Getting our tourist on in Seattle

The first time I remember hearing of Seattle was on the Brady Bunch.

Alice was sneaking off and pretending to go visit a relative in Seattle. The city was just a device so one of the kids could misunderstand and think that Alice was going to see somebody named Attle. She was actually feeling unappreciated for all that she did and needed a little space. But that’s really none of my business.

Coming off of our week in Yellowstone via one night stays in Bozeman and Spokane, Seattle felt very big and densely populated. Slinky had secured us a great little budget hotel with a kitchenette that allowed us to cook for ourselves—a boon to both budget and health.  Our room even offered views of the Space Needle, which was only a ten-minute walk through the Seattle Center.

The space needle as seen from outside of our hotel
Not a bad view

The weather was meant to be nice for the first half of the week before turning to the drizzle that pretty much defines the town. So, we decided to take the obligatory ride up to the top of the Space Needle on our first full day in town. While buying tickets, we saw a sign for a city pass that would allow us access to five different sites over the course of the week. Since we were interested in a couple of the other attractions, we opted for the pass and were issued with little booklets containing tickets to each attraction. Up we went to the observation platform where we could view the city we’d spend the next week exploring. By the end of it, we actually used up every ticket in the book.

Between working in the mornings and turning into full-on tourists in the afternoons, our days stayed pretty jammed. Also moving into Pacific Time while working for a client in the UK caused some hellishly early meetings for me. On the upside, Slinky found herself in much better alignment with her clients in Australia. The shift allowed a nice little window between noon and four to go out and soak up Seattle.

Seattle skyline from the tour boat
Seattle by sea, at’ll do

Our trusty tickets took us on an hour-long harbour tour of the Emerald City, during which we learned about the Edgewater hotel, which juts out over the water and where fans, undaunted by security, had swum to the hotel when they found out the Beatles were staying there. We also learned that the Seattle Aquarium (for which our booklet held tickets) had both sea otters and river otters so we made a mad dash there to see them along with sea lions and a couple of giant octopuses. Among the first things we encountered in the museum were tanks where we were invited to touch the invertebrates and feel there little invertebrate reactions. Hopefully, we weren’t just one more chapter in their nightmare existence of lacking bones and constantly being poked by people.

We used another afternoon window to visit Chihuly’s Garden and Glass exhibit. Dale Chihuly is a glass blowing artist resident to Seattle who creates these giant and magnificent works containing hundreds, if not thousands, of glass blown shapes. The light and color in the place were amazing, but truly remarkable is the sheer scale of everything he did.

Installation of colorful blown glass by Chihuly
A cartoon world made of glass

We also toured around Pike Place Market a bit, where Slinky got to see the famous fish throwing. During our wander of the market, we gave thought to visit the original Starbucks but deemed the line a little too long. Slinky had been threatening to try her first ever pumpkin spiced latte at the original location but it wasn’t happening that afternoon.

We saved my favorite ticket in the city passbook for our last full day in the Emerald  City. The Museum of Popular Culture, or MoPOP, was formerly the Experience Music Project (actually MoPOP is the museum’s fifth name since it opened in 2000). What they lack in moniker-decisiveness, the make up for in, well, everything else. In addition to the regular exhibits of legendary guitars and fun interactive displays, the museum hosted exhibits on Jim Henson, Horror Movies, Fantasy, Sci-fi, and Star Trek. Highlights for me include Woodie Guthrie’s guitar, in which he scratched “this machine kills fascists,” a booth in the Henson exhibit where you get to make your own muppet character and the bridge from the starship enterprise.

Slinky jumping across a Super Mario Bros background
Go, Mario!

But my absolute favorite part of the museum is the sound lab where banks of instruments are hooked up to consoles that give you mini-lessons and allow you to jam with strangers. They’re even organized into these little-windowed cubicles so you don’t realize you’re going to jam with a stranger until you are in place holding the instrument. I saw so many brief flashes of horror followed by smiles of pure joy in the fifteen minutes we spent in the room. And Slinky learned Louie Louie on guitar.

The museum closed at 5:00 pm and they were serious about that deadline so we sort of sprinted through a few exhibits that we would have liked to have spent more time in. I could spend a couple of hours in their gift shop alone. We capped our week off with wood-fired pizza at the Masonry and a nightcap at Tin Lizzy, a prohibition themed bar where I accidentally left without my credit card. Thankfully the same venue hosted breakfast for our hotel so I got it back nearly as quickly as I realized it was gone. Hopefully, those 10 nervous minutes will help me remember to take the thing with me next time.

Before we left town on Saturday, we decided to take one last stroll down to Pike Place Market so Slinky could get that Pumpkin Spice Latte from the original Starbucks. The weekend line we encountered made the weekday line seem almost reasonable. I mean it wasn’t anywhere near reasonable given there are 15 Starbucks within a quarter-mile radius of the place. Which is why, 90 seconds after glimpsing the line, Slinky was experiencing her first pumpkin spice latte from the not-quite-first Starbucks. Based on her reaction, I don’t guess the pumpkin spice craze is going to catch on Down Under.

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