No, there is nothing I hate about Seattle. 10 Things I Hate About You is a romantic comedy-drama movie filmed in the Seattle metropolitan area. Having used different locations of the city, they couldn’t have chosen a better place than Kerry Park to get a view of the downtown skyline. The movie came out in 1999, but that scene sticks in my memory.
I always wanted to visit Seattle. Living in Southern California for 16 years, it is a shame to say that I had never visited the Pacific Northwest beyond San Francisco and Napa Valley. My friend, Pam, lives in Seattle now. Having just finished an eight-day cruise in Alaska and being so close to Seattle, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to see Pam and visit the Emerald City for the first time. As my husband flew back home due to his work obligations, it was a mom-and-daughter vacation.
Falling head over heels in love with Seattle
Located on a neck between an inlet of the Pacific Ocean and Lake Washington, water, mountains, and pine trees surround Seattle. It is beautiful! Being also Washington State’s largest city, it has no shortage of activities, either for nature lovers or urban-life enthusiasts. On the other hand, Seattle is well-known for its gray skies and freezing rainy days.
I certainly knew about some of Seattle’s landmarks like Space Needle and Mount Rainier, plus remarkable attractions such as Pike Market, Chihuly Garden and Glass, Kerry Park, among others. What I didn’t expect was that we’d fall head over heels in love with the city. Yes, we did. During our three-day visit, we learned what it has to offer in art, technology, culture, nature, and food. Then, we were lucky enough to have Pam show us the most interesting sights. Last, but not least, we got the most gorgeous sunny days we could have hoped for.
Traveling with kids or not, here are the 10 things we loved about Seattle.
Note: We arrived in Seattle around 4 am from Anchorage, Alaska. We crashed at the conveniently located Hyatt Place in Seattle Downtown to recharge. When we finally awakened, we explored some of the acclaimed attractions around the corner.
1. Chihuly Garden and Glass
Prior to my trip to Seattle, the only Dale Chihuly’s piece of art I had seen was in Las Vegas, Bellagio’s stunning glass flowers ceiling, the Fiori di Como. However, Chihuly’s fans have had the opportunity to see his magnificent work on temporary and permanent exhibitions all over the world. Knowing that Seattle’s most famous artist has a permanent collection on display in the city, it was my chance to see it all. Dale Chihuly is, after all, one of the most recognizable worldwide names in glass art.
The Chihuly Garden and Glass features eight indoor galleries, each one displaying different themes. From the Sea Life Room to the Persian Ceiling and Chandeliers, each piece impressed us by its shapes, colors, texture, and compositions. The surprises didn’t stop there. Next, we found ourselves standing in a 40-foot tall, glass-enclosed structure covering 4,500 square feet of space. It was Chihuly’s Glasshouse. The imposing architecture holds only small white benches on each side of the room, plus a 100-foot long flowers sculpture in shades of reds, oranges, and yellows, hanging from the ceiling. It was stunning!
When we finally stepped outside, the exhibition Garden was another joy. While we strolled through paved paths surrounded by plants and flowers, we enjoyed Chihuly’s small and giant artwork, strategically placed and harmonized with nature. Pictures do not do this museum justice! A must see!
2. Space Needle
Have I already mentioned we got gorgeous days while in Seattle? The blue sky and warm temperature were an invitation to see the city from the ground, and from above. The Space Needle and a couple of outdoor attractions screamed our names.
After a quick elevator ride, we arrived 520 feet above the city at the Space Needle observation deck. The iconic Space Needle offers 360-degree indoor and outdoor panoramic views of downtown, Mount Rainier, Lake Washington, Elliott Bay, and adjacent neighborhoods. It was absolutely gorgeous!
Note: To avoid long waits, buy your timed tickets online in advance. Arrive up to 30 minutes prior to your launch time. For more details about opening times and ticket prices, click here.
