EMERALD CITY & NORTH CASCADES, SEATTLE & SCENIC LOOP

 

ITINERARY AS EXCERPTED FROM KAREN BROWN’S E-BOOK: 

Think Seattle and think blue. Endless wide-open spaces of water appear at every turn: Lake Washington, Lake Union, Elliott Bay, Puget Sound. You’re never far from water’s soothing influence. Think Seattle and think green (hence its affectionate moniker, “The Emerald City”), where trees, parks, and woodlands abound even as the urban scene grows to ever-increasing levels of 21st-century sophistication. Characteristic of the Northwest generally, Seattle’s culture is friendly and casual, its pace relatively slow, its style never one to take itself too seriously. Like Portland, it is a city passionate about nature, devoted to ensuring that its gorgeous surroundings remain an integral part of city life rather than something to overcome. Hence you will always have Mount Rainer, Mount Baker, the Olympics, and the majestic Cascades within view. Initially little more than a logging town, Seattle has evolved over a period of 150 years to become one of America’s key urban destinations. It’s the perfect spot from which to explore much of western and central Washington’s immense beauty: its rich cultural life, its mountain ranges, its wineries, its ancient lava flows, its islands, and its close neighbor, British Columbia.

Recommended Pacing: If you have the time, take at least three days to explore Seattle. Also, all of the excursions in this section are trips designed to begin and end in Seattle for the most convenient approach. The Wine Country tour can easily be accomplished as a day trip from Seattle; but there are outstanding inns and restaurants in Bellevue and Woodinville, so we urge you to consider a luxurious overnight at one of them. The North Cascades excursion can take as little as two days, if you just make a round trip to Leavenworth; while you should allow at least four nights and five days to complete the entire loop itinerary at a leisurely pace.

SEATTLE

Like most cities, Seattle is ideally approached on foot, one neighborhood at a time, rather than fighting your way on unfamiliar one-way mazes in traffic. Consider taking cabs between the neighborhoods you want to explore (distances are not great) or using public transportation-the Seattle Metropolitan Transit System operates buses and trolleys throughout the city and its suburbs. Ask your innkeeper, always your most valuable resource, for tips on getting around easily, depending on what you want to do.

Visitors bureaus are always a good first stop for getting oriented. Stop in at the Seattle-King County Convention & Visitors Bureau for maps, sightseeing ideas, and schedules of current in-town events. The bureau is located at the Washington State Convention & Trade Center, 800 Convention Place on the Galleria Level. (Open weekdays from 8:30 am to 5 pm, weekend hours vary seasonally; 206-461-5840; www.seeseattle.org.)

The Seattle Art Museum is a city landmark now, with its signature Hammering Man, 48 feet tall, poised to greet you at the entrance. It houses a permanent collection of some 23,000 pieces representing a wide range of art, from ancient Egyptian reliefs to contemporary American installations using photography and video. Of particular note are its collections of Asian, African, and Northwest Coast Native American art, as well as its European paintings. The complete collection actually resides in two separate locations. The majority of it is located in downtown Seattle (100 University Street) in the contemporary building we’ve been talking about; but if you are especially appreciative of Asian art, you shouldn’t miss the impressive collection on Capitol Hill in Volunteer Park (1400 E. Prospect Street). Housed in a building designed in 1933 by Seattle architect, Carl Gould, and known as the Seattle Asian Art Museum, this collection is credited as one of the top ten of its kind in the entire U.S., with an eclectic assortment of art from Japan, China, Korea, India, the Himalayas, and Southeast Asia. (Seattle Art Museum hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm, except Thursday from 10 am to 9 pm; 206-654-3255. Asian Art Museum hours: Wednesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm, except Thursday from 10 am to 9 pm; 206-654-3206. Web address for both museums: www.seattleartmuseum.org.)

Across the street from the Seattle Art Museum is the Harbor Steps, a popular spot for open-air concerts in summer months and a great place for people watching. Take the steps down to the waterfront and enjoy a stroll along Elliott Bay.

Museum enthusiasts will also enjoy the Frye Art Museum at 704 Terry Avenue (corner of Cherry Street). Children of German emigrants who rose to prominence in the Seattle of the late 19th century, Charles and Emma Frye owned and operated a large-scale meat processing plant with retail outlets that stretched from California to Alaska. During this prosperous time, the Fryes were able to travel extensively and indulge their passion for collecting artwork. They purchased their first European painting at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, and from then on became serious collectors of realist art. Their collection of 19th– and 20th-century paintings grew to more than 230 works in their lifetime. Each piece is on view at the museum today, including the most complete collection of Munich School paintings in this country. (Open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm, except Thursday from 10 am to 9 pm, plus Sunday from noon to 4 pm; 206-622-9250; www.fryeart.org.)

