Seattle Things to Do Tips by glabah Top 5 Page for this destination
Seattle Things to Do: 915 reviews and 1,606 photos
Entrance to Chihuly Garden / Museum / Gallery
Born in Tacoma in 1941 and with art installations in various parts of the globe (some temporary and others permanent), Dale Chihuly is perhaps the most famous of artists living in Seattle today. His studio is here, but now in 2012 there is a gallery / museum / sculpture garden dedicated specifically to his artworks.
The museum was installed at the base of the Space Needle, in replacement of the small amusement park that had been there for many decades.
The museum consists of a number of indoor displays, so it isn't entirely a Chihuly garden. In fact, the garden part of the museum is aimed to be towards the end of the visit. There are a number of rooms dedicated to the works of Chihuly and giving some of his history.
Unfortunately, it is very difficult to get photos of the garden and the Space Needle in the background. They are simply too close together to be able to include the huge structure next to the ground-level artwork. There are one or two exceptions, including the big yellow work shown in photo 3.
Photography is allowed, but touching any of the pieces plus large bags of any sort are prohibited. These are one of a kind glass artworks that are worth at minimum many tens of thousands of dollars up to millions for the large pieces.
According to museum docents, Dale Chihuly is still involved with the museum / garden, and sometimes does show up with new works or rearranges what is there, or otherwise makes changes. Therefore, if you come back in a few years some things may have changed in the intervening years.
My best recommendation is to show up before sunset so that you can appreciate the garden and sculptures there during daylight, and again during darkness. Extra price package tickets are also available that include the Space Needle and allow for daylight and night visiting of both those structures at a bit of a discount.
You will likely meet at least one docent that will offer to take your photograph next to one of the big pieces. This is no tourist trap: the photo is included with your admission. I didn't bite so I am not certain how this works as far as obtaining the photo from the photo kiosk in the lobby, but I assume it is similar to the system used in the Space Needle that allows the photo to be sent by e-mail.
Ticket are fairly expensive relative to some of the other museums in town, but at the same time it is a very unique experience and if you like glass art it is worth the admissions price. If the price is too high, then try to get one of the package deals that include admissions tickets to this museum plus other attractions. General admission is $19. Day and night admission tickets are $26 - allowing one to visit once in the daylight and once at night with everything lit up. For $33 you can get a package deal for the Chihuly museum and the Space Needle.
Ticket purchases may be made in advance on the web site, or at the ticket counter.
The entrance to the museum / garden faces the Space Needle, and is exceptionally difficult to miss - just look west from the Space Needle. Photo 4 shows a view looking east at the back side of the main entrance, with the Space Needle (or what would fit in the photo) directly behind the museum.
There is a gift shop in the museum as well, and this has a wide variety of items for sale including some of Chihuly's original works.
I don't want to ruin the show for you at this museum, but if you are a glass artist fan, and a Chihuly fan in particular, you may also wish to see:
+ My Photos from the Chihuly Garden and Glass - a Travelogue of a few more photos of what I saw during my December of 2012 visit.
+ My Tacoma tips on the Chihuly Bridge of Glass including its major sections:
- Seaform Pavilion
- Crystal Towers
- Venetian Wall
Address: Slightly west of the Space Needle - can't miss it
Directions: Parking at the Seattle Center can be problematic, but a parking garage on the far north side may be helpful. Bus routes 1, 2, 3, 8, 13, 16, 24, and 33 are not too far away.
Space Needle still Dominates Northern Downtown
Naturally when someone says Seattle the first structure that comes to mind is the Space Needle.
It was built somewhat by accident: the vendor that was supposed to have that site at the 1962 World's Fair backed out, and so a local construction company was asked what they could put there to fill the void.
50 years later that "What Could You Put There?" is still there, and still a monument to the optimistic side of the 1960s. The flying saucer top of the structure still resembles structures from the cartoon family "The Jetsons" and the goal of being a 21st Century Eiffel Tower for North America has been reasonably fulfilled.
