Cruise ships in Seattle dock either at pier 66 or pier 91. Most start and or end cruises there, but sometimes Seattle is just a port stop. Pier 91 is nearest the cruise parking for cruises beginning and ending there, but there are shuttles from the parking areas to both docks. From Pier 91 passengers would need transportation to get into town. Pier 66 is right in the heart of Seattle’s waterfront area. It’s walking distance to the ferries and lots of attractions like Pike Place Market, the Seattle Great Wheel, aquarium, and the Underground Tour at Pioneer Square. It’s also walking distance to numerous hotels for those who stay before or after their cruise or who come in by plane or on a road trip.
People planning to stay for a few days might want to get the Seattle Pass, which provides entry to 5 attractions for about the price of going to two of them individually. It’s available online or at some of the venues like the Aquarium or Space Needle. Besides those two you get an Argosy harbor cruise, choice of the Science Center or Chihuly glass garden, and choice of the Pop Culture Museum or Woodland Park Zoo. The Science Center, Chihuly garden, and pop museum are all at the Seattle Center along with the Space Needle. The zoo is a ways away in the Phinney Ridge neighborhood rather than on the waterfront or at the Seattle Center like the rest of the attractions on the pass.
When my daughter came to visit from Australia accompanied by her two kids as well as a couple friends and their kids we took a nearly car-free road trip (mostly by bus). With a total of 10 people we used cars as little as possible since it took 2 to hold everyone. After stops in Vancouver and Leavenworth we stayed a few days in Seattle at a hotel within walking distance of the waterfront so we had a chance to make good use of the Seattle pass. We walked to the waterfront every day, and could have walked to the Seattle Center as well, but it was the dead of winter and the weather wasn’t all that cooperative so we went with uber, a really handy free waterfront shuttle which has since ceased operating, or the monorail instead of taking the longer walk.
A newer landmark of the Seattle waterfront, and one of the first things you see when approaching by sea, the Great Wheel is located at pier 57. This pier is also known as Miner’s Landing because that is where the first ship carrying gold from Alaska that led to the Alaska gold rush landed in 1897. Inside the building there is an old-fashioned carousel, an arcade, a gift shop, a restaurant, a food court, and a soaring motion ride called Wings Over Washington.
Sheri’s friends and their kids wanted to try out the great wheel. John went with them, but having ridden it previously I chose to go inside the building and escape the pouring rain while they waited outside for their ride. Sheri and her kids joined me so we all went on the carousel while we waited for the others. The gift shop was open so we looked around there a bit, but the food court and soaring ride had already closed for the day.
The Seattle Aquarium is right on the waterfront, near Pike Place Market. There are stairways for pedestrians between the waterfront level and the higher ground where the market sits on the other side of the street.
A double decker viaduct with parking underneath used to run along the waterfront between the market and aquarium, but it was old and probably not earthquake safe so the city officials went with the most expensive and least efficient solution by opting to tear the viaduct down and spend years in construction of a tunnel with less traffic capacity when there already wasn’t enough.
When first entering the aquarium just past a room with a whole wall as a tank there’s a room full of touch tanks with starfish and anemones and things, and an octopus tank. When it’s octopus feeding time they make a lengthy show out of it. Beyond that room a corridor and a door lead to a variety of fish including local and tropical species or sea mammals like otters and seals. Mostly people wander about looking at things at their leisure, but sometimes they have feeding times out there too.
They had a sea otter feeding while we were there, but in addition to the length of their talk you have to go early to get a good seat so it takes a long time. The kids got bored during the pre-feeding talk at the octopus feeding and we left before they actually got around to feeding them anything. Only some of the kids wanted to wait for the otter feeding so the rest of us took the other kids around to see other things. The ones who stayed said the otter feeding was worth seeing. The other fish tanks that we had time to see before the aquarium closed for the night and they didn’t were interesting as well.
The walk from our hotel to the waterfront took us through Pike Place Market along the way. Being one of the area’s main attractions we stopped in one day to look around. Of course since we had visitors from not only out of the area, but out of the country with us we had to stop by the fish-throwing shop. Besides throwing a fish they also had a fake one on a string in the counter display that they would make move if someone got too close so that person would think it was alive. It scared poor little Daniel even after we showed him it wasn’t real.
Pike Place Market is one of the waterfront’s earliest attractions. It has lots of shops and market stalls selling all sorts of things. There’s a lot of arts and crafts type things, local honey and produce, flowers, t-shirts, and more. There’s more than one fish monger, but just the one throws fish. The market also has a spice shop, an area where you can get ready-to-eat food including freshly made donuts, and some shops selling antiques or other merchandise. Kids like to sit on the giant piggy bank statue for photos.
Post Alley at the end of Pike Street in a covered alley next to the market is the home of Seattle’s most disgusting tourist attraction – the Seattle Gum Wall. It once had 20 years accumulation of gum with gum upon gum coating the walls and oozing off windowsills, but after a cleaning in 2015 it has a much smaller accumulation now – though every day people add more to it.
The kids all got some gum from a giant gumball machine at Miner’s Landing one day so they could add it to the gum wall on the way back to the hotel. It may not be an official tourist site, but it does show up on google maps.
The original Starbucks sits in a row of shops just outside the far end of the market from the gum wall. The tiny Starbucks is in a row of shops in an old building on a narrow cobblestone street across from Pike Place Market. There’s often quite a crowd in the small shop which sells some unique blends available only there. A plaque denoting its status as the original location sits on the end of the counter facing the door. If you look up over the door from inside the shop you see a giant coffee bean covered pig whom the counter person said was named Pork & Beans. She also said pigs are a symbol of farmer’s markets, which explains the pig statue at Pike Place.
The waterfront has lots of other interesting places like Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, which sells mostly useless trinkets, but has displays in the back of odd things like a two headed calf, mummified people, and shrunken heads. The shop has changed locations from where it originally was and the current store has more merchandise and less curiosities than the old one, but it’s still worth a quick visit.
Argosy cruises has daily sailings with a narrated harbor tour along the waterfront and sometimes special sailings to other places like the Ballard Locks. The harbor tour is the one included in the Seattle Pass. On our cruise we saw seals and sea lions, several species of birds, and had porpoises swimming in our wake. Near Christmas they have the boats all decorated up for the holiday.
You can walk up to the booth and get tickets for the next available sailing without prior reservations, but that is on a first come first served basis so in the busy season walk-ups might want to get their tickets early. The ticket in the Seattle Pass is not a reservation for a specific time so you still need to go to the booth to reserve your spot on the boat.
The downtown monorail station is at Westlake Mall, which is not right at the waterfront, but not terribly far to walk. The monorail runs between downtown and the Seattle Center where it stops next to the Space Needle. Uber is also available and there are taxis and city busses too so it’s pretty easy to get around without a car. There’s light rail too for going to places farther away like the airport.
Copyright My Cruise Stories 2020