Renewing old, embracing new during Seattle visit

Seattle skyline featuring the Space Needle, from the Columbia Center.
Seattle skyline featuring the Space Needle, from the Columbia Center.

I love Seattle. And I cannot lie. I’ve made six trips over the past three years, since our daughter Mallory moved to the area. Each trip, I visit old friends (attractions) and meet new ones. There is always something new to discover and fall in love with.

My most recent trip combined a little of the old with some new and exciting experiences. From witnessing the renovations at the Space Needle and Columbia Center to seeing some superheroes and beautiful wild animals, my trip to the Pacific Northwest was exhilarating.

Amazon Spheres

My experiences kicked off shortly after my Alaska Air flight landed in the morning. The neat thing about the airline offering flights between Omaha and Seattle is the direct flight you can take either direction. But, on this trip, I wanted to get into the Emerald City as early as possible, so I took a connecting flight into Portland. The flight from Omaha left about 6:15 a.m. CT and I was in Seattle by 10:15 a.m. PT, including a layover. Coming home, I flew direct.

The Amazon Spheres.
The Amazon Spheres.

After taking the light rail from SeaTac Airport to downtown Seattle, I met Mallory at her office  – at the Amazon corporate headquarters. She is a voice designer with the Alexa app. She took me on a tour of the new Seattle Spheres (aka Amazon Spheres). A three-domed botanical garden, it houses 40,000 plants, anchored by a giant rusty fig tree known as Rubi. She is 55 feet tall and more than 20 feet wide. One of my favorite plants was the Asian Pitcher, a carnivorous plant, similar to a Venus Flytrap.

The Asian Pitcher, a carnivorous plant.
The Asian Pitcher, a carnivorous plant.

The Spheres are open to employees and their guests during the week. Staff members actually have meetings there or work away from their desks. However, twice a month, Amazon offers free tours to the public.

Pike Place Market

With an afternoon to kill following the botanical garden tour, I headed toward the Waterfront and Pike Place Market. It’s a tourist attraction, I know, but it’s one of my favorite places to visit. You see people from around the world, hear conversations in a variety of languages and just meet some really nice people. I enjoy talking with the folks at the Chukar Cherries stand (I buy Washington-grown cherry snacks there for family and friends), the honey and jam stand and sample some of the oils and vinegars from another stand. Of course, I join dozens of other tourists for the random throwing of the fish at the Pike Place Fish Market. No matter where you go around Pike Place Market, it’s a fun environment.

A couple of fish look like they're talking to each other.
A couple of fish look like they’re talking to each other.

Across the street is the original location of Starbucks, the coffee giant. People stand in line for several minutes just to order a coffee at “Ground Zero.” I stop here every time I’m in town.

Standing in line for a chance to order a Starbucks drink at Ground Zero.
Standing in line for a chance to order a Starbucks drink at Ground Zero.

Strolling along the downtown area, I found some new public art to take in. Murals, sculptures and flower gardens decorate Seattle’s downtown landscape.

A sculpture pf a woman sitting on a bench in a courtyard.
A woman sitting on a bench in a courtyard.

Space Needle

My visit to the Space Needle provided a new view of Seattle. The observation deck offers a clear view of the area since 11-foot tall panes of glass have replaced the slotted fence that encircled the platform. The change is part of a $100 million renovation, which will include a new restaurant on the rotating level. They’ve added a new glass floor at the restaurant section that is being used as a second observation location until the restaurant opens in 2019. Additional work is being completed around other areas of the 56-year-old Space Needle.

Visitors walk along the glass floor on the rotating floor of the Space Needle
Visitors walk along the glass floor on the rotating floor of the Space Needle.

A second place to get a great look of the region is at the Sky View Observatory Deck on the 73rd floor of the Columbia Center. Located downtown, it provides an enclosed 360-degree view of the city, Mount Rainer and the Space Needle. A multi-million dollar renovation project created a glass-fronted entrance, including a new entrance and Sky View ticket and gift shop area.

