After a long day of hiking or snowshoeing near the Seattle area, switch roles from country to city slicker with an apres experience in downtown Seattle. It might not be the largest downtown area, but it packs plenty in. And while you’re there, keep an eye out for its other famous landmark: Mount Rainier.
See The Sights & Apres In Style
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.
Downtown forms a gathering place for tourists, shoppers, workers, and sports fans. Additionally, it plays host to the world-class art museum, movie houses, theatres, and restaurants. Do you still think downtown is small? It might even surprise you. Here, we mention a few of the go-to spots for some low-key après sightseeing.
The historic Pioneer Square has more independently owned shops than any other part of this bustling city. Bookstores, boutiques, beautiful 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 pavilion on Pine Street, is a shoppers paradise. With outlets covering almost every category imaginable, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Plus, after a long day or weekend of snowshoeing, you’ll find exceptional food to decompress and apres in Seattle. Savor a delicious brew with German flair at Altstadt, or if you’re feeling fancy, sip on an elaborate cocktail at Dead Line. Then, finish the day apres experience with a delicious cookie from Cow Chip Cookies.
Pike Place Market
If you’re still seeking some adventure, the 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.
Are you 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, stationery, personal care, men’s and women’s clothing, maternity, and children’s wear.
Moreover, when you need to take the weight off the feet – it serves up everything from casual cafés to full-service restaurants. Taste the chowder at Pike Place Chowder, delectable Thai at Thai Ginger, or a tasty treat at Trophy Cupcakes.
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 600 ft (183 m) 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 520 ft (158 m)., the revolving Sky City Restaurant at 20 ft (6 m) below, and the Skyline Banquetting facility at 100 ft (30 m), the 360-degree views are unmatched. For full details, go to www.spaceneedle.com and indulge yourself in all this brilliant city has to offer.
Search a little further downtown, where there was once a Fun Forest Amusement Park, and you’ll uncover an ornate garden, glass sculptures, and the globally renowned Dale Chihuly. Decompress by viewing the impressive exhibits as you apres in downtown Seattle.
The exhibits are divided into three distinctive areas: the Galleries, Glasshouse, and Garden. Each is unique and inspiring. Since 2012, the collection has been a lasting testament to this astonishingly talented and multi-award winning local artist.
To start the tour, the Galleries offer an explosive selection of vibrant colours. All exhibits, spread over three drawing walls and eight galleries, provide a lasting impression of both Chihuly and his team’s skills in stretching the boundaries of this perilously fragile medium. Not least of which is the sheer size and variety of each piece.
Throughout the galleries section, and subsequent displays, non-commercial photography is permitted, although flash photography and video are not. Throughout all areas, handling of exhibits is a strict no-go. The pieces on show in the galleries are classified as Chihuly’s more expressive, and he certainly pulls few punches in terms of imagination and improvisation.
Most of the lighting is exhibit-based with a combination of an electric bulb and, in some cases, neon or argon gas. Each adds a significant dimension to the overall atmosphere. Around each corner, a vivid surprise awaits, and on our visit, very few could hide their admiration. It is, quite simply, a visual spectacle.
Catering for all requirements, the Galleries also includes a 50-seat multi-purpose video and lecture facility as well as a great gift and book store featuring Chihuly’s work and that of local artists. The store is a perfect place to browse and seek out that ideal memento.
The Collections Café, featuring some of Chihuly’s work as a compelling backdrop, is the ideal place to kick back and soak up the ambiance while dining from a primarily locally sourced menu.
The exhibition also offers an ‘audio tour’ for smartphones via Chihulytour.com, which provides details and information from local artists.
The Glasshouse is the collection’s primary focus. This steel and glass construction, around 5000 square feet and 40 ft (12 m) tall, features one of Chihuly’s most significant suspended works. A 100 ft (30 m) long spiralling display of 1400 pieces, containing vivid colours of orange, reds, ambers, and yellows. Colours which change in perception as the day moves forward.
Designed to celebrate Chihuly’s admiration for conservatories – one which has lasted a lifetime is the Glasshouse. A statement carried a stage further with a series of framed prints showing different conservatory designs worldwide. His deep interest in glasshouse settings led him to create the Garden Cycle in Chicago’s Garfield Park, and an exhibition at Kew’s Royal Botanic Gardens.
A stunning mix of trees, plants, and paths is a fitting finalé to a remarkable collection. The continually changing Gardens feature selections, including fuchsias, dogwood, and camellias, which blend seamlessly with Chihuly’s Crystal and Icicle Towers and Reeds on Logs among many others. There are so many photographic opportunities; it’s difficult to know where to point the lens.
If you were ever in need of inspiration for your own plot of land, this surely has to be the ultimate. The Gardens are a fantastic experience where Chihuly’s dramatic art almost comes to life.
It wouldn’t be right to feature details about Dale Chihuly’s incredible displays of ornate glass, without a mention about the man himself. Tacoma born in September 1941, his work has long been at the forefront of his chosen medium.
It was mainly due to his dropping out of university in 1962 to study art in Florence, and his subsequent glass-blowing experiments three years later, that slowly brought about the visually stunning works he is now known.
In the early ’70s, he co-founded the Pilchuck Glass School near Stanwood, as well as the Hilltop Artists programme in his home town. But it was due to a head-on car accident in 1976, that resulted in the loss of his left eye – an unfortunate irony that the very medium that brought him global acclaim, along with a subsequent dislocated shoulder, should force him to stand aside and take more of a backseat.
With a strange twist, this fateful combination worked in his favour. He was able to see his work from a better perspective, as well as anticipate any design or technical issues. He was to comment later that he found this situation quite enjoyable.
His exhibits over 21 years have been shown in places as far afield as Holland and Israel, as well as on home turf, including New York, Florida, Arizona, and Tennessee. He has also staged permanent exhibitions worldwide in Singapore, England, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates.
Daily private tours are available for up to 10 people. Along with a dedicated tour guide, the tours last for around 40 minutes and include a digital photograph and Chihuly Garden and Glass book to take away. Larger tours for school groups are also available, although these need to be reserved in advance.
The Garden and Glass are open seven days a week, although the hours can change according to season and exhibition requirements. For full details, opening hours, tickets, and admission prices, visit chihulygardenandglass.com – the visual experience will leave you speechless.
Getting Around In Downtown Seattle
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 7.30 am – 11.00 pm and weekends, 8.30 am – 11.00 pm. It’s the perfect way to travel between apres sights while in downtown Seattle!
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, it is a journey you’ll not forget.
Staying in Seattle
If you are visiting a weekend in Seattle, you’ll need a place to crash after your apres experience. Hotels in the downtown area are plentiful and suit all tastes and budgets.
The Roosevelt at 7th Ave, now known as Hotel Theodore, 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 banqueting 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.
Check Out Downtown Seattle & Apres After Your Outdoor Adventure
If you need a break from the mountains, check out the city for some low-key apres sightseeing. Explore the many markets for some delicious treats and then check out the iconic Space Needle and Dale Chihuly for some history and awe-inspiring relaxation.
Read More: Apres Snowshoe: Drinks & Snacks After The Trail
What’s your favorite spot in Seattle to apres? Let us know in the comments below!
This article was originally published on July 19, 2016. It was updated on Jan 27, 2020, to include additional information about Dale Chihuly.
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