I’d visited the Northeast, Southeast and Southwest of the USA, but Seattle and the Northwest were new to me.
Stage 6 of my Round the World in 30 Days tour commenced with crossing the border between Vancouver and Seattle. This had been concerning me as I’d heard stories of long delays when ‘importing’ a car into the US. In the event the car was no problem.
However, we had to park the car and report to the US Border Office because, apparently, ESTA visa waiver is not valid for land entry to the USA. Not to worry; we were issued with I-94W visas within about 30 minutes by border guards, who were almost friendly.
In addition to exploring Seattle, the largest city in the Pacific Northwest region, I also wanted to see something of small-town Washington State. Hence I decided to visit Snoqualmie, 25 miles to the east. Pictures of the falls near Snoqualmie town looked impressive and the drive would take us into the foothills of the Cascade Range.
Having largely got over our trans-Pacific jet-lag in Vancouver, we were hoping to sleep well in Seattle!!
Highlights of Seattle and Snoqualmie
1. Space Needle. At 605 ft tall, the Space Needle is higher than the Vancouver Lookout, and, because the nearby buildings are relatively low, there are fantastic views all around. I could map out my proposed circular walking tour of central Seattle from the viewing platform.
2. Chihuly Garden and Glass. A massive collection of Dale Chihuly’s work is set out in the exhibition rooms and in the gardens. I’d previously seen a few of his works at Kew Gardens, but this was on an altogether different scale. The relationship of many of his works to local native art was both interesting and informative. Definitely not to be missed.
If you buy a combined ticket for the Space Needle and Chihuly exhibition, you save $5, with Seniors 65+ saving a further $2. At £19 for the two venues, it is good value.
Photographs are taken at the Space Needle and as you wander around the Chihuly exhibition. These are supplied free of charge; you are given an Internet URL to download these personal mementoes.
3. Seattle Waterfront. Not in the same league as San Francisco waterfront, but still pleasant enough to stroll around and enjoy a drink or a meal on one of the quays, whilst watching the boats go by in Elliott Bay.
4. Pike Place Market. More correctly it should be called ‘markets’, as this multi-level site houses a range of farmers’ markets, craft markets, comic markets and whatever. It’s the nearest equivalent I’ve seen in the West to a Middle-Eastern souk.
5. Monorail. Although the Monorail feels a bit dated after 50 years of operation, we were pleased to rest our feet as we travelled one mile over the streets of central Seattle back to the Space Needle. It’s just $1 for Seniors 65+.
6. Floating Bridges. Seattle has the two longest floating bridges in the world, crossing Lake Washington near the centre of the city.
I was keen to see these bridges, but was quite disappointed when crossing, in that they seemed just like any other bridge. I thought at least they would wobble about a bit in the wind!
7. Volunteer Park and Conservatory. Situated on a high point in central Seattle, the park offers great views around the city.
If you take the 107 steps to the top of the water tower, you can also see Mount Rainier. I was very impressed with the orchid collection in the Conservatory and the Over’Lyre music installation.
8. Snoqualmie Falls. Initially it was difficult to see the falls through all the spray that was blowing in our direction. When it cleared, the falls were spectacular, being much swollen by heavy overnight rain. See my Video.
I later learnt that these falls featured in the intro sequence to the TV drama Twin Peaks and that the hotel at the top of the falls was the ‘Great Northern Hotel’ in the series.
9. Northwest Railway Museum, Snoqualmie. This small but interesting museum comes to life at weekends between April and October, when you can take a scenic train ride. We were entertained by the museum curator, James Sackey, a mine of knowledge on all things railway related; he knew a lot more than we did about heritage railways in England.
10. The Bindlestick Coffee and Beer House. After browsing the Railway Museum, we headed across the road in pouring rain for the nearest place providing refreshment. This artsy style bar was a great find; the coffee and beer were both excellent.
No, not another Holiday Inn; this time it was North Seattle Holiday Inn Express. Of course Holiday Inn Expresses in the US are very different to those in Europe. As well as having much larger rooms, often with a separate living area, they also normally have kitchen facilities. That was the case with this hotel and it even had a swimming pool and whirlpool.
It was great value for money with a Senior discount flexible rate, and was conveniently placed for downtown Seattle, and for heading east to Snoqualmie.
Although Seattle was added to my itinerary as a convenient via point when travelling from Vancouver to Iceland, it proved to be a fascinating destination in itself.
The Chihuly exhibition was outstanding. Strolling around the sites of central Seattle was both very enjoyable and, unlike central Vancouver, also felt very safe. Snoqualmie was an intriguing detour.
We’ll be back one day, but for now it was Seattle International Airport and a seven hour flight to Iceland.