They say 'you haven't seen Seattle until you've seen it from a duck', and for once, the slogan rings true.
As the city surrounds a great lake, a boat tour is a great way to explore Seattle, with many of its most arresting sights reachable by water.
The 90 minute tour goes across land and water, and the 'duck' is a Second World War 'amphibious vehicle' - basically a truck that floats!
Popular with kids, the 'Captain' plays music and gets the passengers to join in with games and spotting sights - expect alot of quacking and duck noises to be made.
But the tour itself will please the more mature 'sailors'- the tour kicks off at the Space Needle, and rides past Pike Place Market, downtown, Pioneer Square and Fremont, until you hit Lake Union.
Across the lake, you get a fantastic view of the city skyline, and get to see the cute houseboats in the canals (made famous by 'Sleepless in Seattle'). Highlights of the trip also include a voyage past the GasWorks park - on a hill overlooking the lake, this is the first industrial site in the world to be made into a public park. The grassy hill (popular with kite-flyers)is dotted with groups of rusting machinary and pipes - almost like red sculptures against the blue sky.
The best part of the tour for big kids everywhere? You get to ride a truck into the water.
516 Broad Street
Seattle is a long city with many neighborhoods some of them barely mentioned in the tour guides and yet still full of local colour. Columbia City is my neighbourhood and if you visit on a Wednesday afternoon between May and October, you’ll encounter the farmer’s market which draws producers from both west and east of the Cascades as well as local performers and organizations.
You can eat here, joining dozens of families picnicking on the sloping park ground adjacent to this weekly festival. The Sicilian style restaurant ‘La Medusa’ serves a Wednesday dinner that has been cooked up using only produce purchased fresh that day from the stalls in the market (book ahead).
Within a short radius Columbia City has a pub (great local microbrews), a bookstore (Bookworm Exchange), a gallery, restaurants, a bakery (which serves coffee and treats), a cinema, as well as ethnic and independent shops that beg to be browsed.
If you are in town on the first Friday of the month then come along to ‘Beatwalk’ which starts kicking in around seven in the evening; many of the places described above are open until late, each with their own band, one five dollar payment gives you the freedom to wander from venue to venue people-watching and relaxing (you might even enjoy the music too).
It’s a lot of fun and not set up with tourists in mind, many of my neighbours arrange to meet up or just wander down knowing they will bump into friends. The 'south end' is the 'social end'.
If you have a car (or ride Metro 39) go down to Seward Park and walk the perimeter path that follows the lakeside around this peninsula, looking across towards the downtown skyscrapers, it is hard to imagine that you are in a major US city. Within Seward Park there is old growth with the biggest Douglas fir inside city limits, bald eagles nest here and one particular nest is easily viewed from the internal drive that goes up by the amphitheatre.
I have lived in Seattle since 1989 and I love the south end, it doesn’t get the ‘travel show’ attention of other more northerly neighbourhoods but it’s a quiet gem of an experience waiting to happen.
Head south down Rainier Avenue
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