Nearly everyone who visits Seattle, the high-tech, high-livin' metro-center of the Pacific Northwest, makes the same remark: "Great city, but the weather -- ick!" Let us now review the two parts of this statement:
1) "But the weather -- ick!"
True, it can rain in Seattle -- just as it frequently does in San Francisco, London, Paris, the Caribbean, and even Orlando, Florida. The solution? Honeymoon here during summer or fall, when dry weather patterns produce two- and three-day-long stretches of spectacular sunshine (with, yes, the occasional soppy day).
2) The more relevant "Great city."
Indeed, thanks to hot music, coffee, sea kayaks, Boeing, and Microsoft, Seattle has crafted itself not merely into an important regional center, but the true capital of a vibrant lifestyle -- something few cities can claim.
And one of the nicest things about the Emerald City is that you can sample much of what the city has to offer and never leave the downtown area. Shop for antiques in Pioneer Square -- or hang there in the evening to hear live bands. From the waterfront, take a ferry to Bainbridge Island, or a harbor cruise. Sip coffee in the original Starbucks at Pike Place Market, then dig around in the unusual shops. Visit the art museum or hear a classical concert near the financial center. Shop for fashionable clothes at Westlake Center (better yet, at Nordstrom's across the street). Take the monorail for a ride to the Seattle Center then zip up the Space Needle. Go sea kayaking on Lake Union or biking on Seattle's extensive path system. And all this lies within walking distance (okay, take a short cab ride to the lake so you have energy for the paddle).
- Space Needle: Seattle's signature attraction rises 66 stories above the Seattle Center. Admission includes a zippy lift to the top and a chance to see great city views, the Olympic Range, and the water -- sounds, bays, and lakes -- that's so important to Seattlites. On clear days, you'll get a spectacular look at Mount Ranier. Take the monorail from Westlake Center for a retro look at what life was supposed to be like in the future.
- Pike Place Market: Next in line in the "must-see" category, Pike Place Market rises from the waterfront between Pike and Pine on First. On the highest level are the fresh seafood stalls, along with vegetables, flowers, and great restaurants. After strolling around the several buildings on this level, be sure to go down to the lower levels for a peek at some more unusual stores.
- The Waterfront: The most interesting part of Seattle's waterfront runs from Pike Place Market to Pioneer Square. Along the way you can snack on fresh seafood, hop aboard a boat for a harbor cruise, take a ferry to one of the islands, learn about the sea life hereabouts at the aquarium, and see the unbelievably kitcshy but fun stuff at Ye Olde Curiosity Shop.
- Pioneer Square: Old buildings, interesting shopping, marginal food but great nightlife sum up Pioneer Square. Don't miss: the Underground Tour, where you explore the oldest parts of Seattle -- below the streets; the Northwest Gallery of Fine Woodworking; the Foster White gallery, for colorful, fragile glassworks; coffee at Torrefazione Italia; and gold-rush history at Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.
- Shopping: Try the original Eddie Bauer or Abercrombie and Fitch stores (or the original Nordstrom), then head to Westlake Center for a serious mall crawl.
- Art Museum: The Seattle Art Museum is a stunner. Architecture: A; Asian collection, not big but exquisite: B+; native arts of the Northwest, big AND exquisite: A+.
- Neighborhoods: Funky and fun, Fremont; urban, Capital Hill; Victorian homes, Queen Anne Hill; beach, West Seattle.
Now, don't forget to take this little tune with you: "Rain, rain, go away, Make my 'moon a sunny stay." For more info: Seattle Visitors Bureau, (206) 461-5840.
Photo: Port of Seattle
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