If Portland is where my heart is today, Seattle brings me back to the places of my childhood. There's something reminiscent of the East Coast along the Puget Sound, a little bubble of culture that feels just slightly more Atlantic than Pacific.
I love making the 3 hour drive — or even a quick Amtrak ride — up to Seattle for a short weekend get-away. It's just far enough to feel like a vacation and the city's energy is entirely unlike life in Portland. Things feel a little more established ... almost grown-up. But who says you need to "act your age"? Here are five adventures to bring out your inner kid as you explore the Emerald City.
1. Explore Pike Place Market & the Seattle Waterfront
Pike Place Market is a great spot to start your day! Grab a coffee from the original Starbucks before popping into Cinnamon Works for an amazing pastry. I can't visit Seattle without having one of their vegan cinnamon rolls and chocolate chip cookies … or two.
Spend some time exploring the market itself where you'll find fresh local seafood, produce, specialty foods and flowers as well as crafts from local artisans. Be sure to get your picture taken with Rachel, the Market's 550 pound bronze piggy bank. Navigate your way down to the Market Level and delve into a world of tchotchkes and unique gifts. Once you're ready to move beyond the Market the Seattle Waterfront is home to many attractions. Whether you're looking for food and libations, gift shopping, a sightseeing cruise or want to learn about the local aquatic life at the Seattle Aquarium (one of the best I've ever been to), there's plenty of activity to fill your day with great memories.
2. Train your gaze upward to take in the incredible architecture.
Seattle's skyline is easily distinguished by the Space Needle, but the city has a wide variety of other unique and fun architecture. The Seattle Central Library is in the heart of downtown, where Architects Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus created a modern work of art for the city. The exterior is fascinating on its own, but be sure to go inside too!
If you're near the Space Needle, you'll easily spot another architectural delight — the EMP Museum, home to a variety of pop culture collections from music to sci-fi. The building was designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry and epitomizes his unique style.
Want a magnificent view of the city? Try a lesser known Smith Tower. Built in 1914, it was tallest building on the West Coast until 1962 when the Space Needle eclipsed it. Take the elevator up to the 35th floor Chinese Room, named for a gift from the Chinese Empress — all the furniture and ceiling panels! If you're truly adventurous (and not afraid of heights), step outside to the narrow observation deck that surrounds the Chinese Room and take in spectacular views of Seattle.
3. Test your seaworthiness with a ferry ride across Elliott Bay
Take in the sights and sounds of Puget Sound with a ferry trip to Bainbridge Island. The ferries operate on a regular schedule, offer ample indoor seating with windows, and if you want some fresh air you can go out on the deck! You may want to bring a coat, the wind can be chilly even on warm days. You'll get amazing views of the skyline, Mt. Rainier, and Bainbridge Island. If you're lucky, you might even see some whales! Once on Bainbridge Island, you can choose to turn around and sail right back to Seattle, or stay and explore the island a bit. The small downtown is a short stroll from the ferry terminal where you'll find plenty of dining and shopping.
4. Tour Seattle's neighborhoods for historic homes, modern design and Scandinavian pride!
Seattle has a number of fun and exciting neighborhoods just waiting to be explored. If you're looking for more of the city's architectural history, a stroll through the Queen Anne neighborhood is sure to delight. The neighborhood is home to 29 city landmarks, twelve of which are homes.
If you're looking for a more funky vibe, great food, music and shopping checkout Capitol Hill. The neighborhood is just east of downtown and historically was home to many of the city's wealthiest residents. In the years following World War II, the neighborhood changed, losing much of its historic architecture in favor of modern design. A large gay and lesbian population has called Capitol Hill home since the 1960s and it continues to be a vibrant and multifaceted area today.
But maybe you want to explore your Scandinavian roots without the hassle of flying? Checkout Ballard. This neighborhood served as home to many of Seattle's Scandinavian migrants. The Nordic Heritage Museum provides a fascinating look at the history, culture and stories of these people as they settled in the area. And mark your calendar to visit on May 17 — help celebrate Ballard SeafoodFest and Norwegian Constitution Day!
5. Jet over to the Boeing Museum of Flight
A personal favorite for my fellow aviation geeks. Not every city can claim to be home to an aviation icon like Boeing. For aviation and space enthusiasts, this is a must see! The Museum of Flight offers an in depth look at the history of Boeing from its origin in 1910 up through modern times with a glimpse at the possible future of air and space travel. Where the museum really shines is in the diversity of exhibits. Some of the permanent exhibits include the first Boeing 737 production aircraft; the first 747 built ushering in the age of the "jumbo jet;" and the first jet airliner to go into service, de Havilland D.H. 106 Comet Mk. 4C.
Some of the exhibits offer an even more up close look at aviation history. The museum's Concorde and first jet powered "Air Force One" are open to board. It's amazing to see how tiny and cramped the Concorde was — you were truly paying for speed and not comfort when flying.
And in case that's not enough, Boeing Field is an active airfield. On any given day you'll see a variety of aircraft — from everyday 737 commercial jets to one-of-a-kind NASA air testing models — but you'll also see planes painted in the colors of airlines from near and far (cheatlines for you aviation enthusiasts). An aircraft spotters dream!