When completed it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River, but now is only the 6th tallest building in Seattle, but still by far the most recognizable of the structures that dot the Seattle skyline.
Thankfully, while it no longer dominates the Seattle skyline as it once did, it still dominates the north side of town as most of the structures surrounding it are only a few stories tall. Thus, for now at least, it is still possible to get some impression of what the skyline of Seattle once was like when the Space Needle was new, and stood apart among the various structures of the city.
By far the best deal for visiting the Space Needle is what is included in the Seattle City Pass and a few other such coupon books. For this booklet provides two entries to the Space Needle with the purchase of the book - it isn't a discount entry ticket such as the $2 off coupon for the Woodland Park Zoo, but a complete entry ticket to the Space Needle - and (at least in the current CityPass Book) you can actually enter the Space Needle twice in 24 hours - once during the day to see the daytime features, and once at night to see the night features. If it isn't economical to buy everything that is included with the CityPass, you may also want to consider purchasing a joint ticket for the Space Needle and the Chihuly Garden and Glass, which is next door to the Space Needle (see my Chihuly Garden and Glass tip.
Keep in mind the outdoor deck is quite a bit colder and windier than what you feel at ground level. This is especially important to remember if visiting at night, or during December.
The problem with visiting the Space Needle in late summer is that is when the pollution and haze is most obstructive of the view. You may be able to see a little ways, and especially out into the Olympic Mountains, but the view to the east will likely be obstructed that time of year. For a true 360 degree view of the snow capped peaks including the Cascades and Mount Baker, you need a clear winter day, but that is when the wind at the outdoor viewing deck is going to be the coldest and harshest.
While there is parking around the Space Needle and the Seattle Center, I highly suggest getting there on public transit. Weekdays are generally less crowded.
The basic configuration:
+ The bottom floor is almost completely a gift shop. Some things are better off purchased elsewhere, but a few things are unique to the Space Needle gift shop as the family that owns the Space Needle (yes, it remains privately owned) contracts certain unique items for sale in their store that are unlikely to be found anywhere else. Valet parking is available, but really due to congestion in the small area that makes up the Space Needle drop off area it is best to take public transit here.
+ If you have a CityPass or similar card, you will be directed to the special upstairs area, where you get a Space Needle photo (at least for 2012 this is included in the CityPass ticket for the Space Needle). You will be asked to go through a security check point where they check purses, backpacks and the like for weapons or bombs, and then board the elevator.
+ If you just have a ticket for the Space Needle, you will board at the gift shop. There is a special waiting area set aside there.
+ The elevator operator provides a well-timed speech during the 82 second trip to the top of the Space Needle. There are windows in the elevators, but usually they are crowded to capacity so that only those that plan their elevator entry carefully are able to see out the windows.
+ The top deck is where you are typically let off, unless you are specifically going to the restaurant just below the observation deck. The indoor section of the observation deck is slightly higher than the outdoor section, so that it is possible to see over the top of people outside from inside.
+ If you look at photo 4, you will see that there are multiple computer touch screens inside. These provide information about a number of different landmarks that may be seen from the Space Needle, but a number have also been left out I noticed.
+ Photography from the top of the Space Needle is possible, but it is necessary to lean over the railing and point the camera through the protective wire mesh. Items below the Space Needle are blocked by the protective barrier (which is designed to also be part of the Flying Saucer styling), and if possible those are best photographed from the elevators, which have no such obstacles looking downward. However, it is not possible to be very selective about which elevator you are put into for your ascent or descent - it all happens to be where you fall in line.
+ The prices in the restaurant will knock your socks off, at least if you look at the online menu. However, the observation deck itself features a number of snack items, and even wine and a few other items, that really are not too badly priced. So, it is possible to eat up there without spending the huge amount of money required for the restaurant.
I would never have gone up into the Space Needle if it hadn't been for someone giving me a partly used CityPass book. There are simply too many other great viewpoints in Seattle that are free of charge. However, it is still a very good viewpoint, and the one of the few with a true 360 degree view, but to really take advantage of it it needs to be a very clear day.
