Editor’s Note: We’ve brought you a couple versions of how to spend “A Weekend on Whidbey”: one online from 2014 by Susan Hanson and one in print (Spring/Summer 2015) by Kim Tinuviel. And we’ve heard from many of you that you have your own ideas of how to spend a special weekend here.
There are so many great potential weekends and we’d be happy to share them, so let us know yours.
Last month Donna Hood took us on the “Dancing Rabbits” Tour and this week we’d like to introduce you to the “prequel” of a “weekend tour.” That would be: where to send your guests as they come through Seattle—so you can just stay home and await their arrival!
It’s surprising how many out-of-town guests consider the “touring” of Whidbey Island and the “touring” of Seattle to be a package deal. I’ve lived happily on Whidbey for fifteen years and, in the course of my Island life, I’ve had more than my share of summer visitors. No sooner have my guests settled in than they ask, “When are we going to Seattle?
Silly me! I thought I’d just picked my friends up from the airport, stopped by Pike Place Market for a quick visit, and driven away from Seattle because we were looking forward to a few bucolic days of peace and quiet on Whidbey Island!
For several years, I was a diligent, selfless host. I drove my guests to Seattle so they could experience the Market, Seattle Center, Pioneer Square, the International District; you name it, I drove my guests to it.
My wake-up call came one day as I paid for the ferry ride back to Whidbey for the third time that week. One of my guests noticed, apparently for the first time, that I was stopped at a tollbooth handing over money. “Do you PAY for the ferry?” she asked. “Do you have to pay every time you ride it?”
That was it; I vowed that my days leading Seattle tours had just ended! I decided that I’d treat my guests to a self-guided Seattle Tour—one they could experience on their own—before they boarded the ferry for Whidbey Island.
To that end, I created what I call my “Slam-Dunk (Two or Three Day) Seattle Tour.” I send it, along with information about the Whidbey Sea/Tac Shuttle, to friends who are planning a visit to the Island. Thus far, I’ve received nothing but positive responses. Guests say my info gave them the opportunity to plan a quality visit to Seattle before they headed to Whidbey Island.
NOTE: I obviously haven’t included all possibilities. But feel free to use this as a template for your friends and put in your Seattle favorites. Obviously, all this is available online for folks who think to look for it, but it can be overwhelming, and a “personal” recommendation sets people’s minds at ease. Plus, you can save yourself a trip (or three) off-island…
To My Dear Friends,
You’re so lucky; you have two or three days to spend in Seattle—the crown jewel of America’s cities! While this isn’t nearly enough time, you can see enough to feel that you know a bit about this beautiful, unique place. You won’t be able to do all of the following activities in three days, but this will give you plenty of options. The best thing about seeing Seattle is that it’s easy to walk everywhere, so find a parking lot and get going!
First, you should start where all tourists inevitably do—the waterfront. My first stop is always a pilgrimage to Le Panier French Bakery—just across the street from Pike Place Market. Their pastries are incredible! Get there early because the goodies disappear rapidly!
Fortified with croissants and brioche, walk a couple of store fronts down to Starbucks’ original store for cup of “Joe” (and a “selfie,”) so you can show your friends you were there—where the coffee scene started!).
Next, head across the street to the world-famous Pike Place Market, a multi-level market that’s best known for the first level, where fishmongers throw huge salmon, halibut or whatever-fish-you-fancy through the air, while yelling “Fish on!” to another monger, who catches and displays it before wrapping and handing it to the customer. Great fun!
You’ll have to pose for a photo with the giant bronze pig by Georgia Gerber, (a Whidbey Island sculptor!), while listening to one of countless musicians who play for tips. Some of them are quite good!
A movable feast of vendors waits nearby, with spices, smoked salmon, Chuckar Cherries (a must-buy), jelly, paintings, combs, wooden flutes, rugs and more. If you have time, explore the lower shops, which feature even more—from Mexican Milagros to Polish pottery, plus a first-class magic shop.
For lunch, if you haven’t already succumbed to a Dungeness crab cocktail, go to Elliot’s Oyster House, across from the Market’s lower level on the waterfront. They have the largest selection of fresh oysters anywhere in America. Down the block, Ivar’s storefront restaurant is another Seattle icon, best known for clam chowder and fresh fish and chips.
Close to Ivar’s is Seattle’s newest attraction, a giant Ferris Wheel boasting enclosed, heated/air conditioned “cabins” and stunning views of the waterfront, Cascade and Olympic Mountains, the Space Needle, Mt. Ranier and the Port of Seattle.
Before leaving the topic of food, I have to mention Serious Pie, which, in my opinion, serves the best pizza anywhere in the world—from Rome to New York’s Little Italy! Seattle chef Tom Douglas has created magical, wafer-thin pizza crust with phenomenal toppings such as seasonal mushrooms with truffle cream cheese or Buffalo mozzarella with marinara sauce. You can even try clam pizza!
Located on 4th and Virginia, Serious Pie is an easy walk from Pike Place Market. You won’t find advertisements for this restaurant as it’s always packed with locals.
