Seattle arrived on the NInja radar 2-3 years ago and despite the best efforts of a pandemic (the trip was rescheduled 4 times!) it was finally time to see what this bustling city has to offer. A location that thrives with industrial, commercial and cultural activity around the clock, famous for Starbucks/Coffee, Grunge Music, Pike Place, Worldwide HQs of companies such as Microsoft, Expedia and Amazon, and STUNNING scenery perfect for hiking and outdoors life ….. the NInja had his work cut out cramming all this into ONLY 4 days …..
Seattle is VERY easy to get to from this part of the world with a direct flight from Dublin – Aer Lingus operates 5 flights weekly direct to Seattle on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturdays. Aer Lingus is the only airline to offer daily direct flights between Ireland and the West Coast USA (with flights to San Franciso and Los Angeles also). Seattle fares start from as low as 209Euro each way including taxes and charges – for best fares check out AER LINGUS
Departure time was late afternoon (4pm) so no rush in the morning or late nights etc travelling down from Northern Ireland (even though Dublin Airport is only 90 mins from Belfast).
Flying to North America with Aer Lingus, customers can experience the benefit of US Immigration Pre-clearance before they depart which allows them to arrive into the US like a domestic customer, avoiding any lengthy immigration queues. And despite all the recent negative news around airport security and queues etc I have to say this trip was the quickest I have ever moved through Dublin airport. Check-in, security AND the US pre-clearance in 20-25 mins max. One for the record books, top service from Dublin Airport!
Now this is the BIG takeaway from this trip, the flight time on the way out was ONLY 8 hours 45 mins …. this was a welcome surprise, less time than the direct service to the likes of Miami or Orlando and some other closer US destinations. This makes Seattle and the West Coast so much more accessible and the perfect city to make as a base and explore the area and neighbouring States.
Arriving in Seattle-Tacoma airport (voted the best North American Airport in 2022 World Airport Awards by Skytrax) was really straightforward and collecting luggage etc was a total breeze. We had decided to use LYFT to get to our hotel from the airport. The infrastructure for LYFT, UBER etc is brilliant at the airport. There’s good signage which takes you to a designated waiting area in the parking garage for your app-based ride providers and the whole process is extremely slick and well-organised. In no time at all, we were on the road to our hotel.
We stayed downtown in the HYATT REGENCY SEATTLE. The hotel is relatively new ,opening in late 2018, but to be honest it felt like it had only opened the day before. The hotel is very luxurious with great spacious rooms and amenities. It is the largest hotel in the downtown area with 45 floors and 1260 guestrooms in total. Each room has its own safe, fridge, complimentary water, coffee machine and huge 60” tv on the wall! There was also an abundance of plug charging points which are essential in keeping all your devices maxxed up these days!
The hotel has several food/dining options that you can utilise throughout the day whether it be for breakfast, lunch or dinner – I was particularly fond of the “Market” deli style serving they had – food and drink on the go was very handy!!
The hotel is located in downtown Seattle, close to Elliott Bay and it’s numerous piers which house attractions such as the Seattle Great Wheel, the Aquarium and all manner of restaurants and shops. Its within walking distance (15 mins) to many of Seattles iconic attractions and experiences – a perfect location / base for your visit.
THINGS TO SEE & DO
The SEATTLE CITYPASS gives you access to some of the area’s top attractions but at a discounted rate – so if you are visiting several of them in your trip it makes sense to purchase this in advance. The ticket entitles you to entrance to the Space Needle and the Seattle Aquarium PLUS 3 of 4 other attractions (Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour, Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), Woodland Park Zoo, and / or Chihuly Garden & Glass)
NInja Tip – With the Citypass, some of the attractions still require you to get your ticket scanned to obtain an actual ticket to gain entry. Just bear that in mind as there are several different queues and you will need to ensure you are in the right line!
After a fairly routine night’s sleep following a transatlantic flight (waking up at 5am and not being able to get back to the land of nod …), an early breakfast at Lola (where the smashed garlic fried potatoes will knock your socks off!) fuelled us up for the first stop: the visually iconic building that was the Museum of Pop Culture, dedicated to contemporary pop culture. There are numerous exhibitions throughout, which I understand can change from time to time. While we were there, there were some really interesting and fun exhibitions from “Contact High: A Visual History of Hip Hop” to “Indie Game Revolution” and “Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction” plus many more.
The geek in this NInja loved the “Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction” with the exhibit covering all things sci-fi from Star Wars, Star Trek, Back to the Future, Ghostbusters and many many more. There are various artefacts from the movies and tv shows and is really interesting to get to see them up close and get some stories behind them.
