After our Alaskan cruise, we planned to stay an extra day, and so we wanted to see the best of Seattle in just two days. We like to pack as much as we can into our trips, and that requires careful planning. Because we concentrated more on Alaska than our stopover in Seattle, we needed to decide our itinerary at the last minute.
Most memorable: Stepping into the first Chihuly gallery
Most surprising: How informative the Argosy Cruise was
Best Spot for Oyster Lovers: Shuckers Oyster Bar
Most disappointing: We didn’t use our night ticket at the Space Needle.
Recommendations: If you plan to visit the three major attractions plus one more covered by the CityPass, it’s worth purchasing.
We settled on the purchase of a City Pass for $99 to get entry tickets to the top things to do in Seattle. The booklet contains redeemable vouchers for the most popular Seattle attractions, at times allowing us to skip the lines. By purchasing it, the City Pass determined what sights we would see. All we needed to do was decide the order in which we would see them. Since a City Pass is good for nine days from purchase, visitors who plan to stay in the city longer can spread out their activities. But, really, if you want to see the best of Seattle in just two days, this booklet is the way to go.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Because we were told by our concierge at the Fairmont to buy our City Pass anywhere but the Space Needle, where lines could be long, we decided to start our tour at the Chihuly Garden and Glass. The garden is conveniently located next to the Space Needle and the Museum of Pop Culture, two attractions included in the pass.
Neither my husband nor I expected much out of this stop; however, we were blown away the minute we stepped into the first gallery. The museum features whole rooms of glass sculptures by Dave Chihuly and his atelier.
Outside, glass sculptures decorate the garden. The colored glass highlights the surrounding plants by matching their colors or contrasting with them. Sometimes the shape of the glass mimicked that of the flora.
Surprisingly, this stop ended up being one of the highlights of whirlwind tour of Seattle.
The CityPass requires you to choose between Chihuly Gardens and Glass OR the Pacific Science Center.
The Space Needle
Every visit to Seattle should include a visit to the Space Needle, if only to say that you’ve been there. The City Pass entitles you two admissions in a 24-hour period. Most people with this ticket visit once during the day and then again at night. Because our hotel was so far away, we went only once, during the day.
If you’ve ever been in an observation tower in a major city, you’ll know what to expect atop the Space Needle. It has two observation floors, one stationary and one slowly revolving with glass viewing panels in the floor. On a sunny day, the views of Elliot Bay, Mount Ranier, Puget Sound, and the city itself are spectacular.
The Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)
The Museum of Pop Culture ended up as the second surprise attraction. Located in the same area as the Chihuly Garden and the Space Needle, the dramatic building, designed by Frank Gehry, houses an astonishing collection.
The museum is divided by genre: science fiction, fantasy, horror, and pop music with some special exhibits. We saw artifacts from Star Trek, Men in Black, The Wizard of Oz, Lord of the Rings, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, among too many to mention. The Guitar Gallery will appeal to music lovers, as will the exhibits on Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Jimi Hendrix, and Prince. I did not expect this museum to qualify as the best of Seattle in just two days, but it ended up being one of our more memorable stops.
The City Pass requires you to choose between MoPOP and the Woodland Park Zoo.
The Seattle Aquarium
Families with children flock to the Seattle Aquarium, but even as adults, we enjoyed seeing sea creatures and marine animals. The jellyfish and octopus underwater displays are popular, as are the above/under water exhibits featuring river and sea otters, seals, and tufted puffins. The emphasis is on conservation and education. Although this stop isn’t necessary to see the best of Seattle in just two days, we found that it added depth to the kinds of things we did.
Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour
We almost blew off the included Argosy Harbor Tour. After all, we had just gotten off a ship with far more interesting scenery. I envisioned a bland putt-putting around Elliot Bay. But we had our CityPass vouchers and time to do it. What a surprise! Thanks to our commentator, we learned a tremendous amount about Seattle’s waterways, its shipping history, the specific ships we passed, and the city itself. We even got a spectular view of Mount Ranier. Even with your CityPass voucher, you do need to make a reservation, so check the timetable.
Pike Place Public Market
Just as visitors to Seattle should see the Space Needle, they should explore the famous Pike Place Market. The fish, produce, flower, specialty food, and crafts stalls offer something for everyone. Even if you don’t want to buy, you’ll find a feast for your eyes. You can eat at one of the restaurants or purchase items to-go. It fits nicely into a whirlwind tour of Seattle because you can breeze through or stay longer, depending on your time constraints.
Famously, the original Starbucks is located outside the Public Market, but the lines are long. The company has even named a coffee roast after this location. Originally, we had hoped to eat breakfast there and were willing to wait until we saw that they did not sell food. We quickly noticed that people bought their coffee, then waited in line at the restaurant next door. Because we did not want to wait in two long lines for what we had hoped would be a quick breakfast, we passed. After all, we’ve had Starbucks coffee all over the world.
Ye Olde Curiosity Shop
For those who like the macabre, Ye Olde Curiosity Shop calls your name. It’s a combination souvenir shop and gruesome Hall of Fame. It boasts of the largest collection of shrunken heads in the world. As if that’s a good thing. You’ll also find the type of oddities under glass that you’d see in the carnival sideshow of yore. Shiver. The shop is located at the end of a pier near the Argosy dock.
Strolling the Waterfront
The Seattle waterfront, located on Alaskan Way, hums with activity. Especially if you visit the aquarium and/or take an Argosy cruise, you’ll find yourself along this busy stretch. No matter your interests, you’ll find something to do. You can buy a T-shirt or grab an ice cream or take out a loaf from the Alaskan Sourdough Bakery or ride the Seattle Great Wheel.
Even in two days, we were able to find some great dining options. We had a delicious lunch at Shuckers Oyster Bar, brunch at The Capital Grille, an upscale Italian dinner at the Vintage Kimpton’s Tulio, and a satisfying Happy Hour at Loulay, the last of which also served as our dinner.
Thanks to the CityPass, our whirlwind tour of Seattle in just two days took us to many of the city’s major attractions. Although the pass helped us plan by narrowing our options, we were also able to visit a few other areas.
Debbie Lee Wesselmann