A Weekend in Seattle
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A Weekend in Seattle
Every year my three sisters and I plan a long weekend together. No spouses, no kids, and no responsibilities. Sometimes my mom joins us and we spend the long weekend reconnecting and laughing ourselves silly!
This year’s weekend took place in Seattle. It was a slightly unusual choice because we lived in a suburb of Seattle twice when we were growing up, but most of us hadn’t been back in at least a decade, so we thought, “Why not?” We didn’t visit the Space Needle and we barely walked through Pike’s Place, but we spent time doing a lot of interesting things that the normal visitor might overlook.
Seattle, Washington, was founded by loggers in the late 1800s, and the logging led way to a shipbuilding and shipping economy. Today it is the home to Amazon, Nordstrom, Costco, Boeing, and Starbucks Coffee. This city that was late to the United States party has made up for it in terms of business and economy. Seattle is the 20th largest city in the U.S. and the 4th largest port.
Top Things to do in Seattle
Gates Foundation Visitors Center
This might not be high on everyone’s list when visiting Seattle, but it was one of my favorite things we did! Unless you have been living under a rock you know that Bill Gates is the founder of Microsoft and is one of the richest men in the world. He and his wife Melinda founded the Gates Foundation as a way to give back to their community and philanthropic organizations around the world.
The visitors’ center tells the story behind the foundation. It uses multimedia to show people who have been impacted by the organizations that the Gates foundation finances. In another room, you can learn about the areas of need that the Gates foundation champions (education, child health, sanitation, agricultural development, etc.).
In the last room you can find ways to get involved in your community. There were activities to do at the visitors center to help a local refugee resettlement agency. We were able to cut strips of a t-shirt to help make a rag rug.
We all left feeling great and vowing to do more in our respective homes.
Plan on an hour and a half without kids and 45 minutes with them!
The Seattle Underground tour is a fabulous look into the formation of the city of Seattle and how people lived when Seattle was no more than a frontier town. Much of what remains underground today was originally the ground floor of buildings. After the Seattle fire of 1889, the city rebuilt with brick homes and the streets were elevated to reduce the flooding that was part of daily life. The elevated streets in effect made the ground floors of buildings “underground.”
The Seattle Underground tour gives you the chance to see the forgotten world of early Seattle. The tour takes you in to 4 different undergrounds where you learn about the building above them, how people lived in Seattle in the late 1880s and how Seattle has grown to be the large city it is today.
My favorite part of the tour was the tiled glass skylights that still let light in from the sidewalk above. The tiles have turned a beautiful amethyst color as they have been exposed to sunlight, but it makes the light they cast even more beautiful in the underground below.
The tour guide was a pro and kept the kids on the tour well entertained and engaged.
Plan on an hour and a half.
Pike’s Place Market
No trip to Seattle is complete without a visit to Pike’s Place Market! This iconic Seattle landmark has been selling (and throwing) fresh fish for over a hundred years. The market began as a simple farmer’s market to bring goods from local farms to the city. Today it has hundreds of stalls, food vendors, and lots of fresh seafood.
Take some time to walk through the market both inside the covered part and outside! You will find so many goodies and delicious bites. My favorite is Beecher’s cheese where you can get the most dreamy, creamy, and sharp Mac and Cheese you have ever tasted.
Plan on an hour, or two if you plan to eat there.
Ferry to Bainbridge Island
One of the best parts of Seattle is that it is built on Puget Sound with islands surrounding the area, which makes ferry travel a part of life. (In my high school there were kids who took the ferry to school.) Bainbridge Island is one of the nearest islands–only a 35 minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle. The ferry allows for cars and walk-on passengers and offers beautiful views of downtown Seattle.
If you take a car to Bainbridge Island, I would recommend visiting the Bloedel Reserve, a rhododendron garden with Japanese-style gardens. I also recommend a visit to one of the many beautiful beaches like Fay Bainbridge Park or Lytle Beach.
Plan on at least 2 hours and maybe even a full afternoon.
The Chittenden Locks have the most boat traffic than any other U.S. lock! The lock connects Lake Washington to the Puget sound and keeps salt water from mixing with the freshwater lake. The lock can make the water level vary by 26 feet within in 15 minutes. It is amazing to watch the boats that enter the lock rise and fall as the water empties or enters.
Right near the Chittenden locks are Salmon ladders allowing the Salmon to spawn in the fresh water and the mature fish to migrate to the ocean. It is fascinating to see the fish move through the ladders.
