The Space Needle, Pike Place Market, the Seahawks, the famous movie with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in it, there are reasons why people love this charming city named Seattle. This West Coast seaport city is the largest city in both the state of Washington and the Pacific Northwest region of North America. Many also refer Seattle as the “Emerald City” because of the lush evergreen forests of the area. Whether you are here for the outdoor, the food, the sports, the sightseeing; here are the 10 must-dos that will keep you sleepless in Seattle.
10 must-dos to stay sleepless in Seattle:
1. View from the top at Space Needle
It’s like out of The Jetsons cartoon, the Space Needle is an icon of Seattle and going up to the observation deck is a must for any first time visitor to this city. The tower was built for the 1962 World’s Fair and drew over 2.43 million visitors and is still a popular tourist destination to this day. From up here at 160m (520ft), it offers a 360 degree panoramic view of downtown Seattle skyline, Union Lake, as well as the Cascade Mountains, Mount Rainer, Mount Baker on a good day with clear sky. It even has a map tells you where Bill Gate’s house is.
Tips: Take the monorail from Westlake Center Mall station which takes you straight to the Space Needle for only USD$2.25 each way. The Space Needle entry ticket costs USD$22.00 which is not the cheapest. So I highly recommend you to get the combo deal for USD$36.00 which includes admission to Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition next door, and that brings you the no 2. must-do in Seattle.
2. Chihuly Garden and Glass
One of my favourite places in Seattle is the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum, studio, exhibition hall, whatever you want to call it. I am sure many of you would have heard or known of Dale Chihuly’s amazing glassworks, especially the famous colourful glass sculpture adorned the ceiling in the lobby of Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas. If you’ve been to Bellagio and thought that was impressive, then you will love this exhibition hall in Seattle, is Chihuly’s glassworks on steroids! There are glass sculptures in the hall then sprawled out to the garden outside. It’s like walking in the set of Avatar but everything is made out of glass. They also have glass blowing demonstrations at certain times so you can watch and learn how the intricate glass pieces were made.
Tips: The entry fee is USD$27. Trust me, get the combo deal for USD$36 as mentioned earlier. If you are planning to visit other tourist attractions in Seattle, then you can get a Citypass for USD$74 which includes admission to the Top 5 Seattle attractions.
3. Pike Place Market
This is a no brainer, if you’ve been to Seattle and didn’t go to Pike Place Market, then you deserved to be laughed at. Established in 1907, Pike Place Market is one of the oldest continuously operated public farmers’ markets in United States. With more than 10 million visitors annually, Pike Place Market is Seattle’s most popular tourist tourist destination and ranked 33rd most visited in the world. Just like any farmers’ market, here you will find fantastic fresh produce, seafood, local honey, colourful flowers and all sorts of artisan food like jams, cheeses, roasted nuts, all made locally in Seattle. There are also many stalls selling souvenirs, antiques and local art and craft. Apparently there is also a *ahem* head shop, one of the oldest in United States.
Tips: Don’t miss out on the fish throwing at Pike Place Fish Market. Try all the local produce. Have breakfast or lunch at one of the cafes/restaurants at the market.
4. Fish throwing at Pike Place Fish Market
While you are at Pike Place Market, you simply can’t miss out on the unusual fish throwing tradition at Pike Place Fish Market. Apparently started as a prank some 30 years ago when a fishmonger yelled at another employee at the back of the counter and threw the fish at him to get it wrapped for the customer who ordered it. The passerby obviously enjoyed it so much that it became a regular thing. It is very entertaining and definitely something you don’t see everyday.
Tips: The fish throwing doesn’t happen very often, but is worth sticking around until the place is packed with tourists for the fishmongers to entertain the crowd. Also, take a picture with Rachel the piggy bank while you wait.
5. Gum Wall
Another unusual attraction at the Pike Place Market is the infamous gum wall. Tucked away under the market in Post Alley, you will be able to smell the sweet scent in the air before you realising that what you’ve been sniffing is actually someone’s saliva. Then you witness what is possibly the grossest street ‘art’ in the world – a wall that is fully covered in chewed bubble gum and there are LOTS of it! It is indeed as gross as it sound, but the colourful display seems to attract tourists from around the world to come here and add a piece of their DNAs to the wall. The city council actually had a big clean up last year and all the gums were removed, but it didn’t take long for the wall to return to its former glory.
