Things to Do in Seattle: Tips

Kam Wing Chan, April 10, 2011


            Hope this below is helpful to our China Geographers.  I am assuming below that the starting point to be the conference center/hotels. A tour map of downtown Seattle is at


Airport to Downtown Hotels

            If you have only carry-on bags, you can try taking the inexpensive light rail (about 30 min ride). The station is a few-minute walk from the terminal (follow the signs) and you get off the train (in the tunnel) at Westlake Station or University Station and walk 2-3 blocks to Sheraton or Hilton (light rail site at The other alternatives are door-to-door Shuttle Express ( and, of course, taxi.


Pike Place Market,

            Just walk downhill along Pike Street for 4-5 blocks and you can’t miss it (the crowds).  Apart from watching (dead) fish hurling-and-catching rituals and smelling the flowers (and vegetables), you may be interested in checking out the first Starbucks store (just across the market), founded here in 1971.  Also pause and take in a panoramic view of the Puget Sound and its waters.


South Lake Union Development

            Walk 2-3 blocks north and you can board a trolley car at Westlake Ave to South Lake Union, about a mile away, or you can walk.  This is Seattle’s newest hub of life sciences, a part of the city that “feels very much like Europe” (according to the ad), with a mixture of different uses. Vulcan Real Estate (owned by Paul Allen) is heavily involved here. There is a display of a development model in a Vulcan office near Whole Food Market, I think.


Chinatown/International District

            At the south end of downtown, not far away. Catch a bus (free in downtown) from the bus tunnel for 2-3 stops (less than 5 minutes) and get off at International District Station. The underground tunnel is right below 3rd Ave. You can also take the light rail (same route, but it is not free).

            In Chinatown, you can find many restaurants. For a close to traditional authentic Cantonese dim-sum experience (including the ambience -- crowded and noisy at meal times but inexpensive), try Harbor City (生隆酒家, 707 S. King).  If interested in 港式茶餐, check out Purple Dot Cafe at 515 Maynard.  兴隆 (at the corner of Weller and Maynard) and 全记(Mike’s, at 418 Maynardare also good places to enjoy a bowl of noodles or other Cantonese dishes.

            If time allows, visit Wing Luke Museum of Asian Pacific American, the only of its kind in USA (it claims). It is on King Street, in the core of the Chinatown. (


Olympic Sculpture Park (

            This special park is at the north end of downtown near the waterfront. You can hike there (walk down to the waterfront, and go north for another 20 min; or take the monorail and get off at Seattle Center and walk for a few minutes downhill).  This is an opportunity to “experience a variety of sculpture in an outdoor setting, while enjoying the incredible views and beauty of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound.” Free admission. Go there when the sun comes out.


University of Washington

            Come to visit UW’s beautiful campus. This year the cheery blossom has decided to bloom later to wait for this AAG event. 30-some spectacular trees of white sakura flowers in a quadrangle surrounded by four Gothic-style buildings. The photo (not shown here) on the right was taken on April 8, and the building is Smith Hall, where the Dept of Geography is housed (main office on 4/F). Drop by if you have time – this is where Brian Berry completed his dissertation in late 1950s and helped launch a revolution in geography. For the AAG event in Seattle, the UW Geography Dept has also put together a handsome volume: Seattle Geographies, full of photos and informative articles authored by faculty and graduate students ( I think you can pick up a copy at the AAG meeting venue.

            Several buses connect downtown and UW, such as 71, 72, and 73. Board one in the downtown bus tunnel and ride for about 15 min. Get off at the 1st or 2nd stop on University Ave, and walk west a small block to UW campus (bring a compass). If you get lost, ask for the Red Square, and the quadrangle (you will see cherry blossom at a distance) is just next to it. A campus map is at



            Other interesting places in downtown include: Seattle Art Museum and Central Library (very unique architecture inside), and should be easy to find. Looking for a dim-sum place in downtown? I recently tried O’Asian at 800 5th Ave, Plaza level (about 5 blocks south of Hilton Hotel) and it is reasonable.   The world-class Museum of Flights (housed in a barn in which Boeing first built airplanes, and more,, next to the Boeing Field, is reachable by bus (No.124) from downtown (  More bus info is at 


            You can also take a subsidized ferry ride from downtown waterfront (Pier 52) to a few places on the other side of the Sound. The closest is Bainbridge Island, which takes about 35 min one way. More at There are also commercial boat tours; board them at the waterfront.  I heard that one would even take you to have a peek of Bill Gates’ waterfront house on Lake Washington (the only way to get close to his residence for the public) and see the boathouse used in Sleepless Seattle.  I have never done that tour.


            If you have a car, you can visit more places beyond the city.  I think Mt Rainier and St.Helen’s (volcano) are too early to go (too cold, still lots of snow; come back this summer), but you can visit the largest tulip festival (many large tulip fields on display) in N America. Skagit is north of Seattle and takes about one hour to drive there. Details are at  Some might be in going to Microsoft (in Redmond, about 30-minute drive from downtown, of course, depending on traffic) and taking a few pictures of that sprawling “campus” (I don’t think you can see much beyond the outside of the buildings, but you want to prove that you visit there).


            Even more and farther, you can also visit Vancouver by taking a train (Amtrak) or a bus (I recommend "Quick Shuttle,  There is also a clipper connecting Victoria downtown in Canada and Seattle downtown (the ride is about 3 hours, see


Enjoy your stay and explorations!