Author Lisa K. Fann Photography Todd Pearson
DAY ONE / Wake up at the Inn at the Market, an oasis of quiet in the midst of the bustle and cacophony of the nine-acre Pike Place Market. This boutique hotel offers rooms with stunning views of Elliott Bay. The sun reflecting off the water is mesmerizing, but drag yourself away from the window, walk out through the hotel’s courtyard, and immerse yourself in Seattle’s hubbub of colors, sounds, and smells. Pike Place Market showcases Seattle’s bounty from land and sea—local fruit, vegetables, flowers, and the morning’s catch of fish—as well as creations by local artists and exotic goods crammed into tiny shops. Quarter notes painted on the sidewalk denote where buskers can regale you with their music. Along with the men singing gospel music in harmony and a Peruvian band, there is the man who plays guitar and harmonica and keeps a hula hoop circling around his hips—all at the same time.
Cobble together a breakfast from the restaurants and farmers. Don’t miss Piroshky Piroshky’s apple cinnamon rolls and the fresh fruit juices at Bacco. As you wander, take note of the shops you’ll want to visit later. Right now, though, you have a 10 a.m. appointment with a kayak.
The inn’s town car drops you off at Agua Verde Paddle Club on Portage Bay. Slip into a kayak and point the bow west toward the Saskatonia, a retired ferry that can be rented out for parties. Make a loop around the bay, paddling past the front porches of Seattle’s houseboats. The enormous logs underneath them shelter salmon swimming upstream. As you glide past the shore, notice the dozens of inlets—many are public-access points leading to parks, green spaces, or roads—but stay in the boat for now. You’re headed for the Montlake Cut and under the elevated highway to the Washington Park Arboretum. Gently forge your way through the water lilies and look for turtles, beavers, great blue herons, bald eagles, and other wildlife. This is a vibrant ecosystem with an urban soundtrack. If you feel like exploring it on foot, just pull your kayak onto the shore.
Soon, your stomach urges you on, and the inn’s town car awaits back at the paddle club to whisk you off to Macrina Bakery and Café in Belltown, frequently voted the best bakery in Seattle. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but the meze platter lets you choose three scrumptious items from a list that includes the soup du jour and rustic galette with roasted fennel, portobellos, fresh red peppers, and toasted pecans.
Walk down the hill on Bell Street to Alaskan Way, where you can catch the Waterfront Streetcar to Pioneer Square and buy tickets for the Underground Tour. You’ll likely have some time before your tour begins, so walk a couple of blocks south to Elliott Bay Book Company. For those who love to read, the old wooden floors and warren of rooms filled with books whisper a seductive siren song. Lash yourself to the mast or simply give in and stay for good. If you escape, don’t miss the art galleries between First and Second avenues.
The kitschy Underground Tour begins at Doc Maynard’s Public House, a restored saloon from the 1890s, with a short history of all the rapscallions and rogues who made their fortunes by founding this town. The history itself sounds like urban legend. Sure there’s a deserted shopping arcade under the sidewalks. And the street level was raised to the second floor of these buildings, which then became the ground floor? Yeah, right. That must mean the purple squares embedded in the sidewalk are skylights, you say. After a little spelunking under Seattle, you’ll discover it’s all true.
Catch the streetcar back to Pike Place Market, which is now at full-throttle. Visit the shops you missed earlier, making sure to see Rachel (the market’s brass porcine mascot), the “Public Market” sign, Market Spice (with its plethora of teas and spices), Moon Valley (natural health and honey products), and the Dragon’s Toy Box (unique children’s toys).
Take your purchases back to your room and dress for the evening. First on the agenda is Shiro’s Sushi Restaurant. Though not the fanciest sushi restaurant in Seattle, Shiro’s is the most traditional. Sit at the bar and watch the chefs perform their magic while you tease your appetite with the tender giant clam sautéed in butter and mushroom sauce, broiled kasu black cod, and monkfish liver pâté with ponzu sauce. For the main course, order whatever Master Chef Shiro Kashiba recommends.
Walk north to Seattle Center for a different sort of performance. Your destination is Intiman Theatre, which won the 2006 Tony Award for outstanding regional theater and is one of Seattle’s half-dozen professional companies. Two of the Intiman’s world premieres have gone on to Broadway. At this intimate theater you’ll see “the same old line, the same old act, and the same old hooey” that is the brilliance of A Streetcar Named Desire. After the show, cap your night at The Local Vine, a Belltown wine bar close to Shiro’s, where you can choose from more than 100 wines served by the glass.