During our one-month tour of western Washington, we paused for a week in the “Emerald City” of Seattle. Amid an evergreen backdrop, we unearthed a treasure chest of travel gems in Seattle’s popular tourist sites, chain of leafy parks, dynamic waterways, and celebrated coffee houses.
From our rental apartment in the Wallingford neighborhood, it was a short walk to the “U-District” and the University of Washington campus. Here, Seattle’s legendary coffee culture was born out of cold and rainy weather, all-night student cram sessions, and the bohemian counterculture movement of the late 1960s.
We found Seattle’s coffee houses to be friendly and comfortable places to read, chat, type on a computer, and drink coffee. During our long daily walks, these coffee stops also served as a welcome place to sit down, rest our tired feet, and re-energize with a mood-altering dose of caffeine.
All week, we tested the limits of our aching feet. According to demographer and city expert Bert Sperling, Seattle is the 4th most walkable city in the USA. A major factor contributing to Seattle’s outstanding walkability is its chain of verdant parks, strung like bright green gemstones on a citywide necklace.
In the early 20th century, to design and construct a greenbelt of parks throughout Seattle, the city commissioned the Olmsted landscape architecture firm. Renowned for designing Central Park in New York, the Olmsted family worked in Seattle for nearly four decades to create a linked system of natural parks, playgrounds, and pedestrian arteries.
Our city walks also followed Seattle’s system of interconnected waterways and numerous draw bridge crossings. The saltwater Puget Sound, on which Seattle was founded, is now joined with inland freshwater lakes, Lake Union and Lake Washington, by the Lake Washington Ship Canal.
In 1917, to allow ship traffic to navigate these waterways, the United States Corp of Engineers constructed the Chittenden Locks. At this fascinating site, we spent hours watching boats of all sizes raised up or let down 20 feet to compensate for the lower elevation of the Puget Sound.
For a chance to ply the Puget Sound and escape the city for a few hours, we took a scenic ferry trip from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. With 21 vessels, carrying up to 2,500 passengers and 200 vehicles, Washington State Ferries is the largest ferry operator in the USA.
Back in the city, a tour of Seattle would not have been complete without a visit to the popular Pike Place Market. Famous for its salmon throwing fishmongers, this continually operating farmer’s market is Seattle’s largest tourist attraction and home to the original Starbucks coffee shop.
After one more coffee stop, we celebrated Esther’s birthday with a picnic brunch of bagels and lox at the locks. From there, we continued on to the acclaimed Chihuly Garden and Glass museum in the shadow of the iconic Space Needle. In the creative and colorful glass exhibits, we uncovered one final travel gem in the “Emerald City” of Seattle.
Feature Photo: Seattle skyline at dusk from Washington State Ferry