A Travellerspoint blog

Exploring Seattle

Washington State: day two

View Washington State 2017 on ToonSarah's travel map.

Sleepless in Seattle?

Our hotel reflected in the windows of Seattle Central Library

I slept badly on this first night in Seattle - a combination of jet lag confusing my body (it knew it was tired but also that it was the 'wrong' time to sleep!) and some aches and pains that have been bothering me of late (a touch of arthritis I fear), aggravated no doubt by the long hours spent sitting on a plane yesterday. Nevertheless, we were up early, eager to explore Seattle.

Murals at Westlake Station

After a light breakfast in the coffee shop next to our hotel we headed to Westlake station to catch the monorail to the Seattle Center. Like kids we grabbed the coveted front seats for an excellent view along the rails as the Space Needle came into view.

Approaching the Space Needle on the monorail


And the Space Needle was our first destination, lured by the special 'Early up' offer which discounts the adult charge of $29.90 down to $19.90 for those arriving by 10.00 - saving us $20! It was also relatively quiet at that time - coming away later, just before ten, we saw that the queues had started to build at the ticket counter.


As we entered there was the inevitable photo opportunity, with our photo taken in front of a blank screen that would later be made available to us, filled in with a choice of backgrounds. But unlike many other such attractions we have visited, this one was thrown in with the ticket price, so we decided to go along with the fun. Having chosen our background on a machine at the observation level, the resulting image was emailed to me immediately and could be picked up on my phone using the free wifi. The Space Needle is very much into modern technology and using social media to spread the word, it seems – have a look at this section of its website to see what I mean: Experience the WOW.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The lift (OK, I’m in the US, so ‘elevator’) whisked us up to the observation level and I was pleased to see that it is possible to go outside for views, and importantly photos, unobscured by glass. We were very lucky with the weather too - blue sky, some haze but with Mount Rainier just visible, and the mountains of the Olympic Peninsula seen much more clearly.

Downtown and Mount Rainier

Looking towards the Olympic Peninsula

Copy of ‘The Feminine One’

The observation deck sits at a height of 520 feet above the city and as the Space Needle (which is in total 605 feet tall) is situated a little way from the taller buildings of downtown, it feels higher. It was built for the 1962 World’s Fair and was once the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River. Its design was influenced by the 1960s’ interest in outer space, with the upper section modelled on a flying saucer, the vision of Seattle businessman Eddie Carlson who first had the idea for a tower at the fair, which he doodled on a napkin in 1959. The tripod that supports this is said to have been inspired by a sculpture of a dancer by David Lemon, ‘The Feminine One’, and was designed by architect Victor Steinbrueck who has only recently been given credit for his contribution – a copy of the sculpture now stands near the foot of the Space Needle in acknowledgement of this fact.


Once we had seen and photographed enough, and looked at the exhibits about the history of the Needle, we descended. After coffee at one of the places in the building known as the Armoury we headed next to MoPop, the Museum of Popular Culture. This is quite pricey, at $28 for adults, but there was a lot there that we wanted to see.


But before going inside we had to take some photos of this striking building, designed by Frank O. Gehry.


Originally named the Experience Music Project (EMP), Gehry is said to have been influenced by ‘a smashed electric guitar’ in creating this rather astounding structure made up of 3,000 stainless steel and painted aluminium panels.

Reflections: Space Needle and tree

Renamed MoPOP just last year, its exhibits are a mix of permanent and temporary, music-focused and science fiction, plus other aspects of popular culture.

Our first stop had to be the current special exhibition on Star Trek, as we have both long been fans. It was great to be reminded of characters and episodes we had forgotten, to see Captain Kirk's command chair, a tricorder, various costumes and even some Tribbles! The exhibition also focused on some of the pioneering aspects of the first series in particular, including the diversity of the crew and that famous first TV inter-racial kiss.

Entrance to the exhibition

Tricorder and command console from first series

The other galleries we visited were:

Blue Angel, which tells the story of Jimi Hendrix's many tours abroad:

Jimi's passport and diary

Guitar Gallery, with instruments that belonged to a number of famous musicians, including the Rickenbacker played by Roger McGuinn on Mr Tamborine Man and one which perhaps miraculously escaped being destroyed while in the possession of Pete Townshend!

Roger McGuinn's Rickenbacker

Photos of David Bowie by Mick Rock (another special exhibition):

In the Bowie exhibition

By this time I was wilting (see above re lack of sleep and aches and pains) so I took a break while Chris went to the Horror films gallery on his own. We then grabbed a sandwich and cold drink in the museum café before heading off to explore the waterfront area.

Seattle’s waterfront and Pike Place Market

Here we enjoyed the warm sun, fresh air and views across Puget Sound - oh, and an ice cream!

