Mary Steele is an avid cruiser and writer hailing from the Port of Boston. She primarily covers cruise port destinations and helps her readers decide what to see, what to do, and best of all – what to avoid.

Seattle was my departure point on a recent Alaska cruise. Never having been there, I didn’t know what to expect of the Pacific Northwest destination. What I discovered was that Seattle has a lot of unexpected surprises. It’s hip, edgy and fun, complete with a come-as-you-are vibe.

What to do Downtown

Downtown Seattle is about a half hour from the Seattle Tacoma (Sea-Tac) Airport, which makes for an easy commute into the city. Hotels can be expensive during cruise season, so do your homework. The city is easy to navigate, and most hotels will provide reasonably inexpensive parking. Parking lots also dot the tourist areas, so there are no worries there. Walking can be another story. Seattle has very steep hills, so those with disabilities be cautioned. The hike down the hilly streets won’t seem so bad, but after a day of touring, the hike up can be trying.

Our first stop was Pike Place Market, which is one the country’s oldest farmers markets. You can buy pretty much anything here, from handmade crafts to candy to fresh produce. Be sure to stop and watch the flying fish—fishmongers tossing their fish to unsuspecting visitors make for quite a show.

Surrounding Pike Place are restaurants, bars, and specialty shops offering artisan cheeses, wines and specialty foods. It’s also home to the original Starbucks. There are plenty of musicians and street performers to make it interesting as well.

If you are more in a touristy mood, visit the Space Needle, which offers panoramic views of Mt. Rainier and Puget Sound in the distance. Personal note: We found the Space Needle to be a disappointment, as it doesn’t offer the spectacular views of say, Manhattan or Paris, and it can be expensive for a family. But, to each his own.

Also located near the Space Needle is the Experience Music project, which explores every genre of music. Visitors can view musical artifacts and rare memorabilia. Interactive media allows you to listen to musicians tell their stories in their own words. It’s a must-see for anyone truly interested in music.

For the sports fans in all of you, Saturday mornings offer a tour of Safeco Field–home to the Seattle Mariners baseball team. The tour will take you to the field, the locker rooms and the luxury boxes. There are plenty of photo ops here with a behind-the-scenes feeling. The tour lasts about two hours and costs about $10.  It’s money well spent for a true sports fan.

Vineyard Hopping

If you want to experience life beyond Seattle, rent a car and drive about an hour to the Washington State wineries of Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Crest located in Woodinville, Washington. The Chateau Ste. Michelle winery is housed in a gorgeous French chateau with beautifully landscaped gardens. Be sure to visit the Barrel Room and see the oak barrels stacked long and high. Tours are available in each winery, and then it’s on to the tasting rooms. It’s easy to do both wineries, as they are located directly across the street from one another.

Picnic by Snoqualmie Falls

On the way back to downtown Seattle, stop at Snoqualmie Falls. It’s a breathtaking 270-foot waterfall that provides a scenic vista to complete your day. There’s a two-acre park for a picnic lunch, along with hiking trails to the base of the waterfall. The observation deck on the way down will provide you with some pretty incredible photo opportunities as well.

Visit the Center of the Universe

For those looking for something completely off the beaten path, how about a visit to the 18-foot Fremont Troll? Self-proclaimed as the “Center of the Universe,” the funky neighborhood of Freemont in Seattle is known for its bohemian lifestyle and quirky public art. One of the most visited pieces is the Freemont Troll created by four local artists. Feel free to pose and take pictures next to him or the full-size Volkswagen Beetle he’s holding. He doesn’t bite.

Seattle is a city that celebrates its diversity in music, food and culture. Whether you are there for a day, or a weekend, your visit will definitely provide you with a memorable experience.

Featured Image: Seattle Space Needle and Mt. Rainier (Shutterstock.com)

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  • Ballard Hotel

    These are excellent tips to experience Seattle! I definitely agree on the picnic in Snoqualmie Falls (gorgeous place). But if you just would like to be around the Seattle metropolitan area I suggest checking out areas such at Capitol Hill, Fremont, and Ballard. These places have really cool activities (rock climbing in Ballard) that you will enjoy. :)

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