10 Special Spots That Are Oh, So Seattle
The Emerald City's Striking Sites + Must-see Sights
Archer loves the Seattle area in the Pacific Northwest — the natural beauty, the earthy aura, the boundless adventure, the quirky-friendly locals. It’s a natural choice for his laid-back, industrial-chic Archer Hotel Redmond, just a half-hour northeast of Seattle.
Common knowledge pegs Seattle as a coffee mecca, a place to watch your head at Pike Place Market, the birthplace of grunge (aka “the Seattle sound”). But since Seattle has a ton of other fascinating, unique and off-the-wall points of interest, it’d be a true shame to keep them under wraps. This list of fun facts highlights a sampling of what makes this town so singularly Seattle.
1. Seattle has one of the largest houseboat populations in the United States.
Remember Tom Hanks’ character in “Sleepless in Seattle”? He lived on/in a charming 2,200-square-foot houseboat (a real one that sold for $2 million in 2014) just off Westlake Avenue in Lake Union. Seattle houseboats first became popular during the Depression, which saw the number of houseboats rise to around 2,000 because they were tax-free. Today, that number floats around 500, and many of the houseboats cost a pretty penny — but the views are spectacular.
2. The Gum Wall is actually a thing. Really.
Who knew that a wall (nay, an alley) chock-full of people’s ABC gum would be a hit with locals, tourists and wedding photographers alike? On Post Alley near the famous Pike Place Market (the longest continually operated farmers market in the U.S.), this colorful wall is a work in progress and a veritable selfie magnet. Just don’t stand too close to it.
3. The Fremont Troll is ready for his closeup.
Imagine a troll living under a bridge. Normal, right? But it’s a giant troll; you’re about the height of one of his fingers. He has a VW Beetle (with a Cali license plate, no less) in his grip, using it like a squishy stress ball. And he invites you to climb all over him — with a dare to poke out his eye (a hubcap). That’d be worth a souvenir picture or two.
Since 1990, the 18-foot, 13,000-pound “Fremont Troll” has lived under the north end of the George Washington Memorial Bridge. Created by local artists Steve Badanes, Will Martin, Donna Walter and Ross Whitehead, this troll uncharacteristically tolerates humans; he’s never bitten one — so far.
4. Seattle is home to the National UFO Reporting Center.
In 1947, the first-reported UFO sighting occurred near Mt. Rainier. Today, Washington state maintains the highest sighting rate per capita of UFOs. And Seattle is home to the National UFO Reporting Center, where people can add their UFO sightings to a list that’s updated daily, as well as reading case briefs and historical reports. If you’ve seen something unidentifiable within the last week, call the hotline with your account of the occurrence: 206.722.3000.
5. An underground tour highlights some crazy stuff about Seattle.
Want to hear intriguing stories about the history of this Pacific Northwest town? Sign up for Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour and get a proper 75-minute guided walking tour. It’s conducted in the irreverent spirit of Speidel — a PR man-turned-preservationist who helped save Pioneer Square (which is on the tour). Beginning below Doc Maynard’s Public House, the guide humorously explains the history of Seattle before and after the Great Fire of 1889. Grab a copy of Speidel’s “Sons of the Profits,” upon which the Underground Tour is based.
6. Visit Jimi Hendrix, plus Bruce and Brandon Lee.
Fans of Seattle’s musical genius, Jimi Hendrix, can get up close and personal — with a statue of Jimi on Broadway. A familiar sight on Capitol Hill near downtown Seattle, the bronze by artist Daryl Smith depicts Jimi on his knees and wailing on his electric guitar as no one else can.
Father and son Bruce and Brandon Lee are buried side by side at Seattle’s Lake View Cemetery. Only 32 at the time of his death in 1973, Bruce was a hugely significant martial artist, actor and director; his son Brandon followed in his father’s footsteps as a martial artist and actor until his untimely death in 1993 at age 28. Their graves attract visitors from all over the world to this famous cemetery that sits atop Capitol Hill.
7. Benaroya Hall is the treasured home of the Seattle Symphony — and for great reason.
Since 1998, Benaroya Hall with its two performing halls has been wowing audiences with its impressive acoustics. Respected acoustical consultant Cyril M. Harris, Ph.D., worked with Mark Reddington of LMN Architects to create this “crown jewel” for musical performance in the heart of the city. Not only is the sound incredible at this acoustic marvel; the views from inside the lobby proudly display Puget Sound, the Seattle Art Museum and the city’s singular skyline.
8. The Central Library is all glass and steel, a faceted home for “the circulation of all media.”
Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas of the Netherlands-headquartered Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) collaborated with New York-based OMA principal Joshua Prince-Ramus and Seattle-based LMN Architects to create the unique Central Library structure.
Housing more than 1.45 million books and materials, the 11-floor library has a Books Spiral — a continuous ramp of shelving that eases navigation — a 275-seat auditorium, plenty of open spaces, more than 300 computers, Wi-Fi access and printing, Skype rooms, music practice rooms and meeting spaces. A state-of-the-art book-handling system is fun to watch — it processes books being returned on a conveyor belt that scans and sorts them. It’s no surprise that Seattle has a high percentage of library card owners with access to such a beauty as the Central Library.
9. Check out the Center of the Universe.
If you’ve ever wanted to see the center of the universe, you’re in luck if you’re in the Seattle area. On the north bank of the canal lies Fremont, a quirky neighborhood that has laid claim to being the center of the universe. Why Fremont? According to a group of Fremont scientists who were gathered at a bar, because while it cannot be proven, it also cannot be disproven.
A guidepost went up in the 1970s at the intersection of 35th Street North and Fremont Avenue, but the sign was stolen in November 2018. The artist is, thankfully, still in the area and determined to create a new one. If it’s not up by the time you visit, there’s still plenty to do and see in Freemont: the troll under the Aurora Bridge, the Lenin statue (surrounded by guns and flames instead of the usual book or hat wave), the Fremont Bridge, a 1950 cold war rocket fuselage, a dinosaur topiary, the Ship Canal and “The Interurban” — a cast aluminum statue of six people and a human-faced dog waiting for the light rail Interurban line.
10. Experience “light bulb moments” at the Museum of Pop Culture.
With a mission of making “creative expression a life-changing force,” the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) provides exciting-educational exhibitions and events in an atmosphere that reminds audiences that the only constant is change. The building’s exterior is covered with 21,000 individually cut and shaped stainless steel and painted aluminum shingles. Their appearance changes and shifts according to the light and viewing angle.
With such a fluid, evolving home, just imagine what the spaces, exhibits, events and programs inside are like. This spectacular museum houses some of the world’s most legendary pop culture artifacts, with award-winning exhibitions focusing on music, literature, television and film.