Back in November I was lucky enough to attend the Americans for the Arts National Arts Marketing Project conference in Seattle. It’s been more than a decade since I’ve been to Seattle, so I thought…
…why not bring the whole family along?! We turned the conference into the boys’ first trip to Seattle (and Owen’s first time on a plane), and added a bonus couple days visiting friends in Portland.
Flying into Sea-Tac Airport puts you about 35-40 minutes south of the city, but you can easily catch the Link light rail. The trains are a small hike (which feels longer if you’re carrying bags) from baggage claim, but the signage is clear. One-way fares to the downtown stops are $3 for adults and $1.50 for kids.
The train took us to Westlake Station downtown, a couple blocks from The Westin Seattle, where the conference took place. Our room enjoyed views of downtown, the sound and the monorail line (more on that soon!).
After settling in, we walked a few blocks down the hill to introduce the boys to a Seattle icon: the Pike Place Market.
We make it a point to prep the boys when traveling anywhere new, so they can appreciate the history, architecture, culture, and iconic sights of a new destination. We watched a couple travel videos on Seattle, so they were primed to recognize the market.
We explored the stalls, admiring the food, flowers, and hand-made goods.
We stopped to see crabs.
Beautiful floral arrangements for ridiculously cheap prices. We bought a bouquet to spruce up our hotel room.
And maybe stopped for some pastries.
Of course, there’s the famous fish market, where the fishmongers throw fish to each other across the counter. There’s a small crowd always gathered around it. We stuck around for a little bit, but didn’t see any fish take flight. Besides, we were getting a little hungry for lunch.
Another iconic sight at the market sits across the street: the first location of that little known coffee shop, Starbucks. Fun fact: it’s not the original location. It first started in 1971 a couple blocks away (in what’s now a park) before moving to the current storefront in 1976.
There’s almost always a line at this Starbucks, and while the store is nicely decorated, it’s still a Starbucks. (Although the Starbucks Reserve Roastery is another story…) If that’s your thing, then certainly get in line. As for us, we sought out a local shop a couple blocks away.
We ducked into Seattle Coffee Works, just steps away from the market, for an excellent shot of espresso and a cortado.
We followed our noses to the Kastoori Grill, a hole-in-the-wall Indian spot located on the sloping streets leading up from the market. We ducked inside for a terrific lunch buffet. While we ate, we marveled at the healing power of a good, spicy meal. Here we were: a little jet lagged, cold, and hungry, and a rich meal of Indian food warmed and revived us.
We explored some shops nearby, including the Purple Store, which sells, yep, only purple stuff.
Then wandered north to Victor Steinbrueck Park, a small grassy area with sculptures and sidewalks overlooking the sound.
A man there was using homemade contraptions to create giant bubbles, which drew a constant crowd of kids (yes, and adults) to play with the bubbles as they floated across the park.
The park also enjoys an immediate view of Route 99, known as the Alaskan Way Viaduct. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were seeing the highway during its final months of existence. The elevated roadway was built in the 1950s; it’s now officially closed and being torn down while a tunnel is bored underground. The goal is to clear out the highway and open up access between the city and the waterfront.
After playing with bubbles and enjoying the views, we visited some of the sculptures in the park, then headed back to the hotel to wind down.
The next morning for first breakfast was the excellent Top Pot Doughnuts. Read more about our pastry expeditions here.
The bakery is a grab-and-go place. Aside from a couple cafe tables out front, there’s no seating. Because we had just feasted on sweet donuts, we picked up a couple savory breakfast sandwiches on house-made English muffins. The boys split a bacon egg sammy, while Beth and I enjoyed the veggie egg sammy, loaded with flavorful mushrooms. Both sandwiches were very well composed and wonderfully seasoned.
And then it was time for me to head to the conference. I spent most of the day inside (boo, although it was a great conference) while Beth and the boys explored the city.
We discovered a super deal with the City Pass. Passes are $89 for adults and $69 for kids, and each pass gets you into:
- The Space Needle
- Seattle Aquarium
- Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour
- The Museum of Pop Culture OR the Woodland Park Zoo
- The Chihuly Garden & Glass OR the Pacific Science Center
Honestly, even if you visit just two of the destinations, you’re getting your money’s worth.
Beth and the boys purchased passes at the Museum of Pop Culture. Quick tip: the Space Needle has timed tours, so go there first to reserve your time. They did that first, then explored the museum nearby.
The Space Needle is another one of those Seattle icons. The structure was built as part of the Seattle Center for the 1962 World’s Fair. The Center is a complex that includes museums, parks, sculptures, arenas, amphitheatres, and other structures. The Space Needle itself offers 360-degree views of the city and surrounding region; in late 2018 they added reinforced glass floors, in case you want to get a true sense of the 500 foot elevation.
The Needle also includes a rotating restaurant. The boys tested the rotation by straddling the line and watch their feet move slowly in opposite directions.
They explored the Museum of Pop Culture (aka MoPOP), which documents pop culture from music to movies to literature. They have special exhibitions for Nirvana and Pearl Jam, science fiction, and indie games.
The boys tested out recording studios in the Sound Lab.
And they enjoyed the current Marvel Studios exhibition. They kept texting me pictures of Iron Man’s suits and costumes of Doctor Strange, Star-Lord, and Gamora.
The Seattle Center also features one terminus for the Monorail. The monorail was also built for the 1962 World’s Fair, and still operates daily.
The monorail travels between Seattle Center and Westlake Station downtown. It’s $2.50 one-way for adults, and $1.50 for kids. The mile-long trek only takes five minutes. It’s a fun ride, though, and saves you some walking if you’re downtown.
One of the drivers even showed our train-obsessed Owen the controls during one trip.
So far, a great start to our time exploring Seattle! You can keep reading part two, or read about our breakfasts at: