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America's favorite city?

Amid a swarm of camera-clutching, mapwaving tourists last spring, we asked a native Seattleite what he thought of all the attention the city has been getting. "It's like growing up with a tomboy kid-sister and all of sudden she's Miss America. I'm not sure I like it."

But it;s happened. Hardly a week goes by that the national media don't tout the virtues of Seattle. Tourists (an estimated 5 million last year) flock to the city.

When you're in Seattle, there's no mistaking it for any other place. Even in highrise downtown, the natural setting stops you dead in your tracks: Mount Rainier floats to the south, while to the west down steeply pitched streets you glimpse Elliott Bay (part of Puget Sound) with a ferry sliding in front of the snowy Olympics.

Downtown has a Scandinavian order and enjoyment of the seasons, a love of long, warm days celebrated with flowers in window boxes and hanging baskets. At noon on benches, rows of office workers, faces tilted toward the sun, seem to be trying to absorb enough solar charge to make it through the winter.

From the water, virtually all of the 19 buildings over 35 stories are visible, giving downtown a Little Manhattan look. But the streets convey none of the dark canyon feeling of San Francisco or New York. Buildings offer places to sit, artworks on display, and beautifully planted spaces.

Downtown stretches about 1 1/4 miles from Pike Place Market and the Convention Center south to the International District. I-5 borders it on the east, Elliott Bay on the west. North-south (numbered) streets are quite level, east-west (named) ones steep--useful to know if you're walking. If you mix walking with some innovative public transportation, you can scoot through town with surprising speed. Several transportation systems link up to make it simple to get around. Use stops as bases for further exploring.

Buses. The $470-million Transit Tunnel, opened last year, is an excellent way to move quickly. Free trolley buses depart from five art-filled stations about every 5 minutes between 5 A.M. and 7 P.<. weekdays, 10 and 6 Saturdays.

Surface buses also run north and south, most on Second, Third, and Fourth avenues. They're free between Blanchard Street (south of Seattle Center) and S. Jackson Street (in Pioneer Square).

Waterfront Trolley. Trolleys resembling ones that ran in Seattle around the turn of the century were brought from Melbourne, Australia, and refurbished in 1982; they go from just south of Seattle Center to International District Station.

Monorail. Built for the 1962 World's Fair, it continues to be speedy link (2 minutes) between downtown and Seattle Center (Space Needle, theaters, museums). Riding three stories high, you get a different perspective on the city. Trains run from downtown's Westlake Center (third floor, east side) about every 10 minutes between 9 and 9 Sundays through Thursdays, to midnight Fridays and Saturdays. Cost is 60 cents each way.

Convention Place, Westlake stations:

explore the northern parts of downtown

Convention Place Station is across from the landmark 1929 Paramount Theater and a block north of the Washington State Convention and Trade Center, which connects to Freeway Park,

The more than 7 acres that make up the park and the convention center are built over Interstate 5. They're striking as you stroll them amazing if you look down on the roaring freeway. The park muffles the sounds of traffic from downtown; it also provides pedestrian routes across the freeway. Plantings are profuse, and the waterfalls, sculpture, seating areas, and grass make the park a delightful place for a picnic with food picked up at Pike Place Market (see page 56) or a take-out restaurant.

PacificFirst Centre, 1420 Fifth Avenue (1 on map, opposite). This gleaming postmodern tower, opened in 1990, contains 25 stores (from Barneys New York to The Pottery Barn) found nowhere else in the city; they bring people to shop on three art-filled, plant-bedecked floors for high-style goods.

At the second level is a spacious lounge spotted with beautiful examples of Pilchuck and other art glass. A large display window along one side is filled with the fanciful work of world-renowned Northwest glass artist Dale Chihuly.

Through the windows facing Pike Street, you'll see the lavish terra-cotta facade of the Coliseum theater. Built in 1916 and now dark, it was America's first (and the world's second) exclusively motion picture theater.

Across Sixth Avenue from PacificFirst Centre, the Sheraton Hotel lobby and restaurant also display Chihuly glass.

One Union Square, 600 University Street; Two Union Square, 601 Union Street (2 on map). The plazas,flower displays, and Northwest gardens (complete with granite boulders and waterfalls) that connect and surround these buildings and lead on up into Freeway Park are great places to settle in for a brown bag lunch, a cappuccino, or even breakfast. Set apart from the street, these are surprising oases in the urban scene. Plantings mix evergreen and deciduous shrubs with annuals and perennials typical of what's becoming known as the Northwest gardening style.

