Last Thursday, as my friend and I drove aimlessly around Portland in a rental car, we devised a plan that would free us from our directionless weekend. My friend had told me that he wanted to visit Seattle, Washington: a beautiful city located just three hours from Portland, and since I hadn’t seen Seattle yet, either, I suggested we take a day-long trip there on Friday. After discussing our time restrictions, of which there were many, we made the brash decision to book a hotel and stay for the night.
When Friday morning came, we drove our little rental car over the Columbia River and up the West Coast to Seattle. Since we only had that one Friday to experience all Seattle had to offer, we tried to make the best decisions on what to do and see.
By the end of our day my feet were covered in blisters, and immediately after swiping the keycard and opening our hotel door, the both of us collapsed onto the bed and passed out. We did so much that it felt like we had been in Seattle for three days, and out of all the things we crammed into one day, there were five experiences that I didn’t regret, at all.
1. Pike Place Market: Downtown, east of waterfront
I’m not sure why this is referred to as a “market,” because when you’re there, it feels more like a giant mall, filled with hundreds of booths selling an array of products. The Pike Place Market consists of NINE acres of flower and bouquet tables, craft tables, food tables, shops and restaurants! I enjoy Portland’s farmers markets, and especially the Saturday Market, but this was incomparable. Free samples are given out at the food booths. My favorite stands were the ones selling homemade and organic beauty products; one table sold lotions and sprays made exclusively from freshly-picked lavender. If you’re not visiting the market to spend money purchasing products from the tables, you can do things like ride the Ferris wheel that hangs over the pier or go have a drink inside one of the many restaurants that are weaved into the marketplace area. My guess is that everyone who visits the Pike Place Market will find something that will captivate and delight him or her.
2. Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibit: Next to the Space Needle
Although you may have heard of or seen Chihuly’s glass art before, this exhibit is not an activity you should rule out when visiting Seattle. As my friend and I strolled underneath the Space Needle, I noticed what looked like giant red flowers dangling from a greenhouse ceiling. We walked closer but couldn’t see all the way inside. After realizing it was an exhibit, we bought tickets and went in, not knowing what to expect. It ended up being absolutely, mind-blowingly beautiful. The dark rooms inside were lit up with Chihuly’s handmade glass-blown sculptures, and the exhibit continued outside in the greenhouse and throughout the area’s gardens. It was like walking through a dreamscape. Each piece was so strikingly diverse from the last, and each one made us stop in awe and stare. The people coming out of the gardens were saying things like, “I’m so glad we did that,” and, “That was awesome.” And one of the best parts of the exhibit? You’re allowed to take pictures!
3. Shorty’s: Corner of 2nd Ave. and Bell St.
After our late dinner, my friend and I decided to stop into Shorty’s for a drink on our walk back to the hotel. The plan of quickly popping in turned in to an awesome, drunken, three-hour pinball marathon. Shorty’s is a pinball bar consisting of a front and back bar and over fifteen pinball machines, each with their own theme. Along with two full bars, Shorty’s also serves veggie dogs. The only downside to the bar was the carnival-style-graffiti state of the bathrooms—there wasn’t even a door to the women’s—but if, like me, that’s something you see as unique rather than horrifying, Shorty’s is certainly for you! (Even if you don’t play pinball.)
4. Exploring the piers: Olympic Sculpture Park to Waterfront Park
It was calming to walk the piers of Seattle during our expeditious one-day-vacay. We started at the Olympic Sculpture Park (something else to stop and check out) and made our way down to Waterfront Park where we rode the Seattle Great Wheel. The walk is about one mile and takes around a half-hour. Along the way there are restaurants, corporation buildings, ferries, free spyglass stations and boardwalk parks, all located right on the water. If you’re not up for walking you can coast down to Waterfront Park on a bike by renting one from the rental stations, which are scattered along the piers’ closest sidewalks. I also recommend riding the Seattle Great Wheel (about $13 for GA Adult ticket) to get a great view of the bay and the city.
5. Wander: Seattle, Washington
Seattle has so much to offer in a one-of-a-kind way, so I recommend that you allow yourself time to just meander around the city after doing a few things that you planned out. Sometimes the best experiences we have on vacation transpire because we accidentally turn down the wrong street or cancel the day’s plans because we’re too tired. All of the experiences my friend and I had in Seattle happened without a set plan, so just go with the flow and do what looks like the most fun to you!
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Photo: Marlee Septak