You’ve certainly heard about Pike Place Market (bounded by 1st Avenue, Western Avenue, Pike Street, and Virginia Street). Situated on 9 acres of now-protected land, it all began in 1907 when the city decided to single out a place where local farmers could sell their produce direct to consumers. The idea caught on in a big way, and today this public market is something more of a cross between a farmers’ market and a carnival. Take all the time you want to browse among the stalls of vegetables, meats, cheeses, flowers, and baubles. Look sharp around the fish stands, where one vendor is likely to throw a whole fish to the other right over your head as they wrap it to order. (Open from 10 am to 6 pm, Monday to Saturday, and from 11 am to 5 pm Sunday; 206-682-7453.) A popular staircase here is called the Pike Street Hill Climb, whose stairs will take you to the waterfront activity along Elliott Bay. Watch for signs in the marketplace directing you there.

The family-run Elliot Bay Book Company at 101 S. Main Street is a delightful bookstore, in operation since 1973 and a refreshing alternative to the large chains, with its cedar shelves, exposed brick, and café. (Open Monday to Thursday from 10 am to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday from 10 am to 11 pm, Sunday from 11 am to 7 pm, and holidays from noon to 5 pm; 800-962-5311; www.elliottbaybook.com.)

Pioneer Square traces its start to the mid-19th-century logging days of early Seattle. It’s a small area of only a few blocks, including the original “Skid Road” (Yesler Way), later popularly known as “Skid Row,” where logs were literally slid downhill to the local sawmill for cutting and shipping. Pioneer Place (1st Avenue and Yesler Way) is best known for its Seattle landmarks: a Tlingit totem pole reproduction, a wrought-iron pergola constructed in 1909 to shelter passengers waiting for streetcars, and the Pioneer Building, a six-story Romanesque Revival structure constructed in 1892. For a fascinating and unusual introduction to the salty history of young Seattle in this area, take Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour. It’s an adventurous, 90-minute walking tour beneath today’s street level, for that’s where the original downtown Seattle was located before the Great Fire of 1889. Learn all about it as you marvel at the building fronts of hundred-year-old brothels, shops, dance halls, and emporiums. It’s fun, but not for the claustrophobic. (608 First Avenue between Yesler & Cherry; hours vary monthly; 206-682-4646; www.undergroundtour.com.)

Following an underground tour, you might be in the mood for a very different view of the area. Make your way to Seattle Center, just north of downtown and bounded to the southeast by Broad Street, the 74-acre site of the 1962 World’s Fair. (A fun way to get there is by monorail from Westlake Center Mall at 5th Avenue and Pine Street.) Take the glass elevator to the top of the 602-foot Space Needle, where indoor and outdoor observation decks provide a magnificent 360-degree view of the area, weather permitting as usual, and a revolving restaurant serves first-class, Pacific Northwest cuisine. (Open from 8 am to midnight in summer; otherwise from 9 am to 11 pm weekdays, to midnight weekends; 206-905-2100, www.spaceneedle.com.) Other attractions at the center include an amusement park, the very hands-on Pacific Science Center (open from 10 am to 5 pm weekdays, to 6 pm weekends; 206-443-2001; www.pacsci.org) and Children’s Museum (open from 10 am to 5 pm weekdays, to 6 pm weekends; 206-441-1768; www.thechildrensmuseum.org), and several theaters.

If you have children in your party, they will probably enjoy a visit to the Woodland Park Zoo, also at the north end of the city, with its hundreds of rare and endangered animals, African Village, and adorable young Asian elephant born in November 2000. Other attractions include two Sumatran tigers born in December of 2002. (5500 Phinney Avenue North; open daily at 9:30 am-call for seasonal closing times; 206-684-4800; www.zoo.org.)

Next to the zoo is a beautiful Rose Garden, with 280 varieties and over 5,000 individual plants. This is one of 24 test gardens in the United States.

Just north of downtown, Puget Sound is joined to Lake Washington by an 8-mile ship canal and a system of locks that bisect the city from west to east. Named for a Brigadier General in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks and Canal were completed in 1917, allowing ships access inland to the then-coveted coal and timber resources on the eastern shores of Lake Washington. A Visitors Center at 3015 NW 54th Street features displays on the history of these structures and on the details of its current operation. (Hours vary seasonally: call 206-783-7059.) If you’ve never seen a lock in action, this is a good place to discover it for the first time. Some 100,000 boats of all different types pass through the lock system each year.

