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Explore the Heart of Seattle in 2 Days -  Perfect for Cruisers!

Explore the Heart of Seattle in 2 Days - Perfect for Cruisers!


avatar   Scott
Trip Date 07/03/2013
Posted On 05/06/2020 14:00:00

Destinations | Cruises | Washington | Seattle | DIY Touring | Downtown | Pike Place Market | Space Needle | Great Wheel | Pioneer Square | Underground Tour | Smith Tower | Chinatown | Shore Excursions



In addition to being a popular embarkation port for cruises through Alaska's Inside Passage, Seattle, Washington is a tourist destination in its own right. There's so much to see and do that visitors to the city should plan an absolute minimum of two days to explore the city before or after any cruise. While shore excursions are available, many of the prime tourist sites are located in a rather compact area making DIY touring both possible and popular!

This article provides an introduction to sites located within six of the city's celebrated neighborhoods. Want to begin with an interesting but fun history lesson? Start your visit in Pioneer Square on either an Underground Tour or at the Klondike Gold Rush Museum and Visitor Center

Do you always seek out local shops to find the perfect gift for a loved one back home (or maybe for yourself)? There's plenty of options throughout the city, but don't miss Downtown's Pike Place Market or the many souvenir shops along the Waterfront. If it's ethnic shopping that interests you, a visit to Chinatown and the International District has you covered.

What about enjoying the outdoors? Nicknamed the Emerald City because it is green year round, Seattle is home to a number of wonderful parks. With plenty of artwork to admire, Olympic Sculpture Park in Belltown is an excellent choice for both adults and kids. The Queen Anne neighborhood, known for the Space Needle, is also home to Kerry Park - both with amazing views. Speaking of views - don't forget about Smith Tower (Pioneer Center) and the Great Wheel on the waterfront.

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Cruising from Seattle, Washington

The Alaska cruise season typically runs from late May through early September. June, July and August are Seattle's high season - great weather but also the biggest crowds and highest prices. Crowds are lighter and prices a little lower during Seattle's shoulder season (May, early June, September and October). The downside is that those months may not be the best match for the excursions you are hoping to do in Alaska.


Cruise Ship Headed to Port of Seattle

Cruise Ship Headed to Port of Seattle

We always recommend flying into cruise embarkation ports a minimum of one day in advance of a cruise departure. There's always a chance of a flight delay or cancellation as well as the possibility of lost or delayed luggage, so it just makes sense. Plus - how can you explore your city of embarkation without at least a full day - especially if that city is Seattle? (Truth be told, even two days is not nearly enough to see the best of Seattle!)

Traffic can be very heavy, but there are a variety of public transit options available within all of these neighborhoods. If you don't mind walking, however, most of the locations described in this article can be reached on foot. Do prepare yourself for some hills, though!

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Without further ado, the time is now for a comprehensive list of Seattle's "best of the best" sites - all located within the heart of the city:

Downtown Seattle

Just like in many of the nation's cities, Seattle's Central Business District is located Downtown. In addition to being the hub of Seattle's business and government, you'll find upscale retail as well as dining and entertainment. A unique feature of Seattle's downtown is the view. From many of the buildings, there's an awesome view of both mountains and water.

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market

85 Pike Street, Seattle, WA 98101

No visit to Seattle is complete without spending time wandering through Pike Place Market, the city's public market. Covering nine acres of real estate in the heart of downtown, the variety of sights and sounds piques the curiosity of even those with no interest in shopping.


Main Entrance to Pike Place Market

Main Entrance to Pike Place Market

Vendors at the market sell everything from standard farmer's market fare to fish, specialty foods, fresh flowers and even crafts and souvenirs. Watching (and trying to snap a photo) of the flying fish is fun for all ages! When purchases are made, purveyors have a tradition of shouting and tossing the whole fish (some almost 2 feet long) through the air to a coworker. Once "the show" is over, the fish will be wrapped and the purchase paid for!


Pike Place Fish Co.

Pike Place Fish Co.