Any horror movie buffs will love the exhibition “Scared to Death: The thrill of Horror Film”. Loads of artefacts and props relating to iconic horror films such as Halloween, Alien and recent tv shows such as the Walking Dead. Even walking around this section sends shivers down the spines with cool interactive exhibits and soundtracks trying to spook you out the entire time!
Music lovers are particularly well catered for with individual exhibitions for Seattles own iconic bands, Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Two designated spaces showcasing the history of those giants of grunge music. It really is a must for any superfan. There’s also the visual history of hip hop and the dedicated exhibition to Jimmy Hendrix “Hendrix: Wild Blue Angel”
Also, a “must-visit” is the Sound Lab in the museum. There are interactive booths with various instruments etc for you to play so you can channel your inner Pearl Jam and rock out. Be sure to check out the Air Guitar showcased in the sound lab on your way out ….. this NInja is an expert playing that!!
Next up, we used our Citypass again to check out Chihuly Gardens and Glass, which is directly next to, and in the area around the Space Needle. It showcases the unique glass sculptures of the artist Dale Chihuly and is quite a stunning sight to behold – one that is quite difficult to describe actually, you have to see it to believe it!
We had been told to visit Kerry Park for some spectacular views of Elliott Bay and the Seattle skyline and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The name is a bit misleading as its not really a park but more of a lookout spot. Nevertheless, the views are spectacular and its worth visiting for some great holiday pics – especially on a clear day. One word of warning if you are walking to it though, be prepared for the steepest of steep hills to get there! May be worth getting a taxi if you dont fancy the trek up!
The Seattle Aquarium was next up on our list, once again making use of the Citypass entry. It opened in 1977 and is located on Pier 59 on the Elliott Bay waterfront. Families (particularly those with young children) will especially enjoy a visit here, and whilst not as impressive as other major cities aquariums, it offers a fascinating introduction to northwestern sealife. There are several opportunities to get up close and personal with some of the sealife – whether it be touching starfish, or getting nose to nose with some of the in-house sealions as they go about their daily swims.
Coffee is synonymous with Seattle with numerous independent, boutique and chain coffee shops throughout the downtown and surrounding area – Seattle is also home to the BIGGEST coffee chain in the world which originated in the city: Starbucks. Interesting fact – the Pike Place store is the oldest in the world, BUT not the first one, which many people get wrong. The building the original Starbucks was in was knocked down years ago, so this is the closest you’ll get to that “authentic” cup of Joe.
Finishing up Day 1, we headed to T-Mobile Park for a major league baseball game. The Seattle Mariners are the home team and welcomed the Cleveland Guardians for the first of a 3 game series that weekend. Those games were highlighted with the introduction of one of Seattle’s most revered baseball players, Ichiro Suzuki, into the Mariners Hall of Fame. Maybe that was the reason for the HUGE crowd (42,000 people!) but the fans were really into the game and the atmosphere was electric.
The Mariners ended up winning a close game in the 11th inning, and as part of the Hall of Fame celebrations there was a fireworks display after the game which was a great way to end the game and our first full day in Seattle. As a true baseball fan that visits a lot of games in the US, this was arguably the best experience id ever had in a ballpark – something i would always recommend for people to experience that true slice of American Pie.
Today was all about Waterfalls and Wine! We took the Snoqualmie Falls & Woodinville Wine Tasting Tour organised through EVERGREEN ESCAPES. Its approx.. 10am-6pm depending on wineries etc and tour groups are 10 people or less so it’s a really engaging intimate group for this type of excursion. We were picked up at the Hotel by our friendly and knowledgeable guide Marjorie in a comfortable tour van which was perfect for the trip / tour.
We started off with the trip out to Snoqualmie Falls which was about 40 mins out from the hotel. The 270 foot waterfall plunges into the canyon below and we took time to see the falls from the top and then took a trip down through the woodland to the canyon below. Fun fact, the falls are featured in the opening shots of the TV series Twin Peaks. Just a word of warning for the trip down to the canyon though, it can be steep in parts so correct footwear/ trainers would be advised.
Next was the main portion of the day-trip out to Woodinville Wine Country for our first of 3 wine tastings. Although Washington is the second largest wine producer in the country it only exports 1% of its wine …. they like to keep it all in-state!
First up was a trip to the actual home of Bill Grassie of WM Grassie Wine Estates. Bill was a tremendous host, very engaging, knowledgeable and friendly. The small group (8 of us) had some great banter with Bill as he showcased his wines and told us about the various ones we were tasting and how they were created. There was a mixture of white, red and rose and Bill gave us all a bit of information on each as we went through them. If you ever visit with Bill, please ask how he decides on the names of his wines – a lovely touching tale! A gourmet picnic lunch was also provided at this point in the trip, all included within the cost of the tour.
