Scenic Seattle

By Jane Cassie

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“We’re rotating at 500 feet (170 metres) above ground level and on a clear day, you can see all the way to the Cascade foothills,” claims Colleen Foster who obviously knows the facts. She should. She’s been sharing them for 20 years with visitors, like us, who dine at Seattle’s SkyCity Restaurant. The 360-degree-view venue, housed below the Space Needle’s observatory, is the perfect spot to graze and gaze - even tonight, when clouds drape the “Emerald City” with a mystical veil.

We dine on wild king salmon and Togarashi-crusted tuna and, while going full circle over the next 50 minutes, spot a number of landmarks we’ve recently visited. There’s Argosy Cruises, a harbour-side company that boasts a flotilla of narrated tour boats, the Seattle Aquarium offering close encounters of the sea critter kind, and the famous Pike Place Market where vendors sell wares from monster-size tiger prawns to bountiful bouquets.

In between courses, we rotate past the downtown core. Burgeoning high-rises soar skyward and create a scenic cosmopolitan skyline, and just a few blocks beyond is our temporary homestead. The elite Pan Pacific Hotel Seattle has provided us with the best of both worlds. Although we’ve had the city at our fingertips, we’ve been far enough away to escape the inevitable crowds. During our stay, we’ve lounged in an oversized guest suite, been spoiled by a personal steward, and enjoyed pampering at the Vida Spa. What more could a couple of Seattle sightseers ask for? Yes, a little more sunshine would be nice.

Anyone familiar with the Pacific Northwest knows how much it rains, and during these frequent spells, it just makes sense to retreat indoors. Seattle certainly provides many opportunities. As well as consuming enough caffeine to own shares in Starbucks, we’ve been immersed in this city’s eclectic culture. Not only is it the birthplace of grunge (a raucous music mix founded in the '90s), but Seattle also has the greatest number of dance, theatre and music options per capita in the country. With a choice of 80 live clubs, 15 orchestras and 29 professional theatres, we’ve been culture-sized!

During our visit to Experience Music Project (EMP), I even felt like a rock star! It’s impossible to spot this venue from our scenic perch as it hugs up to other Seattle Centre attractions at the base of the Space Needle, but you can’t miss it when you’re on land. The 140,000-square-foot (42,672-square-metre) architectural wonder resembles a humongous glitzy guitar, and inside there are enough interactive opportunities to appease any aspiring musician. Even me!

We craned our necks while checking out Roots and Branches, a cyclone-shaped, instrument-clad sculpture, and retraced the “Evolution of Sound” with Jimi Hendrix - right back to the '60s, when Purple Haze had nothing to do with the weather. But, in my mind, we saved the best part for last. Much of the third floor is dedicated to budding artists. And no, you don’t need to be American Idol-worthy to get a piece of this limelight. By moving from sound lab to demo, you can try out various instruments and before you know it, you’ll be onstage singing, “I Will Remember You” with Sarah McLachlan. Okay, so maybe your story will be different.

By the time dessert is ordered, we’re rounding our second lap of the city and in the distance we can see Pioneer Square, where we’d submerged beneath the streets earlier in the day. Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour is a combo of historical tidbits and tongue-in-cheek comedy, and as well as learning about Seattle's colourful past and seedy seamstresses, we found out why and how the town was raised. Literally! As well as being absurdly interesting, it was an effective way to stay dry.

“And now for the grand finale!” our server proclaims. The Lunar Orbiter is a signature dessert that has been served at the restaurant since the inaugural night. While making the announcement, Colleen pours hot water into the double boiler of dry ice. Instantly the vapour billows out from our ice-cream treat for two and, before we know it, we’re caught in the clouds once again.




Where To Stay:

Pan Pacific Hotel Seattle
2125 Terry Avenue, Seattle, WA 98121, USA
Phone 206-264-8111
Reservations: 877-324-4856

What to Do:

Seattle visitor guide:
Seattle Space Needle:
Pike Place Market:
Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour:

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