Heard the term? I hadn’t until this spring. I remember the whole “See America First” campaign on Chevy commercials in the early 60s, and the concept started back in the late 1800s, with the railroads. These days on the one hand it’s obviously a green idea, staying close and relaxing, but on the other hand some people make it sound like putting a sunny face on poverty and boredom.
You could fly somewhere, of course, but that’s a lot of money, fuel, time, and security hassles. You could take a cruise, but there’s more money, fuel and regimented schedules, the 24-hour buffet, “float-and-bloat” reputation, and that even with the side trips it’s still observing instead of participating.
You could also sit the whole week in front of the TV and save all kinds of money (I recommend taking the occasional shower). But you know what? People come here to do cool stuff! As the Seattle King County Convention and Visitors’ Bureau says “Some 9.9 million visitors spend $5.9 billion in Seattle and King County annually, contributing $463 million in state and local tax revenues. Direct visitor spending benefits hotels, retailers, restaurants, attractions, transportation services and other businesses, and supports jobs for more than 51,000 people in the Seattle region.” We live in one of the top tourism destinations in the USA!
My wife, Marie, took a couple weeks off to take care of our son between summer camp and school and decided it wouldn’t do to just sit around. She became “Julie the Cruise Director” (her term) and set up some wonderful stuff.
One day we went to Tacoma. Back in the day that wasn’t something to bring up in polite Seattle society, but not now. In the last twenty years Tacoma has had a genuine renaissance. We parked all day at the Tacoma Art Museum, then walked to the Washington State History Museum. Next, we strolled across the Chihuly Bridge of Glass to the Museum of Glass. The Lino Tagliapietra exhibition is stunning and the “Scapes” are weirdly moving. Then we recrossed the Bridge and walked down to the Tacoma Art Museum again. Marie Watts' ‘Lodge’ exhibit was amazing. There are many good lunch options on and around Pacific Avenue. We thought later if we’d had two days we’d have done all that, followed it up with a play or concert in the Theater District, stayed in a hotel, breakfasted at Southern Kitchen, then finished it off with the Lemay- America’s Car Museum before heading back to Shoreline/LFP.
The next day we ate in Ballard at Café Besalu (“the finest puff pastry work outside Paris”) and went down to the Seattle Center to see King Tut. You can still see it, and between the Pacific Science Center itself, Imax movies, laser shows, and all, there will always be plenty to do. Seattle Center as a whole is changing fast, and we dropped in on one of its newest highlights The Chihuly Garden and Glass, a truly sublime exhibition and installation of various glass arts in a variety of contexts. His “Macchia Forest” and “Mille Fiore” rooms are just… hard to explain, how good it is. After that we decided to stay and sample the new, all-local places in the Armory (“Center House”). We could have gone up the Space Needle, seen the Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, or taken the Monorail downtown to eat at the Market or whatever.
The next week we went to Square Knot Diner in Georgetown, Seattle (five-star yummmmm), and continued down to Crystal Mountain Resort to ride their new gondola. Wow. It feels like a long drive, but it really isn’t. Once you get there you buy your ticket(s) and board. The cars are swept out, if
necessary, every trip and are comfortable. Approaching the top my son whined ‘is this it?’, then we crested the top ridge and there- there was Mt. Rainier so big it felt like it was surrounding me, and Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Baker and Glacier Peak and the Olympics and Eastern Washington, too. All Alex could say was ‘Wooooooow’.
Off to our north is Paine Field- a complete destination for aviation buffs. Seriously- I mean people have the Boeing Factory on ‘bucket lists’. It’s not just the Assembly Building, either. Paine Field is the busiest general aviation airfield in Western Washington, with over 615 private planes based there, and is home to the Historic Flight Foundation (50 to 80-year-old planes, most of which are flown), the Flying Heritage Collection (exquisitely restored warbirds, mostly flown), and the Restoration Center of the Museum of Flight.
And on a literally and figuratively “green” note there is the Narbeck Sanctuary off Paine Field property on Seaway Blvd, Washington State’s first example of an engineered wetland “mitigation bank” and first “leaky berm” flow modification system. This big artificial marsh atones for damage to a natural wetland in reconstruction of Paine Field’s runways and taxiways and is big enough to “mitigate” other environmental insults expected to come.
There are dozens of other nearby options I haven’t mentioned- wineries, cideries, B&Bs, weekends at the Inn At The Market, and all, but someone else gets to salute those. Let’s just end this on a beach: Richmond Beach. Yeah, you won’t see much surf and bikinis get pretty scarce in the Fall and Winter, but Richmond Beach Saltwater Park is a sweet place right here. Bring blankets and proper clothes, bring a book, camera, drawing pad, bring a picnic, like maybe sandwiches at Grinders, burritos from Taqueria El Sabor, snacks and drinks at The Little Store at Richmond Beach (640 NW Richmond Beach Rd, Shoreline, WA 98177 (206) 546-8616), or whatnot, and maybe end a serene day at Hill’s Neighborhood Restaurant, 1843 NW 195th St.
It’s too easy to look past all this, but all that we take for granted, looked at anew, becomes wondrous. We really do live in the best place.