Second stop was Quid-di-ty Wines with Greg. We also got a bit of a tour of where the grapes are pressed and a bit of a lesson on the whole process of making the wine. Fascinating stuff ….. while you are drinking and tasting of course!
The third and final stop was Patterson Cellars. There was a real buzz around this wine-tasting store (one of several dozen in a retail outlet block) with a lot of other groups and individuals who were there on similar wine tasting visits or enjoying their late afternoon.
This was such a unique day out experience, gaining some knowledge about wines and styles etc. And you don’t have to be a wine connoisseur at all to take the tour or enjoy it. We had a great time and it was really fun and interesting. I think the smaller groups adds to that and there was a great camaraderie built up as the day progressed between all – friends made for the future for sure! The tour will also drop you back to your hotel or pick up point as well.
We got left off downtown so we could fit in another of the Citypass attractions – an Argosy Harbour Cruise. We hopped on the last cruise of the day at 7:20pm which was a really lovely time of the day for some super sundowner cityscape pictures onboard.
The cruise lasts for 1 hour and gives you some great views along the Seattle downtown skyline and the shipping port. The cruise is narrated and you hear some fun and interesting facts about Seattle past and present. A word for our guide on the day though, he was hilarious although I’m not sure it was intentional – some of his “facts” were maybe a little far fetched! Beverages and snacks are available to purchase on board as well.
NInja Tip – defo get on the top deck (bring a jumper/jacket as it can get cool) for the best and unrivaled 360 degree view of the Bay
The main activity today was Whale Watching! FRS Clipper offer a half day whale watching tour – “sightings guaranteed or you get a free trip” is their motto! Tours run from May through to October and can last between 4 – 6 hours depending on where the whales are sighted.
We got an absolutely gorgeous (perfect) day for it with really calm waters and not a cloud in the sky. The trip out to the area where whales were sighted took approx.. 1.5 hrs. And to be honest there is a lot of whale “waiting” rather than “watching” as the guides try to source the whales location through their own experience and sightings notified to them from earlier in the day.
On this occasion we were able to find one of the Grey Whales which had been in the area for a while and it is a truly spectacular sight when you first lay eyes on their water shooting in the air. We had plenty of time to take it in and grab some pics as the whale moved around near to the boat. It is possible depending on the day etc that you could see Humpbacks, Orcas or Grey Whales as we did. We also found a friendly and vocal seal who had taken to sunbathing on a flotaing buoy on our return journey.
After the Whale Watching we went to a great pizza spot in Pike Place Market called the Alibi Room. Recommended to us and it didn’t disappoint, a must for any pizza lovers. No frills restaurant but you just know that the pizza is going to be on point the moment you sit down, highly recommended and pretty good value!
Next up it was time to pay visit to the iconic Space Needle tower. It was built in 1962 for the Worlds Fair whose theme was “The Age of Space”. The 605 ft tall spire has an observation deck and a rotating glass floor on another level down.
The observation deck gives you a 360 degree view across Seattle,- showing panoramic views of downtown, Mount Rainier, Puget Sound, and the Cascades and Olympic mountain ranges. The glass floor on the lower level rotates and is great fun but also maybe a bit nervewracking for those not comfortable with heights – its like walking in the air! There are light refreshments available at the top – pretty cool to sit back and have a drink watching the world go by that high up as you circle the tower at 2mph!
The whole area in and around the Space Needle is really cool with something always going on – there are numerous other things to see and do such as the Seattle Centre which has food and drink options along with the Science Museum and Childrens Museum. There are parks and a large fountain as well if you want time to chill and a get a snack or cold drink etc
Lumen Field is home to the NFL Seattle Seahawks and offers stadium tours – we unfortunately didnt have the time to get on one, but if you are there and have the chance id recommend jumping on one of these to get access to one of the premier sporting stadia in the country. Similarly, if you wanted a tour of T-Mobile Park, these are on offer fairly regularly through the year. Both stadia are handily situated right beside each other, so you could almost do both one morning or afternoon if you are sports mad!
On our final morning, we visited the Museum of Flight, which is a short drive from Downtown Seattle – approx $25 in a taxi / uber. It holds one of the largest air and space collections in the US and is the largest independent non-profit air and space museum in the world.
First off, and most importantly, give yourself plenty of time to really take it all in. Slightly constrained by time we spent a couple of hours at the museum but could easily have spent at least double that there.
There are some amazing aircraft to see in the T.A. Wilson Great Gallery from early aircraft to more modern machines. You can jump in the cockpit of a couple of fighter jets as well which is a really cool experience – perfect for that new profile pic on social media!