3. International Fountain
Extraordinary! It was my first impression looking at the International Fountain. Several spouts located on the central dome sprayed water and changed patterns to follow the rhythm of the music on the background. Our kids immediately ran to join other kids and adults alike on the bottom of the bowl, near the dome. Meanwhile, Pam and I sat along the edge and watched them. Often, top nozzles shoot water high into the air, while side nozzles spray out toward the edges of the large basin. It was beautiful, peaceful, and almost mesmerizing.
Note: When visiting the International Fountain, I advise to bring towels and an extra change of clothes for the kids.
4. Olympic Sculpture Park
Just a short walk from the Space Needle, the Olympic Sculpture Park is a place you must see, especially on a beautiful, sunny day. Featuring a nine-acre green space in the middle of the city, the park occupies an industrial site at the edge of Elliott Bay. Adorned not only by nature but also by beautiful sculptures that belong to the Seattle Art Museum, the place was an invitation for a stroll along the paths.
The Olympic Sculpture Park was alive but quiet. Like other tourists in the area, we strolled through paths, checked the views, and appreciated the art pieces. Some locals were present too. While some laid out on blankets and enjoyed the sun, other folks were walking dogs, jogging, or strolling with children. Clearly, residents were enjoying Seattle’s rare blue sky.
5. Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)
What a great way to spend an afternoon! The kids kicked off our outing by climbing, sliding, and exploring the 1.25-acre outdoor playground, located in front of the Museum of Pop Culture. Well-designed and appropriate for all ages, the set up offers boundless possibilities for adventure, interaction, and music. The most eye-catching element is a 35-foot climbing structure, but several other tempting features such as a carousel, the letter tree, and storylines are in sight. The clever sound fence where kids pulled on a billiards ball and a string played musical notes was popular among the kids.
Still outside, the Museum caught my attention with its colorful and intriguing exterior. Inside, we found a world of culture. Strolling from permanent to temporary exhibits, we saw an impressive collection of artifacts and collectibles related to rock music, video games, movies, science fiction, and more. Although the museum appeals to a multi-generation public through diverse collections and interactive technologies, it appeared to me to be more engaging for older kids and adults.
Everything was amusing. Our kids didn’t want to leave. As my daughter emulated her dad’s passion for Led Zeppelin, she shouted when she saw the famous band’s drums. The Indie Game Revolution, sponsored by Nintendo, engaged kids of all ages. In the Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction, Star Trek’s fans reviewed photographs and other items on display. Likewise, the temporary exhibit Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes offered kids and adults alike an in-depth look at the evolution of some of Marvel’s most popular characters. Other showings were on display making the Museum of Pop Culture worthy a visit.
Note: The Space Needle, International Fountain, Museum of Pop Culture, and Chihuly Garden and Glass are on the grounds of the Seattle Center. Despite not having visited it the same day, everything was a short walking distance from each other.
6. Pike Place Market
We have visited Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, Lexington Market in Baltimore, Ferry Building Market in San Francisco, Public Market in Vancouver, and Municipal Market in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I remember being impressed by all of them; yet, Pike Place blew my mind. First of all, it is enormous. The stores, arranged in different floors, vary from restaurants to galleries, fabric shops, antiques, a comic book shop, cafes, jewelry, candy shops, a magic shop, and produce. The list goes on. Then, it was C-R-O-W-D-E-D. In fact, we avoided walking in some rows because it was too much of a hassle. The final Wow! came when we saw vendors throwing and catching fish in the air. While they showed off their aiming and gripping skills, the audience laughed and cheered at their performance. It was a spectacle!
The Gum Wall and original Starbucks store
The Gum Wall came next! Quite honestly, I still don’t have a solid opinion on this. Is it art? Located in an alleyway under Pike Place Market, the narrow back street seems to be a popular spot. It surely is if we base our judgment on how many people were visiting and the amount of chewing gum stuck to the more than 50-feet brick wall. According to my research, it started in the early 1990s by a group of people waiting to see a show. In 2015, the city washed and scraped the gum off the wall, but the next day, visitors began adding gum to the surface again. Art or not, when you visit Seattle, stop by for a quick check when you are at the Pike Place.