Looking up, you can barely see the top of the Columbia Center on a cloudy day,
Looking up, you can barely see the top of the Columbia Center on a cloudy day,

Marvel exhibt at MoPOP

One of my favorite “new” experiences was spending time with my daughter at the Marvel Comics superheroes exhibit at the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP). Celebrating 80 years, the exhibit featured about 300 comic books, memorabilia, artifacts and props to tell the story from the first Marvel comic book to the latest movie. I’ve been a comic book fan since I was a kid. I didn’t think I had an allegiance between Marvel and DC Comics, but when I think back to the comics I primarily read and followed, I was a Marvel fan without ever realizing it.

Outfits worn by actors in Marvel's "Black Panther."
Outfits worn by actors in Marvel’s “Black Panther.”

The exhibit includes life-size characters, movie costumes and special effects to tell the stories that Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and their associates created. From “Fantastic Four” to “Black Panther” and “Capt. Marvel,” you’ll be impressed. Did you know that despite not being a Marvel box office hit, the “Fantastic Four” comic series basically saved Marvel from going out of business in the early 1960s?

A bust of Groot from "Guardians of the Galaxy."
Groot from “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Nordic Museum

The new Nordic Museum is considerably different from its previous version. Once located in an old elementary school, the Ballard attraction now calls a new building home. The museum offers a beautiful art gallery featuring the works of Scandinavian artists. I am a fan of contemporary art and the gallery impressed me tremendously. The museum also includes rooms with a combination of Nordic history, including the Viking era, as well as emigration to the United States. Previously, each country had its own room at the museum. I like the current exhibits that combine the Nordic countries in telling the story of how Scandinavians came to settle in the Pacific Northwest.

Traditional folk costumes worn from each of the five Scandinavian countries.
Traditional folk costumes worn from each of the five Scandinavian countries.

Northwest Trek

As Mallory and I headed out for some nature, we planned to drive to Mount Rainier National Park. However, the weather and a scheduled side trip to Northwest Trek changed those plans. We had planned to take a tour of the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park in the morning and then continue on to Mount Rainier. But, the tour we wanted wasn’t available until the afternoon. If we went on to Mount Rainier, we’d miss out on the tour. I suggested we take the afternoon tour and hang out around the park during the morning. We spent the morning walking around the 720-acre park near Eatonville visiting animal exhibits until our tour. We saw bobcats, bears, badgers, otters and more. During our visit, it rained heavily for a short time. I suggested we skip heading to Mount Rainier in the afternoon due to the clouds and chance of more rain.

A bobcat was engrossed by a bird flying nearby.
A bobcat was engrossed by a bird flying nearby.

Am I glad we decided to take the jeep tour. It was one of the best wildlife park experiences I’ve been involved with. Our tour guide was the best. She took us off-roading and right into the middle of some of the animals. During our tour – supposedly 90 minutes but our group stretched it to a couple of hours – a reindeer walked up and stuck its nose into the vehicle. The park’s policy is animals can touch us, but we cannot touch them back. We were within a few feet of bison and moose, and saw a mountain goat and plenty of elk.

A bison laying in the tall grass.
We were a few feet from this bison.

The landscape was beautiful. Our drive took us up-close to some of the tallest fir trees and plush, vibrant green ferns and plants I’ve ever seen. The park visit ranks as one of my favorite tourist visits.

The trees were beautiful at Northwest Trek.
The trees were beautiful at Northwest Trek.

Starbucks tasting room

As many people know, I am a fan of The Starbucks. So much so that I made two visits to the company’s Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room in the Capitol Hill District. The 15,000-square foot facility offers two levels of coffee tasting and a bakery. You can order flights of espresso and cold-brew drinks to sample some exclusive blends not available at your corner Starbucks. It’s definitely a change from a typical Starbucks coffee house.

Sampling a flight of 3 espresso coffees at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room.
Sampling a flight of espresso at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room.

I mentioned earlier about seeing old friends as in tourist attractions; however, I actually spent time with an old Air Force buddy who lives in the area. Frankie and I met at – where else? – a Starbucks in Woodinville. I can’t wait to get back out there and spend more time catching up.

So, my eight-day trip to the Seattle area was one of renewing relationships (with attractions and friends) and discovering new places and attractions to fall in love with. It’s always wonderful spending time with my daughters, and in this case, Mallory and I explored the area together. Until next time, Seattle.

Disclaimer: Thank you to the MoPOP for the complimentary tickets. However, all views and opinions are ours.