There are a number of exhibits currently running at the museum and probably one of the most surprising is “The Walt Disney Studios and World War 2” exhibit. It’s a really interesting look into how Disney Studios and Walt Disney himself answered the call to help the war effort through production of entertainment and public service films, publicity and many other such things through their talented artists. Would never have known about this if it wasnt for this exhibition.
There are other dedicated sections, including two that are relating to World War 1 and World War 2 with a number of aircraft from that time and many other artefacts and information.
For those interested in Space, there’s “Apollo” dedicated to capturing the intriguing drama of the space race and showcases, among other things, the F1 rocket engines that launched Apollo 12 and 16. Interestingly in another part of the museum you can also get up close and into the loading bay of the Space Shuttle!
There is plenty for young kids as well with the Kids Flight Zone where they can test their pilot skills in one of two hang gliding simulators or sit in the cockpits and operate the controls of a number of aircraft.
Not included in your ticket but for a small additional charge ($9 each) you can channel your inner “Top Gun” on the premium i360 Flight Simulator. This thrilling state-of-the-art motion control ride combines 360 degree rolls with high-performance visuals and sound to immerse you in the realism of pilot-gunner air combat in one of 9 different aircraft, including WWI, WWII and modern jets. We went for the modern fighter jet and took on our roles as Maverick and Goose …. lets just say the enemy Migs didn’t have too much to worry about with our effort! A real fun experience …. but with 360 degree barrel rolls, if you aren’t fond of being flung upside down for sustained periods then its maybe one to watch from screens outside!
A short walk across the memorial bridge takes you to the Aviation Pavilion, which is located on the opposite side of the road from the rest of the museum. Wow, what a sight! The scale and size of the aircraft in the pavilion is mind-blowing and the best part is you are actually able to walk into and through a number of the aircraft in the pavilion.
A real highlight was seeing Concorde up close. There is also Air Force One which was in commission from 1959 until 1996 – you are able to walk through and see the Presidential Stateroom and Conference Room, just think of the conversations and decisions made on that aircraft!!
Also in the pavilion is the first EVER Boeing 747! Its difficult to explain the scale and size of the aircraft and its such a thrill to get up close and walk through it. In fact, one of the most overpowering aspects of the Aviation Pavillion is working out how they got all the aircraft into it and in position!
I really must point out as well that throughout the museum, and especially in the Aviation Pavilion, there are numerous guides and staff around who are really knowledgeable and engaging. They gave us some great information about the aircraft and you get a real sense of genuine enthusiasm from them which really added to the experience and the day.
The final day was nearly over but we had time for another visit to Pike Place Public Market and a chance to grab something to eat before heading back to the airport. Pike Place is an icon of Seattle and somewhere we did find ourselves coming back to throughout the whole trip just for a look around, or some food /snacks, or to watch those flying fish again and again! I mean, if you get to Seattle and dont get a picture or video of flying fish in the market, where you even there at all!!??
The market has been around since 1907 and is brought to life each day with farmers, crafters & small businesses. There are over 500 shops, stalls or eateries over 4 floors. It can feel like a maze at times navigating the different levels, but is always so busy with so much variety on offer for locals and visitors alike.
For our final meal, we opted for the Athenian Seafood Restaurant and Bar which is a bit of an institution, not least because of the great food, but its also famously featured in the Tom Hanks’ movie “Sleepless in Seattle”. In a place like that, you HAVE to get something from the ocean, so the Alaskan Cod Fish & Chips was ordered and we were not disappointed!! Apart from the outstanding food, the only thing that topped it was the service – we were in and out of the place in about 40 mins!!
Also, when you are in the vicinity of Pike Place, make sure you check out the “Gum Wall” which is quickly turning into “Gum Street” – an area with MILLIONS of pieces of used chewing gum stuck to the walls …. i’ll let you make your own judgement on it!!
AND FINALLY ….
I’ll be totally honest, i was pretty blown away by Seattle. I felt that there was so much to see / do / visit and it felt like we were barely scratching the surface as well. I would love to check out more of the scenic side of things, toward Mount Rainier and really explore some of the attractions that we flew around as we were on a pretty tight schedule. Seattle is one of the biggest cruise ports in the USA as well – so the perfect base for any Alaskan cruise – if you are thinking of doing that, make sure to add on 3-4 days in Seattle at the start or end of your cruise, you wont regret it!!
You can check out the FULL highlights from this NInja trip over on the instagram page – on the homepage under the SEATTLE Highlights x 2 – CLICK HERE
Why not visit your LOCAL NInja travel agency and ask them to plan your next NInja adventure to Seattle – get there before everyone else does!! You can contact them via Holiday NInja CLICK HERE and we can easily make that connection for you!!
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