Skyline, Seaside, Downtown Seattle!

Daniel, a HomeAway staffer, shows us around Seattle's heart

Looking for an urban adventure with nature, ocean and mountains only minutes away?  You can’t do much better than downtown Seattle.  The weather is changeable, but we had highs in the low 80s and lows in the 50s with only one day of sprinkling weather.

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We spent some time in August through HomeAway in the Harbor Steps Apartments, and were amazed at the amount of fun that was in walking distance. Our place was across the street from the Seattle Art Museum, a few blocks away from Pike Place Market; a short walk to a ferry that would take us across Puget Sound, and a short walk and monorail ride away from the Seattle Center! Even the ride on the light rail from SeaTac to University station is scenic and a great opportunity for people watching. And it is really cheap at $2.60 per person. Without a doubt the best way from the airport to Downtown as long as you don’t have too much luggage to haul with you.

On to the details!

This recent visit packed so much in that I am going to give it to you chronologically.

Day 1: A few blocks from the apartment, we wandered through Pike’s Place Market a breakfast time, and it was already hopping.  Breakfast at Lowell’s, where we savored their Eggs Benedict on ciabatta and a classic breakfast with “the best sourdough toast, ever.”  We then stopped for a lovely Coffee Americano at Café Fonté on the way back to the apartment to wait for our daughters to arrive.  It was surprisingly affordable, and the leather booths looking out on to 1st Avenue were lush and urban at the same time.

The light rail from the airport stopped two blocks away, so we were there when our girls stepped off.  We paused for a moment at the beautiful, black slate memorial to local casualties of World War II and beyond.  A fountain runs through the memorial like a stream, and it is a lovely place to reflect.

We got settled in, after spending a long time just taking in the view of Puget Sound and the waterfront below us.  There was a beautiful Ferris wheel on one of the piers and the whole thing reminded us of being in London.  

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Dinner that night was at Elliott’s Oyster House on Pier 56.  It is down on the waterfront and we were able to take an elevator down and simply cross the street to get to it!  It was fairly casual, but the food was amazing.  We had the sea bass, the cedar plank salmon, the coconut prawns and a grilled seafood salad that had a little bit of everything!  The local beers were great and we indulged in a Fremont Ale that was outstanding. If you are a crab or oyster fan, this is the place to go, because they have a selection that is out of this world.

Day 2: We headed out to Lowell’s again for breakfast, to share it with the girls, and found that the steel cut oats and breakfast tacos were equally tasty.  Lowell’s has a nice option where you can order at the front and they deliver it to you on the third floor without full wait service.  We spent some time wandering through Pikes Place Market and picked up melt in your mouth fresh peaches and nectarines to take back to the apartment for later snacking.  Then we headed to the Seattle Aquarium for a leisurely stroll through the exhibits.  We went nose to nose with the biggest octopus we had ever seen, surrounded by a Lucite ring filled with jelly fish, and touching star fish and other sea creatures in their reef exhibits.  It is an interactive adventure, with photo opportunities and information on every wall.  We loved the sea otters and river otters, and spent quite a while enjoying their antics and the harbor seal was hypnotic.  The viewing was great both inside and out of the aquarium, and feeding times were special shows for the young ones.

We stopped at Anthony’s Fish Bar walk up, and although it wasn’t bad, it was not nearly as good as the fish and chips we got from them at the airport!  In retrospect, we should have gone to the Anthony’s Pier 66 restaurant.  I think we would have been more pleased.

The waterfront is a cornucopia of tourists, locals, artisans, street people and just a fabulous place to “people watch.”

Sunset over Puget Sound is breathtaking and takes hours!  We were amazed to still see light in the sky after 8:30pm, and then the Ferris wheel on the pier lit up and it was quite a panorama.

Day 3: We decided to grab some breakfast at the Sweet Waffle Iron (they only make specialty waffles!) on our way to go shopping at the downtown malls.  In the space of a few blocks you find the flagship Nordstrom’s and every other store you can imagine.  We fortified ourselves with Starbucks’ coffee (note, the one in front of the mall does NOT have a restroom) and then hit the stores as they opened.

After exhausting our feet and eyes that day, we decided to try Von’s GustoBistro for dinner, since it was just downstairs and one door to the right from our apartment complex.  It was fabulous!  Great atmosphere, service and food, all next door!  We started out with craft beers and cocktails (try the French Open - spun sugar melted tableside with Lillet champagne and raspberry coulis - served with a little bottle of the bubbly!).  Then we tried the flavorful burgers and finished up our meal with the Sweet Beignets.  These are the lightest, creamiest morsels you will ever consume and they were just right to finish off a great meal.

