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Seattle - Washington

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Seattle - The Emerald City!

Located in the center of western Washington and on the eastern shore of Puget Sound, Seattle lies in a spectacular setting between the sound and the Cascade Mountains. In recent years, Seattle has become protective of its place in the Pacific Northwest. Less than 150 years old, it's a young city straining at its boundaries, but with no major urban sprawl due to the felicitous geography of hills, lakes, and those green, green forests.

What To See and Do

It's a city with historical markers, including the early settlement by coastal Indians; then Scandinavian loggers and fur traders; the great fire of 1889 that nearly destroyed the complete downtown district; and the frenzied gold rush stampede of 1897 and 1898 which saw thousand of adventurers leave from Seattle for the Yukon and Alaska. The 1962 World's Fair brought Seattle into being as a major metropolitan center, and kick-started the cultural and economic life of the whole urban area that is spread across King County, including major adjoining cities including Redmond, Bellevue, and Everett.

The city is well known for its abundant rainfall, yet the amount of rain that falls here yearly is less than that in the major eastern U.S. cities. It's the mist effect that makes it seem like so much more. And it's the rain and mist that provide the verdant setting for this sparkling city, nestled between Puget Sound and Lake Washington.

Downtown

The business district is centered around Fifth Avenue, Pine, and Olive, with major department stores, including the original Nordstrom, Frederick and Nelson, and The Bon Marché. There's a trade and convention center -- built over Interstate 5 -- which contains the area's Visitor Information Bureau. Westlake Mall, between Pine and Olive, is a shopping and office complex at the east end of the downtown monorail line that connects downtown to the Seattle Center. The monorail is not working at this time, waiting for repairs.

Seattle Center

This cultural complex is the city's lasting benefit from the World's Fair. This public space -- parkland, the Pacific Science Center, an arena, the superb Rock & Roll Museum, a 40,000 square foot exhibition hall, and the Space Needle tower -- was the site of the fair and is the present-day location of festivals, athletic events, international art exhibits, restaurants, and shops. It's the site of the Folklife (folk music) Festival (held in May), and the unique Bumbershoot Festival which features hundreds of performers of all musical genres, along with crafts and art shows each Labor Day weekend. A visit to Seattle isn't complete without visiting this great urban space.

Pike Place Market

The wonderful farmers' market has to be the soul of the city. The historic jumble of buildings -- perched on the Elliot Bay escarpment -- has what is probably America's finest urban market, as well as seafood stores, cafes, shops, and housing, on what seems to be a myriad of levels. This is the oldest continuously operating farmers' market in the U.S. A series of staircases descends to the downtown Seattle Waterfront.

Waterfront

Spread along Alaskan Way, the waterfront is serviced by the city's only remaining street car line. The rails begin at Pioneer Square, in the original 1800s historic district. The piers which once saw ships loaded with Klondike gold rush stampeders sailing for Alaska and the Yukon now house distinctive seafood restaurants and cafes -- several with outdoor patios. City attractions include the Seattle Aquarium, summer concerts, souvenir shops, and the busy Washington State Ferry Terminal, at the Coleman Pier. A hotel is located on one of the piers with waterside rooms. The unique Waterfront Park has no grass, but a waterfall fountain, viewpoints, benches, and picnic areas. Myrtle Edwards Park -- at the north end of the waterfront -- is linked to the Elliot Bay Bikeway, a promenade to a fishing pier.

Pioneer Square District

Here are wonderfully-restored buildings constructed after the great fire of 1889, containing art galleries, bookstores, restaurants, clubs, taverns, and The Underground. After the fire, the whole downtown district was raised a whole story, to correct the terrible drainage, and the old streets and some buildings are still there. A tour takes you underground to a warren of old shops lit by filtered sun from skylights. Pioneer Place Park has a distinctive pergola built of wrought iron and a 60-foot Tlingit totem pole honors the memory of Chief Seattle. His bust is also on display in the park. The Elliot Bay Book Company, on First Avenue, is the city's largest independent bookstore, with it own basement cafe. The store is one of the city's prime landmarks. And for good reason -- Seattle residents are considered to be the nation's most serious readers and buyers of books.

Seattle Art Museum

The latest expansion of the Seattle Art Museum has made this institution a major player in the Northwestern art world and among Seattle's top tourist attractions. In January 2007, the spectacular Olympic Sculpture Park opened along Seattle's waterfront. In May, the expanded downtown museum headquarters opened, providing much more space for its modern art exhibits. The third part of the operation is its Seattle Asian Museum, SAM's original building, opened in 1933, located in Volunteer Park. The newer and now much expanded downtown museum is located at 1300 First Avenue. Admission is free on the first Thursday of each month.

Where to Eat

One could spend a whole week or two just eating in the Seattle area, with a different superb restaurant for every meal: seafood cafes along the waterfront, and in the suburbs, in some of the country's finest gourmet restaurants and hotel dining rooms, and even on a scenic train ride in the Mount Rainier Foothills. Perhaps the following listing will help you decide.

There are two hotel dining rooms that deserve reverent attention. The dining room of the Alexis Hotel is a small intimate restaurant with flawless service and fine cuisine. It is fully matched by the dining room in the downtown Sheraton Hotel. Over the years, the restaurant has won a nationwide reputation for its fresh Pacific Northwest cuisine, featuring local seafood, plus an extensive wine list.

The Bookstore Bar and Cafe, at 1007 1st Ave., is next to the Alexis Hotel's First Avenue entrance, and is a fine alternative to the hotel dining room for more modest meals, and libations.

Not in the same league are several waterfront cafes, but they are fun places to visit, and the food is generally good. Ivar's Acres of Clams and several other restaurants around town are the legacy of the late, colorful Ivar Haglund. Ivar's is joined on the waterfront by several other seafood places, which include outdoor patio and pier dining on Elliot Bay.

The cafes in Pike Place Market are inexpensive places to eat, with views of Elliot Bay. Union Square Grill, near the Convention Center, downtown, features a long bar with an astonishing variety of beers (draft and bottled) in its bar, with the fancy grill next door.

Metropolitan Grill, 820 2nd Avenue, is in the financial district, offering the best steaks in town, in a superb setting -- a former bank building. The service is swift and discrete, and the menu also includes pasta and other dishes. But the steaks are what draws people here. Reservations are urged. Call (206) 624-3287.

Anthony's Pier 66, at 2201 Alaskan Way, on the waterfront, serves seafood with Northwest and Asian touches. The restaurant has a great view.

Dimitriou's Jazz Alley, 2033 6th Avenue, is the longtime jazz club near downtown and Seattle Center. The food is a mix of Italian and Greek, and top names play and sing here.

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