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Destination Guide

A Walking Tour of Downtown

Starting Place: Seattle Center at Fifth Avenue and Mercer Street

Our journey begins at the Seattle Center, built in 1962 as part of the Century 21 Exposition. Seattle Center houses numerous tourist attractions, including the Pacific Science Center, Paul Allens Experience Music Project, and Key Arena, home of the Seattle Supersonics. Most visitors come to the Center for Seattles most famous and most visible landmark, the Space Needle, and all will enjoy the ride on its glass elevators and the panoramic views from the observation deck.

The center holds one end of the Monorail (also built for the 1962 Worlds Fair), and our tour continues with the 90-second 1.3-mile ride from the Seattle Center to Westlake Center (Fourth Ave and Pine St), the commercial new kid on the block and a popular arcade for shoppers and strollers, who can shop in the mall, visit the nearby department stores, or sit outside and watch people amid Robert Makis granite sculptures and waterfalls. When you?ve had your fill, head south on Pine Street to First Avenue to Seattles historic, multi-level Pike Place Market. Founded in 1907, its the citys most popular destination, with its famous fish merchants, farmers market, and seemingly endless abundance of shops and restaurants.

Heading east on First Avenue, down the hill, stop by the Seattle Art Museum (First Ave and University St) with its aesthetically controversial Hammering Man sculpture outside. Just a few blocks on you'll enter Pioneer Square (First Ave and Jackson St). The square was once a Native American village and with the white settlers it became a Wild West Main Street lined with brothels. It was also the center of a busy logging industry until the city was demolished in the Great Fire of 1889. The city was rebuilt on the ruins. The square has since survived lean financial times and is now very healthy both economically and culturally, hosting an eclectic mix of businesses and art galleries. If you're with children, or have a taste for kitsch, cap off your walk with the 1.5-hour Underground Tour, which will gives a sense of what Seattle life was like before the fire.

A Tour of the Arts in Seattle

Starting Place: Seattle Center at Fifth Avenue and Mercer Street

Seattle has a thriving arts scene, with highly regarded theater and music groups, museums and galleries. The arts tour follows roughly the same course as the walking tour. We begin in Seattle Center, where the Opera House hosts Seattle Opera, one of the most acclaimed opera companies in the United States, known in particular for its internationally recognized interpretations of Wagners Ring cycle.

From Seattle Center stroll down the hill on Second Avenue to the newly constucted Benaroya Hall (Second Ave and Union St), which provides the Seattle Symphony with an excellent acoustic space. The Seattle Art Museum lies a block away on First Avenue, and theater buffs will seek out the nationally recognized A Contemporary Theater (ACT) a few blocks away at Seventh Avenue and Pine Street.

As you continue down the hill toward Pioneer Square, you'll encounter the real hub of Seattles art community in a thick concentration of galleries. The Greg Kucera Gallery on Third Avenue always has high-quality offerings, and has even displayed Frank Stella sculptures, William Blake engravings and cutouts from Matisses late period. A throng of galleries fills the area between First and Second Avenues on Occidental Avenue, most notably the Davidson Galleries and the Grove/Thurston Gallery.

Perhaps the best time to set out on this tour is the first Thursday of every month, when many galleries and the Seattle Art Museum stay open late, some even offering wine and cheese to those who stop to admire the art. Catch an early show at ACT, take a tour of the galleries and cap off your night with a cappuccino in the downstairs cafe at the Elliott Bay Book Company.

Jeff Hipolito