Day Four: It was time to really explore Pikes Place Market.  There is far too much here to describe, but the sight of banks of flowers; fish flying through the air, beautiful craftwork and the amazing variety of fruits and vegetables was almost overwhelming.  Add the smell of cinnamon from the bakery and it was perfect.  We wandered all the way down the market, (be sure to explore the lower levels!) stopping at every shop that caught our eye, and picking up souvenirs here and there.  We were stopped at one point by an incredibly long line that took up the sidewalk for blocks and a bystander told us that the little storefront was the original Starbucks and people were waiting their turn to get a drink or buy a souvenir cup.   We decided we could save that for another time, and did stop by there much earlier the next day.  There was a much larger, more available Starbucks up on the next block, and so we sacrificed authenticity for a coffee that day!

We headed back toward the apartment and stopped at Café Fonté for some lunch.  French ham Benedict with arugula salad, polenta waffle (we do love our waffles!) and cheese omelets filled us up but were not quite as stellar as other food we had in Seattle.

Day Five: We decided to visit the Seattle Art Museum, since it was just across the street and looked amazing.  The current exhibit was Japanese Fashion, and we were somewhat curious about that, but enjoyed the other exhibits much more.  There were a variety of things to look at and read about, and it was a very hands-off kind of experience, which suited us just fine.  We just wanted to explore.  There are guides and audio guides you can get if you want them, and don’t miss the gift shop, which had its own set of art to look at!  We had to stop at a chocolate store or two, and what can I say?  You just can’t miss the Chocolate Box or Fran’s for amazingly flavorful chocolates.  Our favorites were the salted caramels and dark chocolate dipped ginger.

Day Six:  We set off to the monorail station to go to the Seattle Center. By the time we reached it, we were ready for caffeine and a snack, and we were in luck.  They were celebrating the Indigenous Peoples Festival and there were amazing food choices in the food court.  A quick bite and then off to see “Flight of the Butterflies” in the IMAX theatre in the Science Center.  It was stunning, and a great lead in to walking through the Chihuly glass exhibit just across the walkway.  Words can’t describe the colors, forms and beauty there.  You just have to experience it.

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We finished our visit by touring the Science Fiction Museum and “geeking out” to the sight of original set pieces, costumes and gadgets from our favorite shows and science fiction books.  The space needle was lovely, but we were already living high up with a great view, and skipped the line for that particular attraction.

We got back and headed down to Elliott’s Oyster Bar once more, but indulged in fish and chips and their wonderful clam chowder.  Another great meal, and we highly recommend it for any Seattle visitor!

Day Seven:  We headed off for a ferry adventure to Bainbridge Island.  A short walk down to the waterfront, riding on to a very clean and efficient ferry, and then stepping off on to a beautiful little gem of an island.  We did not adventure too far afield, but walked through the main part of town and stopped in the delightful Blackbird Bakery for coffee and a slice of Italian Cream cake with lavender.  Yes, it was amazingly good!  We wandered around shopping, until we found a coffee shop with wifi and comfy chairs and researched a good place to grab dinner.  The Restaurant Marché caught our eye with high Yelp ratings and an attractive menu, so we decided to take a chance.  It turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip, with local, organic and tasty daily specials.  We tried a carrot flan that was indescribably delicious, a perfect salad nicoise, grilled pork loin with rillette ravioli and trout meuniere. One of the highlights was the view of the kitchen, where we could see the chefs putting our meal together, and the warm and friendly wait staff.  

Day Eight:  We had kept our eyes open for local coffee shops along the way, and I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t find the best until we were nearly ready to go home! The embarrassing part is that it is across the street from the Harbor Steps Apartments, tucked in between some other shops.  Ancient Grounds is a combination Asian art museum and gourmet coffee place, run by an avuncular, older man who will engage you on any topic you might like to discuss.  Or, he will leave you to wander through his treasures in a warm and cozy coffee shop unlike any other.  Check it out!

I will close this travelogue with one of the most outstanding meals we had on this adventure.  A friend who used to live in Seattle recommended Wild Ginger for dinner, but stressed that we needed reservations.  We see why! It is a beautiful restaurant that overlooks a busy city street, but feels very serene and open.  We started with lovely pear sake and then moved on to succulent dumplings and a variety of courses for our meal.   We both enjoyed the fragrant duck dish and the Chinese green beans, but the five spice beef stole the show.  No, there was no room for dessert!  Great service and impeccable food! 

We can’t wait to go back again and spend more time in Seattle.

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