Ticket Prices (if not purchased as part of CityPass or other special package): $19, or $26 for a double entry ticket for one entry during the day and one during the night. See also the web site for the Chihuly Garden and Glass as they have a joint entry ticket with the Space Needle that winds up being a decent deal as well.
Hours: Typically open 9 am to Midnight. However, special events or maintenance may close part or all of the observation deck. Check the web site to see posted events to make sure your visit does not conflict with any closures.
A few more photos:
I have some daytime photos from 14 August 2012 in a Travelogue here:
Address: Broad Street & John Street & 4th Ave North
Directions: Follow signs to Seattle Center, or take Monorail from Westlake shopping center, or any of dozens of bus lines that go past here. Downtown bus maps at major stops feature Seattle Center, Space Needle
Pacific Science Center; Entrance from North
The entire Seattle Center (the facility of which the Space Needle is a part) has been turned into a very successful venue for a number of different activities and events, including various performance groups, the Space Needle (of course), several museums, and various event spaces.
The Pacific Science Center is only one museum of several on the grounds of the Seattle Center. As a general rule it makes very good use of the structures it has, which have obviously been repurposed from the event 50 years ago known as the Seattle World's Fair. The structure has a lot of odd features that most such museums would not have (such as the large reflecting pool in the middle of the facility).
Also as a general rule, a very large portion of the exhibits are aimed at getting children interested in science, but at the same time a curious adult could probably make use of some of the interactive explanatory exhibits as well. The sciences on display are a wide range of things, including everything from dinosaurs to space exploration. Interactive exhibits include fully functioning water cannon (see photo 3) built in the old reflecting pool at the center of the old World's Fair exhibit space. There is also a collection of tropical butterflies that may be observed in various stages of development, including flying around in a special tropical garden enclosure in which visitors may get close (but not touch!!!) these wonderful colorful butterflies. See my Tropical Butterfly House travelogue.
Other live animals include several snakes and Naked Mole Rats.
Most tourists from out of town are probably most interested in what is in building 4. This is the part of the building devoted to visiting special exhibits, and there is sometimes some very special shows in this space. Admission to the Pacific Science Center does not include some of these special events (that is, if you buy general admission you don't necessarily get to see what is in Building 4), but at the same time buying entry to the special event in building 4 will almost always include general admission to the exhibits in buildings 1, 2 and 3.
Additional tickets are required for the planetarium shows and the iMax theatre shows. It is possible to purchase tickets to everything as a discount but the total price may be quite high, depending on what shows are showing.
There are two entrances to the Pacific Science Center. The one on the north side of the building faces the large dancing fountain that is part of the grassy courtyard at the center of the Seattle Center, and near the decorative arches over the central reflecting pool. The other entrance faces Denny Way, which is a fairly major through street in Seattle. Parking is available on the far north side of the Seattle Center in a parking garage, but it is also possible to find nearby surface lots. My own suggestion is to take any of a large number of bus routes that go past the Seattle Center as that way you won't have to worry about parking. Bus routes 33 and 24 used to have a stop directly in front of the Denny Way entrance but those have now been removed and the nearest stop for those is now about two blocks west. However, route 8 still serves this stop. Bus routes C, D, 1, 2, 8, 13, and 32 are also nearby, on Queen Anne Avenue and some of those (C, D, and 1, 2 and 8) operate very frequently. 3, 4, and 16 have stops close to the Space Needle, which isn't too far from the Pacific Science Center, and of course there is also the Seattle Monorail, which also is very close to the Space Needle.
Address: 200 2nd Avenue North, Seattle, WA 98109
Directions: Bus routes C,D,1, 2, 8, 13, 24, 32, 33 are suggested. Parking is not easy but biggest parking garage is on north side of Seattle Center, north of Mercer.
