Downtown Seattle. The shops, the monorail and that famous Needle

Had enough of hiking? Seen enough breathtaking scenery? Want to switch roles from country-phile to city slicker? How about a wander through parts of Seattle’s downtown district? It might not be the biggest, but it packs plenty in. And while you’re there, keep an eye out for its other famous landmark: Mount Rainier.

Seattle’s vibrant commercial heart is a fairly small area when compared to other west coast cities. Due to its position, it is hemmed to the north and east by hills, westwards by Elliot Bay and south by former tidal flats. Compact it may be, but this heart is still the central stopping point for the Metro and Sound Transit, the city’s rail and bus systems. And the destination for countless daily commuters.

Downtown forms a gathering place for tourists, shoppers, workers and sports fans. And it plays host to the world class Art Museum, movie houses, theatres and restaurants. Not forgetting the famous Pike Place Market with its colourful characters, flowers, fish and fruit stalls. You’ll also discover City Hall, its open-air sports and event stadiums – Safeco and Qwest Fields. The Coliseum, music clubs, urban parks and some amazing fountains. Still think Downtown is small? It might still surprise you.

The historic Pioneer Square has more independently owned shops than any other part of this bustling city. Bookstores, boutiques, fine art galleries and quaint ‘eateries’ have now taken over the city’s most historic buildings. With one of the largest collections of unique and diverse architecture in the United States, the district features around 88 acres of beautifully restored buildings.

If on a tight budget, or in search of a one-off gift, Pioneer Square is the place to shop. In the heart of the downtown area, the Westlake Centre – a glass covered four acre retail pavillion on Pine Street, is a shoppers paradise. With outlets covering almost every category imagineable, you’ll be literally spoilt for choice.

Still needing some inspiration? Try Pacific Place, Seattle’s premier dining, shopping and entertainment hub offering a variety of 50 fashionable shops. Its outlets offer shoes, jewelry, books, cards and stationery. Personal care, men’s and women’s clothing, maternity and children’s wear. And when you need to take the weight off the feet – it serves up everything from casual cafés to full-service restaurants.

SUNP0310The bustling Pike Place Market is one unique destination not to miss. Its main entrance at First and Pike houses the famous clock and sign proudly proclaiming ‘Public Market Centre’. Parking is close by at Western Avenue, with some of the most affordable parking in the downtown district. Pike Place has found international recognition as a premier farmers’ outlet with more than 200 year-round commercial businesses on its nine acres.

Around 190 craftspeople and 100 farmers rent table space daily, with 240 musicians and street performers adding to the fun. ‘The Market’ as the locals call it, attracts over 10 million visitors annually, making ‘the Soul of Seattle’ one of Washington State’s top visitor destinations. Nearby attractions include the first Starbucks coffee shop, the Aquarium and Waterfront, the Seattle Art Museum, the Seattle Public Library with its impressive modern architecture, and the Olympic Sculpture Park.

Hotels in the downtown area are plentiful and suit all tastes and budgets. The Roosevelt at 7th Avenue is located right in the heart of Seattle, close to the Washington State Convention and Trade Centre, Pike Place Market, Columbia Centre and the Space Needle. A smoke-free property with superb recreational, business amenities and banquetting facilities. With 151 rooms all air conditioned, guest car-parking is available for a surcharge.

The Grand Hyatt on Pine Street is another impressive Downtown hotel. Set in a convenient location close to Pacific Place, Pike Place Market and the Space Needle, this hotel offers relaxation in the spa tub, the health club, sauna and steam room. All of its 425 rooms have air conditioning with remote lighting and drapery controls and infant beds are available on request.

The Motif hotel on 5th Avenue is smoke-free accommodation offering recreational and event facilities. It is centrally located, pet friendly and close to the 5th Avenue Theatre and Space Needle, with self parking – a surcharge is payable. All 319 air-conditioned rooms have water or city views.

Providing a quick and convenient link between downtown and the Seattle Centre, the Seattle Monorail has logged well over 900,000 miles since it first opened in April 1962. The world’s last remaining ‘ALWEG Rapid Transit’ system, this full-scale commercial monorail, opens Monday to Friday 7.30am – 11.00pm and weekends, 8.30am – 11.00pm. Departures are virtually every 10 minutes from the Seattle Centre station, next to the Space Needle and Westlake Centre Mall station, at Fifth Avenue and Pine Street. Each one mile trip takes around two minutes to complete and with photo opportunities, is a journey you’ll not forget.

No trip to the ‘Emerald City’ is complete without a rapid climb to the top of its iconic Space Needle. Built for $4.5 million and over 600ft. high, the Needle has seen plenty of milestones during its lifetime including numerous weddings, a rock concert on its roof and an epic jump by six parachutists.

During the World Fair in 1962, the viewing deck was visited by almost 20,000 people a day, with over 2.3 million visitors in total. It is still Seattle’s number one visitor destination over 40 years later. With its observation deck at 520ft., the revolving Sky City Restaurant 20ft. below and the Skyline Banquetting facility at 100ft., the 360 degree views are simply unequaled. For full details go to www.spaceneedle.com and indulge yourself in all this brilliant city has to offer.

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