Every city has its own little quirks and secret places. Seattle is filled with landmarks that are tied to its history and culture. Whether exploring the city for the first time or just hoping to get to know the city better, these stops around the city are an essential part of the Seattle experience.
Walk through Pike Place Market on a busy weekend morning and you will feel the pulse of the city. Far more than one of Seattle's most recognizable and popular tourist attractions, Pike Place is a functional market that has been serving Seattle since 1907. Not only does the market supply the city with goods and produce, it also helps support regional farmers, craftspeople and performers. Within its rows of stands and many-leveled arcade you will find bakeries, cafes, newsstands, craft shops, produce, fresh flowers and a wide variety of fresh seafood.
Located at the bottom of Queen Anne hill, the 74-acre campus of the Seattle Center is an extraordinary urban park and community entertainment center. The site had long been a civic complex since 1927, but it was the 1962 World's Fair that transformed the space with the addition of the Space Needle, the Pacific Science Center and the Seattle Coliseum (now Key Arena). The Space Needle has become the symbol of Seattle, and the breathtaking 360-degree views from the observation deck draw more than a million people each year. Other notable attractions at Seattle Center are the Experience Music Project, Marion Oliver McCaw Hall (home of the Seattle Opera and Pacific Northwest Ballet), the Sculpture Garden, the Mural Amphitheatre and Memorial Stadium.
The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks allow vessels to pass from the salt water of Puget Sound into the Lake Washington Ship Canal and on to the fresh water of Lake Washington. This amazing feat of engineering is made up of 2 navigational locks, a dam with spillway and a fish ladder. The locks also have a regional visitors center and a botanical garden.
Once the tallest building west of the Mississippi, the historic Smith Tower is now not even the tallest building in Seattle's skyline. The Tower features some of the last elevator operators on the West Coast and an open-air observation deck on the 35th floor. The distinctive white terra cotta-exterior is so impervious to weather that it has only required cleaning once since its construction in 1914.
Seattle's newest landmark is the dramatic steel and glass structure of the Seattle Public Library's Central Library, opened in the summer of 2004. Immediately hailed by local and national critics as an architectural masterpiece, the library's five levels seem from the outside to be floating over one another, and the library interior features a revolutionary "Book Spiral" that winds through the four floors of book stacks. Aside from its aesthetic chops, the library is designed with the public in mind. The interior includes spaces that encourage reading and browsing as well as more formal research and study areas, automated checkout stations, wireless communication devices for staff and the Mixing Chamber, a 19,500 square foot "trading floor for information" that allows patrons to get answers to general information questions as well as in-depth subject queries.
Capitol Hill has long been the home of Seattle's counterculture, and is also the main gay and lesbian district in the city. Broadway, the neighborhood's main strip, is lined with funky eating establishments and highly eclectic shops. The whole neighborhood exudes an artistic vitality, and perhaps the main attractions in Capitol Hill are the people themselves. More piercings, tattoos and outrageous fashions can be seen in a few blocks here than anywhere else in the city. The southern portion of Capitol Hill enjoys a healthy nightlife with a wide variety of popular bars and clubs.
After the fire of 1889 gutted the wooden buildings of downtown, the current brick buildings of the Pioneer Square district sprang up quickly. During the Alaska Gold Rush the area was host to numerous saloons and other "entertainment" centers that encouraged miners to spend their money in the district. The area fell on hard times during periods of economic crisis as many core business moved slightly north into newer, larger buildings. The entire area was in danger of being razed as part of an "urban renewal" in the 1960's, but the public rallied and established the area as a Historic District. Today Pioneer Square hosts art galleries, cafes, nightclubs, shops and a number of high-tech companies in its historic brick office buildings.
Washington State has the largest ferry system in the nation, connecting the eastern side of Puget Sound to the San Juan Islands, the Kitsap Peninsula and the Olympic Peninsula. The ferry from Anacortes continues on through the San Juans to Vancouver Island of Canada's British Columbia province. Ferries are more than just a common sight; they are part of Washington's unique connection to the water. A trip on a Washington State Ferry is a beautiful experience even for longtime area residents.