Sensational Seattle: Experience it All

By Sherri Middleton, Managing Editor

A trip to Seattle was on my bucket list of places to visit. I wanted to watch fishmongers tossing whole salmon at Pike’s Place Market. I wanted to see the Space Needle. And I wanted a view of the Puget Sound and maybe even see the boathouse made famous by the movie Sleepless in Seattle.

Seattle was very much as I expected, and yet surprisingly very different from what I imagined.

After checking into the Sheraton Grand Seattle, I headed out onto the busy downtown streets to get a feel for the surrounding area. From my vantage point at the corner near the hotel, I could see the Washington State Convention Center and knew that I would see that during my stay, so I walked in the opposite direction to view the downtown businesses, shops and dining establishments.

Seattle is the fastest growing major city of the decade, according to the U.S. Census, and has experienced an 18.7 percent population increase during the past eight years. With education, healthcare, aerospace and other industries growing in the area, Seattle has had to reinvent itself to keep pace with all the changes. Microsoft and Amazon call Seattle home and new technology sectors continue to find that the city and its people welcome the entrepreneurial spirit.

Because of the major corporations, new technology and a fast-growing music scene, events and attendees need more spaces to gather.

To deliver more space, the Washington State Convention Center (WSCC) is currently expanding and adding a new addition a block northeast of the current convention center.

The WSCC Summit building broke ground in August 2018 and when complete, will add more than 250,000 square feet of exhibition space. The existing structure will be called Arch and mimics the famous sky bridge and canopy arch that bridges Pike Street between Seventh Avenue and Eighth Avenue. The new Summit will include a staircase with a nod to Seattle’s geography.

The new addition is being built to accommodate demand for meetings and events in Seattle. In the past five years, Seattle has turned down more than 350 event proposals because of lack of space or available time slots.

When complete, Summit is expected to bring more than 400,000 new convention attendees to Seattle, while also generating more than $19 million in tax revenue through hotel stays, restaurants, attractions and shopping.

The WSCC also expects that the convention center’s Summit and Arch will provide more than $93 million in community benefits by providing spaces for the public to enjoy.

WSCC features award-winning catering, rotating art exhibits, the Phyllis Lamphere Gallery, dining, shops and business or technical services. With 61 meeting rooms, four ballrooms, six exhibit halls and more than 205,000 square feet of heavy load space, 20 covered loading docks, 45,000 square feet carpeted, divisible ballrooms and a downtown location near hotels, shopping and dining, the convention center is one of the most popular venues in the Pacific Northwest. WSCC is also environmentally progressive and leads the industry in recycling and conservation by using energy-efficient light, locally-sourced food and beverages and a green program that combines architecture to bring the natural elements and light indoors. Hotels are also renovating and opening new properties to provide a mix of housing options from upscale to traditional.

With all the iconic places to see, Seattle draws visitors and sports events that result in record-breaking attendance. Many of those events and meetings return year after year to enjoy the attractions.

I unfortunately missed the tour of Amazon’s properties and a couple of hotel and dining options because of a late arrival, but the visit to Chihuly Garden & Glass was a highlight of my visit, as was the Seattle Space Needle tour.

Chihuly Garden & Glass sits on a 74-acre campus and features a comprehensive collection of Washington-native Dale Chihuly’s glass, sculpture and media, including an exterior garden featuring plants and glass artwork. A 40-foot Glass House includes hanging Chihuly artwork and overlooks the garden. Inside the conservatory, the Glasshouse features a 100-foot-long sculpture in reds, oranges, amber and yellows. Opened in 2012, visitors will find a Chihuly bookstore, café and eight galleries of the artists’ work.

After watching a glass-blowing demonstration in the gardens, we headed to the Space Needle towering above. As one of the most recognizable landmarks in Seattle, the Space Needle is a must-see and we were fortunate to visit as the 56-year-old tower was completing a $100 million renovation, Century Project that has enhanced visitor views of the area.

Construction for the newly renovated Needle started in 2017 and included 10 layers or 37 tons of glass to form the rotating floor, removing walls and floors and increasing accessibility to provide views of the inner workings of the structure and visitor experiences to the outside.

As you enter the structure from the base, a history of the building of the Space Needle unfolds. You’ll learn that the project was built at a cost of $4.5 million between the years of 1961-62 and two major renovation efforts took place over the years, including in 1982 when the tower’s 100-foot event level was added. In 2000, a two-story pavilion was also added to provide a retail space to showcase the work of local craftsmen and art.