Plan on 30 minutes to an hour.
The Carl English Botanical Gardens
This is a two-for-one attraction. The Botanical gardens are right next to the locks and both are worth visiting in their own right. There are paved trails lined by enormous rhododendron bushes, shady trees and perennial plantings. The garden is not huge, but it’s a great place to take a stroll if the weather is nice. You could also take a picnic to watch the boats as they sail across the lake into the sound.
Plan on 20-30 minutes to walk the entire garden.
Ballard Farmer’s Market
I love farmer’s markets! I have been to them all over the world, and I can say that this may be the very best I’ve seen. I know that’s a bold statement, but hear me out. The farmer’s market had the usual offerings of local produce, some baked goods, handmade jewelry, etc. But in addition, there were huge bouquets of flowers, live music, unusual treats, fabulous food, custom-ordered poetry, and artists.
We ate our way through the market, even though we had just eaten a huge breakfast! My favorites were the puffy pies made with locally foraged berries, garlicky naan made to order, Raclette on a huge piece of bread, and peach kolache. But that are just a few of the culinary treats that were offered! There was a Mexican stand that had a line winding around the entire market, spicy cinnamon rolls, and veggie quesadillas that were stuffed full of beets, kale, onions, and more.
While we were at the market we had a picture commissioned by a street artist. We didn’t have our brother with us, and we wanted to have a picture of us having fun without him. The artist did a spectacular job!
Don’t miss this one if you are here on a Saturday!
Plan on one to two hours.
Theo Chocolate Tour
My entire family is crazy about chocolate. We do chocolate taste tests (blindly comparing different brands) at almost every family gathering. And I am ashamed to admit that chocolate doesn’t do much for me. My dismayed family tries to tempt me at every turn, but rarely am I excited about chocolate in any form. However, I found my favorite chocolate on the Theo Chocolate Tour! They make a bar of grapefruit and ginger chocolate, and it has the perfect mix of sweet, spicy, and bitter to make me reconsider my stand on chocolate.
The tour itself is really informative. I learned about how cacao is grown, harvested, fermented, and sorted in the place of origin. We learned about the farmers and their difficulties in keeping up with production and how Theo and other sustainable chocolatiers are helping to combat the problem. We were supplied with all the samples we could eat during this presentation, and that would keep even the squirmiest kids on their best behavior.
We then moved onto the production floor and watched workers making chocolate in the Theo factory. Even on a Saturday there was quite a bit of activity.
Plan on an hour and a half.
What to eat in a weekend in Seattle
I live in one of the largest Italian foodie towns in New England, so when my sister made us go eat Italian in Seattle I was less than enthused. However, Il Corvo is special. They only serve 3 pasta dishes per day, and they make each dish a gastronomic experience. (Did I mention they have James Beard nominations?) The pasta is made fresh each day and combines traditional flavors with some new fun ingredients. The kale salad was so fabulous I was honestly shocked. Get the kale salad!
The only catch is that they are only open Monday-Friday from 11-3 and the line is already out the door by 11. We waited about 30 minutes to get to the counter to order and pay and were seated by the window in an unadorned table. Plan on a wait and get there by 10:30 if you can swing it!
The Wandering Goose
If you have read my Savannah post, you know that I can’t make a good biscuit despite being a very good baker, so I get good biscuits when I can. The Wandering Goose was a surprise hit for all of us. Such a surprise that we went back again the next morning. Who would have thought you could get a great biscuit in the Pacific Northwest? I can tell you the biscuit with butter and jam would make any Southern mama proud. I also recommend the biscuits and gravy and any biscuit sandwich on the menu. (We tried them all!)
The have a new cookbook out and I can’t wait to try to recreate the biscuits at home. Wish me luck!
I’m not sure what Porpoises have to do with donuts, but this donut shop makes delicious donuts. Don’t expect crazy toppings, candy and sprinkles. They make donuts that look like a homemade donut your Grandma may have made. Some have fillings like vanilla cream, lemon curd, and rhubarb and strawberry, and they are all dipped in sugar.
Charming touches are all over the restaurants (there are a number of them throughout Seattle) like silver trays to hold your cleared dishes. Stop here for breakfast and enjoy a delightful breakfast or snack later in the day.
Is Seattle doable in a weekend?
Totally! Three days would be better, but prepare yourself for a lot of walking, a lot of hills, and a fabulous time. We loved every minute of it.
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