Westlake Mall. Three local department stores anchor the retail core that fans out from the mall (completed in1988), just south of the Westlake transit station. Lots of places to sit, beautiful flowers, and a waterfall make it its own destination. Mimes, jugglers, and steel bands dot the paving in fair weather. Under the mall, the station's tile paintings of stylish men and women and streamlined Seattle ferries evoke expressionist Germany in the late 1920s. The station concourse connects the Bon Marche, Nordstrom, and Frederick & Nelson.

Pike Place Market. Opened in 1907, it's still a working market, with 600 businesses covering 7 acres. But it's best to be there in the morning; by afternoon the tourists take over.

The first truck snorts through the fog about 4 A.M.; by 7 the vendors are scrubbing the stalls and a few restaurants are open for breakfast. Business folk are reading papers, having coffee, and listening to the sounds. By 10 the market is buzzing. By 11:30 you should have lunch assembled and be heading to the park on the market's north end or to Waterfront Park. At market restaurants facing Elliott Bay (listed on page 64), you can order fresh pastries, seasonal fruits, breakfast souffles, homemade sausage, and good coffee. Businesses must be owner-operated and meet Market Historical Commission standards. Daily-rented stalls must sell products produced or grown by the renter (look for unusual potatoes, pickling cucumbers, and eastern Washington apricots, nectarines, and peaches). Wind your way from DeLaurenti's (where the Italian community shops), past the MarketSpice shop (go inside for the aroma alone) and the fish stalls (look for Cookie Cohen in his baseball cap and ask to see a geoduck--pronounced gooey-duck), on to Seattle Garden Center and Made in Washington (regionally produced items).

University Street Station: the Financial

and Cornerstone districts, waterfront

Rainier Square, 1333 Fifth Avenue (3 on map). This building, designed by Minoru Yamasaki and opened in 1977, appears to teeter on a 12-story pedestal that swoops up from a pencil point at ground level. In the adjoining low-rise buildings to the north, three levels surround an atrium. Here you can enjoy a French meal at Crepe de Paris, or stop for luggage, books, or flowers.

You can also cover two blocks underground (especially appealing if it's raining). Follow the pedestrian tunnel east past photographs of old Seattle. Up a long escalator, you're at One Union Square.

Seattle Tower, 1218 Third Avenue (4). For 40 years, this 1929 moderne skyscraper was the city's midtown exclamation point. Go into the opulent lobby during business hours. The dark marble with gilt plaster and opalescent light fixtures make a strong artistic statement.

Washington Mutual Tower, 1201 Third Avenue (5). This 55-story postmodern building links Second and Third avenues for the walker. You pass through a handsome garden with sculpture. The lobby is a granite, marble, and wood art deco revival. Note how the 1891 brick Brooklyn Building on the block's northwest corner was integrated into the design of the huge new building.

1001 Fourth Avenue Plaza Building (6). This was Seattle's first modern skyscraper, built in 1969. A simple, 42-story black glass building, it was nicknamed "the box the Space Needle came in," a joke lost in today's forest of high-rises. Like most other office towers, it has cooky stores, flower shops, and an espresso bar. On its Fifth Avenue side, you'll see a large Henry Moore sculpture.

First Interstate Center, 999 Third Avenue (7). Here's a good way to avoid the steep slope between Second and Third avenues between Madison and Marion streets. From the Third Avenue lobby of this block-square building, you can take the glass-covered, rainproof escalator or stairs past public art and rich plantings (including Japanese maples, Southern magnolias, and New Zealand flax). You end up on Second Avenue.

Cornerstone District. It extends from First Avenue at Spring Street south to Pioneer Square and west to the waterfront. Restaurants, home furnishing stores, and Asian antiquities galleries are spotted through this old warehouse and industrial section that was reclaimed in 1982. The small, European-style Alexis Hotel is at First Avenue between Spring and Madison Streets.

Seattle Art Museum. Designed by Robert Venturi, the new museum, on University Street between First and Second avenues, is due to open in December. Near the top, note the letters incised in the stone; on the south side, bright-colored terra-cotta tile decorates the varied window arches.

