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Off the Brochure Travel Guide: Seattle, Washington

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seattleparkBelieve it or not, Seattle has probably influenced your day already. That is, if you’ve sipped a Starbucks while logging on to Windows and checked Google to see when your Boeing flight will depart.

Seattle has something of a multiple personality—it’s got artists, hipsters, and techies balanced out by vital fishing and agricultural industries… not to mention miles and miles of green, public spaces surrounding the lively city life.

In short, there’s not much you can’t find in Seattle—you just have to know where to look.


CITY TOUR

The city relatively is easy to navigate, so if you want a really quirky city tour, try Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour. That’s right, you’re literally walking underground, through subterranean passages below Pioneer Square. The 90-minute tour starts inside Doc Maynard’s Public House, an Old Western-style saloon and then heads underground. You’ll pass through the basements of bars, old brothels, and even a Starbucks, while guides offer historical details and tongue-in-cheek anecdotes of old-time Seattle. 206-682-4646, http://undergroundtour.com

ART APPEAL

Space NeedleYou’ve heard of the Space Needle, but if you take a step next door, you’ll find the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. It’s located alongside the Experience Music Project in the landmark building designed by Frank Gehry (the melting guitar). This is no chintzy Star Trek fan museum, but it will appeal to serious sci-fi geeks. A “Brave New World” exhibits cities of tomorrow, from The Jetsons to Blade Runner and cities born out of the apocalypse. A Sound and Vision exhibit, in conjunction with the Experience Music Project, showcases a private collection of more than 450 videotaped oral history interviews from modern-day music legends. 206-724-3428, http://SFhomeworld.org

The Seattle Art Museum took a petroleum transfer and distribution facility and converted it into a public waterfront park. Guests can wander the nine-acre Olympic Sculpture Park to explore massive sculptures, from a stainless steel tree to a glass bridge layered with images of Seattle’s skies. The museum is a great place for views of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound. www.seattleartmuseum.org

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FOOD, WINE AND BEYOND

If you’re looking to impress a date, head to Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, a swanky, intimate jazz club that claims to be one of the last remaining supper clubs on the West Coast. The food may be pricey ($20-$30 for entrees), but the performances are a class act with seasoned vets and fresh up-and-comers. Eartha Kitt is a club regular, as well as performers like the Ravi Coltrane Quartet and Jane Monheit. Show tickets range from $20.50 to $35.50. 206-441-9729, www.jazzalley.com

You’ll find plenty of chefs and restaurateurs who are dedicated to sustainable practices and a “farm to table” mentality. In the city of Kirkland, just east of Seattle, is Café Juanita, where renowned Northern Italian fare is created from mostly local, organic products. The restaurant’s hole-in-the-wall exterior and cabin-like décor belies the upscale cuisine, with items like octopus with chickpeas, braised rabbit, and a wine list that boasts some regional favorites. 425-823-1505, www.cafejuanita.com

Washington is the second largest producer of wines in the U.S. (behind California), and a visit to nearby Woodinville (about 20 miles east of Seattle) is a great way to get out of the city and into wine country. Château Ste Michelle is the oldest winery in Washington and has been voted Winery of the Year by Wine Enthusiast and Restaurant Wine magazines. Take a tour of the facilities, and then sample the local cabernets, chardonnays and rieslings that put the east side of Washington on the map. A summer concert series on the lawn features performances from names like Harry Connick, Jr., Bruce Hornsby, Chicago, and the Doobie Brothers ($39.50-$99.50). And yes, you can drink wine during the show. 800-267-6793, www.ste-michelle.com

Prefer hops to grapes? A few minutes away is the Red Hook Brewery, where you can swill the brew straight from the source. Besides a brewery tour and bites at the Forecasters Pub, summertime brings the Moonlight Cinema Series with boozy favorites like Beerfest and Dumb & Dumber. 425-483-3232, www.redhook.com

OUTDOOR ADVENTURES

Washington Forest WaterfallWhile Seattle is an hour’s drive from Mount Rainier and Olympic National Park, there are plenty of options right outside your hotel door. The Burke Gilman Trail is 28 miles long and is open to pedestrians, bicyclists, and rollerbladers. The trail wanders from the city past Lake Washington, connecting with the Sammamish River Trail and into wine regions and farmlands of Woodinville and Redmond.

Although it may be off the brochure for most of the country, Seattlers take full advantage of the peaceful trail—sections of it can get packed on the weekends, especially the stretch along the lake to Matthews Beach and the Gas Works Park to the University of Washington District. www.cityofseattle.net/parks/BurkeGilman/bgtrail.htm

Got a craving to really get back to your natural roots? Try picking your own produce on a real working farm at South 47. Even the kids will get excited to pick their own strawberries, raspberries, flowers, and herbs on this sprawling organic cooperative farm (with themes like “Life Cycle of a Squash”). Every Wednesday through Friday is a “Farm Tots” program, where kids get to take a wagon ride and pick their own produce to bring home to mom. 425-869-9777, www.south47farm.com

By the PeterGreenberg.com Staff.

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