Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Top 10 Must Do's when you visit Seattle to attend the GMN Conference in March

1. Pike Place Market

Yes, we have all seen markets -- but have you ever seen one where a 4lb Salmon is flying through the air in front of you as fish hockers jockey for your business? Seriously, you can try local artisan cheeses and wines, visit the 100 plus vendors booths that are selling their wares that consist of everything from glass blown vases to homemade soap. You can even visit the first original Starbucks or see where the Beatles performed an impromptu concert from a balcony across from the market.

2. Traditional Pacific Northwest Cuisine

What does that mean? It is an approach/philosophy to food: less seasoning is more, locally sourced food (50 mile radius from farm to table), seafood preferably, if it’s a steak it should be grass fed. The chef Tom Douglas in particular has really promoted the PNW concept of food well. And not to plug for him deliberately, but if you are going to eat one nice dinner you cannot go wrong with Etta’s and Dahlia Lounge, two of his restaurants located in Downtown Seattle. You may want to make a reservation as they can both get quite busy.

Lastly take time to enjoy the locally brewed beers; the Pacific Northwest takes great pride in their local breweries, whose brew you can find at any serious Seattle restaurant. Try and of the Elysian Brewery beers, or the Pike Kilt Lifter after you visit the market. Finally you should not leave Seattle until you have had an IPA if you like a hoppy beer.

3. Seattle Duck Tour

A must do to orient yourself to Seattle and a great way to shake off jetlag and forget work. You'll see all the major sights of Seattle including the Space Needle, the Seattle waterfront, Safeco Field and Qwest Field, historic Pioneer Square, Pike Place Market, the downtown shopping district and funky Fremont neighborhood. Then, SPLASH into Lake Union for a look at Gasworks Park, the Sleepless in Seattle houseboat and a breathtaking view of the skyline. Along the way, the Captains will play music, share jokes and tell you about the city! You'll see the same sights of the city whether you depart from our location at 5th Avenue & Broad Street or Westlake Center.

4. Olympic Sculpture Park

The Olympic Sculpture Park has transformed a nine-acre industrial site into open and vibrant green space for art. This new waterfront park gives Seattle residents and visitors the opportunity to experience a variety of sculpture in an outdoor setting, while enjoying the incredible views and beauty of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound. Admission is free.

5. Ferry to Bainbridge Island

It’s easy to catch a ferry from the docks in downtown Seattle. Then spend a relaxing half hour crossing Elliot Bay to Bainbridge Island. During the ride, check out a new perspective on the Seattle skyline and admire the Olympic Mountains. Bainbridge Island is home to 20,000 residents, many of whom use the ferry for daily commuting. Once on the island you can rent bikes or walk into the town of Winslow, where there are shops, galleries and delicious dining options. Nature lovers should plan to walk through the Bloedel Reserve to see Pacific Northwest wildlife. When you are ready to return, hop on another ferry and you will be back to the urban life in no time.

6. Seattle Public Library

The downtown public library building is so unique they offer daily tours to showcase its architectural features. The modern building opened in 2004 and was designed by Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Ramus. Time Magazine listed the building as one of the best of the year and the Washington Posted declared it one of the best new buildings of the decade. Inside there are open areas for community gatherings, dizzying views of the city, special areas designed for teens and kids, public artwork, a coffee cart, a gift shop and of course tons of reading material. And if you need a good place to check email, there are over 400 public computers. The public meeting room level has twisty corridors painted shiny red that have been described as either “groovy” or “like navigating a colon.” Check it out for yourself and see what you think.

7. Queen Anne Hill

Located directly north of downtown, Queen Anne Hill is a great neighborhood to explore. The main street at the top of the hill has an array of restaurants to sample the Pacific Northwest cuisine (Item #2 on our list), trendy boutiques and funky cafes. From Kerry Park you can enjoy gorgeous views of the city. The residential section is a mix of old mansions and modern architecture. Linking the upper and lower neighborhoods is a series of pedestrian staircases. You can buy a map of these stairways at the Queen Anne Books, a great place.

8. Seattle Underground Tour (history buffs will love)

The tour begins at Doc Maynard's, a restored 1890s public house, then goes underground to visit the abandoned, sunken storefronts of what was once ground-level Pioneer Square. Their well-informed guides recount the role of the modern toilet in Seattle history, the origin of the term Skid Road, and take you to some places where ghosts are said to hang out, all the while telling hilarious stories and recanting Seattle history.

In the olden days, downtown Seattle was chaotic-- built on a tidal plain-- with very poor drainage. After the Great Fire in 1889, city planners wanted to raise the streets to solve the city's growing sewage problems, but the downtown building owners, who didn't want to wait for the city to get to work, rebuilt their buildings at the original level.

Many years later, the city of Seattle raised the streets, leaving sidewalks and entrances as much as 36 feet below street level. For several years, pedestrians clambered up and down between street level and building entrance on ladders, but eventually the building entrances were raised, and the old sidewalks covered over, creating the area called the Seattle Underground.

The UNDERGROUND TOUR is a leisurely, guided walking tour beneath Seattle’s sidewalks and streets. As you roam the subterranean passages that once were the main roadways and first-floor storefronts of old downtown Seattle, our guides regale you with the stories our pioneers didn’t want you to hear. It’s history with a twist!

9. Seattle Aquarium

Would you like to stand within a circle of glowing jellyfish? Run your fingers along a sea anemone’s soft tentacles. Delight in the antics of the sea otters (insanely cute and fun to watch). In Seattle Aquarium you can see the world's first aquarium-based salmon ladder and fish hatchery and witness the entire life cycle of Pacific salmon. It is important to point out that the Aquarium is the first institution in the world to successfully raise sea otters from the conception to the adulthood and is the only facility in the United States with that distinctive feature. Today, these lovely creatures warm the hearts of numerous visitors, as well as show the way for Seattle Aquarium researchers of how otters can better survive in their natural surroundings.

Lastly you have to see the world’s largest giant, and I mean GIANT Pacific octopus that was raised from conception to adulthood in the aquarium. Its name is the Dark Avenger, weighing over 50 pound and residing in a habitat, built to display the largest giant Pacific octopus ever seen.

10. Discovery Park

If you get overloaded with the urban scene, Discovery Park awaits. It is Seattle’s largest park with 534 acres of woods, meadows, and two miles of protected tidal beaches. Starting at the Visitors Center you can take a three mile hiking loop through beautiful forest and then out to a bluff overlooking Elliot Bay and the Olympic Mountains. Those with extra energy can hike down the beach and check out the lighthouse. The park is also home to the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, where you can check out Native American cultural activities and art exhibits. (This activity is easiest if you have a rental car, but the Seattle bus system will take you there too.)


  1. Great ideas! I want to do everything! I'll add a couple of favorites from my last Seattle adventure...

    Gourmet food walking tour of Pike Place market and surrounding area (yum!)

    Wine tasting day trip (with designated driver of course!) to Woodinville, WA--about 30 minutes south of Seattle and has 70+ tasting rooms. (also yum!)

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed the Underground Seattle tour on a previous visit. It really is terrific!

    I can also attest to the fabulous local breweries and awesome seafood. I am looking forward to seeing everyone in March and revisiting a terrific city!

  3. Thanks for the ideas. There is a lot to see. I'm planning a day trip to Mt. Rainer following the conference.