Pioneer Square Station: historic area,

south waterfront, ferry terminal

Seafirst Fifth Avenue Plaza, 800 Fifth Avenue (8); AT&T Gateway Tower, 700 Fifth Avenue (9). These buildings across Columbia Street from each other both have plaze space, art, and gardens. A pedestrian tunnel links them to Columbia Seafirst Center, across Fifth.

Columbia Seafirst Center, 701 Fifth Avenue (10). This 940-foot, 76-story building, opened in 1985, functions like a small town. Three levels of shops serve the building's 4,000 occupants (and hungry tourists), offering lots of inexpensive fast food from pizza to sushi; atriums have cafe seating. You can also get a shoeshine or a quick fix on a broken heel. The shops and the building's observation deck are open 8:30 to 4:30 weekdays. Buy observation tickets ($3.50 adults, $1.75 seniors and ages 12 and under) inside the Fifth Avenue entrance.

Pioneer Square. The city of Seattle began in 1851 on Alki Point in what is now West Seattle, but a year later the settlement moved here, and by 1890 Seattle had a population of 42,837. The city received a shot in the arm with the Klondike Gold Rush and another one earlier by the rebuilding after the Great Fire of 1889, which destroyed 30 blocks and caused more than $10 million in damage. Many of Pioneer Square's richly ornamented brick buildings date from that time.

Pioneer Square--bounded by Cherry, S. King Street, Second Avenue S., and the waterfront--is worth half a day to stroll. Look at its dozens of historic buildings; shop for antiques and avant-garde furnishings, and visit some of the more than 25 art galleries (Edward Curtis to contemporary Northwest art). Pick up a free copy of the Visitor's Guide and Directory--most businesses have a stack. It has an excellent map and lists galleries, restaurants, and shops. On the first Thursday of every month, galleries stay open in the evenings and serve refreshments.

Start your tour at Smith Tower, 503 Second Avenue, next to the transit station. When the 502-foot tower was built in 1914, it was the world's tallest building outside New York City. Clad in glazed terra-cotta, it was little more than a standard 21-story building, with another 21 stories appended in a rocket-like spire. Inside the quaintly elaborate lobby, buy a ticket to the observation deck ($2 adults, $1 ages under 12 and seniors), open 10 to 10 daily. The 360 [degrees] view is equaled only by the one from the space Needle.

For a break from the street scene, walk into the tiny but beautifully put together Waterfall Garden at S. Main Street and Second Avenue S. Picnic at tables next to water cascading over boulders and among plantings assembled for year-round interest. Hours are 10 to 6 daily.

For a glimpse of the Klondike era, stop in at Merchant's Cafe, 109 Yesler Way, or J & M Cafe, 201 First Avenue S. Both open by 11:30 A.M., serving simple food in an atmosphere that has remained unchanged for a century.

Underground Seattle, visited on 1 1/2-hour tours, was ground level in the 19th century. Because the city was so close to sea level, mud and backed-up sewage were constant problems; streets were impassible, so they were elevated to the second story on wood, brick, or stone trestles. In time, the ground-level spaces became economic albatrosses. So the streets were filled in to the second story. You can visit this netherworld between 10 and 5 weekdays, 11 and 6 weekends. Tours muster at Doc Maynard's Public House, 610 First Avenue. Reservations are recommended; call (206) 682-4646.

International District Station:

bean sprouts to baseball

Compared with the large, thriving Asian neighborhoods of other cities on the coast, Seattle's International District is small--1,796 residents, 300 businesses. Nevertheless, numerous shops and many small restaurants serve Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Southeast Asian food.

No single store in other Western cities can compare to the bustling food and variety store Uwajimaya, at Sixt Avenue S. and S. King Street, open 9 to 8 daily. This family-owned business offers an amazing array of groceries, Asian food to carry out or eat at small tables, gift items, books, ikebana and bonsai supplies, clothing, and linens.

Just southwest of the station, the Kingdome looms like a great docked flying saucer. The 65,000-seat stadium is home to the Mariners Baseball Club and the Seahawks football team. For details on games and other events, call 295-3663. A 45-minute tour takes you into the stadium, onto the field, and into a locker room. You'll pick up astounding facts--the structure has 52,800 cubic yards of poured concrete, 443 tons of structural steel, a 7-acre self-supporting concrete roof that is the world's largest. Events permitting tours are given daily except Sundays at 11, 1, and 3. They leave from Gate D; cost is $3 adults, $1.50 seniors and ages 12 and under.