There are a variety of restaurants located within the market - both take-out and sit down. The Athenian Seafood Restaurant and Bar was known as the Athenian Inn in the movie Sleepless in Seattle. It was there that Tom Hanks and Rob Reiner ate, drank and talked. (Make sure to find the small plaques at the barstools where they sat!)


Athenian Seafood Restaurant and Bar

Athenian Seafood Restaurant and Bar

Even more unique items can be found for sale on the three levels filled with retail shops below the main market. Enjoy listening to music? Buskers (street performers), often playing Motown or bluegrass, can be found throughout the market adding to the atmosphere.

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There is no entrance fee to explore the market. If you liked what you saw, be sure to make a donation to Rachel the Piggy Bank to support the market's social services programs.


Rachel the Piggy Bank at Pike Place Market

Rachel the Piggy Bank at Pike Place Market

Beecher's Handmade Cheese

Beecher's Handmade Cheese

1600 Pike Place, Seattle, WA 98101

It's fun to make a brief stop at the window of Beecher's Handmade Cheese (across from the market) to watch the cheesemakers skim a huge batch of cheese. If you are a cheese lover, you may want to linger for lunch or pick up some cheese for later from their selection including many locally made cheeses.

1st and Pike Starbucks Coffeehouse

Starbucks at 1st and Pike

102 Pike St., Seattle, WA 98101

The original Starbucks Coffeehouse opened in 1971 in Seattle near Pike Place Market. The coffeehouse was moved to its current location in 1976. Make sure to take a look at the logo outside of the coffeehouse. While similar, it is slightly different when compared to today's well known Starbucks logo.


Starbucks Original Coffeehouse

Starbucks Original Coffeehouse

No matter when you are visiting, if Starbucks is open, it is a great time for a drink or snack. If you are in the market for a gift for a Starbucks lover, a collectible gift card from this location may be just the ticket! It's the only place where the unique "Pike Place Market" gift card, which comes in a gold envelope, can be purchased.

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Victor Steinbrueck Park

Victor Steinbrueck Park

2001 Western Ave., Seattle, WA 98121

Located just north of Pike Place Market you'll find Victor Steinbrueck Park. It's a great place to sit near the water, people watch and maybe even enjoy a recently purchased treat from Starbucks or the market.


Victor Steinbrueck Park

Victor Steinbrueck Park

You'll definitely want to admire the two 50-foot tall native totem poles at this fee-free park!

Belltown

Immediately north of downtown, Belltown is known as a trendy and more youthful neighborhood. Homes within this urban area are condominiums, apartments and high rise towers. Many of Seattle's popular restaurants, coffee shops, bars, boutiques and galleries can be found in Belltown.

Olympic Sculpture Park

Olympic Sculpture Park

2901 Western Ave., Seattle, WA 98121

Since 2007, Olympic Sculpture Park has offered residents and visitors the opportunity to enjoy unique outdoor sculptures along the shores of Elliott Bay. Whether you decide to bike along the waterfront or walk from sculpture to sculpture, you are sure to appreciate the phenomenal views of the Olympic Mountains in the distance or Puget Sound in the foreground.


Olympic Sculpture Park

Olympic Sculpture Park

Olympic Sculpture Park is a part of the Seattle Art Museum. There is no admission fee to enter the park to explore the sculptures on your own. Free public tours are also offered throughout the year, so be sure to check the calendar for availability.

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Queen Anne

The two parts of the Queen Anne neighborhood are just north of Belltown. Lower Queen Anne is located at the foot of Queen Anne Hill. Seattle's Space Needle can be found in this more working class neighborhood. Upper Queen Anne, on top of the hill, is home to more upscale homes, many with amazing views.

Space Needle

Space Needle

400 Broad St., Seattle, WA 98109

The official opening of Seattle's 605 foot tall Space Needle was in 1962 during the World's Fair. In less than 45 seconds, an elevator will take you 520 feet skyward where you will be greeted with 360 degree views from the open-air Observation Deck. Looking out over downtown, the mountains, water and more, you'll enjoy a great opportunity to relax and catch up with friends.

Don't miss a visit to one of the newest additions, The Loupe, located 20 feet below the observation level. In 45 minutes, the revolving glass floor makes a complete rotation during which you can look down upon the city and also see the mechanics involved in operating the elevators and rotating floor.


