Saying “there’s so much to do here” is one of the biggest cliches in travel writing. While the opposite can often be said of small towns with only one intersection, most travel-worthy destinations can appeal to a wide variety of visitors on several levels.
This is certainly the case in Seattle ... and then some. Whether on land or sea, the Emerald City and capital of the Pacific Northwest truly has an abnormal amount of things to do, even for someone who’s visited before. Or in the case of my wife, someone who lived there for two decades.
On a recent four-day visit to the most northwesterly corner of contiguous America, here’s what stood out—aside from the bluest skies you’ll ever see (because they’re usually gray):
Admittedly this can be a hit or miss experience. If wildlife doesn’t show, the party’s over. But given the high number of orcas in the area, Puget Sound Express guarantees sightings of either the killer whales or humpbacks. In this case, we saw a pod of the former playfully and skillfully murder a porpoise and seal for lunch. They even buzzed the back of the boat, almost forcing my wife to tears of joy.
Olympic National Park is one of the highest-rated destinations in America—as much for its natural beauty as its typographical diversity. Namely rocky beaches, alpine glaciers, some of the oldest rainforests in the U.S. and meadows covered in wildflowers. Just a two-hour ferry and car drive from the city, highlights include Hurricane Ridge, Crescent Lake and the reverent rainforests. Alternatively, the North Cascades is also a two-hour drive from the city.
Why was Seattle built on a network of underground passages and what do they have to do with once-booming prostitution that eventually lead to Donald Trump’s inheritance? You’ll get answers to those questions and more in Bill Speidel’s fascinating Underground Origin Tour. Afterwords, consider riding the nearby Great Wheel for a spectacular view of the cityscape. Both can be reasonably done in a single afternoon or morning.
Museums rarely excite me. They’re often stale, static and inferior to the authentic (and often nearby) thing they attempt to promote. Unless of course they’re an impressive art gallery, which is precisely what Chihuly Garden and Glass is. This relaxing, colorful experience is stunning, photogenic and entirely worth the admission price.
Outside of fresh seafood, Seattle doesn’t have a reputation for its distinct cuisine. Don’t tell that to Ernest Loves Agnes, however—an endearing and Hemingway-inspired take on Italian fig pizza, seared scallops and more. Or the hip and airy Rock Creek, starring a delicious crab boil and s’mores for dessert. Of course, visitors can’t go wrong with a staple of fish ‘n chips from Ivar’s Alaskan Way location. Doing so won’t net you any cool points with locals. But the view’s as comforting as the fried fish and fries.
Photo: Howard Ignatius, CC-BY
Off the Grid columnist Blake Snow writes epic stories for fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies. Follow him on Twitter.