The Emerald City

Seattle is a colorful, diverse and welcoming beacon in the Pacific Northwest

Story and photos by Dave O. Dodge – Oct. 9, 2014

As you might expect in a place that boasts more than 200 rainy days each year, there is an abundance of flowers, forests and fauna in Seattle. Aptly nicknamed The Emerald City because of the 6,000 acres of parks within the city limits, the lush green vegetation makes it a tree hugger’s paradise.

Seattleites pride themselves as being progressive, free spirited and often unconventional (sort of the Vermont of the West, but with Starbucks and Microsoft).

Here, diversity is a way of life and acceptance of the LGBT community dates back to the 1930s, when a local watering hole downtown called The Casino opened; it was billed as the only place on the west coast open and free to the gays, and same-sex dancing was allowed. Scandalous!

The Frank Gehry-designed EMP Building.

The Frank Gehry-designed EMP Building.

Capitol Hill

Seattle, like all cities, has a colorful past and like most, the gay ghetto is shrinking daily with the integration of the LGBTs into the main stream. But, a hold out of sorts would be along Broadway in the area known as Capitol Hill.

Capitol Hill is home to a high concentration of LGBT residents and businesses. From this neighborhood community, the view of the city skyline is hindered by cranes, as multiple construction projects are underway, creating modern buildings called “micro housing” that make this the place to live. With the future completion of a light rail station, this area of the hill will be so much more accessible to, and from, the rest of the city.

For a bed-and-breakfast experience try the gay-owned and operated Gaslight Inn (gaslightinn.com), located a few blocks from Broadway on 15th Avenue. This 1906 home has been restored and refurbished for a relaxing stay with all the amenities we like, even a pool, and it is an easy walk to some of the bars.

Soak up the local gay scene at Julia’s on Broadway. Here, weather permitting, you can spend happy hour sitting outside, enjoying the view. The drinks are cheap and the food is surprisingly delicious for the value. Come early for a good seat for the daily drag show.

Since 1993, CC Attles (ccattles.net) has been your standard neighborhood gay bar with an extended happy hour and food menu. Attracting mostly guys from all walks of life, there seemed to be no type there except for the friendly and thirsty.

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market

No visit to Seattle is complete without a stop at Pike Place Market above the waterfront. Since 1907, when it first opened with only eight farmers, it’s has grown to more than 200 businesses that sell everything from organic produce to kitschy souvenirs.

The public market attracts thousands of visitors and residents daily — some come to people watch and others to buy fresh flowers and fish (the latter have come right off the boat). Plan to spend some time here visiting all the vendor stalls, there are artisans at work creating art in glass and buskers along the cobblestoned streets entertaining the masses.

The first Starbucks is here and right next door is a quaint eatery appropriately named Local Color. Here you can get a ringside table, that’s practically in the street, and watch the world go by. Try one of their tasty toasted sandwich creations along with a fresh brewed double espresso or a local craft beer. From here, it’s a short walk to the iconic piers, the larger-than-life Ferris wheel, the Market Theater’s intriguingly wretched “gum wall,” and just about anything else that might be on you tourist to-do list.

An installation in the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit.

An installation in the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit.

Seattle Center

The term flying saucer was first coined here in 1947 with a report in the local paper of a UFO sighting at nearby Mount Rainer, a strange claim to fame, indeed. Every day the iconic Space Needle peeks through the clouds like a you-know-what, creating a distinct silhouette floating above the skyline.

The space needle was built for the 1962 World’s Fair and continues to attract visitors to its observation deck, 520 feet above the ground. Let the exterior elevator whisk you up in 41 seconds for panoramic views of the city. For an even higher lookout, the Columbia Center offers views that look down on the Space Needle and the rest of Seattle from the 73rd floor observation deck (nearly 1,000 feet up) called Sky View Observatory.

After your visit to the Space Needle, check out a couple of unique attractions right at its base in the Seattle Center, a multiuse venue that includes structures such as the Pacific Science Center; the Key Area, home to the WNBA’s Seattle Storm; and the EMP Museum, an unusual and colorful 140,000-square-foot building that was co-founded by Paul Allen and opened in 2000.

The center is also home to attractions that combine art with mother nature, including the International Fountain, a mainstay from the World’s Fair that was completely replaced and expanded in 1995, and the Mural Amphitheatre, an outdoor stage built on a natural hillside that hosts musical acts as part of the Northwest Folklife Festival, Bumbershoot, and the center’s outdoor film and concert series.

But if it’s breathtaking you’re after, a visit to the Chihuly Garden and Glass, a permanent exhibition that pays homage to local artist Dale Chihuly, is a must. His very colorful glass installations can be seen all over the world, but here against the gray skies, the colors seem to pop out of the green gardens like the something from OZ.

Seattle is a vibrant urban oasis that perfectly blends its architecture with its natural surroundings. When visiting the Pacific Northwest, Seattle is a destination worthy of at least a few days on your itinerary. e

SEA THE SIGHTS

Bainbridge-FerryIt’s impossible to take in all Seattle’s distinct and diverse enclaves in one visit. But adding a tour to your visit can offer a unique perspective, as well as some insider information, on the city:

Catch A Ferry

There are hundreds of islands in the Puget Sound that beckon any visitor to wander out too, the most popular and easiest to get to is Bainbridge Island. Ferries run from the wee hours of the morning until long after happy hour. The island, on a sunny day, offers picture perfect views of the city and a very popular destination for a day trip (expect a 35-minute ferry ride each way).
wsdot.wa.gov/ferries

Bill Speidel’s Underground Tours

Tours begin at Doc Maynard’s Public House in Pioneer Square and descend beneath the modern-day sidewalks and in to the city’s subterranean passages that were once main roadways and storefronts. How and why you ask? You’ll have to take the tour to find out. Tours take place year-round, but times vary by season. undergroundtour.com


Dave O. Dodge is a freelance travel writer based in Phoenix.