Seattle Space Needle

Seattle Space Needle

It's easy to reach the Space Needle from downtown by riding the elevated Seattle Monorail. One-way tickets for the monorail are $3.00 for adults. Admission to the Space Needle is $37.50 per adult, with a $5.00 discount for those willing to enter during the morning or evening off-peak hours.


Ready to Board the Seattle Monorail

Ready to Board the Seattle Monorail

Kerry Park

Kerry Park

211 W. Highland Dr., Seattle, WA 98119

If you are interested in a great view of Seattle and Mount Rainier, head north on Queen Anne Avenue to Kerry Park. With the ability to capture the skyline, mountain and the Space Needle all in one shot, the park is popular at all hours of the day and night.


View of Seattle from Kerry Park

View of Seattle from Kerry Park

Although the walk to get to the park is partially uphill, just remind yourself that you're getting some good exercise without having to pay a cent!

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Waterfront

The strip of land between Elliott Bay and the city is known as the Waterfront. The waterfront actually stretches from Queen Anne on the north side, past Belltown and Downtown to Pioneer Square on the south. In addition to amazing views across the water, this area is quite popular for souvenir shopping.

Seattle Great Wheel

Seattle Great Wheel

1301 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98101

Located on Pier 57, the Seattle Great Wheel opened in 2012. The view of the city, water and surrounding mountains from the Great Wheel are unique as part of your ride will be over the waters of Elliott Bay.


Seattle Great Wheel

Seattle Great Wheel

Each of the 41 white gondolas seats up to 8 passengers. With a glass floor, leather seats and a stereo system, Cabin # 42 is reserved for those wanting a VIP experience.


Seattle Great Wheel Gondola

Seattle Great Wheel Gondola

If you are in the area during a special occasion including home football games of the University of Washington or Seattle Seahawks, don't miss the LED light shows which begin at dark.

Tickets for a 10-20 minute ride (depending on crowd size) in one of the white gondolas costs $15.00 per adult and includes three complete revolutions.

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Pioneer Square

Seattle's oldest neighborhood and the original downtown, Pioneer Square is located immediately south of downtown. Designated a national historic district, Pioneer Square is the place to go to get a feel for the Seattle of the late 1800s. Architectural elements such as red brick and sandstone are protected by ordinances designed to maintain the historic heritage.

Bill Speidel's Underground Tour

Bill Speidel's Underground Tour

614 First Ave., Seattle, WA 98104

A tour of the underground passageways is a fascinating way to learn about the early pioneer days of Seattle. Many of the city's downtown buildings were built on mud-flats. As you can imagine, the scene was not good when Seattle was bombarded with heavy rainfall which caused frequent flooding.

In 1889, after the Great Seattle Fire, the decision was made to raise the city's street level in an effort to avoid future flooding. What became "the underground" was lit by "pavement lights" and was still accessible until 1907 when it was finally condemned. It wasn't until 1965 when a small part of the underground was restored with a focus on safety for tourists. The captivating guides of Bill Speidel's Underground Tour humorously narrate your walk that provides great insights into the history of Seattle.


Pavement Lights on the Streets of Pioneer Square

Pavement Lights on the Streets of Pioneer Square

Touring Seattle's Underground

Touring Seattle's Underground

Tickets can be purchased online, by phone (206-682-4646) or in person for the 1 1/4 hour tour and are priced at $22.00 for adults.

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Smith Tower Observatory

Smith Tower

506 Second Ave., Seattle, WA 98104

Construction of Seattle's first skyscraper, Smith Tower, was completed in 1914. Although the tower has since lost the title as tallest in the city, visitors can still ride a historic Otis elevator to the 35th floor observatory just as they did on opening day.


Heading Up in Smith Tower's Otis Elevator

Heading Up in Smith Tower's Otis Elevator

Plan to take some time to explore the historical exhibits and, of course, enjoy the panoramic views from the open-air observation deck. Don't miss taking a selfie while sitting in the Wishing Chair! If you'd like to enjoy an adult beverage or appetizer while on top of the city, there's also a speakeasy-style bar.!


