A life-long Seattle resident, Tom Norwalk has seen the city grow and change over the decades. Now as the head of Visit Seattle, he occupies himself with what out-of-towners – from as far away as China and Australia, and sometimes as close as California and Spokane might experience. While everyone may have taken a ride in the Space Needle at some point in their lives, he can think of a few things the locals might be missing.
Here are a few of his favorites:
1. The Olympic Sculpture Park
For decades this part of the Seattle waterfront was an industrial site that few Seattleites got to visit. But then in 2001, several art collectors and the Seattle Art Museum started to transform the prime spot north of downtown into a home for striking and significant works of art from some of the worlds’ renowned sculptors. Some pieces are on loan from private collectors, while others now belong to the Seattle Art Museum.
The park is free and open to everyone, but also available for private tour, with advance notice. Nine acres and a trail that allows many vantages on the works of Alexander Calder’s “Eagle,” Anthony Caro’s steel and rust “Riviera,” and Beverly Pepper’s “Perre’s Ventaglio III.”
The park also features a view of nature’s own sculpture the Olympic Mountain range, as well as fresh perspectives of the city and Elliot Bay.
2. The Great Wheel at the waterfront
This 175-foot-tall Ferris wheel offers views of the city from the waterfront, and a few minutes later, from high above. The wheel, with its enclosed gondolas, came out of a quandary about how to draw people from downtown across the barrier that is the Alaskan Way Viaduct and to the waterfront. It has more than succeeded, says Norwalk.
3. The Chihuly Garden and Glass House
The Seattle Center’s newest museum, this 2012 permanent installation by renowned Northwest artist Dale Chihuly is fantastical. Stunning and colorful, the exhibit of the artist’s glass sculpture from inside the glass house surrounds you with form and color, giving the feeling that you are at the bottom of a pond gazing up at the Space Needle through red and orange lily pads. Outside, Chihuly’s works spring from the earth amidst the trees and flowers.
4. Seattle’s theaters
Along with the 5th Avenue’s broadway-bound offerings, more than 20 other theaters make for a vigorous theater scene that ranges from eclectic offerings like Theater Schmeater’s live Twilight Zone episodes, the nationally-recognized Seattle Children’s Theater productions for children, classical and new works at the Seattle Rep and the Intiman, and large-scale Broadway musicals at the Paramount.
And that’s not even mentioning the Symphony Orchestra, the Seattle Opera, and the Pacific Northwest Ballet.