Seattle is a remarkable city with a storied past that even reaches under the city itself. Tourists heading to Seattle will be delighted to learn how many landmarks there are and how varied the city is, there is also the added benefit of the incredible beauty that surrounds the city.
One of the most recognized architectural features in the United States, Seattle’s Space Needle was originally created for the 1962 World’s Fair. At 605 feet high the Space Needle was the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River when constructed and can withstand up to 200 mph winds and earthquakes up to 9.5. The observation deck rests at 520 feet and is the highlight of the structure giving you views of the downtown skyline and a number of mountains and islands surrounding the city.
Prior to the Space Needle the Smith Tower Observation Deck had the best view of the city since its creation in 1909. At the time the Smith Tower was one of the only skyscrapers outside of New York and its observation deck still offers a unique view of the city from the middle of the downtown skyline. The deck wraps around all four sides with views of Mt. Rainier and the Olympic and Cascade Mountain ranges. Part of the fun of visiting the deck are the elevators, which are the last manually operated ones on the west coast.
In the mood for another great view of Seattle? Volunteer Park Water Tower claims to have one of the best views around. The tower was constructed in the park grounds in 1906 and at a little more than 75 feet above the road it actually can claim an elevation of 520 feet as it is placed atop the highest point of Capitol Hill. This height rivals the Space Needle’s observation deck and provides excellent views of Seattle from a different perspective.
Also in Volunteer Park is the magnificent Conservatory. Originally created by the well-known Olmstead brothers, landscape and architectural geniuses, the conservatory fell into disrepair in the early 1900s and it wasn’t until 1978 that a group was formed to restore it and bring it back to its previous glory. Today the conservatory houses a stunning collection of orchids and other flowers that makes a visit feel like a trip to a tropical island.
Pier 59 is the home to the Seattle Aquarium which incorporates the waterside location in a magnificent way. The pier is undergoing some remodeling so parts of it may be off limit, but it’s still an interesting historic location to visit. Seattle is obviously a huge seaport and has a thriving fishing business. Visiting the park like setting at Pier 59 is a great way to relax and enjoy the hustle and bustle of activity in the port as ships move in and out of the docks, and keep our eyes open as seals are frequently seen in the area.
The tugboat, Arthur Foss, is located in Seattle’s South Lake Union Park and is open for public tours in the summer on the weekends but can be visited during other times of the year by appointment. Built in 1889 it is one of the oldest wooden hulled tugboats still afloat in the United States. Her busiest days were in 1898 as she transported loads of gold miners and supplies up to Alaska. The Arthur Foss also served in World War II and had a role in the 1933 movie Tugboat Annie.
The Salmon Bay Bridge in Seattle was built in 1914 by the Great Northern Railway and still serves the city as a railway line. This bascule style bridge crosses the ship canal near the Ballard Locks so it provides an interesting working view of the juxtaposition of water and machinery in this region.
Built in 1962 for the World’s Fair, the Seattle Center Monorail is the country’s first full-scale commercial monorail system. The monorail is a privately run business and sees more than 1.5 million people a year use it to get around. In fact the monorail is more popular with locals than tourists as it’s an extremely convenient way to get to major events when the traffic is bad and the view is incredible too.
In 1899 construction began on Charles Stimson’s beautiful Tudor Revival home which was to become known as Stimson Green Mansion. The home features steep pitched roofs, decorative timbering, casement windows with leaded panes and elaborate chimneys and is one of the few surviving homes in its neighborhood that is basically in its original form. Tours are infrequent but worth a stop.
Seattle has adopted Kobe, Japan as its sister city and as token of friendship Kobe gave the bell to Seattle in 1962, just in time for the World’s Fair. During the fair the mayors from both cities were present to assure the public that the rift created in World War II was over. Seattle’s sister city program was considered such a success that the city has since adopted 20 more sister cities and has the second largest of these programs in the United States.
Another World’s Fair artifact is the International Fountain. The odd thing is that the fountain was renovated in 1995 and barely resembles its original structure. But the new International Fountain is much more functional as it is now settled in an open space where children can safely play in the fountain and in the surrounding yard, perfect for hot days and ideal for romance at night.
Parsons Gardens was formerly the family garden of Reginald H. Parsons but was donated to the city by his family in 1956. This beautifully groomed garden is a great place to take pictures, have a picnic or celebrate an event as the park can be rented on special occasions.
Photo credit: papalars