Before leaving downtown, check out the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) on First St. Even if there isn’t a special exhibit, the iconic white cars suspended from the ceiling, spewing wands of colorful lights, are a kick!
Moving away from the waterfront, walk four blocks up Pine St. to Westlake Center; the Monorail, built for the Seattle World’s Fair, will whisk you to Seattle Center, where the Space Needle, Experience Music Project (EMP) and Dale Chihuly’s Art Garden and Glass Museum are located. EMP, designed by architect Frank Gehry, is famous for its avant-garde, colorful, undulating design and interactive exhibits.
But if you have time for just one museum, I’d recommend the Chihuly exhibit; the glass works defy description. When you’ve seen the museum and garden, be sure to stop in the Collections Restaurant (next to the exhibit), even if you’re not hungry because you won’t want to miss seeing Chihuly’s collections of everything from harmonicas to transistor radios displayed in the dining tables, on the walls or suspended from the ceiling.
If you want to take in more than one of these attractions, you can get a special price for the Space Needle and museums. There’s also a Seattle CityPass that includes an Argosy cruise, Space Needle, etc. (http://www.citypass.com/seattle)
A three-hour sunset dinner cruise with Argosy is a great way to end a summer day in Seattle. It’s a bit spendy, as Northwesterners say, but worth it if the weather’s cooperative. There’s another cruise/dinner option, the Argosy cruise out to Blake Island and Tilicum Village for an alder-smoked salmon dinner followed by Indian dances in an “authentic” long house. While once somewhat authentic, this attraction has become quite touristy. The last time I went, I asked one of the dancers what tribe he belonged to, and he replied, “I’m Mexican. I’m from San Antonio, Texas. This is my summer job!”
DAY TWO and/or THREE:
You might begin day two with the Seattle Underground, one of the city’s most unusual attractions. The tour begins at Pioneer Square on First St. between Cherry St. and Yesler Way. Note the recently reconstructed glass pergola, totem poles, interesting shops and Doc Maynard’s Public House, where tickets are sold. I won’t try to explain this quirky underground city; just take the tour and discover madams, nefarious schemes and fun facts yourself. Note: Pioneer Square is also home to Seattle’s ubiquitous “colorful” homeless population. You will assuredly be asked for a “contribution.” Be aware, though—some of these folks might be a bit aggressive.
As much fun as the Underground Tour is, if the sun is shining, skip this and head out to the parks and gardens of Seattle!
If your feet have had enough, get your car and begin the driving portion of your two-day slam-dunk Seattle tour. Not to be missed—Seattle’s five-star Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill (211 Highland Park). The park is just a small strip of grass, but the view of Seattle is unparalleled. Park across the street or find a spot a block or two away so you can enjoy the lovely old mansions surrounding the park. It’s like going back in time a hundred years!
Next, Volunteer Park on Capitol Hill is another five-star gem. It has everything: a reservoir overlooking the city, a lovely, century-old conservatory (always free) and The Seattle Asian Art Museum, which is free on Thursdays. A short walk from the park is the Chinese cemetery and Bruce Lee’s grave if you’re interested in martial arts. For book lovers, this is the cemetery mentioned in “The Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet.” I love this park because it’s small enough to appreciate in a short time. You’ll also enjoy the mansions and private gardens around the park.
Lunch today is at another Seattle culinary icon for 40+ years—Ray’s Boathouse (6049 Seaview Ave. N.W.) near Shilshole Marina in Seattle’s Scandinavian Ballard neighborhood. The seafood and views here are amazing. Older locals will tell you about catching fish from Ray’s dock when they were children. Before lunch, take time to drive to the marina so you can take a photo of the huge statue of Lief Ericson
From here it’s a short drive to 3015 N.W. 54th St. and the Hiram Crittenden (aka Ballard) Locks. I never tire of visiting this unique spot. It’s a botanical garden with glorious flowers and plants, salmon habitat with fish ladders for spawning salmon and endless fun—watching boats ranging from small kayaks to large fishing boats make their way from Puget Sound’s salt water to Union Bay’s fresh water. Be sure to stop at the small visitor center for information on how the locks work; it’s fascinating! Allow time for a leisurely drive through the surrounding neighborhoods—Fremont and Ballard—where you can see a sculpture of Lenin and other art works from giant mushrooms to a troll under the Fremont Bridge.
If you have children with you, The Seattle Aquarium, which has been newly remodeled, is wonderful. It offers many hands-on exhibits, and you’re sure to come away with a new appreciation of the ocean and its plants and creatures. I like this attraction because, while crammed with exhibits and activities, it’s small enough to cover in a relatively short time.
This is an extremely small sampling of all that Seattle offers. For me, it has taken years to explore the city, and I love knowing that there will always be a new adventure, some place I haven’t seen or an old favorite to revisit.
Linda Russell is a two-time winner of Chris Spencer’s “100 Word Story Smash.” When she isn’t twisting words, she and husband Bill are twisting the steering wheel of their RV somewhere in America. (photos courtesy of the author)
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