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The best places to experience waterfront culture in Seattle

Like the tide that moves in and out of Puget Sound, Seattle’s waterfront is always changing. The Alaskan Way Viaduct, the seismically vulnerable visual impediment that screens the city from Puget Sound, will eventually come down, to be replaced by a tunnel. Soon, the city’s waterfront amenities will stretch from the piers to Pike Place Market and other Seattle landmarks. For now however, the stretch of waterfront from the Ferry Terminal to Myrtle Edwards Park provides the best opportunity to experience Seattle’s incredible geography.


Seattle Great Wheel

Everyone loves a Ferris wheel, and the Seattle Great Wheel doesn’t disappoint. 42 enclosed gondolas convey passengers 40 feet out over Puget Sound and 175 feet into the air, providing the second-best vista of the Emerald City after the Space Needle. Visits to the Great Wheel prove as popular with locals as with tourists. 


Anthony’s Pier 66

Every waterfront restaurant fulfils a role. Anthony’s Pier 66 promises guests the classic Northwest dining experience with abundant seafood served in a casual environment. The deck faces the Olympic Mountains across the Sound – an excellent spot to wind down at the end of the day.


Edgewater Hotel

The Edgewater Hotel is built on a pier and enjoys a peerless roster of former guests including the Beatles (John Lennon famously tried fishing from his window), the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, who were, incidentally, banned from visiting again. The door remains open for President Clinton, yet another celebrity guest.

Ivar’s Acres of Clams

Ivar Haglund, founder of Ivar’s restaurants, was hailed as the “King of the Waterfront” after he opened the city’s first clam bar back in 1938. A folksinger and master of marketing, Haglund would fly his Salmon Sock all over the city to the consternation of civic officials. Paying homage to Ivar at his Pier 54 restaurant is requisite for any Seattle visit.


Washington State Ferries

It’s an open secret in Seattle that our best tourist attraction comes in the form of a massive commuter ferry where, for just a few bucks, you get the best views of the Cascades, Olympics, and the skyline. Hint: sail back to Seattle at sunset and your snapshots of fiery Mt. Rainier will fill every month of next year’s calendar.


Myrtle Edwards Park

Myrtle Edwards Park snakes along Elliot Bay, toward the north end of downtown, and contains some of Seattle’s premier vistas of the Olympic Mountains, especially the 7,980-ft Mt. Olympus – the tallest peak in the range. The 1.25-mile bike path is a great way to see the sights while getting out into nature.


Matt’s in the Market

One doesn’t have to stand on a pier to score priceless views of the Sound. A window table at Matt’s in the Market (one of the of the city’s favourite restaurants) reveals arguably the most iconic view of the city, the neon red “Public Market Center” sign fronting the Puget Sound expanse.


Olympic Sculpture Park

The Olympic Sculpture Park is the rare urban environment that’s as popular with locals as it is with tourists. A partnership between Seattle Parks and the Seattle Art Museum, the free, nine-acre green space contains works from, among others, Claes Oldenburg, Richard Serra and Alexander Calder.


Written by Crai Bower