Phone: (206) 443-2001
Victoria Clipper III: The Ship to Friday Harbor
I grabbed an end-of-season ticket (late September) on the Victoria Clipper's Whale Watching trip. I had wanted to see the whales that are resident in the Puget Sound and San Juan Island region at some point. I selected the Victoria Clipper trip because this was relatively inexpensive: $65 + $1 for each docking at Friday Harbor = total cost of $67. Also, pretty much all of the other whale watching trips leave from much further north - usually Anacortes or Friday Harbor itself. While this means you can spend a lot longer looking for wildlife on the water, it also means you are faced with the expense of getting that far north, and making an overnight stay or two at some location between Seattle and the San Juan Islands. The Victoria Clipper trip is the only trip out there where it is possible to do this all in one day from downtown Seattle and thus save an overnight stay.
However, it is also a very popular trip, and caters to the mass of tourists. See photo 3 of this tip for an example. I was able to get reasonably good photos because I braved the cold winds of September Puget Sound on the top deck for several hours, in order to preserve my place in a good location. Once the whales were spotted and dozens of people wandered onto the top deck, only the lucky (or, in my case, stubborn, foolhardy and determined) few on the edges were able to see much from the upper deck due to the crowd.
The other problem with doing this on the Victoria Clipper boats is that you do spend most of the day going from Seattle to Friday Harbor, and then from Friday Harbor back to Seattle. This means the wildlife and whale watching trip winds up only being about 3 hours - a fair amount of which is consumed by getting from Friday Harbor to where the whales are. To really see wildlife, including one of the whale watching trips, it is best to get one of the smaller boats based in Friday Harbor. However, again the cost and time required of getting to Friday Harbor is not included.
Also, the Victoria Clipper takes a fairly scenic trip on the water, and if the weather and tides allow they pass through Deception Pass (see my Deception Pass State Park page and/or my photos from passing through Deception Pass on the Victoria Clipper) and encounter a few wildlife encrusted rocks on the way up and back. The trip is far, far more scenic than the concrete trough known as Interstate 5, even on a day that is partly or mostly cloudy and it is not possible to see any of the surrounding snow-capped peaks.
So, just keep in mind that the Victoria Clipper "Whale Watch" trip out of Seattle is far more than just a whale watch trip, and really is a scenery trip with an hour or so worth of whale and wildlife chasing thrown in. Also keep in mind that the trip doesn't just serve as a wildlife trip, but as a passenger-only service for those going to Friday Harbor from Seattle. The combination of Friday Harbor passenger service from Seattle mixed with a whale watch trip out of Friday Harbor is unique. There are other ways of doing this type of trip, but only if you start somewhere further north than Seattle.
Also something to keep in mind: smoking is allowed on the middle level deck that faces aft of the vessel. I didn't smell any smoke during the trip for the most part, but there was fairly strong winds most of the time as well. Every other location on the vessel smoking is prohibited.
You will want to bring Warm Clothes!! as temperatures on the water are quite a bit colder than they are in downtown Seattle.
My Personal Story:
The late September trips are only on weekends. The friend I have in Seattle was willing to let me stay overnight on Friday, and so I left from the Magnolia area on bus route #18. The #33 is closer, but the 5:50 am trip seemed much too early, and the 6:50 trip seemed a bit late. Using the #18 I arrived at 4th and Cedar and walked downhill to Pier 69, and arrived there just a few minutes after 7. What I arrived into was total bedlam, and made me wish I had grabbed the 5:50 trip bus out of Magnolia, or maybe the #18 that went by at 6:11 rather than 6:41. The 7:30 departure for Victoria and the 7:45 departure for Friday Harbor were both boarding at the same time, and the crowd in the ticket processing line was pretty amazing. They were pretty good at processing everyone, with priority of course going to those with tickets on the 7:30 departure for Victoria, then the 7:45 departure for Friday Harbor, and then the 8:30 departure for Victoria. It was an awful lot of passengers trying to be processed at once.
I also found that by the time I was processed, many of the good seats (ie, window seats) were already taken, and in fact all the seats facing forward had already been taken. So, if you really want decent seats you need to show up even further ahead of time than 45 minutes before departure.
As advertised, the ship went right through Deception Pass and arrived pretty much right on time in Friday Harbor around 11:15. After discharging those passengers only using the boat as a ferry to get to Friday Harbor, the Whale Watching and Wilidlife trip commenced.