Then, get a coffee at the original Starbucks store if you dare. Located across the street from Pike Place, the small building was as busy as it could possibly be. With the queue stretching down the street, we only checked out Starbucks’ 45-year old authentic logo on the window, took a peek at the original floors and fixtures, and left. It was for us, another quick check off as we found ourselves in the area.
7. Kerry Park
Remember the spectacular view of the Seattle skyline from the movie 10 Things I Hate About You that I Remember the spectacular view of the Seattle skyline from the movie 10 Things I Hate About You that I previously mentioned? This is it. Kerry Park is not really a park but just a small grassy area located in the beautiful residential Queen Anne district. Sitting on top of a steep hill, it offers a stunning, panoramic view of the downtown and Elliot Bay. On a clear day, it is possible to see Mount Rainier as well.
8. Ballard Locks
Built to connect Lake Washington to Puget Sound and Elliott Bay, the Ballard Locks are a fascinating engineering achievement located in the water of Salmon Bay. Kayaks and small and large boats travel back and forth from lower to higher waters. It was intriguing to watch how the whole system works.
Gates come down, and once the boats are in the canal, the water level drops to bring the boats flat with Puget Sound, fresh water mixes with salt water, and vessels move into the bay. Meanwhile, on the other side, the water level raises and evens up with the lake. Immediately boats move on. My daughter, who is fascinated by all of the construction possibilities of Minecraft world, was mesmerized.
9. Seattle’s Fish Ladder
When I think about salmon, one of the most curious scenes that crosses my mind is when these fish swim and jump upstream in Alaskan rivers and get caught by bears. Does this happen to you? Did you know that it happens because salmon hatch in rivers, then journey to the sea where they will spend most of their lives? Yes, they do. Near the end of their life cycle, the surviving adults journey back from thousands of miles through the open ocean to spawn in the same streams where it all started.
Seattle’s fish ladder – with 21 steps instead of 10 – helps adult fish go around dams or man-made barriers, reducing the distance they need to jump. From a covered viewing area adjacent to the locks and through glass panels below the waterline, we watched the first migrating salmon. In late autumn, they travel from Elliott Bay into Lake Washington, but since we were visiting in early summer, we saw only a few of them.
Interestingly, no one knows how salmon know how to return home. Perhaps they use their sense of smell. Even scientists are still mystified at this fascinating phenomenon.
Note: It is free to watch the salmon migration on the fish ladder. It is an excellent place to visit whenever in Seattle, whether facing a rainy or sunny day.
10. Dining at the Din Tai Fung Dumpling House
Seattle is known as one of the most exciting foodie cities in America. Standing out not only for outstanding flavors but also for the variety of ethnic restaurants, we were not surprised to hear about the explosion of Asian cuisine in the city. It didn’t take our friends long to convince me that Din Tai Fung Dumpling House would be the best place in town for dumplings.
Din Tai Fung Dumpling House doesn’t take reservations. Once we arrived, we heard that we would have to wait for about 45 minutes. The place was packed. I thought, “Well, it may be a good sign. If the dumplings are good, it will be worth it.” To kill time, we walked around until a text came in advising our table was ready. From the waiting area, through a wide-glass window, we had a glance at workers making dumplings from scratch. They were efficient and precise at each step of the process, especially at how much filling to put inside each dumpling.
The soup dumplings
We ordered several baskets of xiao long bao – aka little basket bun – along with other orders and shared everything. I loved every single dish. The shrimp and pork soup dumplings had a thin dough, which easily split and spilled the liquid in my mouth. It was an explosion of flavors and I am literally salivating as I am writing this post. In the end, a sweet surprise: Pam ordered the Chocolate Mochi XLB, which were bites of pure enjoyment. In other words, Din Tai Fung Dumpling House has the best dumplings I have had in this country. If you are in Seattle for a day and enjoy Asian cuisine, especially soup dumplings, this is the place you need to go.
Have you been to Seattle? What are your most loving memories of this city?