This week on Armchair Explorer we’re headed to America’s West Coast! From the richness of its history to the energy of its future, Seattle is one of America’s most captivating cities. Located between the salt waters of Puget Sound and the fresh waters of Lake Washington, this narrow strip of land is packed with explosive culture.

As the epicenter of the North American coffee scene, it’s only right we begin our visit with a delicious cup of joe. While you’ll find no shortage of cafes here, I think it’s much more fun to get your hands dirty and craft a drink yourself! Our first stop is the Seattle Barista Academy, where you’ll learn everything from how to create latte foam art to how to brew the perfect espresso. Now that we’re properly caffeinated, let’s hit the streets!

As you scan the Seattle skyline, your eye is immediately drawn to the 605-foot-tall tower standing guard over the city. One of the most recognizable landmarks in America, the Space Needle was constructed for the 1962 World’s Fair, under the theme of “The Age of Space.” The tower’s futuristic design was inspired by Space Age aspirations. Since its grand opening on April 21, 1962, this landmark continues to symbolize the innovative and forward-thinking spirit of Seattle. Looking out from this incredible perch, with Seattle's downtown glittering against Puget Sound below you and mountain ranges stretching before you, is the perfect introduction to this unique city.

Back on solid ground, we’ll head next door to the Seattle Center. Community is a point of pride with the city, and the Center is the ultimate example of this. Thousands of events take place on this sprawling 74-acre campus, from sports to entertainment to community outreach. Feeling artsy? Check out the Chihuly Garden & Glass Museum, where you can wander among the whimsical sculptures and admire the blaze of colors or enjoy a mesmerizing glassblowing demonstration. Feeling worldly? From the Irish Festival in March to the Polish Festival in July to Croatia Fest in October, you’ll find countless cultural events in the Center’s calendar to participate in, perfect for enjoying ethnic food, dance and celebration all year long!

A city with so many personalities is bound to have some fascinating museums, so let’s pop into a few of my favorites. Our first stop is the nonprofit Museum of Flight. Seattle is the birthplace of many American corporations, including Boeing, so it’s only fitting that the city is home to the largest private air and space museum in the world. Adults and kids alike will love admiring the spread of vintage and modern planes — you can even climb into certain models! Want to delve further into the story of Seattle? The Museum of History and Industry is sure to impress. A Smithsonian affiliate museum, this institution bridges the past, present, and future with captivating exhibits and educational programs. Check out the museum’s “on demand” series while at home. Looking for a quirkier experience? Play in your own virtual rock band or geek out in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame at the Museum of Pop Culture. If you want to enjoy the outdoors, Olympic Sculpture Park is home to over a dozen large public works of art. From the sweeping Red Eagle to the unusual Echo, Olympic Sculpture Park is the quintessential representation of Seattle’s art-loving culture.

It wouldn’t be an exploration of Seattle without a trip to one of the best farmers markets in the country. Welcome to Pike Place Market, where the myriad of restaurants, flower shops, food stalls and craft stores are sure to provide hours of discoveries. Comprised of nine acres and more than a century of history, the Market is the perfect place to sample the local flavor, so take some time to peruse the stalls filled with specialty imports and fresh seafood. Once you’ve sampled your fill, introduce yourself to some of the local artisans as you discover unique handcrafted items. Before you leave, be sure to drop a coin into Rachel the Piggybank, a famous bronze statue whose proceeds benefit social services in the Market.

Seattle’s waterfront access is one of its defining qualities, so let’s head out onto the water next! Just a half-hour ride away by ferry, Bainbridge Island is a perfect little city escape. Explore the bookstores, coffee shops, clothing boutiques, and cafés that line Winslow Way, or head to Waterfront Park and City Dock for an easy hike along the shore.

Want to learn about the water without actually crossing it? A visit to the aquarium is the perfect substitute! Situated on the Elliott Bay, the Seattle Aquarium is a great way to learn about the diverse underwater world of the Pacific Northwest. The aquarium’s collection includes marine fish, harbor seals, shorebirds, octopus — even a few sharks! You’ll also find several conservation-focused exhibits, another important facet of Seattle identity. From reducing plastic pollution to advancing climate change resilience, you can learn more about the aquarium’s conservation efforts here.

Road Scholar has been leading educational trips to Seattle since 1997. We hope to see you there soon! Until then, you can explore our collection of Seattle learning adventures here..

Road Scholar Recommends:
Signature City Seattle →
Hands-On Glass in Chihuly's Seattle →
Flameworking & Glassblowing in Seattle With Your Grandchild →

About the Author
JoAnn Bell, Senior Vice President, Program Development and Strategy, develops and manages more than 5,500 learning adventures in 150 countries and 50 states. JoAnn’s extensive travel industry experience informs her expert insight on everything from where to find the world’s most charming streets to must-see hidden gems across the globe.

  • If you get lucky enough Chihuly has a Garden Tour, maybe not this year, and you get in before they open to the general public.  There were about 10 people in the entire museum.  I was even able to lay on the floor and get picture of massive ceiling of flowers.

  • Great article.  Being as I'm "stuck" at home here in Seattle, just uphill from the Space Needle, it's a good reminder of things I could go out and do.  For sure will have to check out the Seattle Barista Academy (funny, it's not actually in Seattle!) and perfect my foam art at home.  No matter where you may have seen Chihuly's work, the garden and museum is still an absolute must.  He worked with the landscape designers so the plants and glass art all work together, year around.  One thing-the waterfront picture isn't actually the waterfront.  It's a view from Mercer Island looking over Lake Washington to downtown Seattle, with waterfront property showing, but what is considered The Waterfront isn't really in the pic.  Gorgeous shot though!

  • Wonderful to see this post today! My daughters and I were at the Seattle: Signature City program last year on this date. It was such a great week and this post brought it all back.

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