The safety caging has been removed and replaced with 11-foot, open-air glass panels and tilted glass benches called Skyrisers that allow guests to experience the skyline or take a disconcerting seat while leaning back over the ground below. Without obstructions, the glass view and open-air give the feeling of floating over Seattle from more than 500 feet above the base.

The renovation also included the design and installation of The Loupe, the world’s first and only revolving glass floor, in addition to a cantilever interior grand staircase that connects the Needle’s 520-and 500-foot levels, a new kinetic floor mechanism that is visible for the first time and the “Top House” levels.

The Loupe weighs 37 tons and features 10 layers of glass, with six of those layers in the rotating portion of the Space Needle. The floor makes a full rotation in as fast as 20 minutes or as slowly as 90 minutes but will normally rotate a full 360-degree turn every 45 minutes. From the 520-foot observation level, Atmos Café is available, while the Atmos Wine Bar is located on The Loupe.

 Amazon’s The Spheres officially opened in January 2018 and features 40,000 different plants from around the world. Water features and dining options are also inside, including Willmott’s Ghost, a new restaurant by Seattle native Renee Erickson, a James Beard award winning chef.

Sea Creatures, a café and doughnut shop named General Porpoise are also inside. Inside The Spheres, visitors can experience this space that serves as a collaborative workspace in the Understory on the bottom level that also offers a visitor center.

That evening, we headed to AQUA by El Gaucho on Pier 70 for fresh seafood, wine and sweeping views of Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains.

Named one of the Top Ten Seafood Restaurants in America by Gayot in 2012, and the Washington State Wine Commission’s 2015 Restaurant of the Year, AQUA offers an outdoor deck, walls of glass in the dining area and a serpentine bar as a showcase feature.

Beth Silverberg, public relations director with Fire & Vine Hospitality treated our group to the vast menu and explained the popularity of AQUA with its guests that that night included major sports team managers.

Back at the Sheraton Grand Seattle, I took the opportunity to explore the hotel. A recent renovation allowed the hotel to receive a “Grand” designation that ensures guests receive unsurpassed service in the heart of the city.

Owned by the Seattle Union Street Associates, LLP the Sheraton Grand Seattle is located within blocks of Pike Place Market and is a landmark of the city. The renovation included newly designed guest rooms, a lobby that includes Northwest artists’ works, a Sheraton Club Lounge with panoramic views of Puget Sound, a new Starbucks experience with handcrafted coffees, nitro taps and pour-overs.

The hotel is located at 6th and Pike and is exactly 27 steps to the WSCC entrance. We counted the steps door-to-door. The property also includes several dining options including the Loulay Kitchen & Bar, the Daily Grill, The Fountain Wine Bar, the new Starbucks with coffees, beer and wine, and in-room dining. The 35th floor fitness center and indoor pool are also available.

The next morning, we headed to the WSCC for breakfast and a tour of the facility before touring the construction site for Summit, which is planned to open Spring 2022. The two buildings are situated one block from the other.

From Summit’s location, we met the Hyatt Team at Olive 8 that features 346 rooms, three dining spots, a spa, 12,000 feet of event space, an indoor saline lap pool and 24-hour fitness center and a business center.

Our next stop was a short walk away to the new Hyatt Regency Seattle, the largest hotel in the Pacific Northwest today. The new property features 1,260 guest rooms that offer floor-to-ceiling windows, 103,000 square feet of meeting space, three restaurants and bars and public spaces decorated with artwork celebrating the Pacific Northwest.

The hotel also features a variety of food and beverage options, including Andare, which offers a fast-casual Italian trattoria dining experience, salads, homemade pizza and more. Daniel’s Broiler, an upscale steakhouse features USDA prime steaks, seafood, wine, whiskey and a piano bar. The market is also available 24-hours a day and features café seating.

The 45-story hotel includes 65-inch TVs in the guest rooms, black and white photography by local photographers, a lounge with wrap-around patio and fire pits, and plenty of configurable meeting space with natural light, private balconies or high ceilings to accommodate a variety of events.

Our group was fortunate to sample some of Executive Chef John Pivar’s dishes in the professional kitchen. We also took home a boxed truffle created by the pastry chef.

Following the tour of the Hyatt Regency Seattle, we took an Uber to Capitol Hill to see Melrose Market, Oysters at Taylor Shellfish and spend some time at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room.

Melrose Market is an indoor food and retail market on Capitol Hill in the Pike-Pine neighborhood. Situated in historic automotive buildings from the early 1900s, the market opened in 2010 and features award-winning restaurants, shops, a meat market and offers event space. The exposed old-growth timber, steel beams and variety of shops is the more intimate version of the famous Pike Place Market and draws locals from the neighborhood as well as a steady stream of international visitors.

