In the 5 years living out here, I haven’t been to Seattle other than to catch the ferry over to the Olympic Peninsula. So when four of my college buddiesÂ from Drew mentioned they were converging in the city for a race in September, I jumped at the opportunity to pay a visit. So for a weekend in September (11-13), we loaded up the car and headed westward for a few days.
Although Seattle is “the big city” around here, it’s nowhere near as big and daunting as some of the truly big cities of the world. Downtown is only several blocks long and several blocks wide and after that, the tall skyscrapers give way to smaller neighborhoods with a mix of historic and modern architecture. I would consider Seattle to be a neighborhood city, and that’s where its charm lies, as part of the reason to visit Seattle is to experience the local culture. For example, we spent a day in Fremont, one of the neighborhoods just north of the city. Fremont has a small town main street feel with local shops and restaurants lining the streets.Â I would describe the neighborhood as progressive. Then again, that explains most of the Seattle area.
We were in Fremont because that’s where Geocaching.com has its headquarters, and I really wanted to take the opportunity to visit. So after spending some time at the zoo, we went to geocaching to find their headquarters cache. Afterward, we had dinner at an excellent Thai restaurant and then I dropped Erin off at a gluten-free and vegan bakery so that she could get some homework done. Meanwhile, I walked around the neighborhood with Clara to explore and find some geocaches.
As I mentioned above, we took Clara to the zoo. It turned out to be a mild success. She was mostly interested in other people and the texture of the walkways. But occasionally we would come across an animal that she liked. One of the tigers was lounging in front of the glass and she thought that was pretty cool, and she briefly enjoyed the jaguar. But mostly she was interested in animals swimming underwater. We had hope that the aquarium would be more successful.
The next day, we headed downtown to the aquarium. Seattle’s aquarium is quite small compared to, say, Baltimore’s, but it’s very nicely done. Like the Alaska SeaLife center, the Seattle aquarium focuses on mostly native life of the pacific northwest, with one section featuring tropical Pacific life, mostly from the Hawaiian islands. There’s the giant Window on Washington tank, featuring salmon in their ocean stage and other large fish from the coastal shelf. The next exhibit features some tide pool touch tanks with coastal invertebrates. Next come the tropical exhibits. Then we move outside where there are some shore birds and mammals and the underwater dome featuring life from the Puget Sound. Clara loved the aquarium as we expected.
Once we were done with the fish, we headed up to Pike Place market to check out the shops. This is like a full-time farmer’s market with fresh meat, fish, and fruit & veggie stands, plus a few restaurants and other artisan food shops. The lower levels are like a shopping mall, but the stores are locally owned shops instead of corporate chains. It’s both touristy and a legitimate local shopping hub.
On Sunday, we went to the REI flagship store before heading home. I was expecting some special experience similar to L.L. Bean’s flagship store. Unfortunately, it was just an oversized REI store with the only extra bit being a kid’s play space, which Clara enjoyed, and an overpriced cafe. That’s not to say it isn’t worth visiting. The grounds outside are beautiful and the store is huge. But don’t expect to find anything that you wouldn’t otherwise find in your local REI store.
I would like to explore Seattle some more. Two and a half days is just not enough to see every place and do everything. And that’s just in the city. There is much more to explore in the mountains just outside the city as well as the islands in the Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula.