What to do in Seattle – Exploring Pioneer Square

What to do in Seattle, Trip Wellness, Pioneer Square
What to do in Seattle, Trip Wellness, Pioneer Square

Alleyway artwork in Seattle’s Pioneer Square

Blog Post Type – Expert Opinion Piece:

The heart of Seattle, Pioneer Square, was the city’s first neighborhood.  Its history is full of boom town shadows. In the early days shanty towns were over taken by fire, Indians attacked settlers, and the reverberation of a vast lumber mill shook the tidal flats. Brick and stone buildings grew out of the great fire’s ashes quickly.

What to do in Seattle, Pioneer Square Pergola, Trip Wellness

Strolling the Pioneer Square Pergola in Triangle Park

Totem pole carved by Duane Pasco in the late 1980's

Totem pole carved by Duane Pasco in the late 1980’s

Many of those buildings remain today and the Square is flourishing. The rebirth includes art walks, inviting lunch spots, swank diners and quirky boutiques. At night theaters sprout audiences and night clubs spill trembling sound waves. During the day there’s Renaissance Revivalist architecture to admire. You’re as likely to walk past wild street art as totem poles. Food, artisan brews and colorful galleries beckon. A day exploring Pioneer Square is like none other.

What to do in Seattle? Tour Pioneer Square

Off the Pioneer Place Triangle Park is Doc Maynard’s Saloon, home base of the Underground Seattle Tour. Daily tours descend into the Square’s subterranean labyrinth of cellars and sealed-up passageways. After the great fire city engineers decided to raise the streets a full story. It must’ve been a confusing time.

Ghost signs, What to do in Seattle, Trip Wellness

Ghost signs from Klondike days.

Many buildings were already under construction so architects provided two ‘ground floors.’ A range of businesses, bootleggers and brothels are rumored to have used the underground passageways. Tour guides love embellishing the stories.

Once, Klondike prospectors found cheap lodging in the district. They stocked up on clothing and supplies. Cafes, easy women and cheap booze were there for the asking.

Smith Tower, What to do in Seattle, Trip Wellness

Glimpse of Smith Tower from the Square

Built in stages , today the forty-two story Smith Tower looms over them all. Created for the typewriter magnate, L.C. Smith, it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi until the Space Needle was built in 1962. Sadly its completion in 1914 began a period of decline as businesses and retailers began to migrate north several blocks.  Lucky for today’s visitors the Tower has been rehabilitated to its gleaming glory.

Visit the Tower:

Walk into the Smith Tower building through the ornate lobby and ride up in an ornate copper and brass elevator car to top. When the doors open on the thirty-fifth floor, you step into the astounding Chinese Room. It was named for the carved teak ceiling and Blackwood furniture that still remains.

Smith Tower, What to do in Seattle, Trip Wellness

The entry lobby of the Smith Tower

One legend fits – that the last Empress of China furnished the room as a gift to Mr. Smith. The ornate and famed Wishing Chair is central.

Smith Tower, Wishing Chair, Trip Wellness

Trying out the Empress of China’s Wishing Chair

A curling dragon and phoenix are carved into the relief, which when combined, signal marriage. Women once lined up to sit there hoping to fulfill the legend that they would be married within a year.

If the day is blustery and wet, admire 360 degree views of the city. If you’re lucky and prepared to face the wind, step out onto the observation deck. Walk around the crown of the tower for unparalleled views of Seattle.

Smith Tower Observation Deck, Trip Wellness, What to do in Seattle

Glimpse of the Space Needle from the Smith Tower Observation Deck.

How well do you know Seattle’s architecture?

Find out in this fun, short quiz.

If you go:

  • Smith Tower is open most days from 10 am to dusk.
  • Park on the street. Place your sticker correctly to avoid getting a parking ticket.
  • Find more dining and experiences in Pioneer Square.
  • Browse cheap hotels in Seattle and consider booking in advance.

This post is part of the Hipmunk City Love project.

Proudly a member of the Weekend Wanderlust, and Weekend Travel Inspiration.


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