a great view of Elliot Bay, stop by Anthony's Bell Street Diner and Pier 66 (2201 Alaskan Way, 206-448-6688, ). Seattle also has a growing Asian community, so be sure to swing by a local mom-and-pop restaurant.
Cruiseable friend and marketing executive Joanna Lord, a longtime Seattle resident, recommends Black Bottle "for its amazing wine selection and tapas menu" and Pink Door "for its eclectic style and the back patio overlooking the water."
Taxis are readily available in the city streets of Seattle. You can catch them at designated street stands, at hotels and tourist areas, or flag them down on the street. Buses (206-553-3000, Kings County Transit) provide free transportation in the downtown area during the day. The monorail (206-533-3000, Seattle Monorail) runs from the Westlake Center to the Seattle Center, a two mile route, four times an hour, and is a great way to connect from Sound Transit's Link Light Rail to the Space Needle, Pacific Science Center and more.
Store hours: Stores in Seattle are open typically from 9 am to 9 pm in most urban areas.
Tipping: A 15% tip on the restaurant/taxi bill is customary. Sometimes a tip is automatically added to your bill; check your credit card slip before adding additional tip.
Safety: Seattle is typically a safe city, but has the same concerns as any big city. It is best not to accept offers from strangers, and to be aware of your surroundings.
Have you visited Seattle? What was the highlight for you? Have any tips for newcomers? Would love to see your photos and hear about your experience.
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“In the summer, Madison Park Beach, just a few miles from downtown on the western shore of Lake Washington, offers some of the city's best people-watching. Get there early to sip an iced Americano and nibble a pastry from nearby Madison Park Bakery.”