The Waterfront--next to

the harbor and into the crowds

In warm weather, the Seattle Waterfront is a carnival--noisy, crowded, and filled with places to buy Hong Kong-made T-shirts and replicas of the Space Needle. To reach the Waterfront from Pike Place Market, walk down the Pike Street Hillclimb and under the Alaskan Way viaduct, right to Waterfront Park. The Hillclimb has some interesting shops, among them Nido, a home furnishing store that carries locally made peeled fir furniture.

Waterfront Park, Seattle Aquarium. Here, between Piers 57 and 61, is the place to escape the crowds (people seem to pass right by). Seek out the bronze sculpture of Christopher Columbus erected by Seattle's Italian community. Go to pier's edge and watch the boat traffic on Puget Sound and look across to Bain-bridge Island and the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas.

For take-out lunch, try one of the numerous fast seafood places along the Waterfront. Ivar's Acres of Clams is a venerable Seattle landmark on Pier 54.

The aquarium has some interesting regional specialties. Watch otters and two species of seals frolic in big tanks. Touch tanks give children a chance to handle a live starfish or pick up a perfectly ugly invertebrate called a sea cucumber. Inside, you can sit in a domed space under the Sound and watch indigenous fish and octopuses move about. Hours are 10 to 5 daily; $5.75 adults, $3.50 seniors and ages 13 through 17, $2.50 ages 6 through 12. For details, call 386-4320.

Ferry to Winslow. Washington State Ferries crisscross Puget Sound. The Winslow run is worth taking for sightseeing alone. You'll get an unobstructed view of the Seattle skyline, the downtown and industrial waterfronts, and--on a clear day--Mount Rainier, the Cascades, and Olympics. You can walk onto the ferry and make a round-trip crossing on the Sound (about 1 1/2 hours; $3.30) without getting off, or explore Winslow's antiques shops and come back on a later boat.

Boats leave from Coleman Dock on Pier 52, at the foot of Marion Street. The ticket window and passenger loading are on the second floor of the ferry terminal. For schedules, call 464-6400; in Washington outside Seattle, call (800) 542-7052.

Harbor tours. A good and informative look at downtown Seattle from the water is available on Seattle Harbor Tours' 1-hour cruise. The trip makes a complete loop around Elliott Bay. You'll get a close-up look at the enormous gantry cranes loading and unloading container ships, then putt past the shipbuilding and repair yard, and the grain terminals.

Boats depart from Pier 55; buy tickets ($8.50 adults, $7.50 seniors, $6 ages 13 through 17, $4 ages 5 through 12) at the dock. For details on departure times and on other tours, call 623-1445.

Planning a trip

Downtown hotels and motels include about 7,600 rooms. They've been known to sell out, so it's wise to book in advance. The Seattle-King County Convention and Visitors Bureau can send lodging and visitor guides and a calendar of events; write to 520 Pike St., Suite 1300, Seattle 98101, or call 461-5840.

For maps and brochures once you've arrived, stop at the Visitors Information Center on the ground floor of the Washington State Convention and Trade Center (enter at Convention Place, off Pike between Seventh and Eighth). Hours are 8:30 to 5 weekdays, 10 to 4 Saturdays.

Metro Information Hotline gives quick and efficient bus schedules and fares: 553-3000. When you call, have pencil and paper and be ready to tell the operator where you are and where you want to be at what time.

Eating in downtown Seattle--the

emerging Nortwest cuisine

The great cornucopia providing the ingredients of Northwest cuisine gushes forth at Pike Place Market. What you find is seasonal, regional, and fresh. Chefs from many city restaurants shop here. Boxes of pears, iced binds of fish, rounds of Northwest cheese, and fresh breads leave the market for their kitchens.

To assemble a picnic like the one shown above, buy a string bag at the market and walk through the displays. The fish stalls offer smoked delicacies, as well as fresh fish, which they'll ice-pack to fly home. Pick up cheeses, wine, bread, and fruit.

Here we disclose our editors' favorite downtown restaurants, where you can get a wide assortment of simply prepared fish or creatively done Northwest food, perhaps with an ethnic twist. Menus take advantage of fresh seafood that comes from the cold waters between Oregon and the Bering Sea. This month, look or ask for silver salmon from Puget Sound.