Tips: Whatever you do, just don’t lick the wall please….
6. EMP Museum
The quirky shiny building is hard to miss as the monorail actually travelling through the building on the way to Space Needle. I didn’t get to visit the EMP museum during my first visit to Seattle because I thought it’s going to be boring, but I am so glad that I did it this year and actually loved it. Founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, EMP is non profit museum dedicated to the history and exploration of popular music, sci-fi and pop culture. This place is dope, there are so much to see. It also had Hello Kitty exhibition when we were there, totally cuteness overload. The highlight was definitely the Science Fiction section for me, many of the film props are actually Paul Allen’s own collection.
Tips – If you planning to visit EMP, Needle Space and Chihuly Glass and Garden and other places, then maybe is worth to get the Citypass as mentioned.
7. Lunch in Chinatown
Pioneer Square is worth a wander, this historic part of town is home to art galleries, cafes, pubs, nightclubs and many boutique shops. The early structures in the neighborhood were mostly wooden, and nearly all burned in the Great Seattle Fire of 1889. Here you can join the underground tour to see what Seattle downtown was like in its heyday. Walk further towards east side and you will soon find yourself in Chinatown and here is where you get your Asian food fix. There are also Japantown and Little Saigon, so the food here is pretty diverse. We found ourselves in a little Chinese restaurant called Ping’s Dumpling House for lunch. This hole in the wall restaurant served up traditional Chinese fare originated from Qingdao province. The dumplings were filling, the noodle was well cooked, and my first time trying Tainmore Porridge, a hearty congee filled with ground corn meal, red beans, tofu, mung bean vermicelli, peanuts and spinach. Most importantly, the meal was cheap as chips.
Tips: If you see the old man in the restaurant, that’s Mr Ping who started this restaurant. We had a good chat with him and his daughter told us that her dad was in his mid 80s and still going strong!
8. Tour of Lake Union
If you are a Sleepless in Seattle fan, then you must make a trip to Lake Union to check out where Jonah used to live. The best way to cruise the lake is by joining the Ride the Ducks tour. Hop into the WWII amphibious landing craft and be prepared to be “entertained”, whether you like it or not (they are cray cray!). The 90-min tour starts from downtown Seattle where the tour guide will fill you in with all the interesting facts and history of the city before it splashes into Lake Union with the breath-taking view of the skyline, Gasworks Park and get a peek at the famous floating home from Sleepless in Seattle. I’ve done the tour twice (in 2013 and then 2016), the house actually had already been painted differently as you can see below.
Tips: Sit on the right side of the boat, as you will have a better view of Jonah’s floating home.
9. Food hopping in Seattle
Good food aplenty in Seattle but we were only able to skim the surface of it all during our 2-day whirlwind visit. There are many eateries around Pike Place Market to whet you appetite. Seattle is also the birthplace of Starbucks. Across the street from the market is the Starbucks flagship store opened in 1971 which still has the original two-tailed mermaid logo. The footprints of Sleepless in Seattle are all over the city. If you want to sit at the stool where Tom Hanks sat, Athenian Inn in Pike Place Market is where you will find the two famous corner seats at the bar. However I found the restaurant next door Lowell’s is more popular and just as busy. Order your food as you walk in and then take a seat at the top floor which has a great water view. The must-try is their tasty dungeness crab omelette and also the crab cakes. Another place worth checking out in Seattle is Biscuit Bitch. A little bit of girl powers happening here at this hole in the wall tiny weeny shop that offers nothing but biscuit. Biscuit in American is like scone back home but savoury, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea as it is a heavy dish and can be little bit too much as breakfast. The most basic biscuit that you can order is Straight-up Bitch which is just biscuit with sausage gravy. From there, you can add eggs, cheese, bacon, or go Smokin’ Hot Bitch by spicing it up with jalapeño.
10. Sleepless in Seattle
If jet lag troubles you and find yourself sleepless in Seattle (so pun-nish!), then why not get to the roof top (of the hotel or apartment you stay at) and check out the beautiful Seattle skyline at night? Better still, get up there just before dawn and witness the city slowly comes to life. I breathed in the chilled autumn air, as the hue of blue slowly getting lighter, the street lights dimmed, the first morning train started clanking in the background and the cars tooting away. And I sure had found love in this city, and that is Seattle.