View across the Sound

Seattle's Great Wheel


After relaxing here for a while we climbed the steps to Pike Place Market.

We spent some time taking photos in the narrow passageways near the famous fish market.

In Pike Place Market

In Local Color

We didn't (on this visit) see the original Starbucks which is located here. We weren't too bothered about that though, as neither of us likes either their coffee or their company ethos. Instead we stopped for a cold drink in a rather cool independent café cum art gallery called Local Color, where we got talking to this guy after asking permission to photograph him. We didn’t know then that we would find ourselves back here right at the end of our trip!

Shop near Pike Place

From here we headed back to the hotel, taking a cab to give me a break from Seattle's hills. Before going inside though, we popped into the Central Library opposite. I had been aware of the striking architecture and innovative thinking behind this library through my professional work, and was keen to see it for myself. It opened in 2004 and its eleven storeys dominate this block of the city centre, looking like a pile of somewhat ill-fitting glass boxes.

Seattle Central Library

Inside, its lower floors are light and open, while services requiring more intimate spaces (meeting rooms, research etc) are grouped on the upper floors. One of its innovations was to arrange the non-fiction books on a continuous series of shelves across four floors, linked by a spiral, allowing customers to browse the full collection without using stairs. Not everyone is a fan, however, and I found myself with mixed views, liking the architecture and some of the design features but wondering if the vast spaces might seem daunting to a nervous library user.

Inside the library

Evening at Pioneer Square

Mural near Pioneer Square Station

In the evening we travelled the one stop on the Light Rail to Pioneer Square, where we had a good meal in a lively Mexican restaurant, Casco Antiguo, sharing some tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole before my salmon tacos and Chris's chicken enchilada with mole sauce. He was pleased with the guest draft Pilsner, while my house margarita was excellent.

Near the restaurant

After dinner we browsed some craft stalls on nearby Occidental Square, where I bought myself a pretty silver and freshwater pearl necklace, and took a few photos before heading back to the hotel to catch up on our sleep ahead of our first driving day tomorrow.

Colourful hair in Occidental Square

As with Pike Place, we would return to Pioneer Square for a more thorough exploration at the end of our trip.

Posted by ToonSarah 07:51 Archived in USA Tagged art architecture culture market city museum music seattle street_photography

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents


We enjoyed Pike Place Market too. Did you get to see the fellows tossing fish? Great fun. So glad you had good weather.

by Beausoleil

Rather different pictures to your usual pictures Sarah but fascinating to see as I never got to Seattle when I lived in L.A., nor when we holidayed in Vancouver. I would rather see them through your eyes than not at all. Amazed that you fir so much into one day after the problems with your ankle. Roll on Day 3.

by yvonne Dumsday

The only building by Frank Gehry that I have had a close look at up to now is the Dancing House in Prague, which was a stop on our bicycle tour of the city. But I do hope to see his two Paris buildings sometime this year: the Fondation Louis Vuitton and the Cinémathèque Française.

by Nemorino

Thank you all :)

Sally, we saw a little bit of fish tossing but I think it was too late in the day and the market too quiet for them to be doing a lot.

Yvonne, I'm curious that you find these photos different from my usual as I think they're fairly typical of my city/street photography styles. What differences do you see?

And Don, I must look for those buildings when next in Paris :)

by ToonSarah

Now you have made me look again and think why I wrote that Sarah. I have come to the conclusion that, today the pictures were of buildings and views that anyone could have taken (though I am glad you introduced me to these) whereas I usually see photographs that you have taken of quirky little details which I might have walked on by without even noticing. Your first picture of the Library Building falls into that latter category whilst the "Downtown and Mount Rainier" is the former. My comment was by no means a criticism - just the thought that popped into my mind.

by Yvonne Dumsday

I never took it as criticism Yvonne - I was just curious :) Thanks for explaining :)

by ToonSarah

Oh exciting - Captain Kirk's command center :-) And I love your photos, especially the reflection ones!

by Trekki

Thank Ingrid :) They had his chair too but unfortunately behind glass, so we couldn't sit in it ;) and loads of other artefacts!!

by ToonSarah

Excellent review. I am, however, having some difficulty equating the MoPop building with a smashed electric guitar. Lovely photos, as usual.

by Wabat

Thanks Albert :) I share your puzzlement to some extent, but I guess the materials at least resemble those of an electric guitar?

by ToonSarah

Never been to that part of the country, but I loving it already when reading this first entry!

May I even say that I liked the title! :) :)

by Ils1976

'Sleepless in Seattle'? It had to be done Ils

by ToonSarah

Hahaha, I completely understand!

by Ils1976

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.