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Seattle

space needle seattle tree branches Seattle's indelible landmark, the Space Needle allows you to soar in seconds to the Observation Deck 520 feet above the ground. There's a 360-degree view of Seattle, the mountains, the ferries, Puget Sound and the islands, Lake Washington ... and if you can't see it all with the naked eye, don't worry. Complimentary telescopes are part of the package.

Pioneer Square, Seattle's first neighborhood, is a charming blend of cobblestone streets and turn-of-the-century architecture with some notable historic features. Smith Tower, built in 1914, was for a time the tallest building on the West Coast; today you can take an elevator to the 35th floor to explore the historic Chinese Room. Also in the Pioneer Square neighborhood are a small waterfall garden and the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, plus lots of shops and coffee houses to entertain you for an entire day.

Paris isn't the only city that has underground excursions; Seattle has them too. The Underground Tour takes you beneath Pioneer Square, where the old streets and original storefronts from the Gold Rush Days are visible.

The colorful Olympic Sculpture Park is a relatively new addition to Seattle's waterfront, occupying a nine-acre space that was once an industrial site. "The Eagle" by Alexander Calder is the most iconic of the contemporary art works that overlook spectacular views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. Admission is free.

The Seattle Art Museum, located downtown, is the city's preeminent destination for art lovers. Don't miss the glittering Porcelain Room, which groups more than a thousand decorative dishes by color and theme, or the collection of African masks, displayed not behind glass but on models dressed for a traditional celebration. There's also a sizable collection of Native American art from the Pacific Northwest.

Seattle has been blessed with several parks and urban green areas designed by the Olmsted brothers, the team responsible for the design of New York's Central Park and the grounds of the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. Volunteer Park is located high above the city in a rolling landscape that offers breathtaking views, the Seattle Asian Art Museum, a bandshell for summer concerts, playgrounds, formal gardens, a reservoir, an esplanade for strolling and a huge glass conservatory reminiscent of the one in London's Kew Gardens. It's a lovely place to spend a lazy afternoon. Check out the funky shops and boutiques in the nearby Capitol Hill neighborhood too.

experience music project seattle frank gehry The EMP Museum is the brainchild of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who was partly inspired by the fact that Jimi Hendrix was a Seattle native. This interactive museum/exhibit space/gallery is housed in a spectacular Frank Gehry building near the Science Center, and offers hands-on music creation in a state-of-the-art studio, among other things. The museum features exhibitions on rock music, science fiction, film and other aspects of pop culture.

A recent addition to the Seattle Center complex (where you'll also find the Space Needle and the EMP Museum) is Chihuly Garden and Glass, where visitors can ooh and ahh over vibrantly colored installations by Washington-born blown-glass artist Dale Chihuly. To see photos and learn more, see Seattle Gains Artsy New Attraction.

Ballard Locks, actually named the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, is an engineering marvel that allows passage from Puget Sound into Lake Washington and vice versa. There's a dam, a spillway and -- best of all -- a 21-step fish ladder so you can actually watch salmon swimming upstream to return to their place of birth to spawn. There's an underwater viewing area as well.

Located 15 miles northeast of Seattle, Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery, the oldest in the state, offers free tours and tastings. You can also visit Columbia Winery, right across the road. (There is a small fee for tastings here.)

Have you ever wanted to see the Concorde or go through Air Force One? You can at the incredible Museum of Flight (at Boeing Field south of Seattle), which also includes a "Personal Courage Wing" featuring rare and restored World War I and World War II fighting aircraft. Kids love this place -- and adults do too.

Seattle Houseboats: You can't get onto most of the docks since they are gated, but you can walk along the roads at the east end of Lake Union and gawk at these floating castles, many worth well into the multi-million-dollar range.
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