|©2015 Henry McDaniel Photography
|It's easy to be sleepless in Seattle. And while being in love-as in the movie-can be a good reason for staying awake anywhere, it's more likely that Seattle's combination of coffee and culture, shopping and sea life are the main causes.
Beauty-the built kind and the natural variety-is also an eye-opening feature of the city. Over the last couple of decades, this city of nearly 575,000 (3.275 million in metro Seattle)-and growing- has developed one of the most impressive urban skylines.
Although there are taller buildings in town now, a defining landmark since its completion in 1962 has been the 605' Space Needle, a then futuristic structure that has become a lasting symbol of the Seattle World's Fair for which it was built. Nowadays, the tower (its observation deck is one of the most popular destinations in town) seems quaintly dated, better suited to a Jetsons cartoon than an imagined city of the future. But its distinctive profile in the city remains unchallenged.
|Downtown's Pike Place Market manages to be a place of both literal and spiritual sustenance. Since 1907, this structure has been filled with top-quality food purveyors of cheeses and meats, seafood and produce, local wines and microbrews. Even if a Seattleite doesn't have an appetite, the market is the place to go and socialize and view urban life at its most animated. Pioneer Square is surrounded by late 19th-century vernacular buildings that now house shops and galleries of all varieties. It is hard to imagine Seattle without this complex of buildings, but in the 1960s all of it was almost sacrificed in a misguided urban renewal plan.
|The Pike Place Market is not only the geographic and spiritual heart of downtown Seattle, but also-to continue with the physical metaphor-its stomach. The maze of aisles here is filled with the culinary bounty of the region-Washington state apples, ripe cherries, sweet blueberries and strawberries, blushed Pacific Northwest peaches, meaty tomatoes, juicy melons, and crisp beans, as well as locally grown flowers and freshly caught fish. At points in the market, you might think the pike and salmon, crab and lobster are of the flying variety. Moments after a customer selects a fish, the fishmonger might send it sailing through the air to a distant co-worker to fillet and wrap.
In addition to the oceans of fresh fish set on ice in the Pike Place Market, more sea life lives on at the Seattle Aquarium. Many creatures of the sea and sound are celebrated here, including the lowly jellyfish which have their very own exhibit, "Life of a Drifter." But the favorites at the aquarium are the frisky sea otters, schools of salmon (in September, visitors can watch them climb a daunting ladder to spawn), a tank of starfish that visitors can "pet," patrolling sharks, and a giant octopus that likes to squirt its ink.
For cultural stimulation, there are the regular performances at the Seattle Opera and at Benaroya Hall, home of the Seattle Symphony and the frequent residence of the acclaimed Northwest Chamber Orchestra. But if Pearl Jam is more to your liking than Puccini, the decidedly more downscale culture known as grunge, (the alternative form of rock music that's a mainstay in the town where it was born) is available not only at numerous clubs but also as part of an interactive music museum, the Experience Music Project (EMP).
|While there are many destinations in Seattle to visit and explore, perhaps the best is one that involves serendipity-taking a ride across Puget Sound on a ferry to Bainbridge Island; paddling a rented kayak on Lake Union; following one of the jogging, walking, biking, or in-line skating paths along the miles-long waterfront; scaling one of several faux rock formations; getting a window seat on the monorail; or simply wandering one of Seattle's neighborhoods.
|Before the verdant valleys some 25 miles southwest of Seattle became known as Washington's wine country, they were the settings for the estates of the leading industrialist families of Seattle, among them C. D. Stimson, who named his spectacular hunting manse Willows Lodge, where he entertained Harry Houdini. Following a dinner, the internationally famed magician performed one of his famous tricks on his host. Houdini tossed a deck of cards to the ceiling. The ace of spades-the card that Stimson had picked from the deck and reinserted--stuck to a beam. For 20 years, Stimson left the card there.
|The present-day Willows Lodge (14580 NE 145th Street, Woodinville, Washington 98072; (425) 424-2900), an 86-room lodge and spa in the Pacific Northwest style, harkens to the rustic luxury that defined Stimson's estate. The lodge occupies five landscaped acres on the Sammamish River, and every guest-room faces a garden of large conifers, flowering deciduous trees, and Japanese maples, all interspersed with fountains. An on-site herb and edible-plant garden filled with fruit trees provides fresh produce for the lodge's two award-winning restaurants, Barking Frog and The Herbfarm. And in keeping with the Northwest's "green" approach, the guest rooms and public areas incorporate recycled Douglas fir timbers from demolished buildings, and guest-room tables are made of slate pool-table tops from old bars. There's enough to do in town by day or night to make for a good night''s sleep. And while you sleep, you may dream about your experiences here, and what to do when you awaken.
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