This trip first visited the rocks in the middle of Cattle Passage, at the south end of San Juan Island. These are popular resting grounds for sea lions (mostly stellar sea lions). Our on-board "naturalist" pointed out a few cormorants and a few other obvious birds, but there were grebes of some sort on the open water that we passed that were ignored. I'm pretty certain that the "naturalist" is only there to point out the most obvious and reads some of the material rather than really being an expert in the field - though the information is useful for those who aren't too familiar with the wildlife in the area anyway.
We then went off to see the resident Orca population (which aren't exactly whales - they are relatives of dolphins in reality), which was swimming very close to Friday Harbor. We returned to Friday Harbor at the scheduled 2 pm, allowing for some time to wander around town. Here, the naturalist knew the whales by the sight of the various tail fins and knew that each represented different pods - so we actually saw a sort of greeting contact between the three different groups of resident orcas.
The departure for Seattle happened pretty much right on time at 4:30, and arriving at the dock at 4 revealed that once again a long line had formed for those wanting the best of seats.
On the way south, we paid a brief visit to Smith and Minor Islands and their wildlife. Most of these were California sea lions and cormorants, but there were also a few common murres in the mix, and a few other birds that I didn't know. The "naturalist" on board only pointed out the cormorants and the sea lions - the two most obvious bits of wildlife.
We were also treated to views of the Olympic Mountains but the Cascades remained shrouded in dense haze from the fires burning to the east.
On the way south I was debating what to do about dinner. The Clipper food isn't exactly a bargain, but I wasn't sure about the amount of time I would have to find a quick dinner before leaving for my trip south. At 6:00 they announced the last call for hot food service, and therefore all bowls of clam chowder were $1 until they were gone. Two of those provided a wonderful and economical dinner as far as I was concerned.
Our return to Seattle was pretty much right on time at 7:15pm.
I don't wish to sound too harsh on the "naturalist" on board. They serve their function, but really are more of a tour guide and provider of basic information. The ability to tell the different pods and whales by the dorsal fin is pretty nice, and this proved useful. However, I would think that other operations that cater specifically to wildlife viewing may have people on board that know a bit more than those on the Victoria Clipper, just based on the bird species I noticed ours missed.
Included is Clipper's "The Explorer" trip guide, which includes coupons, a simple Friday Harbor map, and wildlife information. It isn't especially complete, but it is enough to satisfy the needs of probably 99% of the people who take this trip with the clipper.
If you can afford the time to drive and take the ferry north, I advice an overnight in Friday Harbor and taking one of the true dedicated whale watching boats from there or Anacortes as they are smaller and not as crowded. If you must start in Seattle, the Victoria Clipper trip is certainly an option, but keep in mind the real wildlife part of the trip is fairly small. It may be better to instead treat the Victoria Clipper as a Seattle - Friday Harbor transportation means, and get a true wildlife and whale trip in Friday Harbor - but keep in mind that will require at least two overnights in Friday Harbor. Plus, the trips will be expensive (off season the cheapest I saw was $99 for such trips based in Friday Harbor - so the $67 from Seattle + Whale Watch is a bit of a bargain considering all that it includes).
I would also point out that the Victoria Clipper book, provided as part of this trip, includes a coupon valid for the purchase of the companion book for a trip with San Juan Safaris - so Victoria Clipper also understands the limits of this specific trip and does have a little publicized coupon for a group offering a different type of trip.
The Victoria Clipper III is similar to that used on the Victoria Clipper to Victoria, but is smaller and has the upper outdoor deck.
I have 8 Photos from the Cattle Point Rocks and 8 Photos from the Whales
I also have 8 Photos from Deception Pass
Address: Pier 69, Alaskan Way, downtown Seattle
Directions: Just north of the waterfront Hotel (there is only one!) and towards the north end of the waterfront district. Bus route 99 has a stop right in front of the pier, but doesn't operate very often.