If you venture to the Asian Art Museum, take a walk over to the nearby Capitol Hill Water Tower, also in Volunteer Park. You can’t miss it; it’s a circular brick structure, towering above you to a height of about 75 feet. From the top of the tower you’ll have an amazing panoramic view of the area. There’s also an interesting exhibit in the tower about the work of the Olmsted brothers, designers of Seattle’s more elegant parks. The formal gardens of the 43-acre Volunteer Park (E. Prospect Street between 11th and 15th Avenues East) are representative of the work of the Olmsteds, but a truer example of their inspired philosophy (preserving views of the magnificent surroundings whenever possible) is best seen from East Garfield Street. Exit Volunteer Park on its eastern side and make your way north to East Garfield. From here, you will happen upon one of the most picturesque views of Lake Washington, the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge and the Cascade Mountains, from a unique roost designed by the brothers.

Washington Park Arboretum offers a great number of wonderful walking trails through woodlands and specialty areas celebrating different plants in concentration: honeysuckle, azaleas, rhododendrons, dogwood, decorative cherry trees, and a Japanese garden. (2300 Arboretum Drive East; open from 8 am to dusk; 206-543-8800.)

The University of Washington campus makes for a charming walking tour as well. Pick up a Campus Walk booklet at the Visitor Information Center at 4014 University Way NE at NE Campus Parkway (open from 8 am to 5 pm weekdays; 206-543-9198). You can also download the walking tour from www.washington.edu. Click on “Visitors,” then “Tours On Campus,” then “A Campus Walk.” This self-guided tour will take you along wide pedestrian thoroughfares, past lovely landscaped gardens, and by buildings of significance to the university, identifying everything for you. The on-campus Henry Art Gallery at 15th Avenue NE and NE 41st Street is considered one of the country’s most progressive, small museums dedicated to modern and contemporary art. The Henry’s permanent collection of over 20,000 objects includes late 19th– and 20th-century paintings, an extensive Monsen Collection of Photography, and a textile and costume collection, along with a burgeoning compilation of cutting-edge works in new media. (Open Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm, except Thursday from 11 am to 8 pm; 206-543-2280.)

Also of note on campus is the excellent Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at NE 45th Street and 17th Avenue NE. The Burke contains collections totaling over 3 million specimens. These collections are divided into three main divisions: Geology, Anthropology, and Zoology. We were moved by an exhibition called The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition, the story of Shackleton’s infamous 1914 journey to Antarctica as told through diary excerpts, film footage, and haunting photographs by the expedition’s photographer. (Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm except Thursday till 8 pm; 206-543-5590; www.washington.edu/burkemuseum.)

The largest air and space museum in the western U.S. is found here in Seattle. Housed in soaring spaces of steel and glass, the Museum of Flight is located at 9404 Marginal Way South (a half-mile northwest of the city on I-5 at Exit 158). It records the story of man’s air and space achievements in an awe-inspiring setting, combining marvelous, interactive exhibits with actual artifacts. The Great Gallery Complex alone contains more than 50 aircraft, 20 or more suspended above your head! (Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm, except the first Thursday of each month till 9 pm; 206-764-5720; www.museumofflight.org.)

SEATTLE WINE COUNTRY TOUR

Washington is now the second-largest producer of premium wines in the United States, with more than 150 wineries and over 25,000 acres of vineyards. Second only to California in wine production, Washington prides itself on producing some of the finest red, white, and fruit wines.

As it happens, the 46°N parallel runs through the wine-growing regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy, and eastern Washington; drawing many comparisons between Washington wines and French wines. The diverse climate of eastern Washington, ranging from long, warm summer days to cool nights, ensures that Washington wineries produce a wide variety of wines, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Lemberger, Chenin Blanc, and Syrah.

Fortunately, it’s not necessary to drive 200 miles to the eastern portions of the state, where most vineyards are located, for this tour will take you to some of the finest tasting rooms just minutes from Seattle.

From Seattle, take Hwy 520 east across Lake Washington, then head north on I-405 toward Bothell for about 12 miles. Exit at 522 east/Woodinville. Turn right on 175th Street, then left at the stop sign onto Hwy 202 (also known as the Woodinville-Redmond Road and later, NE 145th). Our first stop is the humble home of Silver Lake Winery. Silver Lake holds the distinction as Washington’s only “consumer-owned” winery: hundreds of Northwest enthusiasts have pooled their resources to build this award winner. You could join them! Try their handcrafted varietals, in production since 1989, or their Spire Mountain hard fruit ciders. (15029 Woodinville-Redmond Road/Hwy 202; open daily from noon to 5 pm; 425-486-1900; www.silverlakewinery.com.)

