Saturday, September 28, 2013

EMP Museum, Space Needle and The Underground

This is the final installment of the Seattle series. Over the remaining two days, we visited the EMP museum, Space Needle and also took the Underground tour.

EMP Museum

The EMP museum is located right next to the Space Needle and has exhibits relating to science fiction and music. I skipped the Hendrix, Nirvana and guitar gallery as it did not interest me. I went right ahead to the 'Fantasy: World of Myth and Magic' exhibit which had costumes, props and artifacts from comics, video games, movies and literature. It takes the viewer through a journey of the fantasy world.
EMP Museum
Guitar tree
Dragon exhibit in the 'Fantasy:World of Myth & Magic'
The next exhibit I saw was the "Can't Look away: The lure of horror films" I surprised myself by visiting this gallery which takes an in-depth look at horror expressed through movies over the years. There are interesting videos about some of the most famous horror films that give a glimpse into the reason for their success and brilliance. There are interactive exhibits which are quite fun. This one is better experienced than described.


Space Needle

The Space Needle is an observation tower built for the World's fair but has now become a major landmark and attraction. It is 520 feet tall and elevators traveling at 10 miles/hr take people right to the top of the building from where one can see wonderful views of the downtown Seattle skyline, Mount Rainier, Elliot Bay and the surrounding mountains. At the top, there is also a rotating restaurant. We went in the evening as I wanted to see the illuminated Seattle skyline.

Space Needle

View from the Space Needle

Underground tour

This was one of the most enjoyable experiences of our trip. It is an hour long tour where the guide took us through the underground passages of Pioneer Square and gave us a very crisp and humorous account of the history behind it. Basically, the underground that we now see was, in fact, the original level at which the city existed. After the Seattle fire at the end of the 1800s, the city was rebuilt on top of the old level while the lower level  still was accessible. So now there are two levels one on top of each other. The lower level gives us a glimpse of the history and architecture of the time. The guide explained to us how Seattle got its name from the Native American tribal leader Chief Sia'hl with a brief account of rise of Seattle from a small lumber town to one of the top five largest cities in the US. I highly recommend this trip if history interests you.

Historical building in Pioneer Square

Underground passages

Vintage hotel in Pioneer Square

Some of the things that we had planned but missed seeing were Seattle Art Museum, ferry ride and Snoqualmie Falls.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier in the "window of opportunity"
Aside from the regular city attractions, I wanted to experience nature. So I picked Mount Rainier National Park. Instead of driving down ourselves, we decided to book  a guided tour. Luckily, I found 50% discount on for the tickets which made it totally worth it.

 The bus picked us up from outside the EMP museum at 7.30 am and after an hour of picking up the rest of the members, we were on our way to the national park. It is almost a two hours drive from Seattle downtown. Mount Rainier is an active volcano and is the most glaciated peak in the US. There are subalpine wildflower meadows, thick forests, mineral springs and lava ridges on its slopes. The visitor center has a short 15 minute film that talks about the geography, ecology and climate of Mount Rainier. It is quite interesting and informative.

During the afternoon, the clouds from Puget Sound envelop the peak and it is impossible to view it. We reached there just in time to click a few pictures and then it disappeared behind the clouds. The guide kept referring to this particular time as the "window of opportunity" to view the peak. 

Mount Rainier making its own clouds

We stopped at the Christine falls, Narada falls, hiked along the Paradise meadow trail and saw the Reflection lakes which are subalpine lakes where one can catch a glimpse of Mount Rainier's reflection. All these spots had fantastic views. There are regions of the old forest where the trees are more than 500 years old!

Narada Falls
Christine Falls
Myrtle Falls
Reflection Lake
Despite being so breathtakingly beautiful, it is interesting to note that Mount Rainier is one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world capable of causing large scale destruction caused by the lahars (lava+snow).

Mount Rainier covered by clouds

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sleepy in Seattle

The long Labor day weekend gave us a chance to take a trip up North-Seattle, Washington. We flew out on Friday night and reached SeaTac airport at midnight, all thanks to the delayed flight. A half an hour drive from the airport took us to our hotel. Since my hotel booking was just a couple of weeks before our trip, I couldn't find anything close to the downtown and had to settle for The Extended Stay America in Northgate.

Day one agenda was quite light mainly because I knew we weren't going to wake up in time for an early start. So we left the hotel only around 11am, headed out to a nearby restaurant for breakfast and then caught the bus to the downtown. Interestingly, all the touristy places are in or near the downtown and can be easily explored on foot. So, I didn't see a point renting a car. We traveled everywhere mainly by public transportation.

Our first spot was The Olympic Sculpture Park- a waterfront park which was originally an industrial site that is now transformed into a park with a lot of open air sculptures. There are plenty of chairs for people to sit and enjoy the beauty of the Olympic mountains and Puget Sound. To be honest, I wasn't quite impressed by the sculptures but the view of the waterfront was beautiful. We then continued walking along the waterfront that had a feel similar to Fisherman's Wharf in San Fransisco. It is buzzing with activity, seafood, small trinket stores, memorabilia, ice cream shops, games arcade and a lot more.

One major attraction at the waterfront is the Seattle Great Wheel-a 175feet tall ferris wheel overlooking the Elliott Bay. It is the largest observation wheel in the west coast. The gondolas are fully enclosed and temperature controlled. One can see the pier, downtown, Space Needle and even Mount Rainier. I can only imagine how beautiful the view must be at night!

View From The Wheel-1

View From the Wheel-2

A little walk into the downtown lead us to the famous Pike Market which is spread across 9 acres and is the country's oldest farmer's market. Vegetables, fruits, fish, cheese, bread and fresh produce is available. It is a different experience walking through the historic arcade of the crowded market taking in the various sights, sounds and smells.

Inside the Pike Place Market
Fresh flowers at Pike Place Market

It was a lot of walking for one day and we were completely wiped out. We stopped by at an Indian-Nepali restaurant to sample some Nepali cuisine and were pleasantly surprised by the delicious food, after which we headed back to the hotel very tired and sleepy. Rest of the adventures in upcoming posts. So stay tuned!

Food at Kasturi Restaurant