The Seattle Great Wheel opened in 2012
In 2012 this became one of the newest attractions to grace the Seattle waterfront. It is located at the Miner's Landing building, which includes a number of other tourist attractions and tourist traps.
The wheel was installed with great speed, and there was no evidence of it on my January 2012 visit to Seattle, but there it was in all its glory in August.
What you are able to see from the wheel depend a lot on where you are in its rotation. The ride is 20 minutes, and unlike some larger Ferris Wheel structures does not turn at an extremely slow speed to allow continuous boarding and deboarding. Instead, it is more of a traditional wheel that is stopped every once in a while in a different location.
At the peak of the wheel rotation, the Space Needle is not visible due to a new structure that has been built between the wheel and the needle. Oddly enough, the wheel is very visible from the Space Needle. It is possible to see the Space Needle when the gondola reaches the point where it is over the water.
The ride is certainly no roller coaster, but the feeling of floating so high over the waterfront can be a little disconcerting.
One gondola is a VIP gondola, where tickets are $50 each. This gondola has special leather seats, a glass bottom, and those who dare purchase tickets for it will be escorted to the front of the line.
If you are in an extremely small group or traveling alone, you may be asked to share a gondola with someone else.
Standard tickets are $13, or $14.89 including the various taxes (see admission ticket sign in photo 4 for a breakdown). They close at midnight on Friday and Saturday, or 11 at night all other nights. Each gondola has its own air conditioning and heating system, plus an emergency button that may be pressed for those who desire to leave immediately to be brought down and let out. The tickets are a barcode card that may be reloaded and used multiple times.
To get the tickets, it is necessary to purchase the tickets at the ticket booth on the north side of the pier (see photo 5) and then wait in the line that leads to the actual wheel. As six gondolas may be boarded and deboarded at the same time the line moves reasonably fast. The waiting area is covered by a large glass roofed structure, which may be cold if the wind is blowing hard but at least there is some protection from the rain.
The windows are heavily tinted, and therefore night photographs are somewhat difficult through this very dark glass. However, the lighting inside the gondolas is also kept very dim so that it is possible to see the lights of the city and even some of the surrounding countryside on the other side of Puget Sound at night. It is just difficult to photograph through the dark glass.
The web site states that the Great Wheel is accessible to handicapped, but I did not see in person how this is done.
On a clear day, or even semi-clear (with a few scattered clouds to add color and interest to the sky especially!) sunset is a very good time to take a trip in the wheel. See my additional photos of and from the Seattle Great Wheel for more.
Also, the pier on which the Great Wheel sits has great views of the sunset even without getting on the wheel. The bottom three of my Great Set of Views of the sun setting behind the Olympic Mountains were taken from the area in which people wait in line for getting on the wheel.
Address: 1301 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA
Directions: Walk from any of the transit lines serving downtown Seattle, as parking along the waterfront is expensive if you can find it, and not that easy to find. 1 pier N of Argossy Cruises, just S of Waterfront Park
yellow and red brilliant at base of Mt. Baker
While it is an hour north of Seattle, and therefore not in Seattle proper, the annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in April is an impressive and colorful display, and comes with a wide variety of auxiliary events, such as arts festivals.
As the event is quite far north of Seattle (about halfway to Canada) I have actually put the bulk of the information about this event in a city closer to the actual event location.
However, I have put this pointer here in the Seattle section because there are a large number of people who come to the Seattle tips section looking for information on the tulip farms and associated events.
See my Skagit Valley Tulip Festival Tip
for more information, or see the festival web site listed below for specific event information such as the exact dates that are set.
For the 2010 festival, a $4 pass gets you into multiple farm visits, but does not include admission to the display gardens. There are several display gardens that are small tourist attractions in their own right, and are decorated by professionals for viewing. Those are an extra admissions charge.
Even if the big festival isn't going on, if you visit in April it might be worth a trip up to the Skagit Valley to see what display gardens and other locations are open to the public outside the true festival, using the Tulip Festival Map on the web site as a guide. However, some places will be closed to the public.
