Seattle – Day 3 and 4: Culture and Animals
Day 3 kicked off with a ride on the monorail that shuttles between Westlake Station (5th Avenue and Pine) and Seattle Center, the exposition park that was created for the 1962 World’s Fair. As the cars (at the time very futuristic) have been in operation for 55 years, it still somewhat feels like stepping back in time riding this monorail.
The ride itself is only 5 minutes or so as it has a top speed of 45 mph, but it beats walking the 12 blocks ($2.25 one-way and $4.50 for a roundtrip, for some reason only payable in cash to actual cashiers). As there are windows in the roof of the cars, you get a nice view of the surrounding buildings and riding “through” the MoPOP museum.
As soon as you get out the monorail, the 185m / 605ft Space Needle dominates your view. Only then I noticed that the Seattle streetlights have a pretty familiar design… Obviously, the Space Needle is the main attraction of Seattle Park, but there are some very great museums, theaters, and parks to visit as well.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
First, we went to the Chihuly Garden and Glass. A museum that opened in 2012 and is dedicated to the works of Tacoma-born glass artist Dale Chihuly. He designs the works but lets the actual glass blowing to his team, further to the collaboration concept he encountered when studying at the Venetian Venini glass factory – famous for its Murano glass – in the late 1960s.
We started off in a room where there were more or less functional works that drew inspiration on the tapestry and weaving designs from the Native American tribes in the Seattle area.
Afterward we went into several exhibition halls that were very sparsely lit to be able to showcase the organic designs and intentional play of light on the amazing colored glass sculptures. It was like entering completely different worlds at every turn. The garden itself was beautiful and the artificial vegetation either blended in nicely or really stood out. A must-see if you visit Seattle!
The International Fountain
We strolled around Memorial Park and sat down at The International Fountain, which the Japanese sculptors Matsushita and Shimizu designed for the World’s Fair.
The fountains operate on music up to 12 minutes long and it was great fun to see kids (and adults) try to touch the fountain without getting soaked. Some did it deliberately as the weather was great, but many failed miserably at keeping themselves dry.
Museum of Pop Culture
The final stop was the wonky Frank Gehry-designed Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), which was initiated by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2000 as the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame (EMP|SFM), later until 2016 just EMP.
The museum is dedicated “to the ideas and risk-taking that fuel contemporary popular culture” and hosts a wide array of exhibits. The kids loved the Sound Lab where you could hands-on learn about instruments and what happens in music studios, like mixing and adding sound effects. They also liked the immense IMAX like screen displaying concert footage and music videos. This attraction left us some time to wander through the more nostalgic exhibits on David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix, as well as the very interesting evolution of the electric guitar with very famous ones on display too.
There was a temporary exhibit on the work of Jim Henson, which we all know from Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, but this provided insight in his earlier work, commercials as well as the art of puppeteering. Props and storyboards from The Dark Crystal and The Neverending Story movies were also on display.
The Science Fiction and Horror exhibits (we skipped the Fantasy and Star Trek ones) both had a significant number of scripts and original props from movies and television shows with the bulk of them from Paul Allens’ own collection. Great fun!
Afternoon and Evening
After the return trip on the monorail, we had lunch at Pho 25 (1525 3rd Avenue). Great phos, and the Vietnamese Coffee was strong enough to fight off any jet lag dip!
After the lunch, we strolled back to the hotel via the Waterfront Park with The Great Wheel and the Seattle Aquarium and great views on the Puget Sound. Due to misunderstanding at the starting time, we missed the highlights of the annual Seafair Torchlight Parade on 4th Avenue. They estimated that 150,000 people watched along the route, and there were some reserved spots already a couple of days in advance. Some people were making themselves feel right at home! The parade apparently featured clowns, pirates, drill teams and equestrian units, but we only saw the last part consisting of convertibles and floats with waving girls from pretty much all ethnicities in town and the tense orchestration of getting the sponsor’s airplane-shaped balloon safely under the electricity wires and traffic lights at the intersections.
Our dinner was at Palomino (1420 5th Avenue) with good, Italian based food. I had a great bowl of Ragù di Carne (pappardelle, braised beef, red wine demi-glace, Parmigiano Reggiano, cream, burrata) and Chantal opted for the Pizza Capicola (hand-pulled fresh mozzarella, caramelized onions, spicy roasted red peppers, Pecorino Romano, fresh basil, chili peppers) whilst the kids feasted on their Cheeseburger sliders and Rigatoni Marinara.
Our dishes paired nicely with our delicious 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon by Intrinsic Wine Co. (Columbia Valley, WA, USA). Thanks to Odedi for putting me on the track of this beautiful wine!
Day 4: Woodland Park Zoo
Our final day in Seattle was mostly spent picking up our rental car and a visit to Woodland Park Zoo. The northbound drive to the zoo was only short, but I had quite some difficulties adjusting to navigation instructions. Luckily our Ford Explorer also had Apple CarPlay, so I could plug-in my own phone and use it’s (metric) navigation. Phew!
We were pleasantly surprised by the size of the zoo and its diversity of animals. Generally much roomier than we have encountered in other zoos, although we haven’t ever seen indoor quarters for meerkats before. Notably, the murals trying to depict a prairie made that one rather sad.
The new pollinator patio and butterfly garden were great though, as were the food and selections of beers in the restaurant… The kettle corn seems to be on the sweet side… 😉
After the long walks in the zoo, dinner that night was close by; in the award-winning restaurant of our hotel, Tulio (1100 Fifth Avenue). It still gets excellent online reviews for its Northern Italian cuisine with Pacific North West influences and its vast wine list. It did not disappoint as we have a wonderful dinner.
- Sage Butter and Mascarpone
- Peperonata, Quail Egg, Fried Caper Gremolata and Bottarga
- Rotisserie Chicken, Caramelized Garlic, Sage, and Lemon Risotto
- Tipsy ladyfingers, Espresso Ganache, Mascarpone Fluff, Chocolate Crumbs)
The gnocchi was beautifully crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside. A great dish that was shared as a starter, and everybody just loved them. The main dishes were impeccable and paired with a good value 2015 Valpolicella by Allegrini. The tiramisu was a beautiful modern take on the classic dessert without straying too far from the original. However, the real stars of the evening were their homemade ice creams. The strawberry gelato was already great and full of flavor, but their basil, lemongrass and green tea sorbet was just brilliant.