These days Seattle is a high-tech boomtown, but I grew up in the Emerald City long before Amazon, Starbucks and Microsoft made it so. All the more reason to check out what’s new and unexpected when I travel here to visit family. In August I discovered two terrific new restaurants and a hotel with a killer view. The biggest surprise came when I ascended 520 feet to the top of the Space Needle. The iconic tower, which was built for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, was recently renovated to the tune of $100 million. The result is an experience that is downright thrilling — as long as you don’t suffer from fear of heights. The tab for two: $395 per night for the hotel, $175 per day for food and $51 for Space Needle admission.
Because the weather was clear, my husband, Paul, and I paid a premium for a west-facing room at the Thompson, a sleekly modern hotel overlooking Seattle’s colorful Pike Place Market. From our floor-to-ceiling window we could see the giant Ferris wheel on the waterfront and ferryboats gliding across Elliott Bay. As in-house guests, we enjoyed VIP access to the Nest, the hotel’s trendy indoor/outdoor rooftop lounge. And I can still smell the heavenly aroma of the ginormous fresh-baked cinnamon sticky bun we shared at Sunday brunch at Scout, the relaxed ground-floor restaurant.
Seattle is a city of distinctive neighborhoods filled with fun restaurants. On Capitol Hill, where Seattle’s grunge music scene started, I was impressed by the range of excellent Japanese dishes at Tokyo-import Junkichi Robata Izakaya. What the kids in our party most enjoyed, however, were the talking robots on the tables. At Flintcreek Cattle Co. in Greenwood, which features industrial-chic décor and a farm-to-table menu, we savored warm plums with fresh burrata and succulent fresh sockeye salmon with balsamic-kissed cipollini onions.
What a hoot! Olson Kundig, the Seattle architectural firm that designed the Thompson, oversaw the recent renovation of the two-story observation deck atop the Space Needle. Gone are the walls, security fencing and steel floors. The open-air upper deck is now wrapped in outward-tilting glass panels that offer unobstructed 360-degree views. Guests seemingly float over the city as they sit on 24 glass benches ideal for taking selfies. A dramatic circular stairway winds down to the interior lower deck, where the world’s first revolving glass floor offers heart-stopping views of the elevators whisking up and down the Space Needle’s central core to the ground far, far below.
THE LESSON LEARNED
We waited in line nearly two hours to pick up our rental car at Sea-Tac Airport, continually got stuck in traffic as fierce as in Los Angeles and found it difficult to snag parking places downtown. Next time I visit Seattle, I plan to rely on ride-sharing and Seattle’s light-rail system.
Thompson Seattle, 110 Stewart St., Seattle; (206) 623-4600. Wheelchair-accessible.
Junkichi Robata Izakaya, 224 Broadway E., Seattle; (206) 712-7565. Wheelchair-accessible.
Flintcreek Cattle Co., 8421 Greenwood Ave. N. Seattle; (206) 457-5656. Wheelchair-accessible.