Isn't it time for a weekend in Seattle? Whether you like to shop, eat or be entertained, there are plenty of opportunities to keep you busy.
The Seattle Boat Show is coming up (Jan. 29-Feb. 6). This is a popular event with Alaska mariners. The indoor boat displays are spread out at CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks play. But you can check out the boats in the water at Chandler's Cove on South Lake Union.
Another popular "magnet event" for Alaskans is the Northwest Flower and Garden Show (Feb. 17-21) at the Washington State Convention Center.
Face it, though. Any reason will do for a trip to the Emerald City. Many Alaskans have their favorite hotels, their favorite restaurants and their favorite attractions. Maybe next time you can branch out and see some new sights. Here are some suggestions:
1. Stay at one of 59 downtown hotels during February and take 50 percent off of the admission price for 41 area museums. February is "Seattle Museum Month" and all of the top museums are included: Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Aquarium, Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Chihuly Garden and Glass (at the Space Needle), EMP Museum, Museum of Flight, Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) and the Woodland Park Zoo.
2. Plan now to attend the Taste Washington wine and food extravaganza March 31-April 4. "Washington is second only to California when it comes to wine production," said Kauilani Robinson with Visit Seattle. "With more than 800 wineries in the state, this event is a great way to discover new winemakers," she said. The "grand tasting" at CenturyLink Field features 225 wineries.
3. Take a ride on the new First Hill Street Car. This new streetcar starts near CenturyLink Field and goes east through the International District, under Interstate 5 and up to Broadway. It then traverses "Pill Hill" past Harborview Medical Center and Swedish Medical Center. It ends at Broadway and Denny in the heart of the Capitol Hill District. This is a sister line to the South Lake Union Trolley that goes from Westlake Center to the shore of Lake Union. Of course, my favorite public transportation project in Seattle is the Sound Transit Link light rail from Sea-Tac to Westlake Center. It's just $3 to ride all the way -- a great deal.
4. Rent an electric boat on Lake Union. "This is a fun way to spend an afternoon with up to nine of your friends," said Robinson. These 21-foot boats have a cover in case it's raining or it's too sunny. You're the captain! Lake Union offers stunning vistas of the city skyline and the Space Needle. Watch out for Kenmore Air's planes taking off and landing. You can bring your own food, or select some platters from the cafe for your mini-cruise. The boats rent for $99 per hour and feature a sound system for your music.
5. One of Robinson's favorite activities in her adopted hometown is to get out on the water. "Sometimes I'll just get on the Washington State Ferry over to Bainbridge Island just for the beautiful views," she said. There are several great water tours, including harbor tours from Argosy Cruises. Argosy also offers tours that cruise through the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks into Lake Union.
6. Aviation enthusiasts, or "AvGeeks" should make the 30-minute trek from downtown up to Paine Field in Everett. Your first stop should be at the Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour. There's a brief movie at the beginning of the tour, as well as some interesting aircraft displays. But the real fun is getting on the bus and going on the Boeing factory tour. You'll see where they're putting together the 777s and other highlights of Boeing's incredible story.
No aviation enthusiast should miss a visit to the mother ship of all aviation displays in Seattle: the Museum of Flight. You'll see historic Boeing workshops from 100 years ago, along with a Concorde, Air Force 1, a 787, the first operational 727, a Super Constellation and so much more. Don't miss it.
7. On the south side of Everett's Paine Field is Paul Allen's Flying Heritage Museum. This is an incredible collection of warbirds, most of which are air-worthy. There is a Japanese Zero, a U.S. Thunderbolt, a P-51 Mustang and many other incredible aircraft on display.
8. Hungry? There's plenty to eat in Seattle. I've got my favorites, including Lola for breakfast (inside the Hotel Andra). For coffee, I always return to Top Pot Doughnuts. In addition to great coffee, there are some great baked goods, including the apple fritters. But I'm a big fan of their super-fast free wireless Internet connection. Serious foodies can sample some great offerings by taking a food tour of either Pike Place Market or Belltown. Check out Seattle Food Tours. You'll get some history, some food culture and some tasty bites all in one tour.
9. Extra day? Take the Victoria Clipper up to Victoria, B.C. Bring your passport. Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, is a lovely city that's easily accessible on foot. The main museum is just steps away from the ferry dock. The Empress Hotel is famous for its high tea service. But it's just one of several hotels available in packages offered by Clipper Vacations. You can go on the Clipper in both directions, or fly back on the return with Kenmore Air to Lake Union.
10. Space Needle. I first went to the Space Needle in 1962 at the World's Fair. I've been a big Seattle fan ever since. There are plenty of ways to get up in the air around Seattle. But a trip to the top of the Space Needle really is a great way to get a bird's-eye view of the area.
Getting there: Seattle never has been more affordable. There are great fares for less than $300 round-trip from Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau to Seattle. In May, the fares will go down.
More information: The folks at Visit Seattle have plenty of online resources, including the site 2DaysInSeattle.com. But my favorite go-to guide is Ann Peavey, who mans the visitor information booth inside the Washington State Convention Center. She's a great resource and you can follow her on Twitter.
Scott McMurren is an Anchorage-based marketing consultant, serving clients in the transportation, hospitality, media and specialty destination sectors, among others. Contact him by email at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@alaskatravelGRM) and alaskatravelgram.com. For more information, visit alaskatravelgram.com/about.