Some of the restaurants capitalize on a view or are known for a house specialty. Reservations are recommended.

Al Boccalino, 1 Yesler Way; 622-7688. In Pioneer Square, Italian food from local ingredients; try the gnocchi.

Cafe Alexis, 1007 First Avenue (in the Alexis Hotel); 624-4844. Intimate dining room with a fireplace serves a seasonal menu of Nortwest foods.

Cafe Sport, 2020 Western Avenue; 443-6000. Small cafe near waterfront with interesting local foods like baked goat cheese with seasonal pears and spicy panfried oysters. Excellent for people-watching.

Campagne Restaurant, 86 Pike Street; 728-2800. Overlooks Pike Place Market; dine indoors or in sheltered courtyard. Skillfully prepared "Seattle French" menu.

Crepe de Paris, 1333 Fifth Avenue (in Rainier Square); 623-4111. Savory crepes and regional seafood; detailed color map of Paris separates dining area and bar.

Cutters Bayhouse, 2001 Western Avenue; 448-4884. Large restaurant with seafood-oriented menu and a waterfront view.

Dahlia Lounge, 1904 Fourth Avenue; 682-4142. Chinese red walls and paper fish lamps are delicious to the eye. Imaginative menu mingles flavors of East and West.

Elliott's, Pier 56; 623-4340. Big fish house, with a great waterside deck for ferry-watching. Go for boiled crab, raw oysters, steamed clams.

Fullers 1400 Sixth Avenue (in the Sheraton Hotel); 447-5544. Enjoy innovative seafood and meat dishes in an elegant setting hung with paintings by contemporary Nortwest painters; also, large collection of early Pilchuck glass.

FxMcRory's, 419 Occidental Avenue S.; 623-4800. In Pioneer Square; steaks and chops in hearty gold rush atmosphere.

Georgian Room, 411 University Street (in the Olympic Hotel); 621-7889. Pacific Rim cuisine with artful presentation.

Italia, 1010 Western Avenue; 623-1917. Tuscan pizza, pasta, entrees; take the family for lunch.

McCormick's, 722 Fourth Avenue; 682-3900. Fish house steeped in tradition; try the clam chowder.

McCormick & Schmick's, 1103 First Avenue; 623-5500. Watch seafood, meats being prepared in open kitchen.

Metropolitan Grill, 820 Second Avenue; 624-3287. Steakhouse with a bustling "uptown" atmosphere.

Palm Court, 1900 Fifth Avenue (in the Westin Hotel); 728-1000. Try crab cakes, delicious breads, desserts made with Northwest fruits.

Palomino Bistro, on the third level of PacificFirst Centre; 623-1300. Serves excellent seasonal fish from an open kitchen.

Pike Place Market. The Athenian (open at 6:30 daily except Sundays; 624-7166) and Lowell's (at 7 daily, 8:30 Sundays; 622-2036) serve hearty breakfast and lunches fit for a logger or fisherman (you'll see plenty of both). On the lower level, Il Bistro (93-A Pike; 682-3049) has a friendly bistro atmosphere. At lunch, try sopa de pesce. Maximilien-in-the-Market (7:30 weekdays only; 682-7270) serves seasonal souffles, berry jams, ciders; it's open for dinner, too. Romantic Place Pigalle (624-1756) has a seasonal menu; try the Penn Cove mussels and calamari appetizers.

Pink Door, 1919 Post Alley; 443-3241. Try the seafood salad with lemon and herbs; setting recalls an Italian hideaway.

Prego, 515 Madison Street (on top of the Stouffer Madison Hotel); 583-0300. Great views and pasta-seafood combinations.

Reiner's, 1106 Eighth Street; 624-2222. American specialities; bread and rice pudding to die for.

Shuckers, 411 University Street (in the Olympic Hotel); 621-1984. Unparalleled selection of oysters, or try the geoduck stew; clubby atmosphere.

Union square Grill, 621 Union Street; 224-4321. Aged meats, fresh seafood; linear art deco of rich wood, mirrors, black-white light fixtures.

Vic & Mick's. 910 Second Avenue; 292-0910. Elegant and understated, with a nice balance of pasta, seafood, broiled meats, and chicken.

Wild Ginger, 1400 Western Avenue; 623-4450. Eclectic menu with Thai influences, served in a contemporary setting.
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