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Destination Seattle: Guide to planning your Emerald City visit

Scott McMurren
My first visit to Seattle with my family in 1962. Photo by my grandmother, Mary Benton Smith.
Chihuly Sea Life: The "sea life" display is one of 11 exhibits at the new Chihuly Garden and Glass museum at the base of the Space Needle.
Scott McMurren photo
These free-form glass bowls are a Chihuly trademark.
Scott McMurren photo
Space Needle: A California visitor looks out over Elliott Bay, where an Alaska-bound cruise ship is docked.
Scott McMurren photo

It was 50 years ago that I traveled with my family on our first trip to Seattle to the World's Fair in 1962.

This was an epic event for our family -- and we did all the cool stuff: we rode the Monorail and went to the Space Needle. And our family stayed at a hotel--for the first time.

Fifty years later, there's still a line to go up to the "O Deck" on the Space Needle. I went to the top and snapped a few shots before returning to earth. And the Monorail still glides between Seattle Center and the Westlake shopping center. And just like in 1962, Seattle is a hot-and-happenin' destination.

Classic Seattle destinations

The "Playland" area next to the Space Needle is gone, finally. In its place visitors will discover a newly constructed glass exhibition. At $19, the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit is pricey, but Dale Chihuly's extraordinary sculptures will take your breath away. 

All of the folks who went through the exhibit with me were doing the same thing: trying their best to capture the incredible artwork on their smartphone or camera. Chihuly's style has a way of making glass appear fluid; in fact, one large exhibit dedicated to sea life looks like an underwater reef!

I took well over 100 photos and was shooed off by the staff more than once for getting too close. But it's worth seeing for yourself.

Chief Seattle and staked salmon at Tillicum Village

Another iconic destination for Seattle travelers is Tillicum Village. Located on Blake Island, a 50-minute boat ride from Argosy Cruises' dock, Tillicum also opened in 1962, just after the World's Fair ended. 

Tillicum Village is popular with visitors--it includes an interpretive Native American presentation inside a theater, as well as a tasty salmon dinner. The salmon is prepared over an open wood fire on stakes. 

An entire generation of Seattle-area children has taken school field trips to Tillicum, which offers young and old alike a great introduction to the art, culture and history of Puget Sound's indigenous people.

Jim Sullivan, director of Argosy Cruises, narrates your voyage to Blake Island with detail of its development, settlement by Anglos and their dealings with Chief Seattle, who was born on Blake Island.

To-do: New must-see Seattle sights

Already experienced these classic Seattle daytrips? If it's been a while, consider giving them another look. But there are several other must-see and must-do Seattle destinations to consider, too, including:

Future of Flight Museum/Boeing Factory Tour

Take a drive north of Seattle to Paine Field in Everett. Boeing has a museum and a world-class gift shop. From there, board a bus to the massive buildings that house Boeing 747s, Boeing 777s and the new Dreamliners, (Boeing 787s). It's amazing to see how these massive planes are constructed and, if you're lucky, to catch one of the finished modern marvels rolling down the ramp! Online: Future of Flight Museum

Museum of Flight

This is a different setup altogether. Here, you'll see the Concorde, an SR-71 "Blackbird," an incredible "Warbird" exhibit chronicling the world wars, and many, many other fascinating aircraft. This museum is located on Boeing Field, between downtown and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Online: Museum of Flight

Pike Place Market

Pike Place was around back during the '62 World Fair. But "The Soul of Seattle" continues to be a top draw for visitors -- particularly those with an appetite. Michael Rogers offers a walking tour of the market, including the unique history of this downtown farmer's market. Enjoy five stops along the way for a unique "taste of Seattle." Online: Seattle Food Tours-Pike Place Market

Other sights to see

Depending on your time, consider these other Seattle destinations:

  • The Seattle Aquarium 
  • Kenmore Air flightseeing tours
  • The Seattle Art Museum
  • A trip to the San Juan Islands or Victoria, British Columbia
  • Pro sports: Seattle Mariners or Seattle Seahawks games
  • Enjoy great coffee and amazing doughnuts at Top Pot Doughnuts. And if that isn't reason enough, the bakery just upgraded its wireless network. Brace yourself, Alaskans, for 25 mbps Internet speeds.

Tips

If you fly into SeaTac, save a bundle of money by taking the Sound Transit Light Rail from the airport to town. It's about 40 minutes to reach downtown or the Westlake Center and costs a whopping $2.75 each way. Online: Sound Transit

Ann Peavey at the Seattle-King County Convention and Visitors Bureau offers real time information and feedback on visiting Seattle. Follow Ann on Twitter. Online: Seattle Maven

Mira Poling offers insight on what to do see and where to go around Seattle. Online: Seattle TravelGram

My recommendation? Don't put off a trip to the Emerald City. Book a nice hotel; good discounts are available during the shoulder seasons. Online: Seattle SuperSaver

Scott McMurren is an Anchorage-based travel marketing consultant who has lived in Alaska for three decades, spending much of that time traveling the far-flung corners of the state. Visit his website at www.alaskatravelgram.com. And follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/alaskatravelgrm for breaking updates.