Pike Place, parks and museums make Seattle shimmer

Seattle is perhaps best known for its rainy climate and coffee culture, but the Emerald City is also a hub of music, art and technology.  Stretching along miles of pristine Pacific Northwest coastline and nestled between mountain ranges, the physical beauty of Seattle is unmatched.  Locals take their food, wine and coffee seriously, and it's almost impossible to have a bad meal in any of the bistros and quaint restaurants that dot the city's unique neighborhoods.  Seattle is as sophisticated as it is down-to-Earth, and a visit to the jewel of the northwest includes some must-see sites.

Pike Place Market
Sometimes referred to as the "soul of Seattle," Pike Place Market opened in 1907 and is the United States’ oldest continually operating farmers market. According to the market's website, more than 200 year-round commercial businesses now call Pike Place Market  home. One of the most famous is Pike Place Fish Market, which sells fresh, sustainable seafood to locals and tourists alike. You can watch the knowledgeable and jovial fishmongers hurl the catch at each other over the counter.  

No trip to Seattle would be complete without visiting the original Starbucks, also a Pike Place landmark. Here, you can sip on your grande mocha light Frappuccino where the worldwide chain got its start in 1971.

Seattle Center
The Seattle Center, which was built for the 1962 World’s Fair, is a 74-acre campus that is home to some of Seattle’s most famous landmarks and festivals.The Space Needle was constructed for the World’s Fair and at 605 feet, it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River at that time. You can grab a bite to eat at the revolving restaurant and check out the stunning 360-degree view from the observation deck. While you are there, you can visit the Pacific Science Center, which houses a planetarium and two IMAX theaters as well as featured and permanent exhibitions. The King Tut Exhibition will make a stop there from May 24, 2012 until Jan. 6, 2013. 

Also in the Seattle Center is the EMP Museum, formerly referred to as the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. A pop culture mecca for guitar heroes and Trekies alike, the museum boasts the largest collection of memorabilia celebrating Seattle grunge icons Nirvana. The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, which relocated to the EMP Museum in 2004, is under renovation and is scheduled to reopen in summer 2012.

Wildlife parks
The Seattle area has some great places to take a walk on the wild side. Animal lovers and curious kids can get their fill of everything from octopuses to orangutans at The Woodland Park Zoo, located 10 minutes north of downtown Seattle. Some 1,100 individual animals representing 300 species are on display. Visitors can see animals like the tree kangaroo, snowy owl and leopard gecko. If you would rather see animals that are native to the Pacific Southwest, check out the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, which is located 55 miles south of Seattle. Take a tram tour and see bison and bighorn sheep. There are also five miles of walking trails throughout the park where you can see bears and cougars in enclosed but naturalistic exhibitions. 

The Seattle Aquarium is the seventh largest aquarium in the United States by attendance. Visitors can watch the giant Pacific octopus glide through a transparent tube between exhibit sections or watch sea otters float around in giant pools. Located on Pier 59, the aquarium also has dive presentations three times daily in wich divers, with the help of special masks and an interpreter, answer audience questions from underwater.

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