View from Smith Tower Observation Deck

View from Smith Tower Observation Deck

While opening day visitors reportedly paid $0.25 for the ride up, today's ticket cost is $20.00 per adult. Full price tickets can be purchased online. There are discounts for locals as well as some late night and happy hour discounts on select days that are available only for in person purchase.

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Waterfall Garden Park

Waterfall Garden Park

219 Second Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98104

Tucked amongst some of the buildings forming today's Pioneer Square neighborhood is the often missed Waterfall Garden Park. The small park with its 22-foot tall man-made waterfall sits on the site of the location where American Messenger Company started operations in 1907. The small company, which originally served only the Seattle area, is today known as the shipping giant United Parcel Service. Although the location is no longer operational, and the company's headquarters moved out of the city, locals still often refer to the park as UPS Park.


Waterfall Garden Park

Waterfall Garden Park

Since the park's beautiful surroundings are free, it's a great place to enjoy a snack or drink during your Seattle sightseeing adventure.

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Fallen Firefighter Memorial

Fallen Firefighter Memorial

148 S. Main St. # 124, Seattle, WA 98104

Located adjacent to the headquarters of Seattle's Fire Department, check out the Fallen Firefighter Memorial. The memorial, comprised of four bronze statues, is a tribute to all of the city's firefighters who have died while serving the city.


Fallen Firefighter Memorial

Fallen Firefighter Memorial

You may be lucky enough to observe local residents practicing Tai Chi in Occidental Park as well!


Practicing Tai Chi at Occidental Park

Practicing Tai Chi at Occidental Park

Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park

Klondike Gold Rush - Seattle Unit

319 Second Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98104

Located in the Cadillac Hotel, the Klondike Gold Rush Visitor Center and Museum tells the story of the great gold rush and the role that Seattle played as a launching point for many expeditions into the Klondike. There's several films available for viewing and you'll find loads of artifacts as you walk through two floors of exhibits.


Klondike Gold Rush Museum

Klondike Gold Rush Museum

There is no entrance fee to explore the visitor center and museum on a self-guided tour.

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International District

Originally referred to as Chinatown, the International District or "ID" is the hub of Seattle's Asian American community. Located south and east of Pioneer Square, there are three neighborhoods within the district - Chinatown, Japantown and Little Saigon. Popular businesses and restaurants are representative of Cambodian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Filipino and Vietnamese ethnicities.

Chinatown Gate

Intersection of S. King St. and Fifth Ave. S.

The picturesque 45-foot tall Chinatown Gate announces your entrance into Chinatown. The landmark archway, located at the west end of the neighborhood, was dedicated in 2008.


Chinatown Gate

Chinatown Gate

Uwajimaya

Uwajimaya

600 Fifth Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98104

Be sure to make a stop at Uwajimaya, the huge Asian superstore. In addition to a large selection of groceries, Uwajimaya is known as a destination in itself. Once you step foot inside, you will understand why! It's not just where people go for groceries - there's a bookstore, food court and restaurants all under one roof.


Uwajimaya Asian Food & Gift Market

Uwajimaya Asian Food & Gift Market

Pig Head for Sale at Uwajimaya Village

Pig Head for Sale at Uwajimaya Village

Enjoying Sushi for Lunch at Uwajimaya

Enjoying Sushi for Lunch at Uwajimaya

There is no charge to wander the aisles, however the parking lot at Uwajimaya Village offers paid parking only. Making a purchase at any of the village merchants will help cover all or part of your parking cost (one free hour of parking with a $10.00 purchase or two free hours with a $20.00 purchase).

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Getting Off of Seattle's Beaten Path

If you have more than one or two days in the Seattle area, don't miss our article titled, "Summer Seattle Sunshine: Perfect to Explore Off the Beaten Path!". We provide information on 9 diverse off the beaten path experiences perfect for a morning or afternoon, a day trip and even some overnight excursions.

Favorite Seattle Experiences

If you were to make a recommendation to someone visiting Seattle for the first time, what would you tell them they absolutely must see?





Explore the Heart of Seattle in 2 Days -  Perfect for Cruisers!







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