Surprising Seattle | A Weekend Mini-Break from Calgary

Easier Journeys Owner - Raelyn Anderson - at Kerry Park in Seattle with Space Needle in background
A skyscraper for stunning city views, a cobbled alley, a waterfront path snaking past sculptures, and copious trees, hills and stairs. Where could this captivating location be? New York? London? San Francisco? Nope. Seattle!

After descending from the clouds to a patchwork of water and lush green landscapes, Seattle welcomes me on my weekend mini-break with a pass by the industrial boatyards. Shipping containers, dock equipment and cranes give way to the harbour as my taxi from the airport (about $45 US to downtown Seattle) rushes into a sea of skyscrapers. We make our way through the streets – a mix of new and old architecture – until we arrive at the Moore Hotel. It’s an older building boasting a quaint, more modern interior. Located just steps from the renowned Pike Place Market, it’s an economical find – thanks to Lonely Planet’s Pocket Seattle guide.

Once inside, the friendly front desk staff extends Seattle’s warm welcome further. With advice on what not to miss, including helpful notations on a map, and the following morning’s knowledgeable, laugh out loud anecdotes from Jake of Seattle Free Walking Tours the unearthing of Seattle’s shocking side began.

As I clamoured to rummage through Pike Place Market in the crush of patrons on a Saturday afternoon, I mercifully stumbled upon the lesser-known, winding and somewhat less busy Post Alley. The laneway is mere steps from the Market’s hub and offers more gems than the bizarrely touted gum wall. Cobbled streets, brick frontages, vined courtyards, charming nooks and crannies, and market getaways dot this European-esque alley. I was met with varied vendors, a mouth-watering chocolate market, pubs with patios, chowder choices, European sandwich’s, clothiers, cafes, a tea room, white Christmas lights strung across the skyline and the serendipitous discovery of a pink door.

The Pink Door Italian Restaurant's website, Seattle, Easier Journeys blog post
After being asked to take a couple’s photo outside the pink door and witnessing others duck into this discrete, unmarked door, I dared to enter. What lies within was a lovely Italian restaurant. The unusual green salad and spring green risotto were scrumptious and the ambiance had an enigmatic mystique.

Recovered from a day of market and back lane escapades, I pondered ascending the Space Needle the following day. However, Jake from my Seattle 101 walking tour suggested trying some more budget-friendly and lesser known options. In doing so, I could include the famed Needle in my photos.

Ferry boat seen from Seattle's Skyview Observatory, Easier Journeys blog post
Equipped with Jake’s local perspective, I ambled over to the intersection of Columbia Street and 5th Avenue to Columbia Center. The tower is surprisingly modern inside and out considering it was completed in the 1980s. It towers above the coastal landscape with its dominating, charcoal presence. For $20 US for adults (versus the Space Needle’s $35 US) I was whisked up 73 floors to a roomy observation deck – the Skyview Observatory. The first words I uttered as I glimpsed the 360 degree panorama were, “this is pretty spectacular!” From a top this summit I day dreamed about the ferries leaving the pier, observed the industrial dock yards, made the Space Needle the star of my snapshots, wondered at the distant mountains and what the skiing may be like in winter, and secured an eagle’s eye view of the city. After soaking in the views, I took in some of the fascinating facts and stats offered about the sights far below. 

Rather than ascending the Space Needle for drone-like city views, try some more budget-friendly and lesser known options - such as Columbia Center's SkyView Observatory. In doing so, you can get the famed Needle in your photos as well.
For a somewhat closer vantage point on this city named after Chief Seattle, I then climbed some of the municipalities many steep hills and stairways (reminiscent of San Francisco) to Kerry Park. When I arrived at the park I realized I could have driven or taken a taxi but the trek through the tree-lined, character streets while marvelling at period homes and fragrantly blooming peonies of all colours was worth it. Next time I’d pack a lunch and picnic at the park, but this time I simply plopped down on the benches, pulled out my water bottle, and savoured the well-earned view while plotting what snapshots and selfies to take. Local rumour has it that sunset on this perch is just as perfect. (For Grey’s Anatomy fans the home known as the outside of the intern house is a mere block away).

Seattle Art Museum's Olympic Sculpture Park with Space Needle in background, Easier Journeys blog post
After relishing the view from Kerry Park, I began the easier, downhill portion of my journey. Craving an uncommon collision of nature and public art, and on the recommendation of staff from the Moore Hotel, I strolled through the streets once again to the lengthy and winding Elliott Bay trail. Past pebbled beaches speckled with driftwood, walking, running and blading sun seekers, and vistas of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains I eventually plunged into the free art walk at the Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park. From jarring to hardly noticeable, eclectic to direct, rusty, shiny, white and metallic the sculptures captivated and charmed me. A striking, elongated head standing guard, a dominating tangerine eagle contrasted against the Space Needle, a lone metallic tree, and immovable rusty steel waves seamlessly and thought-provokingly merge with one of the city’s best green spaces.

Overflowing with vistas, experiences, sculptures and surprises, it was sadly time to head home. Thanks to the Moore Hotel, Seattle Free Walking Tours and Lonely Planet, what I learned on my weekend excursion to Seattle is to plan for the famed and typical but watch for and seek out the barrage of surprising.


Have you visited Seattle? If so, what was your favourite part? Let me know in the comments below.


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