2: International District, Pioneer Square and Central Library
Today, explore the many cultures that have helped shape Seattle. Similar to San Francisco, the city's Pacific Coast location has attracted diverse ethnic groups over the decades, particularly from Asia. In the 1880s, an influx of Chinese immigrants arrived to help construct railroads and created a thriving Chinatown. As immigrants flowed in from other Asian nations, including Vietnam, Korea and the Pacific Islands, the name of the neighborhood was changed to the International District (locals just call it the "ID"). Located southeast of downtown, the neighborhood's boundaries run from South Washington Street to South Weller Street and between Second and 12th Avenues South. You'll know you've arrived when you see the bright pagoda and colorful murals at Hing Hay Park and the huge Japanese lantern marking Kobe Terrace. Colorful shop signs are in many different languages. Here you can buy Asian teas and herbs, sample offerings at bakeries and check out beautiful fabrics. Be sure to visit Uwajimaya, a modern superstore with foods and goods showcasing the bounty and diversity of Asia. The nearby Wing Luke Asian Museum spotlights Asian-American history, culture and art.
There are dozens of lunch choices in the International District. Tour the food court at Uwajimaya with its numerous options and join the noisy throngs enjoying fast-food, Asian-style. For a dim sum lunch, the House of Hong is a good option, while Green Leaf and Tamarind Tree offer tempting Vietnamese dishes. You may also begin walking towards your next destination, Pioneer Square, and have lunch at Delicatus, famous for its lamb sandwiches. Or, if it's a weekday, stop at Salumi, where Gina Batali (sister of New York celebrity chef Mario Batali) cures pork Italian-style and serves it by the slice for charcuterie plates and in tasty sandwiches. Homemade soups and pasta are also available. Also in Pioneer Square, London Plane offers a charming setting for a romantic lunch or dinner.
After lunch, take time to explore Pioneer Square, the area slightly south of downtown where Seattle first took root. This historic district with turn-of-the-century red brick buildings stretches along First Avenue between Cherry and King Streets. You'll enjoy touring the area's many art galleries and funky boutiques. Turn the pages back a century at the Alaska-Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park, a museum recounting the days when pioneers passed through Seattle on their way to the Yukon's gold mines. For a pit stop, seek out a few moments of serenity in Waterfalls Park, an oasis of beauty in the city — and the founding place of the United Parcel Service (UPS). But to really discover the bottom of this area's colorful history, take the Underground Tour. In this novel journey below Seattle's modern-day streets, you see the original storefronts that were once at street level before most of the town was destroyed in the fire of 1889. At Occidental Park, be sure to take a look at the modern totem poles, icons of the Pacific Northwest.
On your walk back from Pioneer Square to your hotel from Pioneer Square, stop at the Seattle Public Library's main branch, the Central Library. Designed by world-famous Dutch architect Rem Koolhaus, the building's cantilevered structure covered with a net-like diamond grid gives it a distinctive profile in Seattle's cityscape. Wander the stacks, ride the neon green escalators, tour the open reading areas and sit in on a lecture or film. Be sure to visit the second-floor Friends of the Libraries gift shop to find novel gifts for book lovers. The library offers free one-hour tours several times a day, beginning at the second-floor welcome desk. Farther along First Avenue, you may want to enjoy a coffee or wine break at Fonte and — if you have any energy left — visit the Seattle Art Museum across the street. Open until 9 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, SAM's permanent collection includes excellent exhibits of Native American and African art.
Tonight, discover what it means to enjoy the bounty Pacific Northwest cuisine at one of Seattle's fine downtown restaurants. If you're up for seafood, Steelhead Diner in Pike Place Market or Blueacre are terrific choices. In fact, Steelhead serves what many consider to be the best crab cakes in town. Alternatively, head up to Capitol Hill for more modern, refined approaches to the international cuisine you explored earlier. At Stateside, even the cocktails have brought in French technique and Vietnamese flavors. Down the block, Mamnoon offers a modern take on the ancient cuisine of Syria. Following dinner, enjoy a Broadway show at The Fifth Avenue Theatre, hear a local jazz group at Tula's or go clubbing at Crocodile Café.
to Day 3
*Photos courtesy of Tim Thompson at the Seattle Convention & Visitors Bureau and Beth Somerfield