Seattle, where the gleaming skyline stands etched against the saw-toothed Olympic Mountains, is one of the most attractive and offbeat of US tourist destinations.Gareth Huw Davies found a host of activities on a trip to this airy city in the Pacific Northwest.He enjoyed dinner lit by a waterfront sunset, explored the origins of a global coffee chain and checked out a charming, bustling market and a music museum that resembles a smashed-up guitar.
ENJOY an unimpeded view in all directions from the top of Space Needle It rises 605ft above the Seattle Centre park, the site of the 1962 World’s Fair (where you can also visit the Pacific Science Centre, Aquarium and Tropical Garden).
A lift whisked me to a circular glass-sided observatory at the top, from where I could see as far as 14,411ft Mount Rainier, 54 miles away. The best way back is the automatic monorail – a pity this form of sublime above-street transport, built for the 1962 fair, never caught on.
2…full of beans
Starbucks (named after the coffee-drinking first mate in Moby Dick) was founded in 1971 by a writer and two teachers who despaired of finding decent coffee.
Their shop at 1912 Pike Place, where the original Starbucks moved in 1976, is a protected building that retains its Seventies decor.
From there I went to the Seattle Coffee Works on Pike Street, where I was served an exceptional cup. Coffee geeks will not want to miss the tasting room.
3…Test the market
With the skilled patter of street performers, the fishmongers outside Pike Place Market make an entertaining show of throwing salmon to each other and set the mood for the jolly bustle of the stalls within.
There are restaurants galore too, most overlooking Puget Sound. Ask for a window table to synchronise your meal with a glorious Pacific sunset.
4…a museum that rocks
Designed by architect Frank Gehry, the sheet metal curves of the Experience Music Project (EMP) resemble a smashed-up electric guitar.
The principal backer of this temple to popular music was Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
One room honours Jimi Hendrix and other musicians, and another gallery is a homage to the guitar, where you can play instruments on stage. In 2004 the Science Fiction Museum was added to the EMP.
Exhibits include Captain Kirk’s command chair in Star Trek, and the Death Star model from Star Wars.
A two-hour bus ride away, the Olympic National Park) is a vast tract of wilderness. Rising above unspoilt coastline, its swathes of rainforest are a sanctuary for a free-running herd of Roosevelt elk, and above are the 8,000ft glacier-capped peaks of the Olympics.
Book a lodge to experience the park’s idyllic solitude overnight. Closer by, in Mukilteo, 30 miles north of Seattle, is the headquarters of the huge Boeing factory complex, which has daily tours .
With its handsome buff-faced brick-and-terracotta trim facade, the Fairmont Olympic Hotel evokes a Renaissance palace.
Built in 1924 and restored in the Eighties, it has hosted presidents and stars from John Wayne to Elvis. Eat at its restaurant, the Georgian (four-course lunch, £9.50).