Address: Skagit River Valley, near Mt Vernon
Directions: Go north on I-5 to the Mount Vernon or Anacortes exists. Many farms between La Conner, Skagit City, Anacortes, Highway 20 and Interstate 5. See official event details for best and latest information.
Amphibious Duck vehicle for Ride The Ducks tours
Starting from the far east side of the Seattle Center, on an odd triangle of land across 5th Avenue North from the Experience Music Project, you will find a home of surplus war equipment used to give brief tours of Seattle from both the road and from Lake Union.
While these tours do not give a huge amount of extensive history of Seattle, they do provide a great introduction to various parts of the city in only an hour and a half, from the unique perspective of a vehicle capable of moving on the water or on the highway.
Even people who live in Seattle seem to take the tour every once in a while. Most likely this is because each of the captains have a unique personality, and make the tour a fun adventure. The trips seem to be particularly popular with children, though adults are certainly willing, able, and invited (or maybe required would be a better word to use here) to participate in the mayhem as well. Depending on the location, you will find the captains / drivers wearing all manner of different hats, and playing any of various songs along the way.
On a clear day, you will be able to see Mount Rainier, downtown Seattle, and the Olympic Peninsula. One of the best viewpoints is from the top of the Washington Memorial Bridge.
While the "Duck" vehicles are historic craft of sorts, the reality is that from the frame up each has been completely rebuilt to serve its new tourist role.
See also the Seattle video I have of the craft driving down a boat ramp on the north side of Lake Union to enter the lake.
The schedule depends on the time of year, with less operation during the colder months. Trips operate 3 days a week during the coldest months.
One Word of Warning: Ride the Ducks does use tourist trap ploy of taking your photo as you board the craft, and then try to sell you the photo in a special album cover when you return - at a price that is fairly extreme for what it is.
Address: 5th and Broad Street
Directions: West side of Seattle Center, across the street from the Experience Music Project. Many bus routes have a stop near here. Look for the small building with the giant inflatable blue duck on top.
Phone: (206)441-DUCK (3825)
"Ballard Locks" from Carl English Botanical Garden
All of the signs directing you here will say "Ballard Locks" and pretty much anyone you ask for directions will use the term "Ballard Locks", but the official name of this water transportation link between Lake Washington and Lake Union and Puget Sound is actually the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks.
As the name implies, the locks are located in the Ballard area of Seattle, which is north of downtown on the other side of the Lake Washington Ship Canal. Constructing this canal created a short link between Puget Sound and Lake Union in 1916, although the official opening was in 1917.
There are two sections of the locks: one for small craft and one for larger vessels.
One unique feature of the locks are the walkways along the top of the lock gates. These allow visitors to the facility to walk between Magnolia and Ballard, and completely around the locks area. It is possible to see the walkways on top of the locks in photo 1 and photo 3. It is a popular place for people to come and simply watch the ships go through the locks. Thanks to the walkways and fences to keep people out of harm's way, it is possible to watch the locks work in a very close setting: ships are tied and locked only feet away from the visitors.
If you are using the bike path that uses this route as a connector between Magnolia and Ballard, be aware that you are supposed to walk your bike while in the locks area. It is very crowded with people and someone on a bike would not be a good mix with the traffic flow here.
There are parks on the north and south side of the locks: on the north side you will find the small but very attractive Carl S. English Jr., Botanical Gardens, while the south side features Commodore Park. Both parks feature grass terraces that allow visitors to view the ships and boats in the locks.
A fish ladder is located on the south side of the locks, and it is possible to go into an under-water viewing room to watch the fish pass through here. Winter months apparently see much less fish through the ladder, but I found the number of fish at pretty good levels in August.
There is an indoor visitor's center that is much less visited than watching the locks (why see static diplays about the locks when you can see the real thing?) but feature some good historical information about the locks that may be useful to keep in mind.
Ballard Locks Visitor's Center and some of its displays
My Carl English Botanical Gardens tip
My Commodore Park tip (this park is on the south side of the locks, and while maintained by the city of Seattle is basically part of the Locks complex, and provides viewing from the south side of ships entering the locks).