Our next stop around the bend (where the Woodinville-Redmond Road veers left to become NE 145th) is Columbia Winery. Watch for it on your left. Founded in 1962 by ten friends, six of whom were professors at the University of Washington, Columbia Winery is considered Washington’s first premium winery. First known as Associated Vintners, the group was keen to prove that Washington could produce high-quality wines and began in the Seattle garage of one of the professors. Today, winemaker David Lake, often referred to as the “Dean of Washington Wine” (Wine Spectator), continues the founders’ tradition of innovation by introducing new varietals to the state, including Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Gris, and Sangiovese. Wines from Columbia Winery are known for the rich, fruit flavors indicative of Washington. (14030 NE 145th; open from 10 am to 7 pm daily; 425-488-2776; www.columbiawinery.com.)

Virtually across the street from Columbia is our next stop, Chateau Ste. Michelle, which has been producing European varietal wines since 1967. It is best known for its award-winning Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Its white wines are fermented and aged right in Woodinville, while its reds are made in eastern Washington just west of Paterson on the Columbia River. The facilities and grounds here (87 acres) are beautiful, with peacocks strutting around on the lawns. In 1912, Seattle lumber baron Frederick Stimson made his home here, with gardens designed by the Olmsteds, the same family responsible for Seattle’s Volunteer Park and New York City’s Central Park. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, Stimson’s home is used for special events. A variety of tour, tasting, and event options are yours, including wine appreciation seminars and a summer concert series (Summer Festival on the Green) to benefit the arts. (14111 NE 145th; open from 10 am to 4:30 pm daily; 425-488-1133; www.chateau-stemichelle.com.)

Continue down NE 145th to Redhook Brewery for the brew masters in your group. Beer enthusiasts Paul Shipman and Gordon Bowker founded Redhook in Seattle in 1981, at a time when the import beer market was growing by leaps and bounds in the Northwest. They sold their first pint of ale in August of 1982; then in July 1994, Redhook completed its second brewery here in Woodinville. This handsome facility features expansive grounds including the Forecasters Public House, where you can indulge in all of the Redhook Ales, as well as pub-style meals. Brewery tours cost $1 per person and include three to four samples of beer, a souvenir tasting glass, a walk through the brewery, and a good dose of Redhook history. (14300 NE 145th Street; Redhook Brewery open daily from 2 to 4 pm on weekdays, and from noon to 5 pm on weekends; The Forecasters Pub is open daily from 11 am to 9 pm on Sundays, from 11 am to 11 pm on Mondays through Thursdays, and from 11 am to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays; 425-483-3232; www.redhook.com.)

The popular Burke Gilman Trail, a 34-mile walking/bicycling/horse trail, passes right in front of the Willows Lodge and these two restaurants. It follows the Sammamish River to the edge of Lake Washington, then continues on around the lake to the University of Washington and out to Puget Sound. Continue along NE 145th, cross the Sammamish River, and turn right onto the Woodinville-Redmond Road heading south. This road will take you through some lovely rural countryside into the town of Redmond, from which you’ll pick up 520 back to Seattle via Bellevue.

NORTH CASCADES LOOP

This spectacular scenic loop can be approached in several different ways. If time is of the essence, we recommend at least the gorgeous, 105-mile drive along Hwy 2 from Seattle, out over the Cascade Mountains, and into the town of Leavenworth for a one- or two-night stay, returning to the city via the same route. In late September/early October, the maples and yellow larches in Tumwater Canyon, just northwest of Leavenworth along this route, will take your breath away. If you can afford the luxury of more time, follow this complete itinerary, which will take you past Leavenworth, guide you north through working fruit orchards, and loop you westward again-weather permitting-through the dramatic North Cascades National Park. Keep in mind that the stretch of Hwy 20 just west of Mazama (between Washington Pass and Rainy Pass) is closed for long periods during winter, spring, and (sometimes) early summer, so be sure to check road conditions before attempting to cross.

From Seattle, take Hwy 520 east to I-405 North to Hwy 522 east to Hwy 2 east. The road to Leavenworth is absolutely beautiful. Surrounded by some of the most stunning scenery anywhere in the U.S., this town was once home to the Yakima, Chinook, and Wenatchee Indian tribes. By 1890, the original town was built and settled by pioneers in search of gold, fur, and fertile farmland. At the turn of the 19th century, the Great Northern Railway brought additional prosperity; but it was not to last-the unexpected re-routing of the railroad and the subsequent closure of the area’s sawmill reduced Leavenworth to something of a ghost town. For more than 30 years, it lived on the brink of extinction; then, in the early 1960s, community leaders got the idea to change Leavenworth’s appearance. Inspired by the beautiful backdrop of the surrounding Alpine mountains, the town agreed to remodel their hamlet in the form of a Bavarian village. The entire community rallied to create the illusion of Bavaria in the middle of Washington State!

