With tongue in cheek, Washingtonians will tell you that summer in Seattle begins on the fifth of July and lasts three days. We arrived on the fifth to glorious sunshine and highs in the 80s, and departed on the ninth of July, leaving on another 16-hour, blue-sky, sunshiny day.

Downtown Seattle’s Inn at the Market, an oasis tucked away like a speakeasy mere steps away from Pike Place Market (the ‘soul’ of Seattle), afforded us great views, friendly service and tranquility when we needed respite from the unbelievable array of fresh produce, dazzling flowers, handmade chocolates, fishmongers, glass-blowers and fortune-tellers, to name just a few of the lurking wonders. On and on, the cacophonous sounds and sights go. Do not miss them.

Our first day began with a 40-minute drive north to Everett to the awe-inspiring Boeing plant, where they assemble 747s, 767s, 777s and the new 787 Dreamliner. By volume the largest building in the world, it is so vast that when it first opened, clouds formed on the ceiling, creating rain. Overhead fans now control this, so weather forecasts no longer are necessary inside the building. Thirty-thousand people working in three shifts around the clock were a sight to see.

We then headed to the iconic Space Needle, which was celebrating its 50th birthday. With good intentions to go to the top of the 605-foot tower, we discovered a 1 ½-hour wait and, much to the relief of my acrophobia, skipped the ride. Next door was the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition—perhaps the artist’s finest to date—with riotous, other-worldly colors and shapes.

No one will ever go hungry in Seattle. The Market alone offers every kind of delicacy imaginable. A few favorites here are Place Pigalle for a lovely dinner with a view, Matt’s in the Market, Café Campagne, Chez Shea, Etta’s and Steelhead Diner. Outside the Market area, there’s El Gaucho for steak; Wild Ginger for Pan-Asian; Monsoon for Vietnamese; Shuckers in the Fairmont for marvelous seafood; and our very favorite, Cascina Spinasse for incredible Italian—reservations here a must.

As vibrant as Seattle days are, after-dark activities are equally as spirited with untold clubs and bars ranging from the Old World elegance of Oliver’s Lounge to great jazz at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley and all sorts of dives in-between. Undo all the nighttime damage with a morning visit to the original Starbucks at 1912 Pike St., Seattle’s main claim to fame.

Surrounded by water and mountains, there’s plenty to challenge the most energetic: hiking to the surging 268-foot waterfall at Snoqualmie Falls, climbing along the glacier routes of Mount Rainier, kayaking or sailing on Puget Sound, or riding a zipline through emerald green forests. If you need gear for these outings, stop by REI—not your average shopping-mall REI—but this one is right smack in the heart of the city, and will greet you with a miniature Northwest trail, complete with pine trees, ferns and a waterfall.

Also worth seeing: Fishermen’s Terminal; the 1914 Smith Tower; a Seattle Underground Tour promising “dirt, corruption, sewers and scandal;” the Chittenden Locks; and, for the lighthearted, the Pinball Museum. For more serious museum-goers, there’s the Henry Art Gallery, one of the Northwest’s leading museums of modern and contemporary art; the Museum of Glass; and the EMP (Experience Music Project) Museum, where American popular music is showcased.

With all the marvelous things to do in Seattle, there’s no way one can jam it all into a ‘three-day summer.’ We’d love to return any time of the year, stroll into Bella Umbrella (one of the only stores in the world selling absolutely nothing but umbrellas), and select one of the brightest, most ostentatious umbrellas we can find. We’d then walk out into a legendary Seattle rain—the reason for all that’s lush and green and wet and gorgeous in Seattle.

Native St. Louisan, Judy Crowell, has been a Ladue News travel writer for years, traveling the world but preferring to chronicle the sublime beauty of America, “from sea to shining sea”.

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