How to Get Here: From the Ballard area, head west on Market Street until it branches into two one way streets. The Ballard Locks parking area is one block west and one block south of this division in the road. Bus routes #17 (from downtown Seattle) and #44 (from the University District) are the two most frequent bus routes that serve the area. It is also a fairly easy walk to get here from the main Ballard business district, though much of the route is next to busy Market Street.
Address: 3015 NW 54th St., Seattle, WA 98107
Directions: from the downtown Ballard area, go west on Market Street and follow signs to Ballard Locks. Bus routes 44, 46 and 17 serve the stop closest to the entrance.
Phone: (206) 783-7059
Woodland Park Rose Garden: fountains, gazebo
On the south side of the Woodland Park Zoo, there is one of several parking areas that serve the zoo grounds. On the east side of this parking lot for the Woodland Park Zoo, you will find the entrance to the Woodland Park Rose Garden. There is only one entrance into and out of the garden, and the garden is well protected by fences.
There are two fountains in the rose garden, and everything is very well manicured. It isn't a huge rambling garden, but it is fairly good sized.
While the roses are the primary purpose of the garden, there are a number of other blooms you will find here, and they keep the color of the garden going to some extent even when the roses are out of season. Keep in mind that Seattle is further north and stays fairly cold, so the rose blossoms happen fairly late in the year compared to Portland and other places further south.
The garden is a fairly popular place for weddings, so you may find the place reserved from time to time.
Address: 750 N 50th St, Seattle
Directions: I-5 north to 50th, west to the zoo. Zoo parking is $5 per vehicle. Suggest using bus route #5 on western edge of Woodland Park, or parking on the east side of highway 99 and crossing it using brdiges between Woodland Park and Zoo area.
Kerry Park most famous Seattle and Mt Rainier view
By far the most iconic view of Seattle is that famous post-card like view with the Space Needle with downtown Seattle behind it, and towering behind that Mount Rainier. There are only a very few locations in the Seattle area with such a view, and by far the most famous of those is Kerry Park, at the south end of Queen Anne, or just north of the Space Needle / Seattle Center.
Obviously, if it isn't a clear day, you won't see Mount Rainier, but even so the view of the Space Needle with downtown in the background is certainly still an attraction here.
Most people who come here just come, jump out of their cars, take a photo or two of the view, and leave. However, I definitely suggest exploring the neighborhood around the park as you will find some unexpected treasures here that the vast majority of tourists miss. To the west of the park you will find several other viewpoints overlooking Puget Sound, and in the background on a clear day you will be able to see the Olympic Mountains from them. Also, the Queen Anne neighborhood has a number of interesting and eccentric structures, both modern and historic.
So, if you visit here, I suggest walking five blocks west to Marshall Park, which does not provide the Mount Rainier and downtown Seattle view that is so famous, but the view from there is of a much different nature. You can also walk down the hill a little ways and visit Kinnear Park. Some of the places along nearby 8th Place West also have good views on a clear day.
Along with the great view, Kerry Park also boasts a reasonably complete playground (photo 5 is from the viewpoint, looking down into the rest of the park) and a fairly good sized sculpture at the viewpoint. Most of the park is on a hillside, and the vast majority of tourists probably don't even take notice of the expanse of park below the viewpoint wall.
This park is one of the few parks in Seattle that is open 24 hours a day, rather than closing at 11 at night. So, the views from here may be enjoyed at all times.
The park land was donated to the city of Seattle in 1927 so that all may enjoy the view from this location. The sculpture in the park was donated to the park in 1971 by the children of the donors.
Several photos from my Queen Anne travelogue from 2009 feature more photos from this park, as well as nearby viewpoints. (Queen Anne is the name of the area in which Kerry Park is located).
Address: West Highland Drive between 2nd & 3rd Ave West
Directions: Many different routes to get here, and it is close to bus routes 1 and 2 from Seattle Center. I suggest arriving on 2 and leaving on 1, as that allows for an all-downhill walk. Seattle Center isn't too far, and the walk isn't very difficult.
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