Besides the complete renovation of the downtown area, the town has created a series of festivals that brings tourists from miles around, including the Autumn Leaf Festival, Maifest, and the extremely popular Christmas Lighting Ceremony. While the town itself may well strike you as a bit over the top, give in to it for a day or two-you won’t find a friendlier or more beautiful spot anywhere. Stay at any one of the excellent inns in town and enjoy the spectacular setting. Innkeepers here can recommend stellar, short-distance driving routes (e.g., taking 97 South to Old Blewetts Pass for unparalleled views), great river-rafting trips, and breathtaking hiking trails you won’t want to miss.

From Leavenworth, travel east on Hwy 2 in the direction of Wenatchee. The small town of Cashmere, is known for its famous Liberty Orchards-Aplets and Cotlets factory and store (509-782-4088, www.libertyorchards.com), and the outdoor Pioneer Village Museum (509-782-3230) replicating life in the 1800s. It is also home to a wonderful bakery that is most definitely worth a stop for its wonderful baked products, sandwiches and coffees. Anjou Bakery (509-782-4360) is located beyond the entrance to town, on the south side of the highway.

A few miles beyond, Cashmere Hwy 2 merges with Hwy 97 which, if you follow north, will take you on to Chelan. If you are a garden buff, you might want to detour just at the merger of the two highways to visit Ohme Gardens. Located high on a rocky bluff, overlooking the confluence of the Columbia and Weneatchee Rivers, this nine-acre garden is a result of one family and 60 years of dedicated landscaping.

There are actually two “versions” of the highway that straddle both sides of the river. Alt 97, as opposed to the Hwy2/97, is the more scenic drive and more easily accesses the road to Lake Chelan. This is a region dominated by pear and apple orchards, absolutely gorgeous when colored with spring blossoms or fall foliage; but to be honest, a little  barren in winter. Many of the Washington apples you buy in stores come from this very area. Alt 97 will take you directly to Lake Chelan, a 50-mile-long lake in a beautiful valley created by glaciers. Reaching a depth of 1,500 feet, it is one of the deepest lakes in the U.S. Or you can also opt for Hwy 971, referred to as the Navarre Coulee cutoff which is a few miles longer, but crests the hill and affords some wonderful views of the lake.

From Lake Chelan, continue north on Hwy 97 to Hwy 153, and then to Hwy 20, traveling in the direction of Winthrop. Spring through fall, Hwy 20 would deliver you back to the coast, but in winter it dead-ends at Washington Pass. With the towering peaks of the Cascades looming in the distance, Hwy 20 travels a picturesque route through a beautiful valley, following the wide sweep of river that cuts it. It is a region populated by large ranches, grazed by cattle and reportedly the source of inspiration for poet and author Owen Wister. He lived in Winthrop back in the early 1900s, and many Winthrop sights and characters appear in his novel The Virginian. Today, this once-busy mining town is little more than a faux Old West façade, with wooden sidewalks and early 20th-century storefronts. You might enjoy the Shafer Museum, though, which re-creates a turn of the century pioneer mining town. Nine buildings (some reproductions, others original and relocated here) offer a glimpse of life in the Cascades more than a hundred years ago. (Castle and Corral Avenues; open May to September, Thursday to Monday, from 10 am to 5 pm.)

The North Cascades Highway (Hwy 20) offers a unique opportunity to explore some of the more remote areas of the Cascade Mountains. Some 300 glaciers residing here account for more than half the glaciers in the contiguous United States. Along the way, a number of trailhead markers will beckon you to stop and explore, which is fun to do even if you hike for only short distances. Two mountain passes greet you now. The first is Washington Pass at 5,477 feet. Pull over at the lookout and take the half-mile (round trip) path around a cliff face to see just how far you’ve come! The second is 4,860-foot Rainy Pass. An easy 2-mile (round trip) paved trail at Rainy Pass is perfect if you’re conscious of time or don’t want to do any serious walking. Watch for signs for the Rainy Lake Trail and pull over. The trail will guide you through towering forest to the small, and unbelievably, blue Rainy Lake. Notice how the terrain is changing. These mountain passes mark the rain shadow divide that accounts for one climate in western Washington and another east of the mountains.

About 1 mile west of Newhalem, the North Cascades Visitor Center‘s audio-visual presentations offer a variety of points of view on the area. Take the short wood-planked path behind the center to a viewpoint overlooking the beautiful Picket Range. Continue west on Hwy 20 to return to I-5 and you’ll be back to Seattle in about an hour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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