In the travel industry, the word "tourist" has become synonymous with the image of the red-faced American traveler wearing a fanny pack and Bermuda shorts wandering cluelessly looking for the closest burger joint. Many travelers in my age range are quick to point out they are not tourists but travelers. They want to distance themselves from the negative connotations of ignorance, lack of adventure, and all around terrible taste in clothing. They claim they get to know the "real" side of a place. Maybe they do, and maybe they don't. Yes, it is good for people to get out of their comfort zones and try things they would not normally experience in their home. Yes, it would be wonderful people to get out of the tourist district and see what everyday life is like for the people living there.
However, if we're speaking of people in the United States, most of us are lucky to get two weeks of paid vacation a year. Much of the time, people use vacation time for visiting with family over the holidays, getting larger projects done around the house, or get medical or dental treatments done. If they are able to go on a vacation, who are you to say how they are supposed to be spending it? This is the only time they may get off all year, the only vacation they may have had ever, and they might have been saving up for years to be able to go. Stop being a condescending twit. Instead of putting people down, be encouraging, ask them if they had a fun time on their vacation, ask them if they were able to relax, ask them if they would go back again, or leave them alone.
I spent most of my four days in Seattle being a tourist, and here's what I saw and thought.
Pike's Place Public Market is much more than the guys who throw the fish and the first Starbucks ever. I don't even know if I saw the first Starbucks. It wasn't something that I was seeking out because their coffee is not good, and there is much better coffee in Seattle. But hey, if you want to see it, it's somewhere in this area.
Pike's Place Market is a multistory jumble of food stalls, bookshops, and junk stores. There's a tarot card store with amazing skeleton posters, and a magic store with antique magic trick books. There's a junk store in one dusty corner with an enormous collection airline plates. I had no idea airlines used to use real plates, forks, and knives. You're lucky if you get a napkin these days.
If you've ever seen the 90's classic Ten Things I Hate About You, then you've seen Gas Works park. Absolutely a tourist spot and a little underwhelming in person, it's still pretty cool if you're into industrial architecture. The park also affords sweeping views of Lake Union and the downtown Seattle skyline.
Volunteer Park in Capitol Hill was designed by Frederick Olmsted, the father of American landscape architecture. You might also know him from such parks as Central Parks, events like the Chicago's World Fair, and the Olmsted Act. Volunteer Park included rolling green hills and trees, a conservatory, and the Seattle Asian Art Museum. It made for a lovely morning walk after a heavy breakfast at Wandering Goose.
I didn't have the opportunity to visit the conservatory or the Asian Art Museum; they're two places I would like to go back and check out.
The Space Needle
It doesn't get more tourist spot in Seattle than the Space Needle. Normally, you have to wait in a long line and get assigned a time slot, but it was early in the day and raining so I was able to up right away. They sell a $37 ticket that includes admission to the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum next door. Get your photo taken with a fake background behind you, and then ride the elevator to the top. The elevator was my favorite part of the space needle.
The Space Needle disappointed me. At over 500 feet, the building is tall and the views of the surrounding city, the Rainier and Olympic mountain ranges, and the sound are beautiful, but I wanted it to be taller. I wanted look straight down and see the ground. Do I think it would be worth it to pay that much with a group of people? No.
Chihuly garden & Glass
Now, what was worth its price was Chihuly Garden and Glass. The museum is dedicated to the local glass and freeblown functional and sculptural glass artist Dale Chihuly. The museum hooked me with its first neon glowing piece. The flow and organic shapes the glass takes drew me in, and I wanted to spend hours looking at the pieces.
Walk through the exhibits and observe the progression of Chihuly's craft. When you're finished walking through the garden, where tucked under plants and next to waterfalls are smooth dark balls of glass and glowing purple daggers, go to the courtyard and watch the glass blowing demonstration. It made me want to sign up for a glass blowing class. If you're more interested in listening to Chihuly speak about his perspective on art and glass, go inside to the theater and watch the five four minute documentaries.
So yes, I didn't get to see the more local spots, and I limited myself to the heavily trafficked tourist spots. I can't wait to go back to Seattle and see more of what it has to offer.