Taylor Shellfish is also located next door to the Melrose Market and offers fresh oysters, cold beverages and other items for pickup.

A few steps away, Starbucks Reserve Roastery beckons from its Pike Street location. Whether you are a coffee connoisseur or not, this is a place to visit, if not for the coffee, but for the history and experience. This Starbucks features a main bar with handcrafted coffee and espresso drinks, a scooping bar where the master helps you select the perfect beans, a mixology bar where art, science and craft of mixing drinks will awaken your senses, a retail shop, a coffee library, an experience bar and Princi’s artisanal pizzas, pastries and breads. All of this surrounds the hub of roasting with copper casks, tubes, silos and bagging. It’s a beautiful space to see and the experience is one a visitor to Seattle should not miss.

After spending a couple hours here enjoying a variety of brews and treats, we headed to Pike Place Market, stopping first at Rachel’s Ginger Beer for a refreshing sampling of handcrafted ginger drinks made in Seattle with organic sugar and ginger. Shop for a variety to ship home or order from the extensive menu after sampling a few flavors.

As we strolled through Pike Place Market, Rachel’s Ginger Beers in hand, we explored the 30,000-square-foot public space that offers a panoramic view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. The space sits on Elliott Bay and houses 47 stalls for day farmers, crafters, artists and others, in addition to 12,000-square-feet of commercial and retail space for shops and 40 low-income housing units for seniors. Here you’ll find the wall of gum, fish mongers, restaurants, buskers, artists and oddities that overwhelm the senses. Expect to spend some time exploring the nooks and crannies of this space and expect to be wowed.

In the nine-acre historic district there are 80 restaurants, the year-round farmers market, locally-owned bakeries that tempt the senses and fresh produce and butcher shops that carry things you may not recognize.

The original Starbucks location is also situated in this area directly across the street from the market, but in the heart of it all. Expect a long line as people try to place an order at the first coffee location now made famous around the world.

We walked a few blocks from Pike Place to Seattle’s most celebrated social gathering place, the Fairmont Olympic Hotel. The hotel spans a city block and even though the property underwent an extensive renovation and revitalization in 1982, retains its 1920s stately charm and opulence. This may be Seattle’s most glamourous address, and on this evening, the public spaces were bustling with Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers fans preparing for the NFL match that evening.

Named the No. 1 best hotel in Seattle by U.S. News & World Report in 2018, the Fairmont Olympic features spacious guest rooms, a fitness center, indoor pool and spa and three award-winning restaurants, including The Georgia, Shuckers and the Terrace lounge.

Visitors here enjoy the Fairmont Olympics’ traditional afternoon tea, French dining and versatile meeting and gathering space that harken back to refined elegance and grandeur that is not often found today.

The Fairmont Olympic also has a Bee Sustainable Project that features on-property herb and vegetable gardens and honeybees. The bees provide honey for drinks and food, while also pollinating the gardens and green spaces to provide vegetables and herbs for the dishes created in the kitchen. With rooftop bee apiaries at more than 20 Fairmont properties, including the one in Seattle, the hotel is committed to making a difference in the area. Executive Chef Paul Shewchuk uses the honey in creative ways and in 2018 more than 500 pounds of honey was harvested from the eight beehives.

On my final night, I joined other journalists for dinner at Chef Eric Donnelly’s RockCreek Seafood & Spirits in the Freemont neighborhood. We enjoyed a variety of dishes sourced from the Northwest and enjoyed our final night in the dining area that includes repurposed farm equipment, open spaces and a modern patio with a fire pit.

My fellow travelers headed to Scout, the Nest and Thompson Seattle on the final morning, but my flight wouldn’t wait for me, so I missed the chance to view the Sound from Thompson and Chef Derek Simcik’s dining experience. The new restaurant concept will feature experiential dining experiences. The Nest at Thompson’s is a rooftop bar, cocktail lounge and terrace overlooking Seattle’s downtown and Pike Place Market. The Nest is open for business. And can hosts small groups or buyouts. For more information, visit

And last, but not least, Seattle loves sports. The Seattle Seahawks, Sounders, FC, Reign FC, Seattle Mariners, Seattle Sounders and the Seattle Thunderbirds all draw fanatical fans to the city’s sporting venues and university facilities. From Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field to Accesso ShoWare Center and U-Dub’s sports facilities, the city draws fans for about any matchup imaginable.  Check out to find out more. Contact Kauilani “Ui” Robinson or Chantelle Lusebrink with Visit Seattle for more information.

Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Visit Seattle team and hotel, travel, dining and other expenses were provided through this press tour. The thoughts and opinions of my visit to Seattle were my own.