Beyond the Sea: Port Mini-Breaks
Families | Couples | Seniors
Why You Need to Spend Three Days in Seattle: Surrounded by mountains and water, filled with lakes and parks, Seattle's romantic soul is evident from the moment you step foot in the city. Whether you're cocooning in front of a blazing fire while it rains, sipping wine at one of the vineyards in the region or having a picnic in a rowboat at Green Lake, romance flourishes.
And even beyond romance, the variety of sights and activities, restaurants and nightspots, shopping venues and attractions is enough of a draw. You can spend your days wandering the streets of Capitol Hill or Pioneer Square, browsing at the original Nordstrom or through the artisan wares at Pike Place Market, sipping lattes and espresso at any one of the million or so coffee carts in the city, and taking in the music scene by night.
After all, the city that spawned Nordstrom, grunge music, Microsoft and Starbucks has to have something special going for it.
Fabulous Freebies Worth Pursuing: Browsing the antique stores in Pioneer Square; watching the sun set over Shilsole Bay; feeding seagulls along the waterfront; strolling along Lake Washington at Warren G. Magnusen Park; enjoying band shell concerts at Volunteer Park; admission to the Frye Art Museum.
Home Away From Home:
The landmark Edgewater Inn, right next to the cruise ship dock at Pier 66, is the only waterfront hotel in the city. In fact, it's actually in the water, when you consider that it's built on pilings right in Puget Sound. Whether or not you want to fish from your window is up to you, but if you get a room facing the Sound, you'll enjoy incredible views and sunsets. Some of the rooms have small balconies, too.
The trendy W Hotel and the Hotel Monaco are across the street from each other in the downtown core. Both are quirky in different ways; Monaco is bright and colorful and saucy while W is stark and upscale and hip. At the Monaco you can get a goldfish to keep you company at night. Both hotels are good bets for active couples who enjoy nightlife.
The Inn at the Market is a small boutique hotel located just above the Pike Place Market in the hub of bustling downtown. Gorgeous views over the Sound from some of the rooms and from the rooftop retreat can make this a wonderful starting- and stopping-off point.
Start the day with the Hop-On, Hop-Off double-decker tour (Gray Line) so you get a feel for the city and its environs. The stops include Seattle Center, Pike Place, the waterfront and Pioneer Square. You can choose your activities based on the stops.
Make this the day you do your exploring around the city. You might start at Pike Place, wander through the market and sit for a cuppa joe at the original Starbucks. After wandering the stalls and booths, including the lower-level shops, go into Di Laurenti's Italian deli for some yummy lunch items -- a loaf of bread, some cheese, a bottle of wine, sliced meats -- and either go down to the waterfront or find a spot at Victor Steinbrueck Park to have a picnic.
Get back on the Hop-On, Hop-Off (or walk) south, to Pioneer Square. Old brick work, antique stores and original cobbled streets are located there. Stop for a beer in one of the many microbreweries in the area; Pyramid Alehouse is a good bet.
Back on the double-decker, stop at Seattle Center. Try to time your visit for sunset, so you can be romantic from 205 feet above the city lights atop the Space Needle. When you've had your fill of oooh and ahhh, head back to the waterfront and Belltown to dine at Restaurant Zoe, a notable bistro serving northwest cuisine with a Mediterranean twist. End your night with a visit to Belltown's Crocodile Cafe just down the block, one of the best places in the city to check out the music scene. In fact, if you're having a really, really good time, you can stay for breakfast.
If you'd prefer classic jazz over contemporary beats, walk up the hill to Dimitriou's Jazz Alley, a showcase for international names in jazz and blues.
Wait until after breakfast (read: after rush hour), and rent a car. Head north to Woodinville, just beyond the edge of Lake Washington, where a dozen wineries await. The most famous of these is Chateau Ste. Michelle, which offers tours daily. Have a true Northwest-style lunch across the road at the Barking Frog, located in the Willows Lodge. After lunch, continue to Columbia Winery for more tastings of award-winning wines.
Then head back along the east side of Lake Washington, through Redmond (home of Microsoft) and Kirkland, to the bridge that spans the lake and takes you back to the Seattle side. Before you return to downtown, stop at Volunteer Park on Capitol Hill where you can go for a walk along the trails, sit for some music at the band shell (there's usually something going on) and enjoy the views. Take some time to browse through the funky shops in the Capitol Hill neighborhood; have fresh, reasonably priced seafood for dinner at Coastal Kitchen before you return your car.
Finish the night with some dancing at The Green Room, hip and sociable and casual.
Fancy some activity? Pick up some items for a picnic and head over to the west side of Lake Union, where you can rent sea kayaks from the Northwest Outdoor Center. The lake, in downtown Seattle, is generally calm and placid, and views from there are incredible: shipbuilders, houseboats (yes, the ones featured in the film "Sleepless in Seattle"), the city skyline. The prices are reasonable for a half-day rental. If you've never tried kayaking and want a class, they offer those too. One caveat: They are hard to find, so call for directions first.
If you're not athletic types, take in one or more of the city's art museums, or -- for a placid and romantic day trip -- take one of the magnificent Washington State Ferries (part of the highway system, reasonably priced) for a round trip somewhere. Anywhere. You can catch one at the waterfront north of Pike Place Market; that also works for a lovely rainy-day activity.
Spend the rest of the afternoon at the Experience Music Project, a paean to music "past, present and future." Check the schedules for live acts, or just enjoy the exhibits and make some of your own music.
Dinner tonight is in the restaurant voted Seattle's "Best Place to Kiss," the Hunt Club in the Hotel Sorrento. No telling what's on the menu; the chef plans the meals around what's fresh and what he can harvest from his garden. And just to keep the mood going, have a nightcap in the Fireside Room, also in the Hotel Sorrento, a beautiful room that features jazz and blues on Thursday through Sunday nights.
--By San Diego-based Jana Jones, who is the creator and editor of lodging Web site Sleeping-Around.com, as well as one of Cruise Critic's stalwart ship reviewers.
Image appears courtesy of Seattle's Convention and Visitors Bureau.
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